Bose QuietComfort 35 QC35 Wireless Headphones Earphones Review

The Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless active acoustic noise cancelling headphones are a yet another revised and improved version of the QC15 phones, and indeed a step up from the QC25 wired phones of a year or two past.

While these cost even more than practically any other consumer grade around-ear headphone, you’ll get your money’s worth in the QC35s.  We played with these at a local brick-and-mortar audio electronics store, and found their music reproduction quite convincing with rich-but-not-boomy bass, flowing mid range, and well-reproduced treble.  The fidelity in these QC-35 Bluetooth headphones rivals that of the older, wired headphone models.

Also, as expected, these QC-34 earphones, like their predecessors, actively cancel surrounding noise, astoundingly well.  They’re far more effective than the simpler passive noise cancelling earphones of the 1980s and 1990s, and the fact that they’re Bluetooth does not seem to degrade their active noise canceling performance.   They really reduced the ambient sounds at the shop, including stereos and home theater systems blasting, doors slamming, smart speakers thumping, and people gabbing.  The best example of active noise control we’ve ever tested since the QC15s, this Quiet Comfort 35 headset incorporates ambient noise sensing microphones both inside and outside of each earphone element, which means that they require battery power; a single AAA cell which lasts many hours.  Each ear has its own separate mics for better noise control for that ear.

QC-35 Advantages, Pros, Benefits, and Features

Yep, they’re wireless!  The first Bluetooth headphones in the QuietComfort series, though you can still connect them via a supplied audio cable should the battery run out, or the device you wish to play through them doe snot support Bluetooth.

Bose Active EQ and Triport technologies.  Improved sound and external noise quieting as compared to the last QC model, the QC25.

Choice of two colors.  The QC35 phones come in either black or silver versions.

Designed to work well with apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod mobile devices. They also work awesomely on Android tablets and phones as well.  You can pair them with your phone and conduct hands-free conversations through the QC35.

Closed air design.  With the exception of the ports, this wireless QuietComfort offering, like both of its predecessors, features all-closed backs on each speaker, that helps 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 is virtually unheard, and probably won’t be heard by neighboring workers or travelers.

No sense of ear pressure noted.  Some reviewers mention feeling a sort of pressure on their eardrums when operating the noise reduction circuit in these headphones in particularly noisy environments; a situation in which the QC35 phones must produce lots of reverse noise in order to cancel out the external noise.  However, we experienced no pressure, even with subwoofers blasting around us while listening.

Plenty of volume, even though wireless. The dynamic range of the QC35 does not suffer due to the Bluetooth connectivity that these wireless earphones require.  In fact, these phones sound better with their wireless connection, than did the QC25s with their wired connection.  The circuitry and drivers inside can still play at ear-splitting volumes, if that’s your fancy.  However, consider that long-term exposure to very loud sounds may damage your hearing, according to the user’s manual. But nonetheless, if high volume is still your desire, you’ll still get it in the Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones.

Detachable USB cord. The removable micro USB to USB A charge cable replaces the audio cable.  Gone is the 3.5mm plug cord which used to fit into most mobile devices.   Now, the only cord is for charging the built-in battery, and since it is USB, it can easily be replaced if lost or damaged.

Remote and microphone now built in.  No longer included on a cord, these controls are now found on the backs and bottoms of the earphones themselves.  There’s a microphone and remote volume control.

Side speaker function, that allows you to hear your own voice in the phones while talking via your cellphone, which, according to CNET, reduces the feeling that you need to shout to assure that the person on the other end can hear you.

Comfortable enough to wear while sleeping.  If you ride taxies, trains, or airplanes, you’ll appreciate the advanced active noise cancelling performance of the Bose 35, even when not actually listening to music.  Like with the previous models in the QuietComfort series, we wore these while playing nothing through them, but with the power switch still turned on.  This enables the noise control processors.  We found that these earphones function just as well to reduce ambient sounds (like snoring and airplane cabin noise) as a decent pair of beeswax earplugs.  They still drain the battery however, any time they’re turned on, even with no audio playing.  Like the QC25s, the QC35s work best in bed when wearing while laying on your back.  Uncomfortable though, if you sleep on your side.

No Bluetooth adapter needed. The QC-35 has built-in Bluetooth capability.  Improvement over the QC15 and QC25 models.  So no longer is any external wireless adapter required to make these headphones wireless.  Terrific!

Zippered Carrying case.  The QC35 earphones fold into a compact shape that fits into the included rectangular-shaped storage case.  We found the case sufficiently compact for this type of headphone, and were amazed at how small these phones could become when folded up.

LED pilot lamp.  Glows solid green when the QC25 is powered on, and is easily seen from a distance, to help you avert accidently leaving them on, and running down the AAA battery.    The lamp flashes when battery is approaching end-of-life.

No bigger or heavier than non noise cancelling units.  Lightweight, although a bit heavier than the QC25s.  In spite of the battery and additional circuitry for wireless operation, the QC-35 unit seems no more imposing on the head and ears than the numerous passive closed ear headphones we’ve sampled, and even the previous active cancellation ones we’ve tested.

