Best Bose headphones Android Central 2021
Bose is known not only for comfortable headphones, but for excellent sound quality, so getting a pair of the best Bose headphones might be worth the investment. Bose's Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are the company's most innovative option to date. They feature 11 different steps of active noise cancelation, great battery life with up to 20 hours on a single charge, USB-C charging, and solid sound quality.
- Best overall: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
- Best value: Bose SoundSport Wireless
- Best true wireless: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
- Best sport: Bose Sport Earbuds
- Best over-ear: Bose QC45
- Best wearable: Bose Frames
- Best wired buds: Bose QuietComfort 20
- Most unique: Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Best overall: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 aren't the newest headphones the company has to offer, but they're still, by far, the most innovative.
The headlining feature here are the NCH 700s' active noise-cancelation (ANC) capabilities. The outgoing Bose QC35 II had solid ANC but were clearly showing their age. However, the NCH 700 now feature some of the best ANC available on the market today. With new ANC algorithms, they're able to block out nearly all bass/low-end noise and a decent amount of midrange and treble. They also feature 11 steps of ANC, allowing you to choose how much (or how little) ANC you want or need.
In terms of comfort, Bose is still the best in the business. The ear cups on the NCH 700 are super soft and extend deep with no issues regarding fatigue or pain from the ear cups or the headband. Soundwise, Bose has refined the QC35 IIs' already great sound signature. They feature an overall balanced sound signature throughout, and are not all that different from the newer QC45.
The NCH 700 features USB-C for charging and up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. You're also able to charge and listen at the same time. The NCH 700 are fast charging capable, giving you two hours of listening time with a 10-minute charge.
The only real downside with the NCH 700 is that they don't fold up in any way, making them slightly annoying to stow away in your bag while traveling.
- Solid, balanced sound
- USB-C charging with fast charging
- Excellent comfort
- 11 steps of ANC
- Decent battery life
- Can't be folded for compact storing
Best value: Bose SoundSport Wireless
If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, look no further than the Bose SoundSport Wireless.
Overall, the sound quality is good. There's a small boost in the bass and a more substantial boost in the treble, giving them a "bright" sound signature. This means that hi-hats from drums, horns, and some female vocals will sound louder than the rest of the sound. Still, the SoundSport Wireless sound excellent for their form factor.
Comfort is excellent as well. You get several ear tip sizes in the box to help with sizing and fit. Similar to other buds in the SoundSport line, the wings and ear tips are a single piece, adding extra stability when you have them in your ear.
Battery life is pretty decent with the SoundSport Wireless with up to six hours of usage on a single charge. Not quite a full workday's worth of listening, but they make up for it with up to an hour of listening time when you plug them in for 15 minutes. A full charge will take roughly two hours, and the SoundSport Wireless charges over the older micro-USB connector.
- Solid sound with boosted treble
- Fast charging capable
- Excellent comfort
- Comes with several ear tip sizes
- Great price
- Micro-USB for charging
- Treble boost can be fatiguing for some
Best true wireless: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Sony's WF-1000XM3 were the best true wireless earbuds when it came to active noise cancelation for a while, but Bose has answered with its own salvo in the QuietComfort Earbuds. Their performance in that regard is a cut above the WF-1000XM3, which is why they can be considered an elite choice.
Bose stuck to a neutral sound profile so that the bass won't be heavily pronounced, but the mids and highs still come through warm and detailed. Unfortunately, the company still hasn't included an equalizer in its app to customize the sound, making little sense for a pair of earbuds in this range.
Bose made these earbuds bigger to squeeze in all the tech inside, so comfort will be relative. It's not so much that they won't fit comfortably, but more that their very size means they'll stick out more. The same goes for the case, which is considerably bigger than most other true wireless earbuds.
Battery life is decent, where you'll get about five hours when ANC is on. There's an additional 18 hours with the charging case. Like most ANC headphones, the QC Earbuds also have an ambient sound mode that lets in background noise to make it easier to hear your surroundings and talk to people without removing the earbuds.
