Bose Quiet Comfort 25
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NEW: Bose QC35. Rechargable bluetooth version.
The Bose QC-25 are today's state-of-the-art in active noise-cancelling headphones.
They sound great for music and for movies, and they cancel all ambient low-frequency noise and rumble.
These QC-25 headphones eliminate all low-frequency noise like airplane engine rumble, car interior noise, as well as the noise from heating, air conditioning, hums or rumbles in your home or studio.
They're lightweight and come with a hard zippered case. They come with a remote-control cord with microphone for Apple iOS. You can get them or cords for other brands.
It's powered from a single AAA cell which is rated to run 35 hours. I've had mine a month, and the first one is still running strong. No worries if it runs out: the green power LED starts blinking when you have "only" 8 hours left.
If your battery dies, they play and are just as sensitive, but don't cancel noise and sound more muffled.
Bose introduced the world's first active noise-canceling headphones in 1989, the same year Taylor Swift was born, and has been improving them ever since.
Active noise cancellation means there are two microphones on and in each earpiece that listen to the outside noise, and then subtract (cancel) it from the sound you want to hear. This makes the noise go away. This means the QC-25 have a built-in headphone amplifier, so you need no other amplifier.
Since Bose is doing so much digital signal processing (DSP) to cancel the noise, they also perform active equalization to make these headphones sound better than conventional passive headphones. The bass performance is especially outstanding, since it's electronically corrected for perfection.
These state-of-the-art noise-cancelling headphones sound great, get rid of almost all ambient noise, run forever on one AAA cell, and pack and travel well in their included case.
Music on the plane
My ears, like all our ears, get abused with the pressure change on an airliner, so of course my hearing gets turned inside out.
What I heard while listening on an airliner is a little too much presence at 5k, with more of a communications sound than Hi-Fi — but that's because my ears take a long time to equalize and that sucks-out my ear's bass response. It's certainly clear and intelligible.
There's no bass boost and the bass is very smooth.
Piano sounds great: big, clean, clear, soft, dynamic and powerful, while strings sound harsher.
You won't hear pilot announcements; they are mostly eliminated.
You definitely won't hear your wife on the plane if she tries to talk to you.
Noise cancellation removes all the rumble, but not all of the ambient hisses or high frequency noise.
When you turn off the power to simulate regular headphones, it's astonishing how you either hear your music in quiet, or it's all airplane rumble unless you turn it way up to compensate.
You can enjoy the QC-25 as quietly as you like, while regular headphones have to be turned up to compete with the noise.
It's so quiet that you can hear noise on CDs mastered from noisy sources, while in flight!
Even in the terminal, it removes most ambient noise except high-frequency squeals. Want to enjoy a Mozart requiem? No problem!
Music at home
Now that my ears are back to normal, music sounds great, with excellent overall tonal balance. This excellent balance and smooth sound is because these headphones electronically optimize the sound, which is something regular (passive) headphones cannot.
No, they aren't as transparent for serious music listening in a home environment as a $300 pair of conventional headphones; these are $100 headphones with $200 worth of noise reduction and sound optimization electronics.
Movies at home
They sound great for movies: big and smooth.
They get rid of so much noise at home that you're transported to the environment of the story; you're no longer at home.
Movies on the plane
I'm a music lover, and seeing how quiet these made everything, I spent all my flight time enjoying music as I've never been able to do on a plane.
I'll presume movies sound as great as they do at home.
Bass performance, aided by the active electronic optimization, is bottomless. It's perfect: smooth, deep and free from distortion.
With test tones, it's smooth and clean down to 10 cycles! At 10 cycles I can't actually hear the tone, but I can hear my ears intermodulating whatever slight remaining room noise there is.
It easily reproduces loud sine waves down to 16 cycles, which is great for a lightweight set of portable headphones.
Sensitivity is typical for portable headphones.
I set my volume to about 1/2 to 3/4 for enjoying movies or music; there's plenty of gain.
These have their own specialized amplifier built in, so there's no point in adding any other external Hi-Fi amplifiers.
To hear how effective they are at eliminating noise, simply take them off and you'll be astounded at what a loud roar there is on an airplane.
Try the same at home, and you've probably never realized how much noise is always in your home. There's always a pool filter, refrigerator, air conditioner, hum, buzz, neighbor's TV or a car running someplace, and these headphones will eliminate it.
The QC-25 completely eliminate low-frequency noise, like airplane interior noise and car rumble. It sucks it all out so effectively that it can sound like your ears haven't equalized properly from a large change in altitude, but that's what they're supposed to do.
If you have rumble, motor, hums, drones or other low-frequency noise, these get rid of all of it. It's amazing, but take them off and you'll hear exactly what they're doing.
The noise subtraction process can't work as well with the shorter wavelengths of higher frequencies, so hisses, squeals and other high frequency noises won't be completely cancelled. You can still hear your wife telling you what to do if she yells, but she will sound much softer and thinner.
Noise reduction at high frequencies is the same as ordinary passive closed headphones, like my favorite beyerdynamic T51i. What sets these Bose QC-25 apart is how they completely cancel low and mid-low frequency noise, which is airplane, air conditioning and car noise rumble.
Since it cancels low and middle-frequency sounds so well, it's very difficult to understand people talking through them. Voices don't go away, but they lose most of their body.
