The Outstanding Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphone Page 2


Quality of Noise Cancelation
Historically, noise cancelers have been among the worst sound quality headphones. Briefly, a signal is generated in the headphones that is a mirror image of the acoustic signal from surrounding noise. That inverted signal is added to the electrical signal from you player. Ideally, it cancels out the surrounding noise so you only hear the music. Sounds easy, right?

Well, not so fast: The actual acoustic signal you want to cancel is not the external noise itself, but rather that part of it that manages to get into the earcup. So noise cancelers have little microphones inside the cup to hear what's going on. Well...there's music in there as well. How does the headphone know the difference between the music inside the cup, and the stuff from the outside that manages to get in there?

The answer is (sort of) that there are microphones on the outside of the headphone as well that listen to the ambient acoustic signal so it can recognize it inside the cups (sort of). This oversimplification borders on untruthful—noise canceling is very, very, very complicated to pull off...especially if you want the music to sound good in the end as well.

Early on, most noise canceling circuits were analog and tuned for the particular headphone. These circuit analogs are mear approximations of the actual acoustic situation going on in real life. The result was disorienting weird. People used to often say, "I turned the noise canceler on and about fell over...they almost make me loose my balance." Five years ago, all noise cancelers sounded like crap. Go listen to the old Bose QC3 and you'll see what I mean...and that was one of the best at the time.

For years now, Bose has been hammering away at this noise canceling technology. Now there are numerous internal and external microphones, and a seriously complex noise canceling algorithm implemented by a digital signal processing engine doing one hell of a lot of math to get it right. From some brief comments from another manufacturer, Bose has killed it with their technological advancement, and has, essentially (and for the moment), patented themselves into a commanding lead with noise cancelers.

As evidence of their forward march, take a look at the isolation plots from the QC15, QC25, and QC35. Broadband isolation measurements are -26dBr; -27dBr; and -28dBr respectively. It doesn't sound like a lot, but every little bit counts. More importantly, and we'll get to it in more detail in a moment, frequency response plots show Bose also inching their way towards a better tonal profile.

There's another important aspect that doesn't (usually) show up in the measurements. Noise cancelers are highly tuned to the acoustics in and around the headphones. With many, if you cup your hands around the outside of the ear capsules, you can alter the local acoustic situation around the headphones and bring it outside the normal operating conditions of the noise canceling system. Many noise cancelers will begin to go unstable and make weird feedback-like squeals or chuffing.

Under normal conditions, they may work fine, but if you wear the headphones in bed, the pillow may alter the acoustic around the headphone and act weird. Or it can happen if you're wearing a jacket with a hood. Sometimes a hoodie just bunched up around your neck will set one off.

With the quiet comfort 35, I tried everything I could to get them to go little avail. The most sensitive way I've found to listen for these issues is to play pink noise and listen for changes as I mess with the headphones. The only thing I found as I cupped or placed my hands on or around the ear capsules was a modest momentary change to tonality, especially in the bass. The really interesting thing is the change would be momentary as the DSP caught up with the conditions. After placing my hands somewhere I'd hear the tonal change and then it would go back to normal even though my hand was still in place. Also, I could hear a similar effect if I laid on a pillow and rolled my head from side to side.

Bottom line: Not only is the the most effective noise canceler I've experienced to date, it's also the most acoustically stable. This thing works great!

Sound Quality
I tested three listening modes for the QC35: passive on the wire; active on the wire; and active wirelessly.

Passive - In this mode, power is off and the headphones are acting like a normal pair of headphones. Often with DSP headphones (Parrot Zik, for example) designers don't worry about the sound in passive mode; they're mostly looking for a situation where the driver is well behaved regardless of tonal character. Ten they fix the EQ in DSP to make the headphones match their target response. The problem here is that when you run out of battery power and listen on the wire, the sound sucks.

In the case of the QC35, passive sound performance is decent, gross tonal balance is good. But, bass is a little overemphatic and loose, and the midrange has a boxy coloration. Treble is generally good but a bit splashy, they don't project an image of any special note. I'd put them on par with a good, but not great, $200 over-ear, sealed headphone.

On the other hand, comparing it directly with other experiences listening to noise canceling headphones in passive mode, I'd say the QC35 equals or bests anything I've heard to date.

Active Wired - Bass is wicked tight and well extended. It's well in-line with the Harman target response; elevated about 5dB with a long gentle upward slope. I had no sense of the bass intruding on the mid-range; transition to the mid-range is excellent.

