Bose may never get ahold of the expansive audiophile crowd, but it certainly has a strong subset of fans thanks to its best-in-class noise cancellation technology. Now, those fans have another reason to add to the list of why they choose Bose: their earphone manufacturer of choice is going wireless.
Enter the QuietComfort 35, Bose's latest set of headphones, which are now out on the market for $350. If you are looking for a brand new design, then look elsewhere, as it won't be found in the QuietComfort 35. The QC 35s feature the same around-ear design as its older, wired QuietComfort variants, and it offers nearly the same audio quality as the QuietComfort 25 from 2014 or the more recent (but not noise-cancelling) Sound Link II. In short, if you've used any of Bose's high-tier headphones in recent years, then you should know what to expect, both structurally and operationally.
So, if that's the case, then why bother with the QuietComfort 35? Do so because it combines the best of both the QC 25 and the Sound Link II to create a wireless, noise-cancelling headphone in a form that is well-liked by fans.
When I said the QuietComfort 35 features essentially the same design as the QC 25 or the SL II, I meant it. Much like the other two headphones, they're lightweight, have rotating earcups to better suit each and every person's head and a cushioned headband. Overall, they're quite comfortable, and that's part of its charm: they're great for relaxing at home while you play a handheld console game, listen to music or do whatever you please on the computer, free of worries or discomfort.
However, while the QC 35 is great for use at home, its charm falls off somewhat when used outside. Yes, it sports noise-cancelling abilities that excel outdoors, but they're also somewhat large, and ignoring my personal reservations about carrying around a $350 piece of equipment on your head in public, the size means that it might be difficult to stash it away when it's not in use while on the go.
Regardless of whether they're used inside or outside, however, using the QC 35 itself is remarkably easy. The right earcup is where all the action is, housing controls such as the Power/Pairing switch, a multifunction button (for playback, call management and track navigation), and dedicated volume controls that work in conjunction with the attached device's master volume levels. There are also LED indicators for battery life and Bluetooth status next to the control panel.
The QC 35 is fully capable of acting as a wired device, and it can do so by attaching an audio cable to the left earcup. However, this optional function reveals one of the QC 35's greatest flaws: there is no inline remote control or mic on the cable. This means that, when in use, the function of the headphones changes drastically, with you being forced to control playback on the device itself when in wired audio mode and only able to field calls when you're paired with your device. There's not much that can be said about the former, but there is a bit of an upside to the latter: thanks to dual microphones being built on the headphones themselves, there is more call clarity as opposed to what you would get from a single inline mic.
One of the QuietComfort 35's greatest draws is the wireless function, and it too is relatively simple. The headphones are capable of going wireless via Bluetooth, so pairing to utilize that function just becomes a matter of tapping to pair with NFC or accessing your device's Bluetooth menu.
There is also a free Connect app available for Android and iOS that makes switching between paired devices a breeze. For example, if you are streaming music from a tablet and receive a phone call, just use the app, and you're all set.
There is one weakness in the wireless that might be a deal-breaker for some though: the QC 35 does not support high quality wireless transfer such as AptX and LDAC, limiting its ability to produce high sound quality without cables.
Bose's noise-cancelling technology has always been at the top of the charts relative to its competitors, and this iteration is no exception. However, even though it comes out on top, there are some things that the tech just can't overcome.
Testing this feature out on a train while using my PlayStation Vita (I broke my rule about wearing expensive stuff in public, I'm sorry!), I have no problem saying that the headphones have no problem with eliminating the sounds it produces. This, in fact, is thanks to the aforementioned built-in microphones and a digital chip that senses ambient noise and blocks it accordingly. However, there was one guy across from me who appeared to have a bad cough, and while those noises were muffled somewhat, they still went through.
Regardless of that shortcoming, the QC 35 is continuing Bose's trend of finding better ways to muffle human voices, as evidenced by my inability to pick up on most of what other people were saying nearby. Of course, whether this is good or bad is up to the individual.
Outside of everything already mentioned, there are several other things of which to take note. First off is the battery life, which Bose estimates to be about 20 hours in Bluetooth or 40 hours in wired mode, with the duration obviously being affected by volume levels. When the battery dies, you can either continue listening in wired mode sans active noise-cancellation and digital-signal processing, or charge it by using an accompanying micro USB cable (adapter not included) that hooks up to the right earcup.
All in all, the QuietComfort 35 is a solid headset that pushes the industry's noise-cancelling technology to the very limit. Bose promised it would create a headphone that delivers on wireless functions without sacrificing its noise-cancelling ability, and the QC 35 delivers. Yes, $350 is a lot to ask for from consumers, especially when they lose out on sound quality when the device goes wireless, but with everything that it offers, the price is more than worth it.