Sound

Bose QuietComfort45 Headphones

Wireless freedom and convenience with Bose QuietComfort45 headphones

When Amar Bose thought of inventing a technology to eliminate airplane engine noise for use in headphones during his 8-hour flight from Zurich to Boston in 1978 and spent 15 years developing it, many believed his efforts were nothing but a waste of time and capital. However, 22 years after the release of the first Bose QuietComfort45 headphones equipped with active noise cancellation (ANC), all headphone manufacturers strive to offer their users the best ANC technology. Sony and Apple made a mark in the ANC technology field a few years ago.

With the release of the Bose 700 in 2019, which undoubtedly had the best ANC performance in the over-ear headphone market at that time and is still a valuable headphone, Bose challenged its competitors. The latest ANC headphones from this American company, QuietComfort 45, have a tough road ahead to compete against Sony’s XM5, Apple’s AirPods Max, and even its Bose 700 headphones.

Unsurprisingly, the QC45 headphones are exceptional; that was what we expected. However, the question is how much value does this $329 headphone hold against its competitors or even other products from the same company, and which category of music fans is it more suitable for?

Design and Comfort of Bose QC45 Headphones

The Bose QuietComfort45 headphones have many similarities with their predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II, so you may be unable to distinguish them at first glance. They have a plastic construction, simple and minimal design, a similar height adjustment mechanism, buttons placed in the exact locations, and are available in black and white colours. Even the drivers remain untouched, although, in the new generation of these headphones, they are positioned at an angle and appear slightly more prominent.

With a closer look, subtle differences between these headphones become apparent, giving QC45 a cleaner and more stylish appearance. For example, the headband’s underside is no longer made of fabric that easily attracts lint and dust; it is made of synthetic leather that is much easier to clean.

The prominent logo on the earcups is now flat, with no microphone holes around the cups. The cups now provide better coverage for the ears, and the buttons no longer have the sharpness they had before. However, the most significant change is supporting a USB-C charging port instead of micro-USB, which is a welcome change, although it does not support audio playback.

The QC45 headphones are specifically designed for travel and commuting. With a weight of 238 grams, these headphones are only 3 grams heavier than the QC35 II but noticeably lighter than Sony’s XM4 and XM5, Bose 700, and Apple’s 386-gram AirPods Max.

Furthermore, the dual-hinge mechanism of QC45 allows you to fold the earcups flat and collapse them into themselves, occupying less space during travel. This feature must be added to the headphones mentioned (except for XM4). The latest QuietComfort series headphones, true to their name, are very comfortable, and the padding around the headband and earcups is soft enough to allow continuous use for several hours. However, they may press against your ears with head movements, such as when running, causing discomfort.

From my comparison with Sony’s XM5, I noticed that the headband of QC45 is much more comfortable and softer. However, the earcups are smaller and tighter, and after wearing the headphones on my head for a few hours, I realized that they had exerted significant pressure on my ears. Although the pads isolate the sound to a large extent, they may heat the area around your ears in scorching environments.

The QC45 headphone case has stayed the same as the previous generation; it is sturdy, high-quality, and compact. Inside the case, the earcups lie flat, with one of them folded, and the case contains a USB-C charging cable and an audio cable for connecting to a 3.5mm jack. As expected, the QC45 headphones do not have any IP rating and are not resistant to water or sweat. Therefore, using them in a gym or while walking in the rain is not recommended; if the earcups get wet, they should be dried immediately to prevent damage to the drivers.

Enhance your music experience with the immersive soundstage of Bose QuietComfort45 headphones

ANC in Bose Headphones

ANC stands for Active Noise Cancellation, and Bose is known for its ANC technology in its headphones. They claim this technology has peaked in the QC45 headphones, thanks to over 50 years of research. If you have experience with their previous models, you will notice little difference in the ANC performance.

In general, any headphones that can cancel out more than 20 decibels of ambient noise can have satisfactory ANC performance. However, their performance may vary at different frequency ranges. The QC45 effectively cancels out noise in the lower and mid-range frequencies, ranging from 20 to 30 decibels. The ear cups provide better sound isolation in the higher frequency range than most competing headphones.

Although the ANC performance of these headphones, known as “Quiet” in the app, doesn’t match that of Sony’s XM5 or even the Bose 700, it still does an excellent job of reducing environmental noise for enjoying music in noisy environments. Specifically, the QC45 performs well in reducing the sound of people talking, air conditioners, coffee makers, and annoying motorcycle and train noise. Therefore, it can be a reliable companion for travel, work environments, crowded cafes, subways, and city traffic.

The only significant drawback of the ANC in these headphones is their discomforting pressure on the ears. This pressure is more noticeable when no music is playing, and it feels like submerging in water. This pressure is felt because the brain interprets the difference in pressure between the outer and inner parts of the ear as the absence of low-frequency sounds.