Mid-range is coherent and smooth; little, if any, gross coloration. Upper-midrange is a little laid back causing vocals to sound just a bit veiled and lacking presence.

Treble is where the shit hits the fan. I've used this word before and I hear this effect with some regularity: The treble sounds sort of like it's coming from a crinkled cellophane speaker. Sibilant sounds take on an additional artificial character. I don't want to overstate this problem, but I don't want to understate it either. If I listen to a bunch of energetic and poorly recorded music I end up with listening fatigue within a half hour and have to remove the cans. With good recordings this problem is significantly reduced.

It's important to note that in actual use in loud environments, the listening experience had with the QC35 will still probably be better than that of a similarly priced passive, sealed headphone. The noise reduction and attendant ability to listen at a lower level may actually provide lower listening fatigue with the QC35.

Active Wireless - When listening in Bluetooth wireless mode the QC35 has largely the same character as when used in active wired mode. There is one significant difference however, Bose calls it: Volume Optimized EQ. As you raise and lower the volume at the headset the headphone changes EQ along the lines of the Fletcher-Muson equal loudness contour curves—or Bose' version of it, but same idea. When I raise my phone to full volume and lower the volume on the headset, I can clearly hear the bass has been emphasized at low volume. When I leave the QC35 volume high and lower the volume on the phone, I do not hear this bass emphasis. I felt this tuning worked quite well, it gave the music a nice little thump when I was listening quietly. Should you purchase a pair and use it in Bluetooth mode, raise the phone volume to one step below the top and then use the headset controls to adjust listening levels.

I opened this review by saying I found this headphone value packed. I see it that way because I know how much very complex technology it takes to pull off the noise canceling trick and still sound decent. $350 isn't cheap, but the Quiet Comfort 35 delivers world class noise canceling and best-in-class sonic performance.

Add to that outstanding build quality; terrific comfort; convenient folding features; a dandy carry case; good performance when the battery dies;'re getting one hell of a value. If you're a traveler or someone who needs a good noise canceling headphone, bite the bullet, cry once, and get the Bose Quiet Comfort 35. A killer noise canceler...yeah, these are going right up on the "Wall of Fame"

If only they'd have put a one-button remote on the cable...*le sigh*.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Bose home page and Quiet Comfort 35 product page.
Head-Fi discussion threads here and here.

Bose Corporation
The Mountain
Framingham, MA 01701

gibtg's picture

Thanks for braving the elements to give us a review Tyll!

OldRoadToad's picture

Makes an excellent product. Thanks for the review and I suppose it is now time to start saving up for a pair. I can see your point on the lack of a mic on the cord and perhaps Bose will listen and include one by the time I have the money in hand.

Nice beard, brother!

davidmelis's picture

Thank you Tyll. I have been checking your site every single day since Bose announced the QC35 headphones. Now the review is here

Why am I so anxiously? I suffered a brain injury and thus am physically dependent on Noise Cancelling headphones in my busy household. I use the Bose QC15 and the in-ear QC20's most of the day and everyday. I did not upgrade when the 25s came out based on your recommendation that they were just a slight upgrade. So, I am curious (Bluetooth aside) how do they compare? In your written review you mentioned the differences in noise canceling db, but no other comparisons. By your enthusiasm in the video I assume they sound better and are more comfortable. Also, I went back and re-read your reviews on older models. You had a problem with the base on the QC 15's but on these you had praise for the base.

When using the headphones I am relegated to a chair so Bluetooth is not necessarily a bonus for my sitaution. Also, I find my QC15's to be very comfortable and can easily wear them all day. So, my only consideration in upgrading is sound quality. In your opinion, Is it worth the upgrade based on this one factor? Thanks Tyll. I really value your opinion. :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
It's a solid incremental upgrade, but probably not imperative. If you're happy with the QC15, I wouldn't fret too much...unless you've got a healthy wallet.
tony's picture

We've had the Bose stuff in our little Airplanes since,hmm, the 1990s. Or has it been even earlier than that?

I like the idea of the headphone already having it's own Amplifier and Eq. ( sort of like the Phonak system ) , a Amp mounted on the HD600 headband would seem a logical design ( maybe even include a little DAC , something for JDS to think about ).

I feel certain that we'll be seeing these QC35s in our Airports, the older models are everywhere a person looks.

Still, I have a tiny zippered pouch with two pair of Etymotics and a variety of tip sizes, I can share music with any stranger I'm sitting next to, they're amazed at how LOUD the Airplane actually is when they have to talk to someone, they'll quickly return to installing the little etys.