Since the noise is actively cancelled by the headphones playing an exact copy of the noise with inverted polarity, there will be some maximum noise level above which they can no longer cancel all the noise. This means they won't work for very high impulse noise levels like shooting, but I never came across any noise louder than these headphones can handle.
It's simply stunning how these will cancel the noise and rumble which we have just about anyplace, even in what we think is a quiet home. Refrigerators never sleep.
The only time the noise reduction doesn't help is if you really are in a silent environment. As a recording engineer (that's how I started my career in the 1970s) I'm always amazed at how there is no place on earth that's totally silent, but if it's 3AM and everything in your home and community is turned off, the noise reduction system does have a tiny bit of residual hiss that can be audible if it's so quiet that noise reduction isn't needed. You won't hear it as soon as you play something through the headphones — or turn off the switch and use the headphones without noise reduction and it goes away.
Feel & Ergonomics
These are almost entirely plastic. Only the earpiece covers seem to be metal.
Like most consumer headphones, these feel like a disposable plastic consumer item to me. If you break it, it feels like you should toss it — but don't because I'm sure Bose has a great service policy if you do. Bose is a 1st-class operation.
These are very lightweight, and with their over-the-ear pads, means they are very comfortable for hours and hours.
Everything adjusts easily, and the headband had solid click stops so they stay adjusted.
They stick on my head when moving around. They don't have much pressure, but they are so light weight that nothing is trying to pull them off.
The single cord connects to the left earcup with a 4-conductor 2.5mm plug. The other end of the cord has the usual 3.5mm plug.
The cord is reasonably soft and somewhat flexible. It's just the right length.
It insists on holding its own shape, but it's not obnoxious about it.
The plug is perfect: long enough to poke through any thick phone case, and angled 80º so it's not sticking straight out to break off. This way it won't break off when you bang or drop your iPad.
The cord will pull-out from the headphones if you yank it by accident. It's unlikely you'll damage anything if you stand up and the cord is caught on something.
The remote control feels pretty good. Nothing is as good as Apple's own remote controls, but this Bose is close.
The cord and remote is on the wrong (left) side.
If the cord isn't pushed all the way into the earcup, it will thump pressing start stop and ignore volume buttons. If this happens, just be sure to push it all the way in.
On my iPad 2, start and stop commands are delayed about 800mS. Volume control is immediate.
Bose includes a hard zippered case so your nice, soft cushions won't get squashed.
This case is bigger than the case for Bose's or other brands' regular headphones like my beyerdynamic T51i.
Included Bose QC-25 hard case. bigger.
Inside the Bose QC-25 case. bigger.
The case demands you pull off the cable and put them in just like this. There's a diagram under the headphones to show you how to fold them, but this is a pain compared to the beyerdynamic T51i which are much faster and easier to get in and out.
It provides storage for the dual-plug airline adapter, as well as for a spare AAA cell.
The QC-25 don't always hold their size when put away in the case.
Closed-back dynamic circumaural (around-the-ear) headphones with active digital noise cancellation and equalization.
Not specified, probably very high since these have their own internal amplifier.
Dual 3.5mm airline adapter included.
No ¼" adapter included.
7.195 oz. (204.0 g), measured with AAA cell but no cord.
Cord with remote and mic.
AAA battery included!
Dual-plug airline adapter.
Made in China.
$299, 2014~September 2015.
Comparing the QC-25 to my favorite conventional headphones, the beyerdynamic T51i (also $299) is like comparing a lawnmower to a violin; they are designed for very different things, but here goes.
On an airplane, there is no comparison. I can barely hear what's going on over the noise with my beyerdynamic, while I can enjoy anything with peace and quiet with the Bose. It's like night and day on an airplane or near another loud noise, like your gardener with a weedblower outside. If there's noise, the Bose are what you want.
If you're at home, then the plastic made-in-China Bose are much flimsier than the MADE-IN-GERMANY T51i, and the T51i sound better, too.
The much smaller beyerdynamic case is easier to carry, and it's much easier to open and close (one velcro flap versus a long zipper).
The T51i go in their case as-is and stay adjusted to your head when you take them out, while we have to pull the cord out of the Bose and rearrange them to get them in or out.
Ideally you want both so you can grab either depending on what you're doing.
If you fly regularly and only can get one, get the Bose as they sound fine at home, too.
If you don't often fly and can only get one, I prefer my T51i for serious music listening, but many people would just as likely prefer the ability of the Bose to eliminate noise at home, too.
If you fly, you need these. They sound fantastic and travel well. Even if you hate movies and music, take off the cord and wear them for peace and quiet. I wear these walking around the plane since they're so quiet compared to the roar inside the plane.
These QC-25 are Bose's best headphones yet because they sound as good as the passive versions, and they eliminate ambient noise.
They also banish ambient noise at home. They let you do what you want in the same room that your wife or kids are watching something else. You can enjoy yours, while they enjoy theirs, and no one bothers anyone.
While these don't replace $300 and up conventional headphones for the serious music listener when it's quiet at home, silence is golden. The QC-25 are a terrific set of headphones for every kind of use, and most people will find them fantastic for every use. Even when it's quiet they still sound better than the best $150 passive headphones.
For those of us who work at home, these let us ignore outside distractions better than anything.
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17 September 2015