Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Bose's new noise-cancelling earbuds feature a bunch of clever tech, with some very impressive results.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have been launched in Manhattan (good) in collaboration with New York Fashion Week (also good) on the same day as Apple’s latest product launch (erm, bold), and I was there to give them a try.

Somehow, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are the only the company's second stab at noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds (though it did launch some sport-focused models too) and – spoiler alert – they seem to be equipped to compete, and compete hard, in every meaningful respect with big boys like the Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4.

With pricing confirmed at £279 / $299 / AU$429, the QuietComfort Earbuds II are priced to meet the planet’s leading true wireless rivals head-on. And if the (admittedly brief) time I spent listening to them, and having some of technology explained to me, is anything to go by, the planet’s best true wireless earbuds ought to be concerned.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Design

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II held in hand

The new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are much smaller than the previous version, mercifully. (Image credit: Simon Lucas / Future)

Unlike the original QuietComfort Earbuds, which were – let’s not be coy – absolute units, the new QC Earbuds II are altogether more realistically sized. They’re from the ‘dangly stem’ school of design, but the stem is brief and, thanks to numerous eartip and ‘stabilizer fin’ options, they’re comfortable and secure. An all-in weight of 6g per earbud doesn’t do any harm in this respect, either – that's fairly light for this kind of bud.

Build quality is everything you’d expect from a) a product costing this sort of money and b) a Bose product. At launch, the QuietComfort Earbuds II are yours in a ‘triple black’ finish (which is indistinguishable from ‘black’, to be honest), with a ‘soapstone’ variant to follow.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Features & battery life

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II with app

The new earbuds have a slimmer case and redesigned app. (Image credit: Bose)

The Bose use Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, and feature compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. The company’s much-publicized involvement with Qualcomm had me hoping for Snapdragon Sound compatibility, but that’s not the case at launch. Bose tells me any number of upgrades will be forthcoming via over-air updates in the near-ish future, but wouldn't get specific.

Sound is delivered via a couple of 9.3mm full-range dynamic drivers – one per earbud, obviously. Bose, as is its wont, isn’t specifying a frequency response, but having heard the QCEII in action, I’m prepared to estimate they go from ‘extremely deep’ to ‘very high indeed’.

The QC Earbuds II aim to customize both their audio response and their noise-cancelling characteristics to the wearer’s individual ear canal using a signal that’s played every time they leave their charging case and are placed in the ear. ‘CustomTune’ is what Bose calls the system. 

Battery life runs to six hours in the earbuds themselves, with a further three full charges in the (newly compact) charging case – these are competitive figures, if hardly ground-breaking. Charging is via USB-C, and after 20 minutes or so the power ought to be good for a couple of hours of playback.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Sound quality

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II held in hand

Generous 9.3mm drivers are hidden in the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II's body. (Image credit: Simon Lucas / Future)

Naturally, 10 minutes with a pair of true wireless earbuds in one’s ears isn’t really long enough to establish the minutiae of performance – but it’s more than long enough to reveal whether or not a product is competitive. And the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are profoundly competitive.

As far as audio performance is concerned, the long-established Bose preference for robust, well-shaped low frequencies, a fairly rapid overall presentation and good midrange insight is to the fore. The (nicely updated) Bose Music app offers a lot of EQ adjustment via a clean graphic interface, but left to their own devices the QC Earbuds II are a dynamic, spacious and rhythmically adept listen.

Of course, Bose is hardly the only brand that can offer you a thoroughly enjoyable audio experience from its true wireless in-ear headphones. Where the QuietComfort Earbuds II seem to put appreciable distance between themselves and their nominal competition is with the quality of their active noise cancellation. 

The Bose seem remarkably efficient at reducing external sounds. Without affecting their sonic signature in the slightest, they deal decisively with ambient sounds in any part of the frequency range, leaving you alone with your music – and they do this without introducing any suggestion of counter-signal interfering with the music quality, let alone that impression of in-ear pressure that less capable designs indulge in. 

I’m conscious of not getting too carried away on the basis of a short demonstration, but the noise-cancellation capability of the QuietComfort Earbuds II gives every impression of representing a step-change in the market.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Early verdict

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II worn by a man outside

We need more time with them, but the Bose QC Earbuds II are clearly serious contenders. (Image credit: Bose)

Ordinarily I like to reserve judgement about a product until I’ve had time to live with it. And it’ll take many more hours of listening before I know exactly where I think the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II fall in the ‘premium true wireless’ pecking order. 

But as of right now, it seems likely  they’re going to offer stiff competition to the best alternatives around – if you're thinking of buying right now, you should definitely wait to see the final verdict on these.