Bose’s latest effort in the QuietComfort series offers excellent noise cancellation, good audio, and an updated design. In that respect, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. However, if you’re in need of smarts and customisable features then the QC 45’s offering is bare at the moment.
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Good comfort
- Improved battery life
- Rather sparse for features
- Lacks musicality of rivals
- Noise cancellingChoice between Quiet (ANC) and Aware (transparent) modes
- ChargingSupports fast-charging via USB-C
- Bluetooth streamingSBC and AAC codec support
Bose made its name in the wireless headphone market with its noise cancelling QuietComfort series. The QuietComfort 45 are its latest attempt to try and provide wearers some respite from the world.
In the years since the first QuietComfort model, Sony has emerged as a persistent and dogged rival, trading blows with Bose with each successive headphone release.
But Bose’s headphones have become a popular fixture of the daily commute – next time you’re travelling see how many people are wearing Bose headphones – but in terms of performance Sony has arguably replaced them as top dog with their WH-1000X series. What can the QuietComfort 45 offer as a response?
- More modern appearance
- Light and comfortable to wear
- Charging port upgrade to USB-C
From an aesthetic standpoint the QuietComfort 35 II were ordinary looking. With the QuietComfort 45 Bose has gone for evolution over revolution. They retain the same profile as their predecessors but have been updated for a more modern look.
They’re not as sleek in appearance as Bose’s own NC Headphones 700, but the nips and tucks here are very welcome, with changes ranging from the removal of the pleats and pluckers, to synthetic leather for the earpads and the underside of the headband.
The headband structure has been reinforced with glass-filled nylon to maintain its shape and protect against any drops. I’ve found the material that covers the headband can be susceptible to attracting smudges, especially if you have the White Smoke model over the Triple Black version.
Speaking of colours, it’s likely Bose will release more colourways once the QuietComfort 45 have been out for about a year as it does with all its premium headphones.
Aesthetically they have a more elegant, refined appearance. The matte design is altogether more cohesive look than the metal sheen of the older models; the transitions between the hinge, headband and ear cup are smoother, and at 240g the QuietComfort 45 is one of the lightest over-ears available. They’re so light you’ll barely notice their presence.
The left earcup has a button for switching between noise cancelling modes, and on the right are buttons that double up for playback and volume, plus a switch for turning the headphones on and off, as well as toggling to another device. All are easy to reach, and with a slight gap in-between each playback button I didn’t find operating the headphones to be any issue. You still get a 3.5mm jack for wired use, while the USB port has been upgraded to USB-C.
The design is remains collapsible – not always given with the AirPods Max and WH-1000XM5 opting for non-foldable designs – or you could choose to place them in the carry case to save them from any nicks or dirt.
- Up to 24 hours of battery
- Few features, not much in the way of smarts
- Excellent noise cancellation
Bose never seems concerned with having extensive battery life, instead focusing on the quality of the experience you have with the headphones. While the new QuietComforts get a boost in the battery department, they don’t trouble the likes of Philips, Technics or Sony, but at least the extra hours mean they can last for longer without needing to be charged, which is helpful if you use the headphones often.
And with fast-charging delivered by the new USB-C port, a 15-minute dash produces three more hours, and a full recharge takes two-and-a-half.
Bluetooth is version 5.1, and stability-wise the connection has been excellent. I’ve sailed through train stations such as Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge with barely a hint of a break-up.
There’s multi-point support, which means the headphones can be paired with two devices simultaneously with a flick of the toggle switch on the right ear-cup jumping to a previously connected device. Bose’s SimpleSync technology allows the QC 45 to be used with any other Bose speakers and soundbars in the home for a private listening session.
Viewed in the context of recent headphone releases, the QC 45’s feature count is spartan. The number of features is not all that dissimilar from the QuietComfort 35 II, but if you’re looking for a degree of smarts then Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a better choice. Perhaps that’s a deliberate decision by Bose to differentiate the two.
The new QuietComforts support the Bose Music app, and since I first reviewed them back in November 2021, the app has received an update that’s brought new features, which includes an in-app equaliser.
It’s a change of approach from Bose and a response to customer interest since Bose has always been a headphone manufacturer that’s prided itself on its a specific sound signature with its Active EQ feature.
The EQ offers Bass Boost, Bass Reducer, Treble Boost and Treble Reducer options, as well as a three-band EQ to alter bass, mids and treble, as well as create your own personal preset. It’s a welcome step forward at least in terms of personalising the QuietComfort 45’s sound.
There are no built-in voice assistants, but there is the option of engaging your mobile device’s digital assistant by holding the playback button. Wear sensor technology is also another feature missing from the party, so music won’t auto-stop or play when you take the headphones on and off.
