With every mention of Noise-Cancelling, Bose is one of the first names the come up. And no wonder, they have been the industry leaders since the early 2000s when the first QuietComfort headphones were released. Here we are going to talk about the wireless Bose QC35, said to be the industry’s leading consumer noise-cancelling headphones – or is it? Let’s find out!
Build Quality and Design
The QC35s are a fold-flat and inwards design which makes it easy to stow away. It comes with a clamshell carrying case to protect it. Instead of using just plastics for its headband, Bose had decided to go with a glass-infused Nylon polymer for added durability and flexibility. The structure is reinforced with a stainless steel frame, and zinc-coated magnesium joints. The ear cups have a combination of glass-infused Nylon and a matte-finish metallic surface. Despite that, the headphones weigh in at a paltry 234gm, lighter than its closest rival, the 270gm Sony MDR-1000X.
In addition to being light, the QC35 has a gentle clamp as well, keeping the headphones in place while never clamping too tightly. This makes for a pair of headphones that can be worn for as long as you like, with occasional breaks in between. It also helps that the synthetic-leather memory foam cushions are luxuriously soft and plush, and vented for better heat dissipation. They are even softer than the cushions used in the MDR-1000X.
With just four buttons to operate, the Bose QC35s sport a clean and simple design, and feel every bit its weight in gold.
Performance and Features
It has four buttons, all on the right ear cup. The one on the side takes care of power and pairing, while three buttons on the bottom handle volume and music controls. All are intuitive to operate and have never failed me. However, touch controls are still more intuitive for me, rather than having to feel for buttons.
On paper, the QC35 has a 20 hours battery operating wirelessly and with noise-cancelling, but in actual testing (playing a looping album at 50% volume), I got out a full 23 hours! In comparison, the Sony MDR-1000X got out a respectable 21 hours.
I took the QC35 with me on my day out at work. On my train commute, the QC35 cancelled the rumble of the train very well, and nearby voices felt faint and far away. When I played music, I could barely hear anything I didn’t want to hear. Impressive. Although the Sony MDR-1000X cancelled more of the mid-range frequencies (human voices, etc) the Bose cancelled more of the low-frequency hum. I do wish that the headphones came with something like Sony’s ‘Quick Attention’ mode, that lets sound through easily with a button (or a sensor). This way, i wouldn’t have to take pull off an ear cup just to know which station I’m at.
The QC35 worked very well when I was sitting at Coffee Bean working on an article. It cancelled out a lot of that annoying hustle and bustle that you’d expect at a coffee joint on a Saturday evening. I took it off just for comparison and quickly put it back on, because the human traffic noise was bad enough to disrupt my ability to work! At that moment the Bose QC35s were seriously a lifesaver. And with music, it was my own personal soundproof room!
The QC35 sounds balanced overall with a slight gain pivot towards the mid-range. Jazz music like Michael Buble’s ‘Fever’ had his vocals take centerstage, well separated from double-bass and percussions. Wind instruments sounded sufficiently bright and airy. Bass felt a little more rolled off than what I encountered with the MDR-1000X but still had good clarity and extension.
John Mayer’s ‘Gravity’ had good bass extension, detail and instruments were well separated. I could easily pick up the electric-guitar in the background, which usually sounded so recessed in this song, that I barely notice it as a distinct instrument.
My only gripe is that its bass lacked oomph and bite but overall, the QC35s impressed me with its overall balanced sound signature and headroom. Its mids and highs were effortlessly clear but never sounded too bright. It even made gritty 1980s’ rock music far more listenable. It also had good sound staging and track separation. This makes it suitable for most types of music like Pop, R&B, Jazz, Instrumental and even orchestral.
With the Bose Connect App, you can change the name of the headphones, manage previously paired devices and also, pair two QC35s together with ‘Music Share’. The App was intuitive and zippy to navigate.
The QC35 had a very reliable Bluetooth connection to my device for up to a distance of 10m without any signal drops or audio/video sync issues. Call quality on speakerphone is great too!
At $599 the QC35s are worth every penny. There’s so much to like about it! It’s got powerful noise-cancelling, well-built, has great sound, great battery life and an App. It may not have some features that I want, like music auto-pause when I take them off or touch controls, but it does the fundamental things well.
The Bose QC35s are an all-rounder that does the fundamentals very well, building on the success of its predecessors. It has slightly better battery life than the Sony MDR-1000X, and you can use the QC35 as noise cancellers without being connected to anything. However, it will be great if the QC35 had something comparable to 1000X’s Quick Attention mode. That way I don’t have to lift up an ear cup to hear my surroundings. Despite that, the Bose QC35 may very well retain its crown as the best noise-canceller in the market. Available in Black or Silver.
So here’s the final tally:
Build Quality and Design (Noise Cancelling Headphone)
- Pros: Clean and simple aesthetic. Folding design makes it easy to stow away. Comes with a clamshell carrying case. Flexible and durable Nylon-Polymer construction, reinforced with stainless steel and magnesium joint. Lightweight. Gentle clamp and plush memory foam synthetic leather cushions make it comfy to wear. Only four buttons to operate the headphones.
- Cons: None whatsoever.
Score: 7/7 (33.3%)
Performance and Features
- Pros: Great noise-cancelling with a special focus on low-frequency hum. Battery life is more impressive than the stated 20 hours. Balanced and detailed sound with gentle highs, forward-sounding mids and decent bass-extension. Intuitive app with some useful features. Reliable Bluetooth connection with no audio/video sync issues when watching videos.
- Cons: Bass lacks oomph and bite. Does not have a feature to pass-through sound when you require more situational awareness. No touch controls.
Score: 5/8 (20.81%)
The S$599 QC35 is a great noise-canceller that does the fundamentals right. It scored full marks for build-quality, and above average for performance and features. The QC35 is good value for money, considering that its competitors from Sony and Sennheiser is priced about the same.
Score: 4/5 (26.64%)