New tech could topple Apple’s best seller


Bose has released its most impressive headphones yet – and they’re a compelling alternative to Apple and Sony’s best.

These products are hand-picked by our team to help make shopping easier. We may receive payments from third parties for sharing this content and when you purchase through links in this article. Product prices and offer details are not assured, and should be confirmed independently with the retailer. Learn more

As the Mother of Dragons once said: “This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins”. Only instead of Lannister, Targaryen and Stark, it’s Apple, Sony and Bose.

Bose’s noise-cancellation tech made it the king of headphones for a long time, until Sony and Apple challenged its dominance with sleeker designs, smarter features, and immersive sound, making consumers spoiled for choice.

Now, Bose has unleashed its ultimate weapon, the QuietComfort Ultras, claiming to offer the best of everything. But is it enough to secure the throne, or will this latest model die an untimely death?

1-MINUTE REVIEW: BOSE QUIETCOMFORT ULTRA WIRELESS NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, $649.95 at Myer

What You Need To Know

The QuietComfort Ultras are Bose’s most premium headphones yet, offering the most comfortable design and best noise-cancellation of any pair I’ve tested. The sound quality is on par with both the Apple AirPods Max and the Sony WH-1000XM5s, though with slightly different sound profiles, the ‘best’ pair comes down to personal preference.

I wasn’t crazy about the QC Ultras immersive audio and the battery life falls behind other premium models, especially with the highest level of noise-cancellation engaged.

If you’re after the best noise-cancelling money can buy though, these are my top pick.

What comes in the box: Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones, carry case, USB-C cable (A to C, 51cm), 3.5mm to 2.5mm audio cable (99cm), safety sheet.

Jump to our full review below

HOW WE TESTED THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT ULTRA HEADPHONES

At news.com.au checkout, it’s our mission to help you make informed shopping decisions. To ensure you buy the right product at the best price, we rigorously test products so you don’t have to. As well as sorting through mountains of consumer reviews, product manuals and conducting thorough product research, our team of expert writers puts each product we review through a series of hands-on tests to ensure we give you honest feedback about its performance and whether it’s worth your hard-earned money.

I tested the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones for more than three months, putting the features to the test while listening to music, talking on hands-free calls, taking public transport, and walking outside.

HOW WE EVALUATED THE HEADPHONES

The QuietComfort Ultras are Bose’s best yet. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

FULL REVIEW OF BOSE QUIETCOMFORT ULTRA HEADPHONES

The QuietComfort Ultras are the premium offering from Bose’s headphones range, and are the first pair by the brand to include immersive (or spatial) audio. Sporting a luxe design, supreme comfort, better noise-cancellation, multipoint connectivity and aptX Adaptive support, the headphones are set to be a worthy rival to some of the most popular models around, including Apple’s AirPods Max and Sony’s WH-1000XM5s.

However, the move to the ultra premium space has also made the Ultras Bose’s most expensive headphones yet. Priced at $649, they join models from Apple and Bang & Olufsen as some of the most expensive on the market. So, are they worth the cost?

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

DESIGN

The QuietComfort Ultras look incredibly similar to Bose’s QuietComfort 45s, but with splashes of aluminium along the headband and ear cups to give the pair an elevated feel. While they don’t look quite as luxe as some other options in this price range, they look snazzy in an understated sort of way.

Not everyone will appreciate the mostly-plastic, fingerprint-prone construction, but the decision not to follow Apple with a mostly-metal build has made the Ultras super lightweight. At just 250g, they feel ridiculously lighter than my AirPods Max, which weigh in at 385g.

Coupled with the super plush ‘protein’ leather on the headband and ear cups, this makes the pair easily the most comfortable I’ve tried. Even during lengthy listening sessions, I haven’t felt any fatigue, with the clamping force much lighter than that of both the AirPods Max and the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

The Ultras also have a super stretchy headband, which should accommodate heads of all sizes. However, the ear cups are a little small, which is something for those with larger ears to consider.

The Ultras bring back the foldable design seen on the QuietComfort 45s, making them a bit more portable than major rivals. However, I do have a grudge against whoever came up with the design of the carry case.

