The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have returned the noise-cancelling technology leader to the top, edging out Sony in the process. Bose has not only successfully implemented its redesign, but the business has also enhanced the sound quality and noise cancellation of its premium earbuds. They are undoubtedly the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds available, even though the battery life and call quality aren’t exactly stellar.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: one-minute review
The company behind the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II almost created noise cancellation. Bose’s first attempt at genuine wireless earbuds, meanwhile, didn’t quite succeed as its over-ear cans did, and it swiftly fell behind competitors like Sony and Apple.
Bose’s second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds II (let’s call them QCE II for simplicity’s sake) nail a lot of what’s crucial, so the master is back in action.
Beginning with a completely new design, the new model is so much more comfy to wear than the outgoing one. Although there are smaller earbuds out there, the gen 2 is smaller, lighter, and finally seems to be competing with Sony.
Size definitely matters when it comes to true wireless earbuds, but so does the performance and Bose has actually improved on what it had with the older QC Buds. In fact, we thought the first-generation Bose QuietComfort Earbuds had pretty good active noise cancellation (ANC), and we weren’t entirely sure how the adaptive nature would perform in the new buds, but it’s remarkably effective… provided you get the fit right. High frequency sounds like sirens still get through, but not as much as they did with the older model.
And the improvements to ANC haven’t come at the expense of overall sound quality. In fact, we’d go so far as to say it’s even better this time round. Each bud adapts the sound to the contours of your ear canal to make what you hear beautifully balanced with very clear details and textures. Like the ANC performance, this is, again, dependent on how well the buds fit your ear.
While there’s a lot to commend Bose on, there’s not been a huge improvement on battery life – with the case only getting a bit more juice than before – and call quality is also nothing to phone home about.
The big improvements, however, come with a higher price tag than the first-gen’s launch price. And although it matches the launch price of the Sony WF-1000XM4, the rivals can now be had for a lot less in several markets.
BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARBUDS 2 REVIEW: FEATURES
Bose has found out how to tailor the QCE II’s acoustic response and noise reduction to each user’s unique ear canal. The company’s proprietary technology, called CustomTune, automatically adjusts ANC and sound frequency to the level that is most comfortable for your ear using an audio signal that is picked up by a microphone inside each earbud. Bose does not provide specific information regarding the frequency response, however after using the QCE II for some time, we believe they range from “very deep” to “quite high indeed.”
One 9.3mm full-range dynamic driver per bud, obviously, produces the sound, and the earbuds connect wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.3. Given Bose’s partnership with Qualcomm, we were expecting Snapdragon Sound compatibility, so the fact that SBC and AAC are the only codecs supported is a little surprise (the QCE II use the Qualcomm S5 Audio chipset). Perhaps over-the-air firmware updates in the future will bring about a change.
We did receive the Independent Single-Bud Usage capability as the first significant firmware update. Now, rather than having to pause playback like it did in the past, you may utilize only one bud to listen to music or answer calls. This permits music to continue even if the Bluetooth connection between any two earbuds is lost. Finally, you can switch buds to continue listening if you discover that one bud has run out of juice before the other.
Although the option to do so is meaningless because you can hear your surrounds regardless, you can even switch ANC modes when utilizing a single bud.
Multipoint connectivity, which lets you pair with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, is another feature that we had hoped would be added to the QCE II. Although it hasn’t quite made it to the genuine wireless devices, to be fair, this is increasingly typical in wireless over-ear headphones and would be useful to have.
Like wireless charging would. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering that competitors’ cases already accept wireless charging and that the Bose headphones are a quite expensive pair to do without it.
Bose claims that the QCE II provides three additional top-ups in the case in addition to up to six hours of use on just the earbuds each charge. That’s not really a significant advance over the previous iteration, which offered just two more top-ups in the case but also up to six hours on the earbuds.
While we didn’t quite get to wear the Buds for the advertised six hours, we did have ANC running continuously and after two hours of use, we had only lost 20% of the battery (down to 80% from a full charge), indicating that you could get longer than that.
If the buds are completely depleted, Bose guarantees that the charging case will recharge them in an hour; but, if you’re impatient, a short 20-minute top-up will give you around two hours of playing.
Yet the QCE II truly shines when it comes to noise canceling. We must heartily concur with Bose’s bold claim that the QC Buds II boast “the world’s finest noise cancelling from any headset.” So, how did Bose accomplish this? Four expensive microphones, one within each bud, notice unpleasant noises, and a “exclusive” chip with a “unique” algorithm can cancel out the sounds in “a fraction of a millisecond.” Although we are unable to quantify this claim, we can attest that it performs amazingly well. We will give the QCE II top ratings based only on its ANC performance. It should be mentioned that the best effects come from having the appropriate fit; if not, you’ll find that ANC doesn’t completely block out the outside world as it claims to.
The ActiveSense technology, which is activated when the QCE II is in “Aware” mode, is another feature we truly enjoy. This automatically modifies the noise cancellation to allow you to hear what’s going on around you while still having your music somewhat muffled out by loud external noises. When you need to talk to someone, auto transparency is also a fairly cool feature to have. When you remove one bud and lower the ANC level on the other buds to its lowest setting, this automatically happens. Put the bud back on, and your ANC returns to its original settings without more action from you.
