Stock picture of the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 noise canceling headphones.

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones Earphones Review

While the Bose QuietComfort 15 acoustic noise cancelling headphones likely cost more than practically any other consumer grade over-ear headphone, you’ll get what you pay for.

We sampled these recently at a local Sam’s Club warehouse, and found their music reproduction highly realistic with rich-but-not-boomy bass, flowing mid range, and delicate yet assertive highs.  Additionally of course, the QC-15 earphones actively cancel surrounding noise, surprisingly well; far more effective than the simpler passive noise cancelling earphones of the 1980s and 1990s.   The really reduced and in many cases, eliminated the ambient sounds at the warehouse club, including fork lifts roaring and tooting around, exhaust fans whirring, televisions playing, and people talking.  The best example of active noise control we’ve ever tested, the Quiet Comfort 15 headset incorporates ambient noise sensing microphones both inside and outside of each earphone element.

Picture of the Bose QC-15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, stock photo.
Bose QC-15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, stock photo.

QC-15 Advantages, Pros, Benefits, and Features

Closed air design.  This QuietComfort offering features a by-in-large, all-closed backs, that help not only keep unwanted ambient noise away from the eardrum, but also keeps the music inside.  Unless you play your music at top volume, any escaping sound from it is quite low, and probably won’t be heard by neighbors.

No sense of ear pressure noted.  Some reviewers state that they feel a sort of pressure on their eardrums when wearing these headphones in particularly noisy environments; a situation in which the QC-15 must produce lots of anti-noise in order to cancel out the external noise.  However, we experienced none of this, even with product pallets being unloaded behind us while we listened.

Lots of loudness.  Plenty of dynamic range.  The circuitry and drivers herein can play at ear-splitting volumes if that’s what you want.  However, if misused in this way over the long-term, the user’s manual warns of potential ear damage. So if high volume is your thing, you’ll find it in the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones.

Detachable cords. The removable cables with the 3.5mm plug fits today’s most popular mobile devices, and is easily replaced if lost or damaged.  The QC-15 comes with two cables; one that features the remote control and mic for Apple and Apple compatible players and phones, and the standard audio cable that has no mic or remote, for CD, DVD, and other such non-mobile players.

Remote and microphone included.  The phone cord that also accompanies the QC-15 contains a microphone and remote volume control.  So you can answer calls on your iPhone, hands free using the QC-15.

Comfortable enough to wear while sleeping.  If you ride buses, trains, or are a frequent flyer, you’ll appreciate the noise cancelling attributes, even when not actually listening to music.  We wore them without playing anything, but with the power switch on.  They function as well to reduce ambient sounds such as snoring and white noise reaching the ear as a decent pair of beeswax earplugs.  They still drain the battery though, any time they’re turned on, even when not playing audio through them.  These work best in bed when you sleep on your back.  Not comfortable though, if you sleep on your side.

Zippered Carrying case.  These headphones fold and collapse into a compact shape that fits into the included nautilus-shaped storage case.  We found the case sufficiently compact for this type of headphone.

LED pilot lamp.  Glows solid green when the headphones are powered on, and is easily seen from afar, to help you avoid accidently leaving them turned on, and running the battery dead.    The lamp flashes when battery is nearing its end of life.

No bigger or heavier than non noise cancelling units.  Lightweight.  In spite of the battery and additional circuitry for cancellation of ambient noise, the QC-15 unit seems no more imposing on the head and ears than the numerous passive closed ear headphones we’ve tested.

Deep, soft ear cups.  The Bose ear cushions, completely surround each ear, with enough depth to prevent the back of the can (the speaker) from touching the ear.  They’re flexible enough that they molded themselves around our eyeglasses (the temple pieces), without noticeable loss of fidelity or noise reduction effectiveness, and create an effective noise barrier to both outside noises coming in, and inside program sounds leaking out.

No added amplifier hiss.  Even without music playing, we heard no operational noise, hums, hisses, or other audio amplifier artifacts.  Yet turning them off while listening to “the quiet” raised the noise level considerably.

Impressive fidelity.  Though other noise cancelling headphones often suffer from fidelity loss due to their noise cancelling circuitry, we noted no such audio degradation in the QC-15 earphones. Bose has definitely overcome these perennial drawback of active headphones in this offering.

Better surrounding noise detection.  The QC-15 features at least two microphones in each ear unit; one senses external noises directly (there’s a grill-covered opening on the back of each driver), as well as mics inside the driver case, closer to your ear.  This presumably improves cancellation of higher frequency noises.  We could tell that noise cancellation worked well, by stopping the music, and then covering the noise sensing microphones with a finger.  As we covered more and more of the mic’s grill, we observed the external noise we heard increase.

