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Bose QC45 review: commuter favourite noise-cancelling headphones revamped

23 Jan 2022 By theguardian

Bose QC45 review: commuter favourite noise-cancelling headphones revamped

Accommodation Singapore introduces

Bose is back with a revamp of its most popular noise-cancelling headphones, which improve the technology but keep the good bits mostly the same.

The QuietComfort 45 cost £320 ($330/A$500) and are non-showy and comfortable. The design has been refined with smoother ear cushions and fewer lines and microphone holes in the ear cups for a more minimalist look, but side by side the differences with the QuietComfort 35s are subtle. The headband is now lined with smoother vegan leather rather than the suede-like Alcantara of their predecessors.

The headphones are still light, well balanced and stay put on your head without needing to clamp particularly hard, aiding their long-term comfort.

The construction feels robust and capable of taking a beating, similar to their longstanding predecessors that stood up very well to years of the rough and tumble of travel and my daily commute.

The QC45 are a standard set of Bluetooth 5.1 headphones supporting the universal SBC and AAC audio formats, which are compatible with most phones, tablets, computers and other devices. They can connect to two devices at once, such as a phone for calls and tablet for video, and had a rock solid connection to iPhones and Android devices. You can use a cable for wired listening even when the headphones are out of battery.

A sliding switch turns the headphones on and off and puts them into pairing mode, while a trio of buttons control playback and volume. A button on the left cup switches between sound modes. Unlike most high-end rivals, the QC45 do not pause the music when you take them off, however.

All Bose headphones have a signature sound that has proven divisive in audiophile circles, typically because they heavily process sound, which means music is considered to be removed from what the artist intended.

The QC45 sound generally pleasant and better balanced than rivals, producing a solid punch in the low end without it overriding other tones. Vocals are particularly clear, but the treble and highs can be over accentuated, making some punk tracks with heavy use of cymbals a little overbearing. Separation between instruments and tones is excellent, even for very complex and overlapping tracks.

Despite lacking any virtual surround-sound feature, the QC45 do an excellent job of recreating the big booms, action and vocals of movies.

Call quality is reasonable, with my voice coming through clear if a little distant-sounding, but they let some background noise through and fall far short of the performance of the NCH 700.

They fully charge via USB-C in 2.5 hours, with a 15-minute charge adding up to three hours of playback.

Bose estimates that the battery will last in excess of 500 full charge cycles but it is not replaceable, ultimately making the headphones disposable.

The headphones are generally repairable, and some replacement parts including the ear cushions, at £24.95 for a pair, are available. The headphones do not contain recycled materials. Bose does not publish individual product environmental impact reports but does publish annual sustainability reports.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 cost £319.95 ($329/A$499.95).

For comparison, the RRP of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is £349.95, the QuietComfort 35 II cost £299.95, the QuietComfort Earbuds cost £249.95, the Sony WH-1000XM4 cost £279, B&W PX7 cost £349.99, Apple AirPods Max cost £549.

The Bose are still great but a bit pricy at RRP. They are frequently discounted so look for a deal or consider the still excellent QC 35 II, which are available for about £200. Note the battery cannot be replaced on the new headphones by Bose, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star.

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