When travelling often, whether it’s the daily commute on public transport or on a plane, there isn’t much say in who will be accompanying you by for the journey. Sometimes you need to shut out the surroundings and escape to a private bubble to concentrate on some work, catch up on sleep or just keep some sanity. In recent years, Bose has released some of the best Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headphones on the market, and the new Bose QC35II continues that trend. We’ve been using them on recent flights, commutes, and around the office; shut off from each other and lost in our own soundtracks.
Pulling them out of the box we immediately noticed the excellent build quality that is worthy of the $499 AUD price tag. They are incredibly lightweight and durable thanks to the premium metals that make up the headphone’s frame. This makes them perfect for extended wear, and coupled with the super soft Alcantara headband can easily be worn for hours at a time. The earcups have plenty of room for a variety of ear sizes, and the plush cushions don’t hug the head too tightly or get hot. Bose sell replacement ear cushions which is great as the QC35II should last a long time. They are available in silver and black, and either colour looks sophisticated.
While many of their competitors have made the switch to swipe interfaces on the sides of their headphones, Bose has stuck with traditional physical controls. There are pros and cons to each but it’s nice to have some tactile affirmation when on the go. On the right-hand side there are the play/pause and volume controls, a USB port for charging and the ANC switch; while on the left, there is a headphone jack so you can keep listening if the battery runs out. This should be a rarity though as we were easily able to get a full day of consistent use with the ANC turned on, and more than a day with it off.
Next to the the headphone jack is the biggest addition in the QC35II, the Google Assistant button. Bose are the first company to include a dedicated launch button in a set of headphones and have worked with Google to make sure that their assistant is a hassle-free experience with the new type of hardware.
Quick press the launch button and Google Assistant will give an update of the time as well as read out your notifications. Long-press it to ask the Assistant to search for something else or perform a task. The microphones on the headphones did a pretty good job of picking up our voices, even in crowded areas with lots of other people talking; and there was minimal delay between the phone interpreting queries, and the headphones relaying them on to us. It was often quicker to fire off instructions to Google Assistant through the QC35II than it was fishing out our phones.
If you’re not keen on using Google’s Assistant, Bose has announced upcoming support for Alexa through a software update. Hopefully Bose will integrate Siri in the future, though no update has been announced yet. If you don’t want to use an assistant at all, the Bose connect app can change the button to adjust the ANC level on the fly. It’s a handy feature and it would be convenient if there was another button included to control the ANC level as you move through different environments, rather than having to choose between either function.
Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation
The Bose QC35II maintain the excellent sound quality from the previous generation. They’re not as bass-heavy as the comparable Sony MDR-1000x, but they still have ample punch. The mid and treble ranges are both richly detailed and have a wide soundstage with plenty of separation. One thing we did notice was that the QC35II never distorted. Even at full volume, they maintained the same intricate and balanced sound, something not all wireless headphones can do.
This new version of the QC35 carries over the same legendary noise cancelling abilities from past iterations with two levels of ANC, low and high. We found that the low setting works best when you want to dampen background noise but still need to hear what’s happening around you for safety purposes.
The high setting will isolate you from outside noise almost entirely. So much so that it can be jarring to take them off in a loud area as you’re met with the full blast of the noise you were trying to escape. On a recent trip to Bali, we used it to block out the drone of the aeroplane’s engine and to try and get some extra sleep. The headphones did their job and blocked out the sound of people walking around and the cabin crew attending to other passengers, making it easier to sleep.
Bose QC35II Review | The Wrap Up
There aren’t many headphones that sound as good or offer as much noise cancellation as the Bose QC35II. The Google Assistant button is something no other headphone offers and it’s adds genuine functionality that we found ourselves using all the time. If you’re after a set of headphones for travelling or to block out the outside world, then the Bose QC35II is the smartest option available.