Bose claims to have the best active noise cancellation (ANC) in the world on the Quietcomfort Earbuds II. We want to know more about that in the test.
ANC, i.e. active noise cancellation via microphones and loudspeakers, is one of the most important functions of high-priced headphones alongside the sound – this applies to over-ear, on-ear and in-ear alike. With good ANC it is possible to enjoy your music at low volume in a crowded subway, on a plane or next to a busy street.
Bose has been at the forefront in this area for a long time. They show this, for example, with the predecessor of the in-ears discussed here, the Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds (test report) . In the test, we particularly praised the very good ANC, the good sound and the comfortable operation. We don’t like the rather clumsy design and the only average battery life. In our Top 10: The best true wireless headphones with ANC , they move up the list because of their good ANC.
With the current model Bose QC Earbuds II, Bose wants to go one step further. In their press release, they boastfully claim to offer “the world’s best noise cancellation”. It should be able to do what many other ANC solutions fail to do: Efficiently block out higher-frequency noises such as baby cries or bright voices. We take a closer look at this in the test and also reveal how the Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II sound and fit.
Design and fit
Some people complained about the size of the previous Bose Earbuds models. The earbuds themselves weigh 8.5 grams, with the charging case it is 76 grams. The Earbuds II weigh 6.5 grams or 60 grams with the charging cradle. The form factor has also shrunk from 89 × 51 × 32 millimeters to 66 x 57 x 25 millimeters. They have actually become significantly lighter and smaller. However , they cannot quite keep up with the Apple Airpods Pro (test report) or the Google Pixel Buds Pro (test report) .
Unfortunately, Bose didn’t manage to accommodate an inductive charging coil in the case. It is only charged via the USB-C port. According to Bose, the headphones should last six hours before they have to be recharged in the case. This can then be charged three times in turn before it needs electricity itself.
As usual, the design of the case is unobtrusive and rather conventional. We have the black variant (white is to follow later in 2022), whose coating quickly shows fingerprints. The lid snaps open with a spring and can easily be operated with just one hand. A status LED on the front above the Bose logo and a second LED inside the charging box indicate, among other things, whether the Earbuds II are sufficiently charged, connected to a device or in pairing mode.
The in-ear headphones themselves are quite bulky, but they fit surprisingly well. In contrast to the predecessor, they do without wings, but instead come with three interchangeable silicone rings with fins in addition to the three silicone inserts for the ear canal. Bose calls them stability bands. This two-stage system is intended to ensure that the Earbuds II fit into as many ears as possible and also shield noise optimally there.
In our case we choose the large silicone rings in combination with the normal attachments. The in-ears don’t pinch even after several hours of wearing and stay comfortably in place even with wild movements. As usual with in-ears, wearing comfort can vary from ear to ear. Once in the ear, they appear unobtrusive with their matt black pin, which is familiar from many other models. The headphones are sweat-resistant according to IPX4, but not waterproof.
App & operation
The connection via Bluetooth 5.3 works straight away and without any problems. However, we’re a bit disappointed that the Bose QC Earbuds 2 don’t support Bluetooth Multipoint. This would make it much easier to switch between different end devices. This is particularly disappointing given that the Bose in-ears feature the 5th generation Qualcomm chipset that is capable of this. After all, there is the theoretical possibility of supplying this function later via software update.
Both earpieces are touch sensitive. A simple press pauses or restarts the music. The music also pauses when you remove the earbuds. A double press leads to the next title, a triple press to the previous one. The long press toggles between noise canceling and ambient mode. This gesture can also be assigned other functions, such as activating voice control, for each ear individually. Swiping up and down varies the volume. In fact, unlike many in-ears from the competition, these gestures work reliably for the most part. This is also due to the fact that the pen that protrudes from the ear is large enough to recognize the gestures.
