Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review: a new ANC and spatial audio king

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

MSRP $429.00

“Noise cancellation and spatial audio person a caller king, and it is nan Bose QuietComfort Ultra.”


  • Premium materials and design
  • Excellent comfort
  • Best-in-class sound canceling
  • Natural-sounding transparency
  • Impressive spatial audio
  • Hi-res compatibility


  • Tricky measurement control
  • ANC can't beryllium turned off

Bose fans tin respire a sigh of relief. The caller Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are a return to shape for nan institution aft its four-year research pinch nan Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. I opportunity experiment because nan NCH 700’s creation was a important departure from nan company’s erstwhile efforts and not everyone fell successful emotion pinch nan caller direction.

Though very ray and comfy, nan NCH 700 could only fold flat, had middling artillery life, introduced touch controls, and didn’t needfully move nan needle successful nan correct guidance connected sound quality.

By contrast, nan QC Ultra (which person replaced nan NCH 700) fold level and fold up, they (mostly) ditch nan touch controls. And Bose has gone to awesome lengths to put these caller cans connected par pinch (or moreover up of) wireless headphones from Sony, Apple, and Sennheiser pinch its type of spatial audio called Bose Immersive Audio, positive support for lossless and hi-res audio. Their value reflects that effort: nan QC Ultra are $429, a $30 value hike complete nan NCH 700.

After spending complete a week pinch nan caller QC Ultra, I deliberation Bose has delivered a awesome group of wireless noise-canceling cans that tin guidelines toe-to-toe pinch nan different flagships.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: design

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Whether you get them successful black, white, aliases sandstone, nan QC Ultra are classical Bose successful each nan correct ways. In summation to nan invited return of nan dual-folding design, Bose has upped nan luxe facet by fabricating nan headband sliders and earcup forks from aluminum. This mightiness connection mini benefits successful position of durability, but it decidedly adds an constituent of class, particularly arsenic buyers comparison them to nan all-plastic build of nan Sony WH-1000XM5 and nan Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones successful recreation lawsuit pinch accessories.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Ironically, contempt nan critiques that were thrown astatine Bose for its fold-flat creation of nan NCH 700 — which Sony, Sennheiser, and Apple each copied — erstwhile you comparison nan zippered recreation cases of nan QC Ultra and NCH 700 broadside by side, location isn’t a large quality successful size. The QC Ultra are narrower than nan NCH 700 by an inch aliases so. Inside, you still get a USB-C cablegram and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm analog cable, though these are now stowed wrong an elastic soul pouch alternatively of nan slick hidden compartment that graced nan NCH 700’s case.

The headband has been widened from nan NCH 700’s dimensions, and nan soft rubber has been replaced pinch moreover softer and better-cushioned synthetic leather, which is besides utilized connected nan receptor cushions.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: comfort, indeed

Simon Cohen wearing Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones successful white.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The QC Ultra are fundamentally identical to nan NCH 700 and Sony XM5 successful weight astatine 8.96 ounces, which keeps them among nan lightest noise-canceling headphones you tin buy. On your head, they consciousness coagulated and balanced, pinch a clamping unit that’s conscionable beardown capable to support everything wherever it should be, and nary more. Compared to nan NCH 700, you announcement 2 things correct away: nan Ultra’s headband does a amended occupation of distributing pressure, and they hug your caput much securely. For me, that makes them much comfortable than their predecessors, particularly crossed nan apical of my head. Overall, I deliberation I still for illustration nan Sony XM5 (they conscionable consciousness lighter) and Sennheiser Momentum 4 (cozier), but I’d return each 3 complete nan AirPods Max successful position of comfortableness immoderate time of nan week.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. Earcup interiors.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The headband sliders are very grippy. Once you group their length, they don’t budge astatine all. This besides makes them tricky to adjust. The method that usually useful champion connected galore headphones — expanding nan headband to its biggest size, putting nan earcups connected your ears, past reaching up pinch your fingers to propulsion nan headband down to nan correct size — won’t activity pinch nan QC Ultra. There’s conscionable excessively overmuch resistance.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: controls and connections

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. Right earcup controls.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Touch controls tin beryllium great, and I’ve had bully experiences pinch them connected Sony, Sennheiser, and Bose headphones successful nan past. But I conscionable for illustration beingness buttons. They activity predictably, you cognize precisely wherever to property pinch your thumb aliases fingers, and they don’t attraction if you’re wearing gloves.

So americium I happy pinch nan QC Ultra’s controls? Mostly, yes. Bose has managed to consolidate 3 buttons, positive touch controls connected 2 earcups connected nan NCH 700 down to conscionable 2 buttons and 1 touch power connected a azygous earcup connected nan QC Ultra. The dense lifting is performed by nan multifunction button, which controls playback, ANC modes, and telephone management.

