Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Here is how that went:
"Oh, that's cool". Those were the first words I spoke after putting on the Bose QC35 Series 2 headphones. And there is a good reason those were my first words, because these are cool! The QC 35 Series 2 have been out since September 2017, and are the predecessors to the award-winning Bose QC 25 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones that came out in 2014, and still carry a hefty price tag of about $300 USD at the time of this writing. With more companies entering the Active Noise Canceling arena with cheaper prices, are the QC 35 Series 2 still worth the price?
The QC 35 Series 2 headphones are built with the constant traveler in mind. The Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) is second to none in my opinion and does an amazing job canceling the hum of an aircraft engine and other constant sounds. This does not mean that they can only be used for air travel, but, keep in mind that this is what the QC 35 Series 2 were built for.
I picked up the QC 25’s years ago when I was traveling by air about once every three months. I found myself in need of headphones that could overcome the sound of the aircraft without blowing out my eardrums. This was not an easy task. I originally had in-the-ear headphones, but that left my ears achy after a long trip and I would constantly have them yanked out of my ears from the armrest and airport obstacles. Eventually, I found a decent over-the-ear headphone, but they lacked the ability to drown out the aircraft sound. I found myself missing words in my audiobooks, watching movies with subtitles because I cannot make out the words, and giving up on listening to music because the only way I could hear it clearly was to increase the volume to ear-shattering levels. Finally, I looked around airports and airplanes and saw a constant. The Bose QC 25’s were everywhere, so I picked up a set for myself and never traveled without them again. They were comfortable to wear for all-day travel, the sound quality is excellent, and best of all, they cancelled out most of the unwanted noise.
The QC 25 was not without its flaws. It did require an audio cable plugin, but the cord was detachable from the headphones, so if it did get snagged it had a low chance of damage. However, the audio jack was unique to the Bose QC 25’s, so if you forgot it there was no easy way to get a new one. It also required 1 AAA battery for ANC, and that battery lasted only about 1 or 2 round trips depending on layovers and travel time. There was an aftermarket Bluetooth adapter built for the headphones, but the battery life I found was only about 10 hours.
The QC 35 Series 2 addressed all of these issues while still retaining all of the features that made the QC 25’s so fantastic. First off, they are wireless! Of course, this is expected in this day and age, but it was the biggest flaw of the QC 25’s in my opinion. They have an advertised 20 hour battery life, and in my personal experience that is exactly what you get. There are a few cases where the battery life depleted faster than normal, but I was using them as a gaming head-set while I was traveling, so the microphone was constantly on. I figure that explains the additional pull on the battery. With the wireless feature, Bose has also developed an app to keep your headphones up to date with the most current firmware, naming your device, and giving you a product tour. You do not need this app to pair your headphones with your audio device, but it is kind of nice to see that Bose is still developing optimizations for your headphones after your original purchase. There is one button on the left ear that can be programmed for a variety of tasks, like increasing your ANC or activating your personal assistant. On the right ear, there are 3 buttons, volume up and down, and a center multi-function button that can be used to start, stop, rewind and skip your music. This button can also be held down to activate your voice actions on your phone. I use this feature to activate my home smart devices, such as lights, the home thermostat, or even speakers around my house.
These are probably the most comfortable headphones on the market. They do not squeeze your head too tightly and the ear cups are large enough to cover most ears. The tension is adequate to keep them firmly on your head as you move about, and I have worn them for about 8 hours a day for almost a week straight and had no pain complaints. Holding the headphones, they are fairly lightweight, but the build quality is solid. You probably do not want 7 pounds of headphones sitting on your head for 4 hours a day. Despite being comfortable, these are some exceptionally durable headphones. You can bend and twist these headphones, no worries, they were built to take a beating. I usually end up throwing them in my bag at the end of the day and I have never worried that I may be damaging them in any way.
The ANC is even better than before. For those who are sensitive to the “pressure” that a lot of ANC headphones cause, there is none or relatively little “pressure” while the ANC is on. I call it pressure because it makes some people uncomfortable, but it sounds more or less like white noise - very low white noise. This sound is actually the hum of the headphones' internal electronics, and the QC 35’s do a great job insulating this sound from your ears.
The microphone is surprisingly good. Not being right next to your mouth, you expect a lot of background noise, but the QC 35’s do a decent job of eliminating unwanted background noises. Of course, exceptionally loud noises, such as sirens and car horns, will make it through, but most other sounds can be eliminated or muted significantly. I did find they struggle with the lower toned voices a bit more than the average register, but overall, it was still able to facilitate clear communication.
Remember, these headphones were built with the traveler in mind, not an audiophile in mind. That being said, these headphones sound great for most music. Of course, they have great low frequency response for the deep bass, mostly neutral range for the mid-range frequencies, and intermittent response for the high ranges. This makes vocals clear, and bass deep, but it also allows some of those chimes in music to be brought forward. For the true audiophile, this may take some getting used to, but I felt this EQ was decent. I would love to be able to tweak it a bit, but unfortunately the app does not allow you to mess with the EQ.
SO, back to the original question, are they still worth the price now that there are so many competitors on the market? YES! YES YES, HELL YA! The market for these headphones demands a high price, and it’s a turn off for a lot of people. But if you travel, you want noise cancelling. If you work in an area with a constant noise source like a fan or electrical hum, you may want noise cancelling. Bose is the industry leader in noise cancelling. The comfort of these headphones is second to none and it is clear why they chose to add comfort to the name. Bose has made a promise with these headphones and they have lived up to it in every way.
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