Bose’s $350 noise-cancelling headphones are a must-have if you want to live in a quieter world

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

At $350, Bose’s QC35 II headphones aren’t for everyone – especially if all you want is a simple, good pair of Bluetooth headphones.

But Bose’s Quiet Comfort headphones come with noise-cancelling, and they’re among the best at drowning out unwanted noise. If you’re in the market for noise-cancelling headphones, the QC35 II should be near the top of your shortlist.

Here’s why the Bose QC35 II headphones are so great:


The QC35 II are perfect for the office.

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The QC35 II creates a sound proof bubble in the office. They totally remove the hum of the office air conditioners at BI, which are surprisingly loud, at least after using the noise cancelling on the QC35 II. Other sounds like office chatter, doors closing, and footsteps are muffled, but they’re still audible. Don’t expect the kind of silence you get at a library, but these headphones absolutely make the office a less distracting place to work in.


It might not seem like they do a great job in a noisy environment, but they do.

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The QC35 II muffle the sounds of commuting, like subways and noisy streets, but everything is still largely audible. I wasn’t very impressed at first, but then I took the headphones off in the middle of a subway ride and realized just how much sound they were cancelling out.

The same thing goes for walking around NYC. I initially thought the city was still pretty loud while using QC35 II. But once I took them off, I wondered how people live without ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones. It’s pretty amazing, and it makes commuting a lot more comfortable.


They’re the next best thing after ear plugs for air travel.

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The headphones don’t completely remove an airplane’s hum, but they’re close! It’s the same experience as during my commute. You don’t realize just how much noise the QC35 II headphones cancel out until you take them off. I wondered the same thing as I did with my commute: How could anyone possibly go through a flight without ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones?

The headphones also come with an aux cord that plugs into the headphone jack of any device that still has a headphone port, like an airplane’s entertainment system.


They’re saving my hearing.

By cancelling out most of the unwanted noise surrounding me, the QC35 II let me listen to music at lower volumes than headphones without noise cancellation. As a result, I’m at a lower risk of permanently damaging my hearing in the long term.

But I don’t always listen to music when wearing the QC35 II. In fact, I’m mostly just wearing them for their noise cancelling feature without any audio. In my opinion, the fewer decibels I hear, the better it is for my long-term hearing.


What do they sound like?

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As you’d expect from $350 headphones, the QC35 II sound great. They deliver a clear, rich, premium sound that’s signature to Bose headphones, and most people would be very happy with them.

With that said, Bose added its own tweaks to the sound that fits certain types of music more than others. Classical, Jazz, and Rock sound amazing, but the QC35 II don’t quite deliver for tracks with heavier bass. Those who like to be enveloped in a warm blanket of bass when they listen to music won’t be satisfied here. I felt myself wanting more ultra-low-end bass, especially on hip-hop or electronic tracks.


They work well for phone calls, but Bose has a newer and better pair of headphones if you’re specifically interested in phone call quality.

Phone calls are decent with the QC35 II headphones. The noise cancellation helps me hear the person I’m speaking with clearly, and the microphones pick up my voice well, but mostly when I’m already in a quiet environment.

If call quality in any situation is a priority, whether you’re in a quiet office or even noisy city streets, Bose’s newer NC700 headphones will be a better fit. They cost $50 more for slight overall upgrades, and a massive upgrade for phone call quality.


They’re incredibly comfortable to wear.

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I have the type of head and ears that don’t like headphones: the pressure from the headband typically leaves the top of my cranium sore after an hour, or the ear pads get hot and my ears get sore. Sometimes I get an uncomfortable combination of all those things.

The QC35 II headphones are the most comfortable pair of headphones I’ve tried to date.

They cup around my relatively large ears and don’t cause any pain after long periods of use. They still get a little warm, but it’s not too uncomfortable. They’re pretty light, too, and the well-padded headband never caused any soreness.


Battery life is good.

Battery life is not stellar, but it’s pretty good on the QC35 II. Bose boasts a 20-hour battery life, and it seems pretty spot on from my experience.

Unfortunately, the headphones charge via microUSB instead of USB-C. And the microUSB cable it comes in is comically short – about five inches. That’s disappointing because more and more of my devices are using USB-C, and I have to bring a microUSB cable just for the headphones when I’m travelling. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it is unfortunate.


The app.

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The Bose app lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation, and manage all the devices connected to the headphones. It even keeps the headphones updated with the latest firmware. You can also check in on the battery level through the app, or you can find that information in the Today View menu when you swipe right on iOS devices.

The headphones work without the app, but you might as well use it to get the latest firmware updates that bring improvements to your headphones over time.


Music controls.

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As with any good pair of Bluetooth headphones, the QC35 II have music controls for volume and track control. Volume control is intuitive enough, but track control needed a quick check of the manual.

(To switch to the next track, you need to double-press the Play/Pause button. To go to the previous track, you need to triple-press it.)


They support Google Assistant, but it’s not a selling point for these headphones.

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You can use Google Assistant that lives in your phone via the QC35 II headphones, which seemed like an interesting feature at first – but the experience falls flat.

To issue voice commands, you have to press and hold the button on the left ear cup, and Google Assistant will give you its reply.

It does work for simpler questions, like getting the weather and other questions you can search on the web, and it can tell you your next calendar event, too. But there’s a significant delay between your voice command and the answer from Google Assistant.

I can’t imagine a scenario at home when I’d use Google Assistant on the QC35 II headphones, and speaking to voice assistants out in public isn’t something I’m ready to do. Plus, if you have to reach up to press and hold the button for Google Assistant, you might as well reach for your phone.

I also tried some more complex things like sending a message and getting direction using Google Assistant with the QC35 II, but it never worked properly.

You can also get notifications from your phone to the headphones, but this interrupted music or quiet moments so often that it became unbearable. I turned off all the notifications with angry satisfaction.

Apple claims it works with Siri on its website, too, but I found no compatibility with Siri in the Bose app settings on an iPhone X.


Build quality is questionable.

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

For a pair of $350 headphones, I was expecting a little more in terms of build quality. The plastic feels cheap and hollow, and it can get lightly scuffed over time. Still, as long as they continued to sound good and block out exterior noise, I didn’t mind.


Are they worth the $350 price tag?

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

If the QC35 II were simple headphones without noise cancellation, I’d say the $350 price tag would be a stretch. After all, you can get some great-sounding Bluetooth headphones for $150.

But they make their case with their class-leading noise cancellation that drowns out a lot of distracting noise.

If you’re looking for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus at the office, or to simply turn down the volume of the world around you from time to time, the QC35 II are absolutely worth it.

And as for sound, you’ll likely be pleased. But if you know yourself to enjoy bass, I’d recommend checking out the $350 Sony “Bose killers” – the WH-1000XM3.

The built-in smart assistant feature complicates the experience. It’s thankfully optional, and if you’re not interested at all in the smart assistant feature, you can opt for the original QC35 headphones that are slightly cheaper at $330 on Amazon at the time of writing. It’s essentially the same pair of headphones without the built-in smart assistant.