Review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II Headphones

Bose Official Product Site

In the time of quarantine and working in the same room as a spouse or other family members, we learn a new appreciation for the word that is patience. It can be quite difficult to focus on work when your partner is on back to back meetings all day and you hear not only them but their coworkers. This was my plight.

For years I had been using the Plantronics Gamescom 788 wired headset. It had served me faithfully, despite the quirks with drivers, and offered fantastic audio fidelity. In fact, it still works well. But after seven years of near-daily use, the felt cushioning along the top bar and around the ears was getting a little...gross. Additionally, despite the good audio quality, they weren't noise-canceling. I could turn up the music all I liked, but there would always be something bleeding through. Something had to give and moving my entire office setup to the basement wasn't too appealing.

My wife has been using the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones for about a year now. It was a replacement set for her previous Bose noise-canceling headphones. She insists they're a must for flying and quite enjoyable for running, despite the weight. Taking her recommendation as any good husband would, we ordered a pair for me. After three days of near-constant use, I have mixed feelings.

The Good

The headphones do as promised. They definitely cancel noise. Now my wife can be in meetings all day and I'm not disturbed at all when trying to conjugate my verbs. Even mowing the lawn demonstrated the noise-canceling capabilities as I could barely hear the mower. This was a huge improvement over the stock headphones that came with my cellphone. 

The audio quality is great. When comparing the dollar to dollar value, it can get a bit fuzzy. For example, my Plantronics were $125 7 years ago and boast 7.1 surround sound with Dolby support. The Bose QuietComfort set sells for $300 (on sale currently for $250) and sounds the same. The audio is robust and surround sound works well in games, but is it worth potentially $300? It's hard to say.

The headphones utilize a Bose Connect app to manage the device and settings. From here you can rename the headphones, perform firmware updates, and adjust settings like noise-cancellation levels, self voice levels, and a bevy of other settings. I was skeptical at first, but have found to be the app incredibly useful.

Aside from any "pressure" perceived by the brain due to the noise-canceling technology, the headphones are quite comfortable. I prefer the faux leather of the muffs over the felt that my Plantronics used. They sit lightly on the head and are much lighter than expected. 

With a battery life of 20 hours and a 15 minute quick charge that restores 2.5 hours of listening time, it's hard not to be impressed with the battery life. The headphones plug in via micro USB for charging.

Wireless! I can tell you how many times I would snag myself while moving around my desk or even standing up with my previous headset. It is so freeing to be able to move and stand without the worry of snapping my neck.

The Bad

This isn't a dig on the Bose QuietComfort specifically, but more with noise-canceling headphones in general. If you're like me, the technology that cancels the noise can make it feel like there is pressure on your ears, similar to the feeling when flying that your ears need to pop. Well, the crummy thing is there's no actual pressure here, so popping will do nothing. The only things that relieve this phantom pressure are taking them off or turning off the noise-canceling feature entirely. Fortunately, the voice activation button on the left can be reprogrammed to adjust the noise-cancellation levels. Keeping it high while my wife is on a call and then swapping back to low or off has helped. Hopefully, my brain can learn to deal with it, but for now, this is my biggest gripe with the headphones. For more info on this, How-To Geek has a great article.

Despite boasting that these are the official headphones for several professional gaming teams, the headphones are absolute garbage for managing multiple clients and handling communication via Bluetooth. There will be a lot of audio drops and some apps may not come through at all. Voice chat is completely hit or miss. Unfortunately, this is a limitation of the technology behind Bluetooth and likely why the headphones come with a 3.5mm audio cable. Alternatively, if you use a separate microphone, you are still able to use the headphones wirelessly without issue.

The price is incredibly steep at $300. I was able to get mine on sale for $250, but even then, I don't know that these are worth that. As I mentioned earlier, when compared to a cheaper headset purely on audio quality, I can't tell much of a difference. But, there are a lot of bells and whistles with this that you don't get in other headsets. Alexa and Google Voice are built in at the touch of a button. They charge quickly via USB. They cancel noise and are wireless. There are lots of good things here, but I'm still not sure if they're $300 of good.

The supported Bluetooth distance is fickle. For example, when using the headset with my PC, I have a Bluetooth adapter plugged into the front of my PC, under my desk, and just to the left of me. I can literally reach out and touch it. However, the audio will regularly break up and stutter. Moving the adapter to a USB hub on top of my desk resolved the issue.

Overall, I am happy with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They solved the primary issue of two people working in a room together without distractions. It was a steep investment, but when I think that these should last me at least several years, it's not that bad.