However, the performance of these headphones in reducing loud and bothersome noises, such as the sound of a loud cooler or prolonged typing by colleagues in the workplace, was good enough that when I took off the headphones for a moment due to the pressure from ANC, I immediately wanted to put them back on.

Another issue that may catch the attention of those migrating from the Bose 700 to these bose headphones in UAE is the need for adjustable ANC levels. Additionally, with the addition of the Aware feature to this generation of headphones, it is no longer possible to turn off ANC, and by pressing the button under the left ear cup, you can only switch between ANC and Aware.

Unlike ANC, which performs satisfactorily, the Aware feature, which essentially works contrary to ANC by enhancing ambient sound, only grabbed our attention a little. Bose claims to have intentionally designed this feature to prevent the user from being overwhelmed by excessive ambient noise and to strike a balance between music and the outside world. However, if you have experienced the Transparency mode of Apple’s AirPods Max, similar capabilities in no other headphones, not even the luxurious XM5, will be as enjoyable.

Improve your focus and productivity with the noise-blocking capabilities of Bose QuietComfort45 headphones

The performance and sound of Bose QuietComfort45 Wireless Headphones in UAE

Bose has used the same 40mm drivers from the previous model in the QuietComfort45 headphones. As a result, you won’t notice much difference in sound performance compared to the QC35 II, which was released in 2017, except in the higher frequencies, where it now covers a more comprehensive treble range.

Suppose you were expecting the new generation of the QC series to finally support high-resolution audio codecs such as aptX or Sony’s proprietary LDAC for Android devices. In that case, you will have to continue waiting. However, these headphones support the AAC codec for Apple products, which is slightly better than the standard SBC codec. Over the years, SBC technology has also advanced enough to provide enjoyable music listening for everyday use.

Regarding sound performance, the Bose QuietComfort45 headphones utilize a relatively neutral sound profile to maintain a natural sound and prevent listener fatigue over long periods. However, the lower range’s subdued bass and other sound details may not appeal to those who prefer more pronounced bass and vibrant colors in their music. The simple yet effective equalizer settings available in the app can help address this issue.

Overall, the Bose QuietComfort45 headphones provide bass coverage with a slight emphasis, but still less pronounced than competing headphones, to prevent mid-range sounds from being overshadowed by the booming bass. The frequency coverage is almost neutral and natural in the mid-range, where vocals and most primary instruments reside, offering good detail and accuracy.

Another point to note is that the Bose QuietComfort45 weakness lies in the higher range, where it emphasizes treble levels. This can make listening to songs that feature instruments like harmonicas and cymbals and other high-pitched sounds like soprano vocals slightly bothersome. However, the EQ settings available in the app can help mitigate this issue by reducing the treble range and making these types of songs more enjoyable.

I turned to the synth-pop song “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode to test the lower range and bass coverage. This song typically has a strong bass presence and is played with a slightly increased emphasis on the Bose QuietComfort45 headphones. As the saying goes, if you’re a bass enthusiast, you’ll enjoy listening to bass-heavy songs in genres like hip-hop and electronic dance. However, if you find pronounced bass bothersome, you can reduce the bass coverage by a few notches using the app’s EQ settings or the default presets.

To test the mid-range and the playback quality of vocals and primary instruments, I tried the acoustic version of the song “Many of Horror” by the Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro. The Bose QuietComfort45 headphones faithfully reproduce the mid-range, capturing the vibrato of the vocals, the whisper-like accompaniment, the subtle drum beats, and the guitar chords with such clarity and detail that you feel like you’re sitting in the MTV studio alongside the performers, despite the absence of soundstage in closed-back headphones.

I was amazed by the listening experience of this song with the QC45 headphones, so I tested them with most of the songs from MTV Unplugged, and in most cases, the headphones performed excellently. If you get these headphones, try the MTV Unplugged version of the song “Take On Me”!

To test the upper range and treble coverage, I turned to the song “Sentient Oona” by the psychedelic punk band Thee Oh Sees, where the lead guitar sound typically rings and strikes from 1:33 onwards. Only high-quality and highly neutral headphones can reproduce it in a way that won’t make you immediately remove them and throw them across the room! The Bose QuietComfort45 headphones quickly emphasise the treble range, and you need to lower the treble intensity using EQ settings to enjoy punk genre songs fully.

In essence, while the QC45 emphasizes the upper range, enhancing clarity in the mid-range, it can make older songs with poor or overly busy mixes slightly distorted and chaotic. For example, the performance of this headphone was not particularly satisfying when playing old punk songs like “The Press Corpse” by Anti-Flag, where the booming bass overshadowed the vocals and drums.

Similarly, whenever the music becomes crowded and different instruments blend, the QC45 headphones fall behind competitors like the XM5, AirPods Max, or even the XM4. For example, melodic death metal songs like “The Wonders at Your Feet” by Dark Tranquillity or heavy metal songs like “Deceiver, Deceiver” by Arch Enemy lacked the necessary clarity and separation of sound, and the instruments and vocals sounded jumbled.