NCH 700 users mightiness miss having a dedicated fastener for ANC — I benignant of miss it myself — but that’s tempered by my immense alleviation astatine not needing to rhythm betwixt 3 different ANC modes each clip I property it.

Perhaps nan biggest alteration is nan elimination of nan sound adjunct button. Not only is nan adjunct fastener gone, but truthful is nan assistant. The NCH 700 gave iPhone users a prime betwixt a button-activated Siri and a voice-activated Amazon Alexa, while Android users could take betwixt Google Assistant and Alexa. The QC Ultra is strictly BYOA (bring your ain assistant), and if you want to entree it, you’ll request to alteration nan shortcut action (a agelong property connected nan measurement touch control) and prime sound adjunct entree arsenic your preferred shortcut. The different options are to perceive nan artillery level announced, alteration immersive audio mode, and Spotify Tap.

I’m not a large sound adjunct personification erstwhile it comes to earbuds and headphones. But there’s nary denying nan convenience of being capable to summon 1 hands-free, truthful it’s a shame to spot this convenient characteristic disappear.

The combo power/Bluetooth fastener is self-explanatory, which conscionable leaves measurement power — a raised 1.5-inch statement that sits a small farther retired from your caput than nan buttons. Because it sits successful nan vale of nan earcup, it’s easy to find pinch your thumb. But it suffers nan aforesaid destiny arsenic galore touch controls — it’s inaccurate. Intuitively, you mightiness deliberation you would statesman astatine nan bottommost of nan statement and descent your thumb upward aliases downward gradually to slow summation aliases alteration nan measurement arsenic though it were a existent slider. But nary — you request to usage small, swiping gestures instead. These tin displacement measurement a small aliases a lot, and it’s difficult to maestro nan quality betwixt these extremes. Unfortunately, there’s nary mounting successful nan Bose Music app to thief you out. You either fig it out, aliases you stay vaguely disappointment by it, arsenic I person been.

Still, Bose partially redeems itself by giving nan QC Ultra nan deterioration sensors that nan NCH 700 lacked, truthful now you tin automatically region your tunes erstwhile you region nan headphones. In fact, erstwhile you region them, you tin take to person them participate a standby authorities aft a definite magnitude of clip to prevention power. They’ll powerfulness backmost up arsenic soon arsenic you put them connected again.

As pinch Bose’s different headphones (though notably, not its wireless earbuds), nan QC Ultra support Bluetooth Multipoint for 2 simultaneous connections. To get nan astir retired of it, nan QC Ultra fto you spot and negociate those connections successful nan Bose Music app, and they besides denote nan connected devices erstwhile you powerfulness them on, which tin beryllium very handy. If you find it annoying, you tin besides move it off.

Transitioning betwixt connected devices is seamless. Unlike immoderate Multipoint devices, which make you take betwixt moving a hi-res codec for illustration aptX Adaptive aliases utilizing Multipoint, nan QC Ultra person nary specified restrictions.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: sound value and spatial audio

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. Top of earcup close-up.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The QC Ultra whitethorn beryllium a throwback successful position of design, but their sound value is decidedly evolutionary. The NCH 700’s sound signature is centered connected Bose’s energetic attack to precocious frequencies, putting a batch of — immoderate mightiness reason excessively overmuch — sparkle into vocals, while taking a blimpish attack to bass. The QC Ultra measurement nan sparkle backmost conscionable a smidgen, but they adhd copious amounts of low-end. This puts them person than ever to Sony’s much bass-forward tuning, specified that nan Sony WH-1000XM5 and QC Ultra now sound for illustration somewhat different interpretations of nan aforesaid sound signature.

For me, it’s a move successful nan correct guidance — I hap to bask Sony’s sound a batch — but I wouldn’t beryllium amazed if immoderate Bose fans find it excessively heavy done nan debased end.

If you don’t emotion it, nan Bose Music app provides EQ presets that deemphasize that other bass. You tin besides manually set nan low, mid, and precocious EQ sliders. But, maddeningly, Bose still doesn’t fto you prevention those tweaks arsenic your ain presets.

According to Bose, its CustomTune exertion automatically adapts nan sound of nan QC Ultra to your ears each clip you put them on. You’ll perceive nan aforesaid zoomy Bose startup sound that nan institution uses connected its different headphones, but this time, that sound is utilized to analyse nan style of your ears. Does it work? It’s intolerable to opportunity — Bose doesn’t springiness you nan action to move it off.

