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First Impressions

At first glance, the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra look to be quite optimistically priced – but remarkably, Bose seems to have got a long way towards justifying the outlay. Between the specification, the standard of build and finish, and a relatively short listen, these flagship noise-cancellers seem to have what it takes and then some…


  • UKRRP: £449
  • USARRP: $429

Key Features

  • Drivers35mm full-range dynamic drivers
  • Battery24 hours battery life, with 2 hours available after 15 minutes of charging
  • SpatialSupports new ‘immersive audio’ feature


Bose has always been part of the conversation where wireless over-ear headphones are concerned – doubly so when the discussion centres on active noise-cancellation.

But despite its acknowledged expertise, the company would seem to have set itself quite a challenge with its new QuietComfort Headphones Ultra. After all, an asking price of £449 / $429 puts them very near the top of an extremely competitive market.

But even though I wasn’t able to hear them for a particularly long time, and not in an environment with which I’m familiar, the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra give every impression of being ready to compete, and compete hard. I’m looking forward to an extended listen – but in the meantime, these are my impressions so far…


  • Similar looks to QuietComfort 45
  • Black or white finishes
  • Comfortable to wear

Few are the companies that are prepared to deviate far from the long-established over-ear headphones design template – and Bose, it’s safe to say, are not among them. Even the mildly interesting exposed adjustment mechanism of the outgoing Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 has been abandoned for the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra.

Instead, you’re left with a fairly anonymous design that could be by any reputable manufacturer – if it wasn’t for the fairly assertive Bose branding on the outside of each earcup, anyway.

A combination of sturdy, quite tactile plastic and a quantity of judiciously padded pleather constitutes the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra, and while there were no scales handy during my listen it seems safe to say they’re reasonably light.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra worn on head
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Consequently, they seem very comfortable – and they didn’t heat my ears up during the course of my listen, which isn’t something you can say about any number of rival designs after half an hour of wearing them. A choice of black or white smoke finishes are available, and in either finish the Bose are either discreetly sophisticated or rather bland, depending on your taste.

The right earcup is where most of the action is when it comes to controlling the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra. As well as a capacitive touch-strip for volume control and shortcut access (which can be user-defined in the Bose Music control app), there are physical controls for power on/off, Bluetooth pairing and a multifunction button used for toggling between listening modes, answering/ending/rejecting calls, or playback control.

On the left-hand side, meanwhile, you’ll find an LED indicator, USB-C charging socket and a 2.5mm jack for hard-wired listening.


  • Bose Custom Tune to optimise audio
  • AptX Adaptive support
  • 24-hour battery life

The Bose are fitted with a new mic array in an effort to improve on what’s already acknowledged as one of the best active noise-cancellation systems around. They also take care of the Bose Custom Tune technology that tries to optimise audio quality to your specific hearing profile, and have responsibility for Aware Mode.

Their beamforming capability is claimed to be able to differentiate your speaking voice from 360 degrees of external irrelevances, allowing for clear and intelligible call quality and voice-assistant interaction. The environment in which I heard the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra didn’t really set them much of a challenge in this regard, though.

On the inside, the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra use Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codec compatibility. Sound is delivered by a couple of 35mm full-range dynamic drivers – details of frequency or response and composition weren’t forthcoming.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra app
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The new feature Bose is most pleased with, though, is Immersive Audio. It’s undeniably a variation on the established and currently fashionable spatial audio model inasmuch as it strives to create a bigger and more immersive presentation. It’s embedded in the Bose Music control app, and can be switched off or toggled between Still and Motion. ‘Motion’ means the audio presentation attempts to keep up with the movements of your head.

Battery life is claimed to be 24 hours from a single charge. That’s with Immersive Audio switch off – turn it on and that falls to more like 18 hours. The active noise-cancellation doesn’t affect those figures, for no other reason than it’s always on – there are degrees of cancellation or transparency available in the app, but there’s no off position.  

Sound Quality

  • Immersive Audio support
  • Effective ANC

The obvious caveats apply here: I didn’t hear the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra for all that long, I didn’t listen to any music of my own selection, and I heard them in a fairly controlled environment. But nevertheless I think it’s safe to say that the Bose are an accomplished and quite insightful listen, and that the Immersive Audio feature is a lot less gimmicky than I had at first feared it might be.

Perhaps the least surprising aspect of their performance is the effectiveness of their active noise-cancellation. My hosts sneakily introduced a lot of city noise while I was first wearing the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra, and when I took them off I was quite started by just how noisy the environment had become and just how comprehensively the Bose negated it.

With Immersive Audio switched off, the Bose sounded quite detailed, nicely poised and not as out-and-out concerned with the lowest frequencies as this brand’s products sometimes can be. The tonal balance seemed good, the level of detail both broad and fine was very impressive, and the control of the bottom end meant that rhythms enjoyed decent expression. Bose headphones can occasionally be preoccupied with wallop, but there’s a lot more deftness to the sound than that here.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra button scheme
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Switching on Immersive Audio brings an undeniable improvement in the amount of space to the sound – rather than everything happening to your left and right, the sensation is of a presentation that’s happening in a sort of 180-degree dome that’s ahead of you as well as on either side. Despite this, though, focus is good and the overall presentation remains coherent.

This is when listening in Still mode, and consequently sitting still. Switch to Motion and start to move your head around and the sound tries – with a degree of success – to follow the movement of your head. It’s very much as if performance is happening in front of you and can be affected by your turning your back on it – or, at least, your head to the side. Readers of a certain age will understand it’s quite like the balance control on that old audio system you grew up with.

Bose is keen to emphasise that this effect can be achieved from any stereo content. Feed the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra some music mixed in Dolby Atmos (for instance) and the Immersive Audio algorithms will still attempt to do their thing. Quite what the results of that conflict are will have to wait for a proper review…

First impressions

At first glance, the QuietComfort Headphones Ultra look to be quite optimistically priced – but remarkably, Bose seems to have got a long way towards justifying the outlay. Between the specification, the standard of build and finish, and a relatively short listen, these flagship noise-cancellers seem to have what it takes and then some…

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