- Superb sound quality
- Outstanding ANC performance
- Solid ambient mode
- Comfortable fit
- Wireless charging case
- Earbuds are big compared to competition
- Case is big
- App needs an EQ
Best sport: Bose Sport Earbuds
True wireless earbuds are still relatively new on the market and don't always land in terms of sound quality. Bose has been down this road before, particularly with making activity-focused earbuds, but the Sports Earbuds cut out all cords and stick to the basics as much as possible.
When it comes to fit and comfort, there are real similarities here to Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds. Both were clearly designed using similar metrics and engineering specs, and only their respective objectives are different. For example, Bose includes wings and ear tips with the Sport Earbuds to help keep them in your ear, and their weight can slightly pull on the wings depending on how snug they sit in your ear. This could potentially cause issues for folks where the wing tips don't sit snug.
The Sports Earbuds also retain a fair bit of the same soundstage, right down to the subtler bass response. Unlike other sporty earbuds out there, Bose tuned these to offer more balance, which is why the bass doesn't give audio a deep feel with everything you listen to. The brighter treble pushes up a bit as well, though not to the point of inviting sibilance to the highest notes.
With no ANC onboard, battery life is ultimately average at about five hours per charge. The included charging case nets you an additional 19 hours of battery life, allowing up to 24 hours of total listening time. A 15-minute fast charge through USB-C will net you up to two hours of playback, but to fully charge them from empty to full, you're looking at two hours altogether.
- Great sound quality
- Smaller size
- Different color options
- Comfortable fit
- Moderate IPX4 rating
- No noise cancelation
- No wireless charging case
- App needs an EQ
Best over-ear: Bose QC45
The Bose QC35 II really set the tone as one of the best over-ear headphones available, and should continue to be a viable choice. Only now with the QC45 coming into play, Bose took what's worked so well and gone further to make these over-ear headphones among the best you can wrap around your ears.
Let's start with sound quality. Having already heard the QC35 II and their balanced approach toward the bass and midrange, the QC45 aim to highlight the nuances of what you're listening to in order to have audio stand out. Part of how the company did that was to tweak the fit ever so slightly to feel less contstricting, while cutting down on any audio leakage. On top of that, there are two modes: Quiet and Aware, both of which use the onboard mics to trigger active noise cancelation ANC or ambient sound.
The onboard mics also play a role in improving phone calls on the QC45, making them a good choice if you also want headphones for video and conference calls. If you are rocking them while outside, you can always use Aware mode to hear your surroundings with the audio content you have playing at the same time. Use Bose's Music app to utilize some of the features there to custiomize the headphones.
Comfort plays a big role in how the various features do what they do. Bose built these to fit better, and that only helps features like ANC and sound quality deliver better results. The ear cups and headband maintain their softer cushioning, allowing them to simply rest on your head and ears. Like their predecessors, they do fold up super quickly when you need to stow them away.
They feature decent battery life with up to 24 hours of battery life on a single charge. The biggest change from before is teh USB-C port, which also offers fast charging. Plug in for 15 minutes, and you get up to three hours of playback. Keep them there for two hours, and you can fully charge from an empty battery. You can also simultaneously play audio and charge regardless of whether it's over Bluetooth or analog wired connection.
- Great sound quality
- Excellent comfort
- Good battery life
- ANC gets better
- Improved phone calls
- Fold up for portability
Best wearable: Bose Frames
Every now and then, a headphone company will do something new and unique. In some cases, it's a total flop, but in other cases, it can turn out to be really useful. Enter the Bose Frames, a pair of sunglasses that also pump audio to your ears.
Comfort depends on how well the sunglasses fit over your ears. The Frames don't actually have a bud of any sort and rely on little speakers that live on the stem to project audio to your ears. Yes, the audio quality isn't going to blow your mind, and yes, audio leakage will be apparent, but they are great for those who struggle with traditional earbuds. If you have no issues wearing glasses, the Bose Frames will be as comfortable as any other pair of glasses.
In terms of sound quality, the Frames are good for what they are. The bass is pretty mediocre due to their design, with basically no bass at all. The midrange is balanced and the treble is recessed quite a bit. This means that the Frames are best for those who take a ton of phone calls or listen to a podcast.