There’s no means of sliding through noise cancelling levels and adjusting them as Bose only offers the option of Quiet (ANC on) and Aware (transparency mode). Updates down the line could bring more features to the party but the emphasis in the here and now with the QuietComfort 45 is one of simplicity.
Where the QuietComfort 45 do not disappoint, though, is with their noise cancelling. Using microphones inside and outside of the earcups along with a proprietary algorithm that detects sounds (with a particular focus on midrange frequencies), the noise cancelling performance lives up to the QuietComfort legacy.
The choice of two modes – Quiet and Aware – means ANC is either full blast or the outside world is being passed through to your ears. When the former is activated, I found the world around me became eerily quiet, the added benefit was that there was little need to raise the volume to hear music. At mid volume levels the QuietComfort 45’s noise cancelling bats sounds away with nonchalant ease, similar to the QuietComfort Earbuds.
Vehicles are mere hums as they pass by, the hubbub of train stations is nullified effectively, while journeys on trains pass with little interruption; all the bumps of the tracks and the sound of the wind rushing past is cancelled out with confidence.
The QC 45’s faculty with diminishing voices is mightily impressive too. Wearing the headphones at Borough food market saw that nearby conversations were reduced with such an effect that it looked as if people were silently moving their mouths when talking to each other. Wearing them at Waterloo station and I’ve never felt quite as isolated from those around me.
When faced with wind hitting them, they’re effective enough but blustery conditions can knock them off their stride, creating some additional noise. The Sony WH-1000XM5 have the edge on them in this respect as their design ensures that kind of turbulence isn’t a particular problem.
A switch to the Aware mode and the outside world pours though with clarity and plenty of detail. Waiting at a food market, I didn’t need to take the headphones off to hear my order being called out, and in general I found it easy to get a sense of what was around me.
- Neutral, clinical tone
- Great levels of detail and sharpness
- Can struggle describing more busy tracks
The QC 45’s sound is much in-keeping with Bose’s previous efforts, and as such they offer the listener a clean, detailed and sharp presentation. Compare them to the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Philips Fidelio L3, and they’re not as musical in their temperament.
But the QuietComforts are strong in a range of areas. Bose’s Active EQ serves to modulate the performance regardless of volume level, and their sense of dynamism is fleshed out well with a distinct difference in communicating the difference between the highs and lows of a track.
They perform well at the top end of the frequency range; their sharp tone gives treble notes sparkle and brightness in Raven’s GoGo Penguin. They’re a punchy performer to boot, bass is defined with a tautness, reined in but still enough to the low end to have impact.
It’s how it deals with vocals where the Bose slip against their rivals. Parting Ways from the Soul soundtrack lacks the focus of the Sony, the lyrics rendered with a chilly tone that’s also present in Faye Webster’s Sometimes. It’s a more clinical, neutral tone and while that perhaps treats voices with more consistency it robs of emotion in the process – and that’s an area where the Sony XM5 excel.
Detail is excellent, thanks to its levels of sharpness and definition. Feed them a track, like John Powell’s The Bedroom, and the clarity, sharpness and detail of the guitar strums are excellent. You can hear every pluck of the guitar, the difference between each note. The instruments in Robert Glasper’s London are naturally conveyed, with the Bose displaying a weightiness and sense of precision to the percussion that thoroughly engages.
The Bose QuietComfort 45’s presentation is clean, spacious, detailed and sharp but they can also sound clinical and a little brittle in tone. They can sound very good but there are more subtle and thrilling headphones to choose from in this competitive market. If sound is the priority, the Bose fall short of the best.
Should you buy it?
You’re looking to update from older models If you’re looking for headphones for the office, travel or home and don’t have the patience for other people, the noise cancellation is tremendous.
If sound is the priority There are more musical performers in the market, and they’re available for less. If you prefer Bose’s sound quality, then the QuietComfort 45 offer a typical Bose performance, but they do sound more clinical than their closest rivals
As an update to the QuietComfort series of headphones, the Bose QC45 fulfil their goal. The changes are iterative in nature, removing a few stuffy aspects but keeping the same iconic look and giving them a more modern appeal.
Comfort is excellent and noise cancelling impresses. If you own an older pair of QuietComforts and are looking to upgrade, then you can upgrade with confidence to this model.
There are better options available for sound, and even with the introduction of a EQ with the Bose Music app, in terms of features they are surprisingly limited for the price point they occupy.
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We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for several weeks
Tested with real world use
Tested with music streaming services
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These headphones have a battery life of up to 24 hours
Neither Google or Alexa is built in for this model.
You can only manually change between two modes: Quiet and Aware