The inside of the pouch has imprints for the ear cups, meaning you can only fold them a certain way. It may sound like a small detail but, as someone who’s managed to fold them in the wrong direction almost every time, it’s one I find extremely annoying.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

FEATURES AND CONTROLS

The QuietComfort Ultras arrive with a new volume strip, which lets you slide volume up and down fairly seamlessly. It’s not always bang on, but it’s responsive enough that you can make changes without blowing out your eardrums.

On the right cup, there’s a power button that also switches between Bluetooth devices, and a multi-function button which can play/pause/skip, as well as cycle through ambient sound modes. On the left cup, there’s a status light, USB-C charging port and a 2.5mm audio port, which is your only option for wired listening (there’s no support for USB-C audio here).

While the physical control system is fairly minimal, it’s supplemented by the Bose Music app, which gives you access to an equaliser, immersive audio, and various customisation options. The app has a clean interface and is easy to use, though I would recommend taking the tutorial to see everything that’s available to you.

Bose has also stepped its game up and given the QC Ultras Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform and accompanying AptX Adaptive audio format, which is available on more recent, premium Android phones.

Similar to Apple’s AirPods Max, the Ultra’s can also detect when they’ve been removed from your head, and will automatically pause music accordingly.

Skip to:Should I use the Bose Music app for the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones?

QuietComfort Ultras in the Bose Music app. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

SOUND QUALITY

Immersive audio seems to be Bose’s big sell for the QuietComfort Ultras, which makes it somewhat ironic that it’s the feature I care the least about.

The point of immersive (or spatial audio) is to separate instruments more precisely, giving you a listening experience that’s more akin to a live performance. But the fewer instruments there are in a track, the more marginal the improvements. Genres like rock and pop ultimately didn’t sound that different when I had immersive audio enabled. But this isn’t Bose’s fault. It’s just the nature of spatial audio.

Acoustic and classic tracks meanwhile worked well, adding noticeable depth. Unfortunately, I just don’t listen to that kind of music often enough for this to be a selling point for me.

The good news is the QC Ultras are Bose’s best-sounding headphones yet, so there’s plenty to love about the pair even if you don’t use spatial audio. The pair sound slightly cleaner than the NCH 700s and add a little more emphasis on bass. When compared to my AirPods Max, I really can’t decide which sound profile I prefer, though I would say the QC Ultras sound a touch more natural. Ultimately, both pairs are right up there as some of the best headphones you can buy for sound quality.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLING

When I was a kid, my dad had the most insane pair of ear muffs to drown out the noise of the drag cars he photographed. Popping them on felt like someone had flipped a switch, with surrounding sounds immediately turning off. The QC Ultras feel much the same way. Simply put, the pair have the best noise-cancellation tech of any headphones I’ve tested.

With music playing on ‘immersion’ mode, an elephant could have walked up behind me and I probably wouldn’t have noticed. (Editor’s Note: Do not wear these around elephants). I also used the mode without any music playing to cut out office chatter at work, and while it didn’t block out everything, it reduced the noise level by more than half.

On ‘aware’ mode, I was able to enjoy my tunes while still being able to hear co-workers when they asked me a question. I also used it when I was out walking, and could hear all the important sounds like cars and bike bells, while still being able to listen to my tracks properly.

Perhaps the only downside is the noise-cancellation is so good on ‘immersion’ mode that it causes a bit of ear pressure that some users may not like. However, there is a ‘quiet’ mode that sits in-between ‘immersion’ and ‘aware’, which gives you the best of both worlds while offering less pressure.

CALL QUALITY

I don’t love taking phone calls while wearing headphones (or at all, really), so call quality isn’t something I’m hugely fussy about. However, with five microphones in each earpiece on the Ultras, I did notice the quality was an improvement over the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s, which only have four microphones in each cup. Those I spoke with said they could hear me pretty clearly, even as I was walking down the street, though clarity was a little dicey in really noisy environments like train stations.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

BATTERY LIFE

Bose has estimated around 24-hours of battery life for the QuietComfort Ultras, though this falls to just 18 hours with ‘immersion’ mode on. I listened almost exclusively with some form of noise-cancellation and got more than 20 hours of use. While this amount of usage is completely fine with me (after all I’m not listening for 20 hours straight), it does lag behind the competition.

Apple promises 20 hours of battery life for the AirPods Max with ANC turned on, while Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 headphones offer a ridiculous 60 hours of playtime.

So, while 18-24 hours isn’t bad, it’s not amazing either.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

PRICE: HOW MUCH DO THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT ULTRA HEADPHONES COST?