While the Bose QuietComfort45 may fall short in playing crowded songs and metal genres, it showcases one of the best performances among competitors in playing acoustic, pop, classical, and orchestral music. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is also enjoyable with these headphones, and I had one of the best experiences listening to the captivating voice of Cecil Palmer in the Welcome to Night Vale podcast.

The QC45’s performance preventing sound leakage to the outside is also very satisfying. As long as the headphones are on your ears, you can comfortably listen to your favourite music at high volumes in relatively noisy environments without disturbing those around you.

Seamless connectivity and intuitive controls with Bose QuietComfort45 headphones

The Bose Headphones in Dubai Come with an App and Control

The QC45 headphones can be easily paired with Android or iPhone devices by opening the Bose Music app, even without access to the Bluetooth device menu. The 110-centimetre audio cable, available separately on the Bose website for $16, allows connection to computers or devices that still support the 3.5mm headphone jack. The QC45 headphones, with support for Bluetooth 5.1 and a range of 9 meters, also enable simultaneous connection of two devices, such as a phone and a computer, and seamless switching between them.

The control system of the QC45 headphones is entirely button-based. Although this system is not as efficient as expected for luxurious headphones with a price tag of $550, it competes with the touch-sensitive and excellent control of the Sony XM5. The situation is much better for the QC45 because all the buttons, except for the power button in the middle of the right cup, are placed underneath the cups, making it very easy to find them.

Under the right cup, there is a USB-C charging port, two buttons for volume control, and a multi-function button for play/pause (one press), next track (two presses), previous track (three presses), answer/reject calls (one press), or activate voice assistant (press and hold). Under the left cup is a 2.5mm audio cable output and a relatively large button for switching between ANC and Aware modes (one press).

Unfortunately, Bose did not consider a mode to turn off the ANC/Aware feature to save battery power; instead, you can turn off the microphone sound during phone calls by double-pressing the Action button. However, regarding call quality, you won’t need this option!

The QC45 headphones use a straightforward app that provides almost everything you need from headphones. In this app, you can check the battery percentage, switch between ANC and Aware modes in the Modes section, choose the audio source from two devices connected simultaneously to the headphones or adjust the voice volume during calls in the Self Voice section under the settings icon.

I didn’t notice much difference between the highest level and the Off mode. You can also choose an exciting name for your headphones from the suggested list (I chose Obsidian Night!) or any name you like.

Fortunately, in the February 2022 update, Bose added the equalizer settings to this app, allowing you to customize the bass, midrange, and treble levels according to your preference or use the four default presets to decrease or increase the lower and upper ranges. As you saw in the headphone sound test section, this equaliser’s presence was necessary to enhance the experience of certain songs!

Alongside these options, the QC45 headphones lack the adjustable ANC level in the Bose 700 headphones. One of the other features that is sorely missed in these headphones is the ability to pause playback when the headphones are taken off. Unlike the XM5 and AirPods Max, these headphones do not support three-dimensional and spatial audio.

Sound Quality of Bose QuietComfort45 Headset

Bose has changed the number and arrangement of microphones in the QC45 headphones compared to the previous model. The new headphones from this American company now have six microphones instead of 4, which is the same as the Bose 700.

While it was expected that increasing the number of microphones and improving the ambient noise cancellation algorithm would lead to improved call quality, unfortunately, it must be said that the performance of the QC45 microphones for calls is not satisfactory at all.

These microphones cannot effectively separate the user’s voice from ambient noise, and if you make calls in relatively noisy environments, the other party will have difficulty hearing your voice. Even activating the ANC feature or increasing the volume through the app does not make a difference in call quality, and you may have to disconnect the headphone connection with the phone every time you need to answer a call.

Travel in style with the sleek and sophisticated design of Bose QuietComfort45 headphones

Battery Capacity

Undoubtedly, after sound quality and ANC performance, battery life is the most crucial factor when choosing over-ear headphones, primarily for travel and long journeys. Bose claims a battery life of 24 hours for the QC45, but in my review, while continuously playing music at a relatively high volume, it lasted for 23.5 hours until it reached less than 10%. When the headphone battery reaches 10%, we constantly face low-charge warning messages, and since it pauses the music playback, you prefer to charge the headphones at that time.

If charging conditions are not available, you can likely use the headphones for another one to two hours, which, in this case, the battery life reaches 25 hours, slightly better than the promised time. AirPods Max offers 20 hours of charge with ANC on, and XM5 provides 27 hours of charge under similar conditions.

Unfortunately, the lack of the ability to disable ANC has deprived users of the benefit of battery saving in critical conditions. However, suppose the headphone battery runs out, and charging is not possible. In that case, you can use the audio cable to listen to music, although in wireless mode without charge, ANC mode or headphone EQ settings are not accessible. Charging from zero to full for QC45 also takes 2.5 hours; with a 15-minute charge, you can listen to music for up to 3 hours. Additionally, while the headphone is charging, it cannot be used.

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