Folks are amazed and pleased by Noise Cancelling, they feel High-tech owning the stuff but I don't have any room for the devices in my tight traveling kit, I have to carry my Etys in a shirt pocket.

Video quality of this review is 720p, lens focus is quite good, stop action is not at all blurred ( like 720i would be ). 1080p would be better and not at all more expensive! The GoPro people offer a 4K camera for very little money. I'm not complaining, these Innerfidelty reviews are the best stuff in Consumer Audio.

Another excellent review,

Tony in Michigan

ednaz's picture

...Which you then dashed when the poop was macerated by the fan. I've bought noise cancelling headphones since the first ones I can remember seeing, by Sony, back in the 90s. They've all worked, kind of, and it was nice to be able to listen to music instead of jet engines.

But while I could listen to music, it always sounded off a bit. They gave me the impression that I was hearing a high frequency tone - almost a cymbal ring - mixed into the music just below the surface, and the weird sibilance you mention. I actually spent time researching the technology to see if there was some kind of "reference tone" used in the NC process that would explain what I heard. They are good enough for lawn mowing, or a short flight, but for long flights I tended to have them on but without music after a bit. Your opening gave me hope that someone figured this out and made it go away. And then the fan turned on...

I stopped even trying new NC headphones at the QC15. A set of Etys back in the late 90s with a set of custom tips became my new defense against going deaf from airplanes, then moved to full custom IEs. Guess I'm stuck there for a bit more. I like headphone sound characteristics better than in-ears, but music's my drug of choice, and NC headphones tamper with my drug in an unpleasant way.

neo's picture

I know ,apples to oranges, but how would the Active Bose compare to the PM3. I travel by plane a couple of times a year and sometimes use public transport.
The PM3 should have better SQ, but the Bose seems tempting as well. I'm also treble sensitive...The original ath-m50's treble was a nightmare

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd say the PM3 is quite a bit better, and if you don't need the cans primarily for noise canceling, then you are better off with passive isolation and cleaner sound.
neo's picture

Thanks for your help. Btw keep the beard

tony's picture

Jude's got some MSB headphone gear and their Sales Manager.

Are you also in line for this Roll-out?

$100,000 ++ headphone stuff needs a Tyll Review!

Maybe even that Swiss Goldmund stuff, which is also super-expensive. ( I heard the Swiss Stuff last year, in Europe, in a Managers Home, he owns the whole darn Goldmund system but is only allowed to listen to headphones, poor man ).

Tony in Michigan

yuriv's picture

I tried a cheapo headset cable with a microphone and play/pause and volume up/down buttons that I bought for an ATH-M40x. It works well with the QC35; the mic works and it controls an iPhone just fine. With a simple 3-conductor adapter, I'm sure you can even use the QC25 cable with the QC35.

Still, it would have been nice to have such a cable in the box, if that's what you meant. But wired headset mode isn't impossible with the QC35.

Phoniac's picture

Hear hear - the good old Loudness is back. It worries me a bit that this can not be turned off. Anyway, I did not find any mention about the pöhone's self-noise. All BT headphones on tbe market suffer from a constant low volume noise, a bit above the hearing threshold, some more, some less. How is the QC35 in this regard?

Faz's picture

I was wondering how these compared to the Sennheiser Wireless Momentum for sound quality and comfort.

brause's picture

I own a pair of Q15 from 2010. I can't imagine this headphone sounds much different. I also own a pair of Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B that cost half as much.

First, my Q15 runs on a AAA battery for 35 hours. This new model has a proprietary battery. From the manual: "Removal of the rechargeable lithium ion battery in this product should be conducted only by a quali ed professional.". This is a deal breaker for me. Why bother when my battery dies after 3 years. Even more so with the Bose nc ear buds.

There is no doubt that Bose has by far the best noise cancelling. It works better than all the others I have tested, particularly at the lower frequencies. I use my headphone not for music but for attenuating my neighbour's air conditioner and washing machine.

Sonically, the Audio Technicas are far superior. Bose offers $100 worth of sound quality, the rest is name and noise cancelling. I cannot understand why so-called experts [also What Hifi] find anything attractive about the Bose sound. It is mediocre.

Both, the Boses and Audio Technicas are bulky. The Boses are very comfortable as long as they are in action. On international travel, they can be annoying when wrapped around the neck between planes. I retired both from travel and use earbuds. New planes such as the Boeing 787 are reasonably quiet.

