The Bose Noise Cancelling 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, have a lot to live up to. The QuietComfort series is almost 20 years old and is essentially the gold standard for active noise-canceling headphones, beloved by airline travelers and open-office residents the world over for their ability to block out a good chunk of external distractions. Simply put, the QC35s are a hard act to follow, and some people aren’t going to like all the changes that Bose has made in creating this new successor headphone.
Review of The Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Past models of Bose headphones, like the QuietComfort 35 II, were handsome, but in a dad sort of way. Available in black or silver, the 700s are definitely DILF-ware. The headband is made of sturdy stainless steel that bisects the middle of the plastic ear cups. The top and bottom of the band are made of a soft-touch plastic that houses a bit of Bose’s proprietary foam.
The headband is designed to evenly distribute weight, which makes for a more comfortable fit. Speaking of fit, if you need to adjust the cans, you simply slide the ear cups up or down instead of manipulating the band. This takes a bit of getting used to, but the overall movement is seamless.
Several buttons located along the ear cups help alleviate the need to touch your connected device. The left cup has the adjustable noise-cancellation button, while the right cup has toggles for Power/Bluetooth and launching digital assistants.
In case blindly fumbling around for buttons isn’t your thing, Bose has included a capacitive-touch panel on the right ear cup. A double-tap will play/pause or answer/ignore calls, while a swipe up or down will raise or lower the volume. A swipe forward or back will skip forward or backward on a track. The right ear cup also houses the USB Type-C charging port, a clear sign that Bose is fully embracing the 21st century.
2. Sound Performance
The 700s mirror their siblings’ familiar sonic character – bold, clear, and upfront. Bose claims the sound quality is comparable to the QC35 IIs, and we’d agree. But the company hasn’t taken the same giant steps to advance the audio performance over its previous efforts as it has with the noise-cancellation and design.
We play everything from Maribou State’s downbeat electronica to Purple Mountains’ giddy indie All My Happiness Is Gone, and the stunning clarity and directness of the 700s’ delivery are consistently impressive.
Synthesizers chirp and chime away with candor and sweetness, and as the denser mixes follow, the Boses ensure everything is rightfully heard, producing a fast, spirited listen that plays into the hands of popular music.
Play Weyes Blood’s Picture Me Better through the 700s, and while Natalie Laura Mering’s vocal is there right between your ears with all the assertiveness we’d expect from Bose’s unwavering character, the Sony’s broader landscape is colored with more detail. There are more delicacy and subtlety to the vocal. As the violin piece in Nearer To Thee comes into play, the Sony scuppers greater texture and makes more of a meal of the atmospheric dynamic shifts.
3. Battery Life
The Bose 700 Headphones have an impressive battery performance. They provide nearly 21 hours of continuous playback on a charge, and they charge in about two hours. They can also be used passively with the provided audio cable when the battery is dead but can’t be used while charging. They have two auto-off timers, one that can’t be disabled and turns the headset off after 10 minutes of undetected motion, and another one that you can adjust in the app that will power off the headphones after a set time while you’re still wearing them.
The fixed auto-off timer made testing battery life challenging, therefore we suspended the headphones from a fixed surface with a bungee cord and pointed a fan in their direction to make them move continuously during our discharging test.
4. Noise Canceling
The original QC35 pushed noise-canceling technology to the next level and the Headphones 700 match them, competing favorably with Sony’s best, particularly on commutes, handling wind noise better than any other. Turned up to maximum, the noise canceling is very effective, blocking or diminishing even the most difficult of sudden or loud noises. The difference between the Headphones 700 and even mid-range models is night and day. You get what you pay for.
Bose has re-engineered its noise-canceling system for greater flexibility. Now you can choose from 11 levels from maximum noise-blocking to fully open, piping ambient sounds from your environment into the headphones using the microphones on their surface.
That means if you want some awareness of what’s happening around you, such as conversations in an office, but without the hum of air conditioning or computers, you can adjust the level accordingly. The ambient sound mode is a cut above too, sounding far more natural and open than any other similar technology I’ve used.
Press the noise-canceling button on the left ear cup to switch between three favorite noise-canceling levels, which default to zero, five, and 10. Every time you switch levels or in and out of conversation mode, the noise-canceling ramps smoothly up and down again like someone turning a big analog volume knob. It’s a small detail that makes the whole experience feel all the more luxurious.
Bose went back to the drawing board for its latest headphones, and that decision was a success. The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 has better noise-cancellation thanks to customization, and thankfully, it looks much better than the company’s previous models. Touch controls are reliable and the battery life is adequate to keep the music going for as long as you’ll need. There’s a lot to like here, but for $399, these needed to be perfect to dethrone Sony. That said, Sony needs to nail any future version of the WH-1000X to keep Bose from retaking the crown. The gap isn’t as wide as it was a few months ago.