When it comes to trusted audio equipment names, few match the reputation of industry stalwart Bose. Since the company first dipped its toes into the tranquil waters of noise-cancelling gear in 2000, it's over-ear QuietComfort headphone line has evolved to become recognized as some of the best in the business. So how well will its latest offering, the QuietComfort 25's, live up to this legacy? Read on, as we try Bose's newest cans on for size.
The QuietComfort 25's replace the QuietComfort 15's (released in 2009) as Bose's chief noise-cancelling headphones. A five-year break has seen its engineers return with a product claimed to cancel more noise than any Bose headphones before it. The company puts this down to microphones built into both the inside and outside of the earcup, a technique it says can more effectively pick up and block out undesired ambient sounds.
When slipping them on and pressing play for the first time it is hard to describe the noise-cancelling as anything other than excellent. Even without music on, we found the QuietComfort 25's to be able to dull voices, outside traffic, air conditioners and the click clack of loud keyboards. It's not enough to lull you to sleep on a crowded Mumbai bus, but observed in this way you do get a feel for just how effective the noise-cancelling is.
With music playing, somebody will basically need to scream to break into your sweet-sounding bubble of solidarity. We found this to hold up pretty well across different genres of music. I was able to drown out co-workers' conversations with everything from the soft guitar of The Velvet Underground, to Marvin Gaye's soothing tones and the bass-heavy beats of Notorious BIG.
As great as these headphones are at cancelling out noise, it's possible they are just as good at creating it. Bose has built a new active equalizer for the QuietComfort 25's, and the result is a remarkably crisp sound right up and down the frequency range. Music of all genres comes through rich and clear, even when pushed right to the limit. We played bass-heavy songs at maximum volume and heard no signs of strain or distortion.
Another big win for the QuietComfort 25's is how well they live up to the second part their name. The cushioned leather earpieces sit ever-so snugly around the ears, with the padded headband stiff enough to apply just the right amount of pressure to keep them in place. Put simply, the headphones are extremely comfortable and we had no complaints wrapping around our heads in them for the better part of a working day.
The not so good
The above comments describe the QuietComfort 25's in powered mode. Users can flick a tiny button on the outside of the right earpiece to activate the noise-cancelling and active equalizer, and the difference is noticeable, but not drastically so. To describe the sound when unpowered as poor would be harsh, but it is not as sharp and the bass does come through slightly muffled. With that said, some will consider the ability to continue listening at all when the battery runs out to be plus.
Bose's decision to go with a AA battery rather than a rechargeable variant is a little puzzling, but a single battery will provide 35 hours of noise-cancelling audio, which is enough for a couple of lengthy plane trips. This does seem like a lot, but if you're somebody that uses them for more than a few hours each day, then you'll be swapping in another battery pretty regularly. In our view, the ability to simply plug them in and charge via USB would be more than handy.
The QuietComfort 25's fold up to fit in a compact carrying case that measures 5.75 x 8.25 x 2 in (14.6 x 21 x 5.1 cm). This case stores an included two-prong adapter for plugging into in-flight entertainment on an airplane and a slot for a spare AA battery, which is a nice touch. The 56 in (142 cm) cable also features an in-line three-button remote for pausing or skipping tracks and a mic for taking calls with both Android and iOS devices.
It's also worth noting that there's no in-line volume control. Further to needing to pull out your device to adjust the volume, this can be problematic when flying with some airlines, whose startling announcements could override the volume that you've set just as you start to drift off to sleep.
Should you buy them?
At US$300, the decision to shell out for some QuietComfort 25's is probably not one you're going to take lightly. It all depends on what you value in your audio gear. If you're regularly enduring commutes on crowded vehicles and looking for some respite, you'll be hard pressed to find a better way to check out from reality than sliding these headphones on and firing up your favorite tracks.
Furthermore, these things are really solidly built. If you invest in these headphones and take a bit of care with them, you're going to be enjoying them for years. Bose has done a really good job of making a sturdy product that's not overly heavy or so rigid that they're uncomfortable to wear.
In short, the noise-cancelling is supreme, the audio quality is less so but still excellent, and they are built to last. Package these attributes together and you've got some great headphones that are pretty hard to beat for their price.
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