Among other things, the app allows the creation of additional profiles for noise suppression – the usefulness is an open question. We personally only need the two modes Quiet (ANC at 100 percent) and Ambient. If desired, the app also tests the fit in the ear. The user can adjust the sound to their own preferences via an equalizer. Our picture gallery shows the most important functions of the app.
First of all: The ANC is fantastic! Rarely have we had headphones that are so efficient at eliminating outside noise. This actually works not only in the low frequencies, but also in the high frequencies, as Bose claims. Voices still reach our ears, just like when the noise suppression is switched on. However, as soon as we start playing music at around 30 percent volume, we can no longer hear the voices. We have never had such a good ANC on our ears – this applies to in-ear and over-ear alike.
Bose calls one of the secrets for good ANC Customtune. The function automatically measures the interior of the ear within one second each time the earpieces are inserted and adapts both the ANC and the sound to it. To do this, the in-ears play a sound and pick it up again with an inward-facing microphone. The Earbuds 2 have three additional outward-facing microphones to capture noise, which is then neutralized by opposing signals directed towards the inner ear.
Not only the noise suppression is impressive, but also the mode that captures the external noise via the microphones and passes it on to the ear via the loudspeaker. Bose calls the mode somewhat clumsy in German “perceptible”. This transparency mode is as good as we’ve seldom heard from in-ears. It can even keep up with the Apple Airpods Pro (test report) . Of course, the language penetrates the ear and even in a babble of voices it is possible to distinguish between individuals. The direction of the noise can also be determined well. What we would have wished for in this context would be digital amplification of the outside noise. This could then help people with hearing impairments in particular.
Bose tweaked the sound. Because the Earbuds 2 sound better than the Earbuds 1. While the typical Bose sound tends to be warm and sometimes pompous, the Earbuds II are clearer and more dynamic in the listening test. To our ear, they’re on par with the Apple Airpods Pro (review) and the Sony WF-1000XM4 (review) . Enthusiasts can use the equalizer to further adjust the sound to their own listening preferences. The bass is strong and booms when it’s supposed to, without distorting the middle and high tones.
Acoustic pieces like The Man Who Sold The World by Nirvana sound finely nuanced, every plucked guitar hits the ear effectively. The Bose QC Earbuds II also cleanly resolve complicated pieces such as Knight of Cydonia by Muse with their soundscape, which is difficult for headphones, into the individual instruments and voices.
Amazing how Bose manages that. In contrast to the predecessor, not much has changed with regard to the drivers. Bose doesn’t cover itself in glory when it comes to codecs either. Only SBC and AAC are supported, but not aptX, Bluetooth LE Audio or LDAC. The secret lies in measuring the inside of the ear and adjusting the sound to the individual circumstances.
More on the subject of codes in our guide ANC, Codecs & Bluetooth: Good headphones must be able to do this .
To start with, the Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II cost a whopping 300 euros. We assume that their price will soon be put into perspective. The white variant also initially costs 300 euros, but will only appear in the course of 2022.
With the Quietcomfort Earbuds II, Bose has made a big splash. They are among the best in-ears of 2022. They have shrunk significantly compared to their predecessor. The two-stage system with interchangeable tips ensures that they hold and seal well in many ears. This is important for the ANC, which has been extremely successful here. The Earbuds II hide the high frequencies better than most other headphones – whether in-ear or over-ear.
The sound is also convincing and plays in a league with the best in-ears on the market. The secret is not in the driver or the codes used, aptX, Bluetooth LE Audio or LDAC are missing here. Apparently, Bose achieves impressive noise cancellation and brilliant sound by measuring the inside of the ear. This is not new, but works particularly well here. The high price of 300 euros should be a real damper for many. The lack of Bluetooth multipoint is also a minus point.
If you are willing to spend so much money on in-ear headphones, you have a few alternatives. We recommend the Apple Airpods Pro (test report) , the Google Pixel Buds Pro (test report) and the Sony WF-1000XM4 (test report) . Our top 10 offers a good overview : The best true wireless headphones with ANC .