Although the Bose Music app hasn’t changed at all, it recently added an adjuster to allow you to customize the music to your tastes. This feature was absent when the earlier QC Buds were first introduced. The QCE II is incredibly simple to pair with, and the app allows you to remember ANC modes (up to four) and change the settings for some touch controls. It is also very user-friendly and lots of instructions.
BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARBUDS 2 REVIEW: DESIGN
The new QuietComfort Earbuds II are significantly more realistically proportioned than the original QuietComfort Earbuds, which were, let’s be honest, absolute units. The new earphones are a complete revelation to this reviewer’s ears in comparison to the older ones, which she has been using as her daily headphones ever since they were released.
According to Bose, the new buds are 30% smaller than the first generation, which alone suggests that the entire design has been changed. The QCE II are from the “dangly stem” design school, but the stem is short and they are secure and comfy thanks to three different ear tip and “stability band” options. But, when we initially started using them, they didn’t feel particularly secure, and it took some actual shaking and jumping to reassure us that the buds wouldn’t come out.
Of course, the Bose Music app has a fit test to assist you, but it takes some time to feel secure using it. While you may be aware of the ear tip size that works for you based on prior earbuds, it might be challenging to determine which stability band is best for you. To make a choice, we discovered that we had to test them all with our preferred ear tip and move each bud’s position in the ear while wearing each band. Finding the correct fit doesn’t take long despite how tiresome it may sound. Also, as we have previously stated, you should definitely experiment because the ideal fit guarantees the best results in terms of sound stage and ANC performance.
Perhaps the false sense of security is caused by the overall weight of 6g each earbud (as opposed to 8.9g previously), but it doesn’t hurt either because that’s relatively light for this kind of bud. The QCE II are incredibly comfortable to use for extended periods of time because even the ear tips and stability bands are quite soft.
The build quality, which includes the IPX4 water resistant rating we already observed, is also exactly what you’d expect from a product costing a premium and, well, from Bose.
Even the charging case has been updated; while having a slightly larger battery inside, it is now taller, slimmer, and lighter than the one carrying the earlier QC Buds. It is still a strong case and considerably simpler to open than its predecessor, despite the size shift.
BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARBUDS 2 REVIEW: AUDIO PERFORMANCE
Together with excellent ANC, Bose has enhanced sound quality with the QCE II. When we evaluated the earlier model, we felt the bass was lacking, but Sony handled the bass quite well. But, that has already been fixed, and whatever CustomTune is doing in the background makes serenading the new friends a truly pleasurable experience.
You can pick up an exceptionally high level of detail that wasn’t feasible with the previous headphones because to the superbly balanced soundstage. This is especially clear in the bottom end, where bassy components like double bass and kick drums receive a fair bit of attention. For instance, you can distinguish the double bass from the piano (mids), saxophone, and cymbals when listening to Miles Davis or John Coltrane. When listening to blues, pop, or rock, bass drums don’t get drowned out because almost every instrument can compete with the vocals. And the instruments never overpowered the voice at any moment.
To test how the EQ would respond, we even increased the bass, and listening to Klergy’s Caught In The Flames was wonderful. There was nothing we could fault, from JJ Cale to Royal Deluxe, Sarah McLachlan to Beth Hart, even Beethoven and Mozart. There were times when it felt like we were at a performance hall with outstanding acoustics, sitting in front of the orchestra. The lows aren’t drowned out by the strings, the winds keep up, and the piano sounds fantastic.
As CustomTune cannot be turned off for a point of comparison, it is unknown how it operates or what it does, but we don’t mind. In all honesty, we didn’t even need to change the EQ; we only did it out of curiosity. In other words, you should put on the QCE II and let it do its thing.
But, the call quality may be a little better. In actuality, we discovered that the older Bose QC Buds performs marginally better in comparison. Bose claims that external sounds are filtered, however in practice, especially when it’s a little breezy, this doesn’t happen. When using the QCE II, exterior noises like traffic and loud conversation do tend to leak in, although the Sony WH-1000XM4 handles wind a little better.
Most persons we spoke to while using the QCE II commented that we sound like we are on a speakerphone, despite the fact that the SelfVoice feature, which you can tune on the app, allows you to hear yourself pretty well.
SHOULD I BUY THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARBUDS 2?
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II excel in noise cancellation, if there is one thing they do well. We believed the older ones to be excellent, but oh, were we mistaken. Without sacrificing sound quality, the second-generation buds are currently at the top of the ANC game.
Whatever CustomTune is doing in the ear, it’s doing an amazing job of it. We cannot emphasize how excellently balanced the sound is, with tons of textures and subtleties audible. Also, the EQ in the app can be used if you still feel the need to adjust it.
Since the QCE II only supports low-definition wireless codecs, it might not be suitable for everyone. There is no LDAC or aptX support here, and spatial audio is also not supported. We’re not holding our breath, but it’s possible that compatibility with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound will be introduced in the future.
The QCE II aren’t the smallest true wireless alternatives available, even though Bose was able to reduce the size of its flagship ANC buds. Also, it is a significant mistake in our opinion since competitors now provide wireless charging while the Bose does not.
It’s simple to argue that the QCE II’s ANC and sound quality are worth every penny, but these are pricey earbuds. When you consider that some features are missing that rivals provide at a cheaper cost to you, the price point becomes even more painful.