Bose QuietComfort 35 II Headphones Review

Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II ($350, £ 330, AU$500) wireless noise-canceing headphone looks, sounds and performs just like the original except for one key feature: There’s a new “Action” button on the left ear cup that allows you to connect to your Google Assistant without having to touch your phone. And that allows the QC35 II the first headphone to incorporate Google Assistant— available in black or silver—. Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices, identical to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.

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Mainly found in Android devices, Assistant is the counterpart to Google’s Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa. When set up with Bose’s Connect software–or, for Apple users, the Bose app in conjunction with Google’s iOS Assistant app–the QuietComfort 35 IIs can chime anytime the phone gets a new update or checks forthcoming calendar events automatically. Receive a text or other notification digitally, then click the left housing button to have it read out by Google Assistant. It will then give you the option to use your voice to answer. It’s a helpful addition, especially during the winter months: answering texts or making calls by pressing a button is much simpler than searching for your phone.

The QC35 has the same comfy fit, same top-notch noise canceling, identical controls on the right ear cup — yes, you can access Siri on iPhones — and the same battery life at up to 20 hours in wireless mode with noise canceling on. If the battery runs out, you can still use the headphone in passive mode (it sounds good not great) and you get a cord for plugging in when you need to.

Style:

The Bose QC 35 II look identical to the original QuietComfort 35 but with an additional button on the left ear cup. They have the same aesthetics, design, and button layout (for the rest of the controls) and come in the same color schemes at launch. The all-black model reviewed has a high-end yet understated appeal, but there is also a silver/grey alternative. If you want them to look more flashy, you can also design a custom color scheme, but it’ll cost you a bit more.

Its plastic structure is also frustrating, which is good to save weight but feels extremely cheap compared to premium headphones such as the Master & Dynamic MW50, which bathes the ear with lambskin leather and aluminium.  Fortunately, the plastic construction does not affect the ability of the headphone to take punishment, as it feels very solid. The headphones even come with a rugged travel case, which is better than the pouches that many headphone manufacturers are choosing to include.  In terms of comfort, the plastic structure supports the QC35 II NC and we were surprised by how convenient the headphone was to be used for extended periods.

The use of Bose pads in the QC35 II NC is impressive, because they block a lot of ambient noise even when noise reduction is turned off. This is perfect if you want to keep the power and listen to the cancelation of sounds off.  Similarly, headphone controls are simple and effective: You have a power and pairing slider on the right earcup as well as up / down and playback volume keys. The left earcup houses just one button for Google Assistant, although using Bose’s Android or iOS software, you can have the button change noise cancellation rates.

Features:

Google Assistant is the headline feature of the Bose QC35 II NC, and mostly functions well. During our tests we were amazed by the speed and accuracy of Google Assistant and how well even in a busy train and coffee shop the headphones were able to pick up our speech.  When you first turn on the headphone, you’re asked to add the Bose app to your phone, as the headphone would need to use the app for many things such as noise cancellation, Google Assistant button remapping, firmware upgrading and more.

With the Bose QC35 II NC, the use of Google Assistant functions just like it would on Google Home. You might ask her to read headlines, attach notes, or numerous other queries. Additionally, the Assistant can interpret the messages when they come in, which is good but can be repetitive if you already have a smartwatch.  In brief, Google Assistant’s inclusion is good to have but is by no way the justification you would purchase the Bose QC35 II NC: consider this headphone for its outstanding noise cancellation, controlled performance and exceptional comfort. What Bose fall short in simple things like pausing the music immediately as you switch the headphones off. There’s also no instant-mute feature like on the Sony WH-1000XM2 where you can put your palm over an earcup to hear what’s going on around you. This feature is a godsend to travelers who need the ability to hear the airport PA quickly. It’s disappointing Bose doesn’t include these features when the budget Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 has both.

Performance:

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Bose’s forte is active noise cancelation and it shows up with the QC35 II NC. Moving to noise cancelation is like going into a quiet room after being on a busy street in town. The headphone does a great job of drowning out everything from a train’s rumble, cars driving by and even voices.

There is still some strain that we feel turned on with noise cancellation but that wasn’t bad. (However, those prone to noise cancelation interference may not like them.) The headphones do an exceptional job of blocking out ambient noise even when noise suppression is switched off, which is a testimony to Bose’s earpad construction.

