Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II offer a whole new level of silence
“Quiet and comfortable really are the best words to describe Bose’s latest buds.”
- Very comfortable
- Very good sound quality
- Outstanding noise cancellation
- Very good transparency
- Adjustable EQ modes
- No wireless charging
- No Bluetooth multipoint
- Poor outdoor call quality
If there’s one company that has become synonymous with noise cancellation, it’s Bose. And with the company’s latest earbuds — the $299 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II — Bose is clearly looking to solidify that reputation. It claims that the new wireless earbuds aren’t just better at canceling noise than the first-gen product (which it will still sell while supplies last) — they’re better than any other active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones or earbuds you can buy.
That might be enough to win the company a lot of return business in the form of upgrades, and possibly some new customers too. But there’s more to a set of noise-canceling wireless earbuds than just ANC — a lot more — so let’s see how the QuietComfort Earbuds II stack up, and if they should be your next wireless earbuds.
What’s in the box? Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
In addition to the QuietComfort Earbuds II (or QCE II), their charging case, and a short USB-C charging cable, you’ll also find two extra sizes of oval silicone eartips and what Bose calls “stability bands” — small silicone gaskets that fit around the body of the earbuds to give a more secure fit.
What you won’t find in the fully recyclable cardboard box is any kind of real instructions. Instead, Bose wants you to download and use the Bose Music app for iOS and Android, which is designed to walk you through the setup, in addition to providing a variety of settings and customizations.
Design Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
If you generally liked the design of the first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds but found them a bit bulky — as we did when we reviewed them — the new model is a big step in the right direction. Everything about them is smaller and lighter, including the charging case. The large, locking clamshell from the first generation has been replaced with a smaller, rounded, flip-top design that looks a little like the Google Pixel Buds Pro case, albeit still substantially larger.
Without the press-button latch, it’s way easier to open even if you run a slightly increased risk of having it open accidentally. It’s still bulky when compared to the Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4, Pixel Buds Pro, and Jabra Elite 7 Pro, but you can now (just) fit it in your pocket.
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Gone are the StayHear Max eartips, which integrated an oval tip with an internal ear fin — the new design separates fit and stability into two pieces, letting you mix and match until you find the right combination.
Bose kept the lozenge-like shape of the earbuds themselves, so they still protrude from your ears a bit, but nowhere near as much as before, and it also preserved the first-gen’s touch controls — you can tap and swipe anywhere on the elongated outer surface.
Another consistent feature is the IPX4 rating. That means the QCE II are capable of handling sweat or some rain, as long as you wipe them clean after a workout.
With the default tips and stability bands installed, I found them incredibly comfortable.
But the QCE II lack wireless charging, a strange omission considering the first-gen model had this feature and cost less too (Bose introduced them at $279). When I asked why, a Bose spokesperson told me it was in part because of the smaller case design, and because wireless charging doesn’t matter to many people.
Both of those points feel odd, however, not only because products like the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds Pro manage to do wireless charging in cases that are smaller than the QCE II but also because if wireless charging doesn’t matter, why does every other set of flagship wireless earbuds offer it?
Comfort, controls, and connections Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
For me, with the default tips and stability bands installed, the QCE II are incredibly comfortable. If you don’t like the feeling of in-ear buds, they won’t change your mind, but they do a superb job of a sometimes tricky balancing act: getting a good seal while preserving a good fit, and staying put when you stick them in.
If you’re not sure about the seal, the Bose Music app has a fit test that will confirm when you’ve got it locked.
Being able to swipe your finger up and down for volume is more intuitive than using a single button.
I took them to the gym, out for walks, did a few video meetings, and generally kept them in place for several hours at a time, and they never bothered me. They aren’t as rock-solid and secure as the ear-fin-based first-gen earbuds, but I’m OK with that — I found the stability bands to be a perfectly acceptable substitute, and they were secure enough for all of my daily needs.
The controls also are very good. I generally prefer physical buttons, but I admit that being able to swipe your finger up and down the QCE II’s surface is a way more intuitive process for adjusting volume than using a single button. Apparently, Apple thinks so, too, as it has added the same feature to its second-gen AirPods Pro.
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