Whether it’s crushed inside a packed commuter train or twiddling our thumbs onboard an airliner at 35,000ft, we do a lot of traveling here at TwoMenAboutTown; my favourite pastime when commuting is getting lost in the world of my Spotify library, whether it’s the latest album from Stereophonics or the spectacularly funky vibes of Wham and George Michael. Don’t judge.
The main drawback of any portable audio, particularly in-ear headphones however is unwanted background noise, taking away from the experience of your favourite album or drowning it out altogether; the constant drone of an aircraft’s engine or the clattering of the Virgin Pendalino provide an unwelcome distraction. Consequently, I’ve been hunting high and low for some noise cancelling headphones for some time, with their electronic wizardry to eliminate white and secondary noise; Rob has just reviewed the Pioneer Rayz Plus in-ear headphones with mixed conclusions, but I really wanted something that would knock my socks off.
Enter Bose, recognised globally as the pioneer (yes, pioneer) in audio. The QuietComort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones were calling out to me in the Apple store upon collection of my shiny new iPhone X, so I splurged and prepared to take them with me on my trip to Abu Dhabi.
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
First impressions of the QuietComfort 20 headphones from a quick-glance aren’t particularly mind-blowing; noise-cancelling technology requires power and unlike the Rayz Plus that draw power from the iPhone’s lightning port, the Bose QuietComfort 20 adopts a cumbersome external power brick. This isn’t hugely offensive when tucked away in a pocket but it isn’t as elegant solution as one would perhaps desire.
That said however, the Bose QuietComfort 20 does pull an absolute blinder in the comfort stakes, the in-ear soft silicone tips snugly fill the ear, secured by an uninvasive grip onto the ear canal in the process, in turn probably the comfiest in-ear headphones that I’ve experienced to date. Marshmallows in your ear.
The party piece that would make one splash out on these headphones however is the noise-cancelling technology – you’d have hoped the battery pack and £260 price tag would make them worthwhile, right? Spoiler alert: they’re superb and very much worthwhile. Audible gold.
With some science that I care not to understand nor explain, switching on the noise-cancellation function is SENSATIONAL, with anything from air conditioning hums to motor noise and crowds instantly drowned out. It’s really quite amazing at the effect it has on one’s stress levels and is hugely satisfying, creating a little oasis of calm by drowning out noisy or crowded environments. It’s bliss and like no other headphones I’ve tried before.
The sound isn’t as bass-heavy as I’ve experienced with other brands, the QuietComforts are smooth and balanced in their delivery although overall making for a high-quality sound output. When matched with noise cancellation, the audio quality is sublime and really gives clear fidelity, whether it be in a quiet environment or on a crowded tube train. The QuietComfort headphones really came into their own on my recent flight to Abu Dhabi, providing clear and crisp beats in the comfort of my seat.
The added microphone and remote are useful additions and the battery life stands at about 16 hours, which is pretty acceptable, charged up via a micro USB port. It’s not game over though when juice is running low, the headphones work just fine without power, less noise cancellation. As somebody who suffers with the power/charge anxiety, this is a godsend.running out of music, namely Club Tropicana, on my commute would be a NIGHTMARE.
So, should you buy the Bose QuietComfort 20 headphones? If your primary concern is audio quality, no; you’ll find far superior headphones in this region, in all honesty. However, if you need noise-cancellation to drown out commuting noises or even annoying office background noise, paired with above-average bass and treble delivery, you won’t find anything better than this offering from Bose.
The lack of direct lightning-to-iPhone connectivity as seen in the Pioneer Rayz Plus is a bugbear and the bulky battery pack is less than desirable, however the noise cancelling element is the best I have ever sampled and really allows for an immersive musical experience like no other. It’s really quite remarkable and needs to be heard to be believed.