In terms of sound, the Bose QC35 II NC is good, but not class leading. While tonal balance is relatively neutral with a slight mid-bass bump, the sound is somewhat soft when compared to competitors like the Sony WH-1000X M2 (previously the Sony MDR-1000X). This means dynamic range is a bit limited and makes for a somewhat dull presentation. Resolution is good but not great and sound stage is about average.  Most listeners will find the sound quality of the Bose great if taken in isolation. Audiophiles will want to go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2 instead.

The battery life is estimated at an impressive 20 hours, with noise suppression switched on and a modest volume listening. We find that this ranking is dead on and you’re not going to have to think about charging those headphones in the middle of a ride. But, as with the B&O Beoplay H9, the battery is not reversible so carry a microUSB charging cable and a battery pack just in case.

You should listen in wired mode with noise cancellation still on, which is a nice option to have if you want to save some battery life. It’s unfortunate that Bose has opted to use a 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable-meaning it won’t be as easy to find a replacement-but it isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch.

Build:

The QuietComfort 35 IIs of course live up to their name’s’ comfort’ portion. These are considerably lighter at 310 g than the B&W PXs and have a better feel than Sony’s headphones. Those who need a pair of noise-cancellers for long journeys should definitely consider these.

The hinges on the housings ensure the headphones fold down beautifully, and their build quality indicates they might withstand being stored in a rucksack, without having to keep them in the carry-case that comes with it.

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Controls:

The Bose QC35 II has a control scheme marginally changed over the initial QC35. They have an additional button on the left ear cup to allow Google Assistant / Alexa or to move between modes of noise cancelling. The remaining keys are exactly the same as on the previous model. They have excellent tactile feedback. The apps include call / music buttons, track-skipping, and volume adjustments. The buttons on the bottom of the right ear cup sound a little tight, but they’re easy to use and you get used to them fairly quickly.

Imaging:

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II has outstanding imaging. Their weighted delay in category is 0.1, which is among the lowest we’ve tested. The graph also indicates that practically the whole party latency is below our level of audibility. The group delay spike in high-treble, and the group delay mismatch in low-bass, though not ideal, should not have a perceptible effect. There was also some difference between our test unit’s L / R drivers, especially in the frequency and phase response, but their influence will not be very visible either. Overall they have a solid bass and a clear treble, together with a precise positioning of artifacts (voice, instruments, footsteps) in the stereo shot.

Noise Isolation:

We’ve re-tested the noise isolation of the Bose QC35 II and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 after noticing a flaw in our testing methodology for both headsets. For the QC35II this means that while the 4.5.2 update did reduce a bit the noise cancellation performance of our unit but less than we had initially reported. This has changed the score, and the text has been adjusted to reflect this.

The ANC (active noise cancellation) of the Bose QC35 II is pretty good and within the ballpark the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, but not quite as efficient as it use to be prior to the 4.5.2 update. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sit, they achieve more than 19dB of isolation, which is good and one of the highest we have measured. In the mid-range, important for cancelling out speech, they get 25dB of isolation, which is great. They also achieve a good 36dB of isolation in the treble range, which is occupied by sharp sounds such as S and Ts.

Recording:

The recording quality of the Bose QC35 II’s integrated microphone is sub-par. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 315Hz, which means transmitted/recorded speech with these headphones will sound noticeably thin. The HFE (high-frequency extension) of 2.1kHz, indicates a muffled and lacking speech transmission. This will have a negative effect on the intelligibility of speech.

Overall leakage:

Bose QC 35 II’s efficiency on leakage is normal. A emission is mostly in the mid-range, between 400Hz and 3kHz. This ensures their distortion would sound more irritating and smoother than that of in-ears and earbuds. So while the overall level of their leakage isn’t very noticeable, if you blast it, people around you will be able to hear your songs, even in fairly noisy places like a bus. Take a look at the less leaky Jabra Elite 85h, if you like to listen to high volume.

VERDICT:

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Bose was taking the already outstanding QC35 and upgrading it with Google Assistant. Save for the new Google Assistant click, the headphone is identical in every way. Which ensures you still get the class-leading noise cancellation for which Bose is renowned, good sound quality, and outstanding comfort.

The Google Assistant fits well on either Android or iOS, and offers a Google Home experience similar to that. Your alerts will also be read back via headphones, which may be unnecessary for smartwatch users. Google Assistant is good to have, but the justification you would purchase this headphone is by no means so.  The Bose QC35 II NC, taken as a whole, is an outstanding headset for tourists and passengers.

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