Both low and high frequency external noises suppressed.  The QC-15 phones have been constructed with superior noise isolation in mind, and their active noise cancellation circuitry augments that in a huge way.  We observed more bass frequency noise reduction than were the S sounds from people talking nearby.  Still though, ALL frequencies are impressively lowered; especially with the phones powered on.

Compatible with today’s portable audio sources.  The 3.5mm plug with remote ring, fits most popular mobile players and phones, including iPad, iPhone, iPod, and iPod Touch.  It also fits portable MP3, AAC, CD, and DVD players, home theater systems and stereos, computers, tablets, .

Airline audio adapter.  Allows you to plug into provided audio sources built into many of today’s commercial airplanes.

Level LO / HI switch.  Functions as an audio attenuator, that allows you to lower the output volume when listening to airplane audio sources, whose volume may be too high for your liking.

Replacement parts available.  You may purchase genuine Bose replacement cables, ear cushions, adapters, and extension cables directly from Bose.  See the official product web page for details.  We provide that link below.

Easy cleanup.  Periodically wipe the phones with a damp cloth and tap around the ear cups should they develop depressions after prolonged listening sessions. Wipe outer areas of the QC-15, including the cushions, with a mild dishwashing detergent, mixed with water when the phones become heavily soiled or oily.

Stock picture of the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 noise cancelling headphones with Iicluded accessories.
Bose Quiet Comfort 15 noise cancelling headphones with Iicluded accessories, stock photo.

QC-15 Problems, Cons, Disadvantages, and Concerns

Battery operated.  Under typical operation, the single AAA battery lasts approximately 35 hours.  Just don’t forget to turn off the QC-15 when you’re finished listening.  Easy to neglect, since the earphones make no perceptible noise of their own while operating.  Alkaline and nickel metal hydride (NiMh) cells are recommended.  No AC adapter facility however.  These phones provide only the means to be powered by some sort of AAA battery.

No battery charging provision.  Surprised that Bose designed neither wireless nor USB charge facilities into the QC-15, given its Cadillac-like class.  However, triple-A alkaline batteries cost well under a dollar each these days.  So paying for new batteries every so often would likely be less of an imposition than actually changing them; especially if you operate these earphones often, for long hours.

Premium price.  At around $300 for a new pair, the QC-15 make up a decidedly non trivial purchase.

No audio at all when battery dies.  Be sure to carry some replacement AAA cells with you for the QC-15, because the batteries not only power the noise canceling circuitry, but also the main audio.  Without a good battery, you can’t listen to you music at all.  Apparently, some of the same circuitry that handles noise reduction in these headphones, also delivers the program content.  So when the battery goes, not only do you lose the active noise cancelling, but also the music too.

Ear cushions can produce sweaty ears.  Given the closed air design of the QC-15, an unfortunate drawback is that while wearing, you get little to no air moving around your ears to keep them cool.  The result, is perspiration, that can quickly soil the ear cushions.  So we recommend wiping the ear cups after each long use.

So good that they can create hazards.  The noise cancelling feature works so well, that even with your music set to lower volumes, you probably will not hear someone approaching you from behind.  You may not even hear them when they call out your name.  These phones also eliminate in a net sense, traffic noises, sirens, and other warning sounds that you’re likely to encounter while driving.  Thus we recommend not using the QC-15 headphones when operating motor vehicles, and walking near busy streets.

No longer manufactured.  However, you can still find these on eBay and other second-hand stores and shops.

Stock picture of the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones, plugged Into a tablet computer.
Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones, plugged Into a tablet computer, stock photo.

Our Rating

Given that this is the 4th generation of the Bose noise canceling headphones product line, the rudimentary parts of the circuitry and case design first appeared some years back, and have been revised at least three more times since then, to create an awesomely exceptional pair of noise lowering headphones. The QC-15 is the culmination of decades of research and development, based on tried and true audio reproduction principles coupled with active noise cancelling techniques.  We find all parts durable, easily cleaned, and of superior grade construction.  While we’d prefer waiting to buy a refurbished set in order to avoid the high-end retail price of nearly $300, we see this price as the only major disqualifying factor of the QC15.  Even if you don’t fly much, the high-grade noise cancelling performance here means that you’ll likely need to listen at lower volume levels, as you’ll hear less outside noise to overcome by turning the volume up. We therefore, rate this audio accessory product at 95 out of 100.  To Bose: Take a hundred dollars off the MSRP, and you’ll get a perfect score from us. Great job.

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Revision History

  • 2017-02-09: Revised the tags list.  Added a featured image.  Updated the content.
  • 2015-10-20: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2015-09-21: Originally published.