Review: Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Canceling Headset
Company: Bose Corporation
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo, iPod shuffle
Pros: Excellent noise canceling ability and full-range sound. Comfortable and lightweight.
Cons: Cannot cancel higher frequencies. Inline headphone control box needs some getting use to.
After reading several online forums and reviews, I wanted to see for myself if the Bose QuiteComfort headphones performed as advertised. I contacted a Bose representative, and they agreed to send me a headset for evaluation. Having my doubts and this being my first experience using any type of noise canceling technology, I was surprised at how well they worked. The noise canceling feature performed beyond my expectations.
The day I received the evaluation unit in the mail, I of course had to test it right away. I opened the box, pulled out the headphones and popped in the batteries. Now all I needed was a source of noise. I remembered there was a load of laundry in the washing machine, churning and rumbling in the garage. Perfect.
As I stood next to the washing machine, the headset on my head and ready, I flipped the switch to “LO” volume. An immediately the noise lowered to a faint hum. It’s as if someone turned the volume down on the washing machine. There’s a definite difference in sound level when switching the unit on. Though it was a simple test, I was already impressed.
Testing on the Go
My real test was performed while on my weekly, hour and twenty-minute train ride into Los Angeles. I was surrounded by people talking, babies crying, loud speakers and the constant noise from the train’s air conditioning, engine and wheels.
As I sat in my seat, headset on my head and plugged into my iPod (it’s off for the moment), I switched the Bose unit to “LO” and carefully listened. Most noticeably the ambient noise: air conditioning, engine, and wheels on the track reduced to near silence. I could still hear people talking, the loud speakers and the occasional squeaking of the brakes at station stops, but at a noticeably lower level. Based on my experience most low to middle range frequencies (25-1600 Hz) have a better chance of “canceling,” than those in the higher frequency range. So sound frequencies produced by washing machines, train engines, aircraft engines, ecetera are better suited for noise reduction. Most noise reducing headsets claim a 70% reduction in noise. While Bose doesn’t claim an actual percentage in reduction, during this test, the noise reduction performance of the Bose unit is equal to or better than those claimed by other leading brands.
I then turned on my iPod and began a session of Air’s Moon Safari album; I was enveloped in amazing sound reproduction. Not only does the Bose do well at noise canceling, it can deliver a full range of frequencies for your listening enjoyment. The highs are clean and crisp as the mids produced excellent vocal range. Though some have commented that the Bose QuietComfort headset puts out a bit too much bass, being an ex-club/house party DJ, I didn’t mind it at all. Bass is good in my book.
How does the QuietComfort headset “cancel” noise? It’s more like reducing noise. In each of the earcups are small microphones always listening for noise. Bose developed a patented method in which the ‘‘smart’’ electronics is constantly monitoring incoming, unwanted frequencies and then generates an equal and opposite frequency, where by “canceling” the original frequency.
Bose is able to do all this while still maintaining a compact, lightweight headset, through its patented TriPort technology.
The Bose QuiteComfort Acoustic Noise Canceling package includes: headset with drawstring carry bag, 1/8” stereo plug extension, belt clip, dual 1/8” stereo plug adapter (for use on airlines), 1/4” stereo plug adapter and a CD player/headset combo carrying case with shoulder strap.
I’ve never really liked wearing earphones for listening to music. The iPod earphones don’t fit and are uncomfortable to wear. I’m old school, and being an ex-DJ, I’ve always worn headphones with full-sized earcups. The Bose ear cushions are soft and plush. I’ve listened to my iPod for over 5 hours while using the Bose headset and not one sore ear. If the ear cushions should ever wear out, you can order replacements. I would like to see Bose offer a folding version for compact, portability.
Attached to the headset is a small box, which holds the noise canceling electronic brain. I kept having to fumble with it, clipping it here and there. It’s not something I’m used to having on a pair of headphones, but these aren’t your average headphones. On the front of the unit is a slide switch with three positions, ‘‘OFF’‘, “LO” and “HI”. To turn it on and set the volume output, choose either the “LO” or “HI” setting. I found myself using the “LO” setting most of the time with my iPod’s volume adjusted accordingly. From what I could tell, the noise canceling on “LO” volume had no affect on its performance. However, when there is no audio playing and the unit is “on”, you can hear low level white noise. Keep a spare set of AAA batteries close by, I found out the hard way. Again, something I have to get use to. The batteries should last about a month or more during moderate use.
There is no way I’m going back to “normal” headphones. Not when I can “cancel” the world around me and enjoy my music in virtual silence. My commutes on the train have become a more pleasant experience since using the headset. If you’re a frequent traveler on planes, trains, or automobiles (not while driving of course), you may want to consider the Bose QuiteComfort headset. They are definitely not for everyone at $300, but it’s the ultimate companion to your iPod. If you want to test the Bose QuietComfort headset, check with your local Apple Store. The stores near me had them, appropriately enough, with the iPods in the Music section.