Both the Boses and Audio Technicas are plastic constructs not worth anything above $100.

Bluetooth is pointless when using the headphones with the inflight movie system.

In summary, full-sized NC headphones are dinosaurs from the past. A nice, bulky gimmick that clog up your hand luggage. I recently travelled to Germany and back using the Senneheiser Momentum in-ear: was just great.

Jayhawklaw's picture

I too am curious about a comparison of the sound quality and comfort of the Bose QC 35 vs Sennheiser Momentum Wireless. Especially since the Sennheiser can now be had for $360 on Amazon

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

The Bose are slightly more comfortable but I would go momentum's all day, they are "actual" headphones, not weird Bose DSP amped oddness.

tienalan's picture

The new Sennheiser Pxc 550 is reviewed positively against Bose qc35 in some sites. Would like to see how you compare them. Also to add to the list of momentum wireless would be great!

philipjohnwright's picture


+1 for how they compare to the PXC 550's.

Also, to the PX200iis, which I own and I know you're keen on.

Purely on sound quality grounds would the (active wired) Bose QC35s be a step up, step down, or similar quality sound? Basically something with greater isolation than the 200s would be good, it's whether I'm paying £280 for it, or do I get better sound quality as well

Thks, Phil

nigelf's picture

You should listen to sony 1000x far superior in NC and SQ no contest at all

Nathan_h's picture

He did. And measured both. Sony lost.

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

I don't know... I obtained the QC25's and one thing I noticed is sense the drivers are putting out noise canceling sound as well as music they are prone to clipping in the bass especially with wind out side, I have never heard any headphone over $150 clip but these sure do and it's odd, so on a windy day, or riding a bike or on big base hits they will clip.

Another issue I always have with Bose speakers and over ears (their earphones seem a little better) is that they have this magical artificial Bose smoothness that sounds like a worn out record or something, it's not quite like listening to low bit-rate music but it masks all detail, all air, all imaging, a $100 pair of Sony bookshelf speakers sound better... I don't know what it is they do but they do all this research to have this nice fat bass and clean vocals but then you realize, it's all to smooth, and all the life is sucked out and there is no detail, it's like pop music played in a department store, you can hear the 4 chord melody, the bass line and the pop star and know what song it is and everyone goes about their business but you can't hear any of the back-up singers/vocal harmonies, chimes and extra added electronic layers or acoustic elements. On rock all you hear is the lead vocals, lead guitar and drums, non of the secondary level sounds and it is really odd and people think they are such good speakers.

One thing they do, do right is comfort... how come no audiophile brands can get this right... Bose over ear and Beats studios are what the Momentum's, HP50's, B&O H6's, B&W P7's, AT ATH-M50's are all trying to be in terms of a compact over-ear and they all fall short, I have no idea why beats and bose are the only companies that can get comfort right without being a full sized round cup headphone like larger beyers and sennheisers. I think the $300 Sony headphones might be the closest I know of.

Nathan_h's picture

Lots of threads on the Bose forum about wireless issues so if you have hiccups, definitely exchange before your return window ends.

NoelEiffe's picture


I have biggish ears I guess, and find the QC35’s painful after an hour or two of wearing....sore by the end of a cross country flight. Everybody seems to say these are so comfortable. Is there anything else in this general quality and price category you’d suggest as an over ear that will fit larger ears? For reference, I’d say the cups on my Beyer DT880 or 990s are the most comfortable I’ve found in a std headphone. Thanks, Noel

Czarek's picture

Hy Tyll
I love your reviews and have been tracing them for a couple of years now (even if I have registered to your website just now).
I was about to buy these cans but given your "The treble sounds sort of like it's coming from a crinkled cellophane speaker" concern, I wonder how they'd compete against the ATH-MSR7NC.
Besides, I'm not sure if I want over-ear cans, as they may make my ears hot in summer and hence am considering the in-ear QuietControl 30 by Bose vs the ATH-ANC40BT by audio-technica. Would appreciate your thoughts on these. Thank you in advance.
Kind regards

Mohidul Alam's picture

yeah! i personally use this [url=]wireless headphone[/url]e and I'm really happy about that. It enables receiving a call while you’re listening to the music. This hands-free device comes with a noise-canceling dual microphone setup. This helps the person on the other end to hear your voice clearly. What even better is, you can control the level of noise cancellation.
The ear cups are elliptical, fitting cozily and leaving room for the natural shape of your ears (unless you’re an elf). The entire piece is so flexible you can almost straighten the whole thing out without as much as a creak.