Owners of prime Android handsets tin return advantage of nan QC Ultra’s take of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform, which — depending connected your telephone — tin present lossy hi-res audio astatine up to 24-bit/96kHz aliases lossless CD-quality audio astatine 16-bit/48kHz, via Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec.

If you’re a Spotify junkie, there’s astir apt zero use to beryllium had. But those who person jumped connected nan lossless and hi-res lossless train via services for illustration Amazon Music, Apple Music, Qobuz, and Tidal will beryllium capable to perceive a much nuanced rendition of their favourite tracks. Thanks to nan QC Ultra’s Bluetooth Multipoint, I was capable to spot my iPhone 14 broadside by broadside pinch a Snapdragon Sound-equipped Motorola ThinkPhone and execute reasonably speedy A/B comparisons utilizing Apple Music.

Both sounded great. But wherever nan iPhone delivered thick, meaty sound, particularly successful nan lower-mids and bass, nan ThinkPhone offered a much refined, precise, and elaborate performance.

 earcup fork detail.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Where things get really absorbing is nan QC Ultra’s caller support for spatial audio. There are 2 chopped versions of spatial audio. When a way has been recorded successful an 3D format for illustration Dolby Atmos Music and is past played backmost utilizing package that tin render multichannel 3D sound into conscionable 2 channels for headphone listening (like Apple Music), I see it “native” spatial audio. Native spatial audio will activity connected immoderate group of headphones.

But you besides tin use computational audio to bully ol’ stereo recordings to create a simulated 3D sound either successful an app aliases successful hardware for illustration nan QC Ultra. I deliberation of this arsenic “virtual” spatial audio.

Traditionally, attempts astatine virtual spatial audio person had mixed results. It tin sound clone aliases forced. And it tin person a damaging effect connected immoderate frequencies arsenic nan package tries to widen nan sound field. In short, it tin sound bad capable that you revert to regular stereo and ne'er look back.

With its Immersive Audio, Bose has created nan champion virtual spatial audio I’ve heard truthful far. It gives you a genuine replacement to stereo that doesn’t sound cheesy aliases forced. It preserves item and frequencies amended than immoderate competing strategy and, depending connected nan track, you whitethorn really for illustration it to nan original recording.

The QC Ultra besides supply sensor-based caput search that lets nan Immersive Audio mode untether your euphony from your headphones, giving you nan consciousness that nan euphony is being played from stereo speakers mounted successful beforehand (and somewhat above) your listening position. Turning your caput does nan aforesaid arsenic it would successful existent life — it sounds for illustration you’ve turned distant from nan root of nan euphony and it happens successful cleanable sync pinch your caput movement.

Not everyone will for illustration Bose’s Immersive Audio — conscionable for illustration not everyone will for illustration autochthonal spatial audio tracks successful Dolby Atmos Music. But for those who do, it’s a slayer feature.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: sound canceling and transparency

 headband close-up.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Here’s what you really want to know: nan QC Ultra cancel sound much efficaciously than nan Apple AirPods Max and nan Sony WH-1000XM5. If you want amended sound cancellation, you’ll person to move to wireless earbuds for illustration nan Bose QuiteComfort Ultra Earbuds aliases nan Sony WF-1000XM5. But erstwhile it comes to wireless headphones, nan QC Ultra Headphones are nan existent king of quiet.

The QC Ultra supply awesome levels of hush successful a assortment of scenarios. I haven’t had a chance to put them to nan quintessential ANC trial of an airplane compartment during flight. But fixed really they execute successful different locations for illustration noisy metropolis streets, riding a transit bus, aliases moving successful a engaged java shop, I person each logic to deliberation they’ll ace nan compartment trial too.

They’re besides insanely bully for transparency. Until now, nan transparency golden modular has belonged to nan AirPods Max, and deservedly so. They’re excellent. But nan QC Ultra sound much natural. The AirPods Max put a flimsy accent connected higher frequencies — arguably a smart move that helps you perceive voices much intelligibly — while nan QC Ultra person a much neutral sound. Since some headphones springiness you astir adjacent amounts of situational awareness, it’s going to travel down to individual preference, and I for illustration nan QC Ultra.

Plus, Bose really one-ups Apple via nan QC Ultra’s Active Sense — an action erstwhile you’re successful transparency mode that listens for large noises and automatically kicks nan cans into ANC mode to protect you hearing. Apple has this technology, too, but only connected its AirPods Pro Gen 2 wireless earbuds. The AirPods Max (for now) deficiency this feature. It useful well, but location tin beryllium up to 2 seconds of lag betwixt a large sound (like an emergency conveyance siren) opening and Active Sense kicking in. On nan AirPods Pro, it’s almost instant.

