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  • Cheryl Tan

Bose QC45 Review: Are These Most COMFORTABLE ANC Headphones?

It’s been a while since these headphones were launched, but are they still worth the money now, after almost a year since release? Well, I’d say yes.

Hey guys, we have the Bose QC45 headphones with us today, and even though they’re a little old by tech standards, these are probably going to be the flagship ANC headphones from Bose for quite a while, considering it took 4 years for Bose to go from the QC35 II to the QC45. So let’s see if it has what it takes to stay in the competition.

Let’s talk design first. These retain Bose’s iconic QC headphones design, with the same power and Bluetooth slider on the top of the right earcup. There’s also the volume up button, the multifunction button which controls play/pause with a single press, track skip forward with two presses and track skip backward with three presses, and the volume down button on the right side as well as the ANC toggle button on the left. The biggest change here is that these headphones now use a USB-C port for charging, which is a godsend. MicroUSB should really be phased out from all tech products moving forward. There’s also a 2.5mm port on the left earcup which allows you to use these wired without any problems.

These fold up really compactly, and the carrying case is definitely on the smaller side, which is nice when you’re travelling and you want your gadgets to take up as small a footprint as possible in your bag. Inside the case, you get a USB-A to C cable for charging as well as a 3.5mm cable. No flight adapter here, unfortunately, which is a bit of a surprise, but when you think about the XM5 also no longer coming with an adapter, it seems like a bit of a trend.

The headphones are incredibly light at 243 grams, which is even lighter than the Sony WH-1000XM5, and this translates into comfort. It’s super comfortable to wear for long periods of time with just the right amount of clamping force, and the earpads are plush, although I do have to note that my ears started heating up quite quickly after putting the headphones on. This will probably be a problem if you live in a hot, humid country like Singapore, but in cooler climates, it most likely will not be an issue at all.

The earpads are very easily unclipped, just give it a light tug from one end and it’ll come off easily. Clipping replacements back in, though, are a little bit tougher, but at least you don’t need a tool to get them off and back in. Good enough for me.

Inside, there’s not even much of a change as the QC45 is using the same drivers as the QC35 II. There’s also no wear detection, meaning your music doesn’t pause when you take the headphones off.

But let’s move on to the app. The Bose Music app is easy to get set up and paired with the device, although it really is quite minimal. You get battery levels, a volume slider, toggles between the Quiet ANC mode or the Aware transparency mode, the ability to select between Bluetooth sources, a three-point EQ feature with some limited presets and the ability to change the auto-off feature, voice prompts as well as how much of your own voice is piped in when you’re taking calls. It’s a really simple app for a pair of really simple headphones.

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles like what you’d get from the Sony XM5s, but in a way, it kind of makes sense. The Bose QC headphones were the iconic travel headphones back in the day, the ones you’d see businessmen and travellers wearing, across first class, business class and economy class. And after playing with the headphones for a while, I can tell you that the setup and use for these headphones were probably the easiest I’ve done in a while. I didn’t have to remember any weird touch control system, I didn’t have to do a ton of set up before I could use them, they just worked, and they worked well.

As for connectivity, these are running on Bluetooth 5.1, which isn’t the latest, but still okay. Something nice is that multipoint connectivity is available here, so if you’re using these connected to both your laptop and phone, you’ll be able to switch easily if a call comes in.

Unfortunately, there’s only SBC and AAC support here, which is a bit of a letdown. AptX would definitely be good, especially for headphones that cost this much.

Battery life is decent, but not the best in the market. Bose claims 24 hours in the headphones, which is more than enough even for the longest flight in the world at around 19 hours. Of course, most people wouldn’t be using the headphones non-stop for that long, so yeah, more than enough even in the most extreme flight scenario. A 15 minute charge gives three hours of playback time, so that’s nice too.

So let’s move on to ANC. These are pretty good. They do have an edge on a lot of other headphones in one area though, and that’s comfort. People who are more sensitive to the pressure buildup from using ANC will know that headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4, XM5, Apple AirPods Max and more are very effective at cancelling out noise, but that comes with the tradeoff of pressure in the ears. These, though, are much more comfortable in that regard. The pressure buildup here feels less intense than others, although, of course, this is very subjective. The ANC with these isn’t as mindblowing as those headphones, but it’s still very effective in cancelling out low pitched rumbles, although higher pitched noises like voices still do come in. Unfortunately, there’s only the option to choose between ANC or transparency mode, which means there’s no default ANC off option unless you turn the headphones off entirely. Here’s a short ANC test for you guys.

Microphone quality here is actually pretty good. My voice came across pretty clearly and something I want to note here, is that the background noise rejection on these seem pretty good too. There was construction happening near my house one day when I had to make a work call, and the other party said that he couldn’t hear any of the noise from that at all, so that’s fantastic.

Sound quality isn’t too bad, although I do have to note upfront that the Bose sound can be quite divisive. You either like it or you don’t. And I think these headphones are even more so, because of the sound. Bass-wise, it’s pretty good. There’s a slight emphasis in this range so you do get a little extra impact while not being too overly boosted. Mids are fantastic, they’re very accurate and there’s plenty of detail here. Treble is where things change. There’s quite a bit of emphasis here, which means that if you listen at higher volumes, it can get a bit harsh and sibilant. People who are more sensitive to high pitched noises will definitely notice this. If you try these headphones out and don’t like the sound, I would really recommend at least trying to adjust the treble via the EQ first. Lower it and take another listen, it might be the change needed.

Soundstage is okay, although I’d say the imaging and separation here is quite a bit better than average.

At US$329 or S$499, these aren’t cheap. And truthfully, there are better options out there if you don’t need the newest and the latest. The Sony WH-1000XM4 for example, which is pretty much perpetually on discount now, is still an excellent pair of noise cancelling headphones. But if you want something that’s simple to use and operate, if you want something that has pretty decent ANC, if you want some of the most comfortable ANC headphones around, then these should definitely be very high up on the list of options to consider.

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