Battery life is as expected for a relatively new product line, coming in at around 3.5 hours of usage on a single charge. It could be better, but there's only so much you can stuff into the glasses' frame before they become too heavy. Unsurprisingly, the Frames use a proprietary magnetic charging connector instead of micro-USB or USB-C as those connectors add too much depth to the Frames. Unfortunately, this also means that if Bose decides to ax the Frames, you're SOL if your charging cable stops working.
- Great sound for phone calls and podcasts
- Great comfort
- Super discreet design
- Battery life is poor
- Audio is still only OK
- Proprietary charging connector
Best wired buds: Bose QuietComfort 20
These wired earbuds have been out for years now, but Bose keeps making them. They may seem out of place with how ubiquitous wireless earbuds are these days — not to mention headphone jacks are disappearing on mobile devices — but they've been sticking around for a few reasons. If you prefer a wired pair, so you don't have to worry about charging or still have a phone with a headphone jack, these may be worth putting in your ears.
They still sound good despite Bose having generally improved audio quality on its headphones in the last several years. The soundstage is pretty neutral, with the bass partially dependent on how tight a seal you can manage to get for your ears. The mids and treble are nicely balanced as well.
Much of the sound is also contingent on the very obvious battery pack that houses the ANC. It adds some weight and heft to everything, especially when dealing with a dangling cable, but at least you have the option to block outside noise. You can still listen to tunes with it turned off, but it can work for up to 16 hours per charge when you do have it on. While you do get a nice case to keep these earbuds handy, the downside is you'll have to charge the battery through micro-USB.
You also won't get any adapter for USB-C if your phone has no 3.5mm jack. Moreover, pay close attention to the version you're looking at because the QC20 earbuds also come in an Apple-focused variant.
- Good sound quality
- Standard media controls
- Good comfort
- Standard 3.5mm cable
- Solid ANC battery life
- ANC battery pack adds weight
- Micro-USB charging
Most unique: Bose Sport Open Earbuds
In an attempt to make a sporty set of earbuds with a unique design, Bose chose to make the Sport Open Earbuds something very different. These aren't your typical earbuds in that they don't actually make any contact with your inner ear or ear canal. Instead, they simply hook over the ear and rest the speaker reasonably close to the canal to pump sound in. The reason for all this is to let ambient sound in while the music plays while avoiding any potential discomfort by plugging your ears.
It's an acquired design for an acquired taste, and that's how you might see other aspects of them, too. Sound quality is surprisingly good for how they fit, except you sacrifice a fair amount of bass to get there. If you're into genres that rely on good bass response, you may want to think about it before going for these earbuds. There is no flexibility in the ear hooks, so however they fit is what you have to accept.
The open concept lets you hear your surroundings at all times, which is why there's no ambient mode. Nor is there ANC support, so you can't do much to block out outside noise, either. Physical button controls simplify how to play/pause or skip and repeat tracks. The Bose Music app offers some support, except there's no equalizer to adjust the sound or make any other customizations.
Battery life is okay, with Bose rating it up to eight hours per charge, though you can expect less when using them in noisier environments where you have to raise the volume. Unfortunately, Bose also separated the case from the charger, so you can use the case to transport them, but you need to keep the charger handy to get extra juice when you need it.
- Good sound quality
- Natural ambient listening
- Physical button controls
- Decent water and sweat resistance
- Decent battery life
- Separate charger from case
- Lacking in bass response
- No flexibility in fit or comfort
Our top pick, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, are among the best wireless headphones out there, let alone Bose headphones, and for good reason. They offer the best comfort out there, whether you're taking an 18-hour flight or a 30-minute commute to work.
The NCH 700 also features some of the best ANC performance on the market, now offering up to 11 different ANC levels. This means you can block out everything around you, or just enough to block out nearby chatter but still be able to hear oncoming traffic. The sound quality is excellent as well with a relatively balanced tone.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Peter Cao spends most of his days listening and analyzing music through headphones or speakers. Off the clock, he can typically be found listening to even more music, playing video games, or playing basketball.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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