Built-in rechargeable battery.  As mentioned, the QC35 headphone is powered by an internal non user-serviceable battery, which can last up to 20 hours, according to Bose.  This shortened battery life is perhaps the only majorly noticeable compromise they made in performance in order to provide the Bluetooth capability.  A modest sacrifice to make in lieu of getting rid of the dongle-style Bluetooth adapter that earlier models required for wireless operation.

Deep, soft ear cups.  The Bose QC35 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 quickly molded themselves around our eyeglasses (the temple pieces), without noticeable loss of fidelity or noise reduction effectiveness.  The ear cushions also create an effective noise barrier to both outside noises coming in, and inside program sounds leaking out.

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

Impressive fidelity.  Though other wired noise cancelling headphones often suffer from fidelity loss, due to their inferior noise cancelling circuitry, we noted no such loss in the QC-35 earphones. Bose has indeed overcome these perennial drawbacks of typical active noise canceling headphones in this offering, and made the wireless medium as transparent to the sound signals as the wired earphones with the audio cords.

Better surrounding noise detection.  The QC-35 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 microphones inside the driver case, closer to your ear.  This improves cancellation of higher frequency noises.  Also, newer and faster audio processing in the QC35 better attenuates external ambient 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, the external noise we could hear increased markedly.

Both low and high frequency external noises suppressed.  The QC-35 phones are constructed with superior noise isolation as perhaps the main goal, and their state-of-the-art active noise cancellation circuitry augments that in a huge way.  ALL external noise frequencies are impressively lowered; especially with the phones operating.

Compatible with today’s mobile audio sources.  So long as your device supports Bluetooth, the QC35 will pair with popular mobile players and phones, including Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, as well as Android devices from Samsung, Google, Amazon, et al.

Wired operation still available if the battery dies.  If the rechargeable battery goes dead, or you wish to drive the phones from a device that does not provide Bluetooth, you can still plug in the QC35 via an audio cable.

Thus, you can still listen when battery fails.   Keep the battery well charged, since without a fresh battery, you will lose any active noise suppression. However, unlike the QC15,  you’ll still be able to listen to you music; you just won’t get the enhanced experience that comes via the active noise cancellation circuit, which requires battery power to operate

Balanced digital equalization system.  Maintains consistent headphone response whether playing soft of playing the loud.

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.

Affordable for serious music listeners.  The QC25 costs roughly $300 US, although for the best price, we suggest checking out online resellers and second-hand sites like Amazon and eBay.  WE found them as lost as $150.  However be careful paying too little, as the headphones you buy might be fake.  Buyer beware of exceedingly low prices.

QC-25 Problems, Cons, Disadvantages, and Concerns

High price.  At around $350 for a new pair, the QC-35 comprise a decidedly substantial purchase.  Although their overall quality likely justifies three and a half c-notes, these are best kept out of reach of children.  Even adult novice listeners might not appreciate that workmanship and advanced performance the QC-35 offers.  So, we suggest making sure your tastes for high fidelity have grown into these phones before buying them.  If you can’t appreciate the difference in sound between these and much cheaper models, then you’re better off buying cheap.

Rechargeable battery not easily replaceable.  Wile batteries like this can last several to six years if periodically charged and drained, a standard, user-replaceable rechargeable battery would have been much better.

Ear cushions encourage sweaty ears.  Given the closed air design of the QuietComfort series of headphones,  while wearing the QC35, you get little to no air moving around your ears to cool them.  The result is perspiration, that can quickly soil the ear cushions.  So we recommend wiping the ear cups after each long listening session.

So effective that they might create hazards.  The active noise cancelling feature works so well, that even with your music set to lower volumes, you’ll probably not hear someone approaching from the rear.  You may not even hear when they call out to you.  These earphones also seriously reduce traffic noises, horns, squealing tires, and other warning sounds that you’re likely to encounter while driving or walking.  Thus we recommend not using the QC-35 headphones when driving or walking near busy streets.

Our Rating

These QC-35 wireless headphones continue the progression of many years of research and development, based on tried-and-true audio reproduction principles, coupled with active digital noise cancelling techniques.  We find that this effort was not wasted, and has come to fruition for Bose, embodied in their best wireless noise canceling headphones so far.  Indeed, these are the best sounding Bluetooth headphones we’ve ever tested.

Further, all the parts appear durable, easily cleaned, and of superior grade construction as compared to the earlier renditions in the QuietComfort headphone series.  While we’d prefer waiting to buy a refurbished set in order to avoid the high-end retail price of nearly $350, we see this price as the only limiting factor of the QC35.  Even if you don’t fly much, the high-grade active noise cancelling performance means that you’ll likely need less volume from the music, as you’ll have less outside noise to overcome by turning the volume up. We therefore, rate this audio accessory product at 97 out of 100. Expensive yes, but worth the money.

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Revision History

  • 2017-02-09: Originally published.