Ever since the beginning, Bose has been one company that strives to provide excellent quality audio equipment for consumers and professionals equally. Yes, their products are quite expensive, but they let you experience the music the way it should be. Earphones are hard to design and obtaining the true to life sound with flat response over the entire audible spectrum is quite a challenge. The space is a huge limitation with the in-ear headphones, i.e. the number of components and the size of drivers we put in each earbud has to be quite small. Active noise cancellation is quite common with the on-ear and the over-ear headphones, whilst it is quite rare when it comes to in-ear headphones. Bose aims to change this scenario by introducing the QuietComfort 20 in-ear headphones. For the entire selection, our team has put together a guide looking at the Best Bose Earphones on offer.
QuietComfort 20 construction and opinions
The unusual shape of the earbuds is what grabs our attention when we unbox the headphones. The QuietComfort 20 being an active noise cancelling headphone, requires an additional battery to supply power to enable the noise cancellation circuitry. In the previous QuietComfort 20 model, the battery was slightly bulkier, whereas in the new model the battery has been made more flat and it also lasts a little longer. It would be very cumbersome to have this battery hanging, so it is placed close to the 3.5 mm jack meaning you can tuck it in your pocket along with your phone. The battery takes nearly 2 hours to charge and it can last for 16 hours, which is quite good. We can use these headphones for at least 2 to 3 days on a single charge if we consider at least 4 to 5 hours of daily usage.
Moving along, we have the volume control and the microphone that is enclosed under a flat surface. The cable runs for 1.3 meters and it will definitely tangle if not stored properly. There are 2 versions of the remote control, 2 button and 4 button. The 2 button remote control is applicable to Android and Windows Phone devices, whereas the 4 button remote control is compatible with any iOS device. One of the buttons on the enclosure is also specific to QuietComfort 20 which enables the “Aware Mode”. The Aware Mode allows some level of external noise to reach your ears thereby allowing you to be “aware” of your environment. The earbuds seal the ear canal quite snugly leaving no air circulation, while the added fins that make these earphones look unusual help in achieving additional stability while in use. Bose provide 3 more earphone tips of different sizes to suit our comfort.
The active noise cancellation circuitry can be hidden easily inside the on-ear or over-ear headphones, but that is a very challenging task for mechanical designer while designing the in-ear headphones like these. In spite of such a challenge, Bose seems to have done a quite good job placing the noise cancellation circuitry behind the drivers.
The only other in-ear headphone with active noise cancellation is the Sony XBA-NC85D priced at nearly $300 but its performance is no where to match even $50 headphones.
Sound quality and performance
If the Bose QuietComfort 20 were your first ever in-ear headphones, then you would be never be satisfied with anything else that you use. The sound quality as well as the noise isolation and cancellation are the best in the market. The eartips seal your ear quite well blocking much of the noise in the surrounding, whereas the active noise cancellation circuitry further removes any remnant noise. The experience of listening with Quiet comfort 20 is just mind blowing. It will feel as if you are listening to the music in an entirely quiet environment, and soon it will begin to feel as if you are in the same room where track was recorded. In short, the music listening experience with Quiet Comfort 20 is very immersive. At times, the noise cancellation circuitry can produce tiny hiss which is not at all distracting and it is audible only during silent periods while switching between tracks.
Slightly boosted bass
The quietness achieved with the noise cancellation prepares us to hear every detail produced by the super sensitive Bose drivers. The frequency response of the Bose QuietComfort 20 drivers is not completely flat. These drivers provide a slightly boosted bass and treble which sounds good when listening to Rock, pop and metal.The boost to the bass is not really at frequencies where we can say it is “deep” but slightly up where the lows and the mids meet. Due to this, we can hear enhanced sounds generated by the kick drums, and the low tones of string instruments. The bass is really punchy and makes you feel the “thump” when the bass drum is hit.
A similar kind of boosting is visible at the points where mids and highs meet. Because of this boosting, the highs sound quite crisp and sharp. This kind of boosting gives us the idea of what kind of sound sculpting is done on Quiet Comfort 20. Most of the Bose fans are what we call “purists” who like neutral response speakers that have entirely flat response across the audio spectrum. Hence, we can expect a little bashing against Quiet Comfort 20 from the audiophiles. Nevertheless, the sound sculpting is not very much to the point where we might need to compare the Dr. Dre and Monster (known for bass overdose) with Bose.
Immerse yourself in sound
Sometimes we need that ultimate silence and to just immerse into the music, we can practically achieve that with Bose Quiet Comfort 20. Although Bose QuietComfort 20 does not provide exceptional sound quality, the exception noise cancellation makes up for it. It is really hard to find any good headphones that offer such high noise cancellation and yet provide rich sound in such a small form factor. For these facts, the price of £259 appears to be justified for the Bose QuietComfort 20. This pair of headphones have never gotten a rating less than 4/5 across various online shopping sites thus proving how worthy they really are. You can be assured that there will be no need to buy new earphones for next couple of years or more if you buy the Bose QuietComfort 20i.
Update: Not looking for ANC? The Jabees B sport review talks about the cheapest earphones on offer for fitness enthusiasts.
It is really hard to find any good headphones that offer such high noise cancellation and yet provide rich sound in such a small form factor and for these facts, the price of £259 appears to be justified.