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Bose QC35 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphone Review

I have been looking for a pair of over-ear bluetooth headphones for some time now. I have tried many of the inexpensive in-ear ‘sports’ type headphones with varying degrees of sound quality. Some of these earbud-type bluetooth headphones actually sound quite impressive - especially when you take into account their price. The problem with most of them though is the bluetooth range which is sometimes appalling - even simply walking around with your phone in your pocket is too much for these and they start to drop out and lose the signal. They’re also sometimes a real pain to put in your ears and get the sound just right.

With this in mind I decided to get a pair of on-ear bluetooth headphones as they are far easier to put on and off and, generally have a better sound quality. I decided to try noise cancelling headphones - so I thought I would go for what are considered to be the best in noise cancelling - the Bose Quiet Comfort 35’s.

The primary things I am looking for in headphones in order of importance is:-

Sound quality and volume
Bluetooth reliability and (to a limited extent) range
Ability to pair to 2 phones
Battery life
Comfort
Wired input facility

For me, sound quality and volume is the most important factor. I like to sometimes have my music loud - I know it’s potentially bad for my hearing but sometimes I just need to rock-out. My musical tastes have changed over the years - I tend to listen to the following artists and genres:-

Pink Floyd - Rush - Queen - Suzanne Vega - William Orbit - Holst - Vivaldi - Bach

The QC35’s come nicely packaged and are supplied with a very nice carrying case, USB charging cable and a rather tatty cable for connecting to your device in wired mode. This cable doesn’t have a microphone or remote controls at all - when used in this way they become pretty much a pair of regular headphones. You can use the cable in active or passive mode - the sound character changes for the worse when used passively. Be warned.

The QC35’s certainly live up to their name regarding comfort - they completely encapsulate your ears and there’s enough depth for the angled drivers to never touch your ears. They really can be worn for hours without discomfort. Passive noise isolation is very good as well - when you switch on the headphones it’s almost like putting your fingers in your ears - all the external low frequency sounds basically disappear. Once your music starts playing you really are in a world of your own.

Build Quality

The QC35's are made from glass reinforced plastic and although lightweight, do offer a reassuring level of quality to their build. All the important bits on the headphone are made of steel and there's no creaking or other unwanted sounds from the mechanism. Padding is exceptionally soft and comfortable - in other words these are an exceptionally well made pair of lightweight headphones and should last for many years with careful handling.

One thing I didn't like about the 35’s though was the sliding power/pairing switch which I thought felt a little cheap and nasty when compared to everything else about the headphone. There have been a number of reports on line regarding the switch mechanism breaking and the headphones having to be returned to Bose for repair. Perhaps this is something to watch out for and therefore handle with care.

Sound Quality

Very generally speaking, most headphones can be broken down into three basic camps - Those which are designed to reproduce the recording with absolutely nothing added but gain. Pure, flat and super accurate. The second camp would be those which are designed to compromise. Some sound quality may be sacrificed for features or comfort but generally produce a pleasing high quality sound. The third camp are those which are manufactured to simply sell. They will get the job done but by following the basic premise of manufacturing costs being kept as low as possible - everything else is secondary.

The first two camps are the ones we are all interested in. Whilst you may occasionally get a diamond in the rough - ie an inexpensive bargain which sounds phenomenal, this is typically nothing more than a happy accident by the manufacturers. I think it’s fair to say that the Bose QC-35’s fall clearly into the second camp.

Let’s get this out of the way straight away - the sound is heavily processed by the clever systems built in which are exclusively Bose property. The noise cancelling is superb. What makes it utterly superb is that you get the impression that it’s a subtle level of cancelling out noise - until you take them off and realise just how effective it is. I am a truck driver and have sat in the cab with the door open and engine running whilst wearing these and the amount of engine noise that’s being suppressed is truly remarkable. However, this level of noise cancelling sophistication does come at a cost - sound quality.

Bass:
Deep and pretty tuneful. Coped with Dubstep at high volumes without any sign of distortion. Very slightly ‘bloomy’ but actually very enjoyable.

Mids:
Vocals came across clear and well placed in the sound field. Again, no distortion - very slightly ‘hard’ or ‘shouty’ but enjoyable nonetheless.

Highs:
Detailed and non-fatiguing (which is always welcome).

Don’t get me wrong, the sound quality is actually very good - especially when you take into account the active noise cancelling which is operating all the time the headphones are powered. Whilst good, the sound quality suffers with too much post processing. The sound has an artificial flavour to it - not completely over the top by and standards but still enough to take the edge off.

It’s almost like everything about the sound is ‘turned down’ and then certain key frequencies are ramped up again to give the impression of resolution and detail. Please bear in mind that these opinions are my own and also in so many ways, we’re talking about very minor faults. I was very seriously thinking about keeping these headphones and paying full retail price for them - that’s how good they are.

The high price of the QC35’s certainly gave me pause for thought but I had actually budgeted for this kind of price. It was really that pause which made me decide to try out some of the other higher-end bluetooth headphones out there before making my final decision to purchase. The other thing which bothered me about these headphones was their maximum volume level - whilst quite loud I really felt that I wanted a little bit more. Unfortunately this is something that cannot really be overcome - other than using the headphones with a portable amp which kinda defeats their whole purpose.

In the end I decided I could do better when spending this kind of money. Thanks to Amazon's excellent returns policy, I got the opportunity to try a few different bluetooth over ear headphones - but that’s another story.

Conclusion

Basically the Bose QC35’s are an excellent set of headphones. They’re extremely comfortable, have superb noise cancelling technology which cannot be found with any other brand and have a really nice build. I would guardedly recommend them to anyone looking for this type of headphone. I personally felt that I could do better for the price and ended up with a pair of on-ear bluetooth headphones which didn’t feature noise cancelling and so therefore, in my opinion, had a better sound quality.