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones retail for $649 and can be purchased from retailers including Myer, The Good Guys, Amazon Australia and Bose. They’re available in three colour options of Black, White Smoke and Sandstone.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. Picture: Lauren Chaplin.

VERDICT: SHOULD YOU BUY THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT ULTRA HEADPHONES?

Bose’s QuietComfort Ultras have proved themselves up there with the best of the best. They’re exceedingly comfortable, sound superb and have more powerful noise-cancellation than rivals from Sony and Apple.

The battery and price tag leave a lot to be desired, and immersive audio isn’t a standout feature for me, but the Ultras are the headphones to get if you want the very best noise-cancelling available.

They may not be completely perfect, but they are close enough. And in the game of headphones, that’s enough to claim the throne.

SHOP HERE


OTHER COMPARABLE NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES

From left: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Apple AirPods Max.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones vs. Bose QuietComfort Headphones

If you want a similar level of comfort to the Ultras at a cheaper price point, we recommended Bose’s standard QuietComfort headphones. While the Ultras have slightly bulkier padding, both pairs of headphones feature nicely cushioned headbands and ear pads, along with superb audio and around 24 hours of battery life. The Ultras do come with a slate of extra features, like immersive audio modes, AptX Adaptive support and better noise cancellation, but the standard QuietComforts are a great way to save some cash if you can go without all the bells and whistles.

SHOP NOW

Bose QuietComfort Ultra vs. Bose 700

If you want more control over your noise cancellation and a slightly cheaper price tag, Bose’s 700s are a nice alternative to the Ultras. Bringing 11 levels of noise cancellation, the 700s let you adjust the amount of noise entering the soundstage to your preferred amount. However, the Ultras do bring a bigger mic array with customisable settings, immersive audio and better features and functionality. The 700s are also sadly on their way out, which means they can be difficult to track down.

SHOP NOW

Bose QuietComfort Ultra vs. AirPods Max

If immersive audio is your main consideration, Apple’s AirPods Max have the best spatial audio we’ve tested. The pair are super stylish, come in a variety of fun colour options, have exceptional audio and noise cancellation, and cater strongly to iPhone users. The AirPods Max are even more expensive than the Bose QuietComfort Ultras though, and are also heavier, come with a case that doesn’t offer a lot of protection and lose some key features when connected to Android devices.

SHOP NOW

Bose QuietComfort Ultra vs. Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose’s QuietComfort Ultras and Sony’s WH-1000XM5s are two of the best pairs of noise-cancelling headphones currently on the market, meaning you can’t really go wrong with either option. The Ultras bring some of the best noise-cancelling tech around, as well as a super comfortable, foldable design and superb sound. However, the spatial audio is hit or miss and the cans are extremely expensive. The Sony WH-1000XM5s are meanwhile cheaper, have better call quality, a better battery life and LDAC codec support, but they can’t be folded for travelling and aren’t quite as rich-sounding as the Ultras.

SHOP NOW

Bose QuietComfort Ultra vs. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

If you prefer earbuds over over-ear headphones, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are the obvious alternative here. Like the Ultra headphones, the Ultra earbuds come with immersive audio, excellent sound and best-in-class active noise cancellation. They also come with an IPX4 rating for water resistance (missing on the Ultra Headphones), making them a better choice for exercise. You will need to sacrifice battery life, with the Ultra buds offering up to 7.5 hours of playtime (down from 24 hours on the Ultra Headphones), but they’re otherwise a great substitute for those looking for additional portability.

SHOP NOW


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Should I use the Bose Music app for the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones?

Some features of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, including the equaliser, immersive audio features and voice assistant customisation options, are only available through the Bose Music app. That said, if you’re not interested in tweaking your sound or voice assistant settings, you can choose to use the headphones without the app.

Are the ear cups on the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones replaceable?

Yes, you can purchase a replacement ear cushion kit through the Bose online store.

Can I run with Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones?

Yes, but there’s no IP rating for sweat or water resistance. The stability of the pair will also depend on the size of your head. I found them comfortable for everyday listening, but they began to slide around with head movement.

More best audio coverage

Best wireless over-ear headphones

Best wireless earbuds and earphones

Best earbuds for exercise

Best earbuds for sleeping

Best gaming headphones

Best kids headphones



Source link