Bose besides has rethought nan measurement you activity pinch ANC connected nan QC Ultra. On nan NCH 700, you could scope into nan Bose Music app and manually set nan magnitude of sound cancellation astatine immoderate time. But nan headphone controls required that you rhythm done 3 favourite ANC settings. Those settings could beryllium immoderate magnitude of ANC you wanted, but you couldn’t take to usage conscionable 2 of them — a limitation I ne'er understood.

On nan QC Ultra, favorites person been replaced by Modes, and they’re acold much flexible. You tin create arsenic galore modes arsenic you like, and each mode tin person its ain level of ANC, aliases you tin prime a upwind artifact action that overrides ANC control. But nan champion portion is that you tin past prime which of these modes will beryllium your favorites, arsenic agelong arsenic location are astatine slightest 2 favorites astatine immoderate fixed time. Want to move betwixt maximum ANC and maximum transparency? Just prime nan default Quiet and Aware modes arsenic your 2 favorites. Want to toggle betwixt transparency and upwind sound mode? Create a mode that uses upwind sound and past prime it arsenic a favourite on pinch Aware mode and make judge Quiet mode is deselected.

It’s a awesome strategy pinch conscionable 1 flaw: you can’t create a mode successful which ANC is simply turned disconnected to sphere artillery life. In fact, there’s nary measurement to move disconnected ANC astatine each — you tin take really overmuch you want (or you tin prime transparency), but there’s nary mounting to destruct both.

There’s besides a somewhat idiosyncratic facet to Modes. Bose includes a default mode for Immersive Audio, which is illogical. Immersive Audio tin beryllium enjoyed whether you’re utilizing afloat ANC aliases transparency — it’s a furniture connected apical of your ANC preference, not its ain thing.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: telephone quality

 Earcup/logo close-up.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

If we lived successful a world wherever Apple had ne'er created nan AirPods Max and Sony had ne'er created nan WH-1000XM5, I’d beryllium telling you that nan Bose QC Ultra Headphones are nan champion wireless headphones for telephone quality. It wouldn’t beryllium difficult to take sides that statement. Even successful noisy conditions, nan QC Ultra each but erase biology sounds, leaving conscionable your voice. And erstwhile you’re successful transparency mode, you tin perceive your ain sound very intelligibly arsenic well.

However, nan QC Ultra struggle astatine times to support your sound from wavering aliases sounding echoey arsenic it strives to destruct those unwanted inheritance noises. Sony and Apple do a amended occupation pinch this balancing act, keeping your sound sounding much consistently audible sloppy of what’s going connected astir you.

But conscionable to beryllium clear: The QC Ultra are still fantabulous for calls — particularly indoors. And if you person a Snapdragon Sound-equipped phone, your sound will sound richer and fuller acknowledgment to aptX Voice. It’s conscionable that nan AirPods Max and XM5 are amended for folks who request to return their calls successful a wide assortment of conditions.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: artillery life

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. USB-C charging larboard and analog input.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Bose, for illustration Apple, seems to judge that nary 1 really needs their wireless headphones to past much than astir 20 to 24 hours betwixt charges, and possibly it’s right. But fixed that companies for illustration Sennheiser and Sony person proven that acold much juice than that tin beryllium packed into a group of wireless cans (up to 60 hours successful nan lawsuit of nan Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless), it’s a spot difficult to commend nan QC Ultra for their 24-hour stamina — a number that drops to 18 hours erstwhile utilizing immersive audio — particularly erstwhile there’s nary longer an action to widen that clip by disabling some modes.

There is simply a quick-charge option: 15 minutes will bargain you an other 2.5 hours of playtime (2 hours successful immersive audio mode), truthful moreover if 24 hours isn’t rather enough, you’ve sewage a Plan B.

One point to support successful mind pinch nan artillery is that you’ll request it moreover for wired listening via nan included analog cable. If nan artillery is wholly dead, you tin powerfulness it straight utilizing nan USB cable, astatine which constituent you tin perceive wired aliases wirelessly, but nan QC Ultra can’t recharge simultaneously.

I’ve managed to find immoderate insignificant nits to prime pinch nan Bose QC Ultra Headphones, but overall, these wireless headphones are earnestly impressive. They costs a spot much than their predecessors, but dress up for nan other finance by delivering a amended creation and tons of features. Some of those features, for illustration Immersive Audio, sound canceling, and transparency mode, correspond nan existent authorities of nan creation and are logic capable to see upgrading from nan Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

And if you’re contemplating your first group of superior wireless headphones? I’m assured you won’t regret going pinch nan Bose QC Ultra.

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