Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones

Bose QuietComfort 15 review: Bose’s best noise cancelling headphones?

Bose QuietComfort 15
  • Bose QuietComfort 15
  • Bose QuietComfort 15
  • Bose QuietComfort 15
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Very effective noise cancelling
  • Clear and musical sound
  • Very well built

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Requires battery to operate

Bottom Line

Bose’s QuietComfort 15 headphones aren’t the most expensive the company has, but we think they have the equal best noise cancelling circuitry of any Bose headphones. These headphones are perfectly suited to the executive traveller or frequent jet-setter but are an expensive luxury.

Would you buy this?

Bose recently updated its QuietComfort 15 and AE2i headphones with iPod- and iPhone-friendly cables with in-line remote controls. The QuietComfort 15 is the better and more expensive set of the two — their very impressive active noise cancelling does an excellent job of removing constant ambient noises like air conditioning.

Bose QuietComfort 15: Design and construction

The Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones are full-size 'cans' — they sit over the wearer's ears and seal tight. The headphones' leatherette ear-pads are plush and comfortable, but don't let in much outside noise. The Bose QuietComfort 3, which are the company's top of the line models, are more compact with a thinner headband and smaller ear-cups, as well as a rechargeable internal battery — they're the better choice if outright portability is a concern, but they are $100 more expensive.

That doesn't mean the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones are bulky, though. The headband has a bit of a bulge to it as it comes down to meet each ear-cup, but we'd say the QuietComfort 15 headphones are smaller overall than the Sony MDR-NC500D they compete with. They'll fit in a briefcase or backpack without any trouble.

The headphones' construction is of a high standard. The plastics used are strong and scratch-resistant, and the slight extra weight of the removable AAA battery and noise cancelling circuitry means the Bose QuietComfort 15 have a sense of being more solidly constructed than the AE2i non-noise cancelling model. The switch for the headphones' integrated noise cancelling is on the right ear-cup — the QuietComfort 15 is rated for 35 hours of noise cancellation and music playback using a single battery. There's no standby mode, though, so if you forget to switch the headphones off they'll be flat within a day.

The QuietComfort 15 headphones come with two 2m headphone cords — one terminates in a regular 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, while the other has a four-pole headphone jack with in-line remote control that's compatible with Apple products like the iPhone 4 and iMac. Each headphone cord also has a hidden switch to change between high and low gain settings (for an extra volume boost or attenuation).

Bose QuietComfort 15: Sound quality and noise cancelling performance

The Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones are expensive at $499, and we doubt you'll be able to find them a great deal cheaper by shopping around — like Apple, Bose does a good job of strictly enforcing its recommended retail prices. We wouldn't say the sound quality is exactly commensurate with the headphones' price tag, but the high quality of the active noise cancelling goes some way to add value.

The QuietComfort 15s have a very musical sound — heavy on the bass and sharp on treble, which makes music sound forward and punchy. They're not as accurate or analytical as a pair of headphones which lack the electronic sound alteration of the Bose headphones' integrated noise cancelling. We enjoy the sound representation and sound quality of the Bose QuietComfort 15, but if you're listening to rock or electronic music you might find the sound fatiguing after some time.

We weren't able to make the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones distort badly, even at maximum volume from our test Apple MacBook Pro with the headphones set to high gain. They can achieve very loud volume levels for a pair of headphones, and we could only hear a small amount of bass distortion.

Similarly, the active noise cancelling can be unsettling when it's initially switched on. It cuts out almost all lower frequency ambient noise — outside wind, the whirr of an overhead fan, air conditioning hum — and all that's left is a slight hiss. It's some of the most effective noise cancelling we've heard and we think it would be a godsend on a long-haul international plane flight. We tried wearing the QuietComfort 15 headphones for several hours with the noise cancelling enabled, and eventually became uncomfortable with it. Taking the headphones off after listening to the noise cancelling is like surfacing from holding your breath underwater.

Bose QuietComfort 15: Conclusion

The Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones are premium models. They are built from high quality components, sound good, and have excellent noise cancelling. They are more expensive than they deserve to be, though, and not everyone will enjoy the experience of listening to active noise cancelling.

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