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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Review: The Restyled Headphones

The QuietComfort Ultra (or QC Ultra Headphones) succeeds the Headphones 700 as the top model in Bose’s range of headphones. Despite a complete redesign, it offers few innovations compared to its predecessor but remains one of the most high-performing headphones currently available.

Pros

• Clear and well-defined sound reproduction.
• Very good overall precision.
• Impressive noise reduction.
• Natural rendering of the ambient sound listening mode.
• Very comfortable.
• Excellent hands-free kit.
• Easy to handle with comprehensive controls.
• Impeccable finishes and a foldable design

 

Cons

  • Strong emphasis on upper-mids that may not be to everyone’s taste.
  • Lack of explosiveness in the bass.
  • Limited interest in the Immersive mode.
  • Noise reduction struggles with sudden pressure changes.
  • Some ergonomic frustrations, such as startup time and plastic clicking.

Tech Specs

Model Bose QuietComfort Ultra
Headphone Fit Around Ear Circumaural
Headband On Head Adjustable
Cushions Removable Cushion
Microphones Built-in Microphone
Noise Cancelling Yes
Noise Control Type Active Noise Cancelling - Echo Reduction - Adjustable Noise Cancelling
Battery Life 24 hours
Battery Charge Time 3 hours
Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth - A2DP Bluetooth Audio Streaming - HFP Bluetooth - AVRCP Bluetooth-Bluetooth Low Energy
Bluetooth Version 5.3
Bluetooth Range 30'
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless 3

Overview

Announced during Bose’s September 2023 revamp of its earbuds and headphones range, the QuietComfort Ultra, also known as the QC Ultra Headphones, is positioned as the top model in the American manufacturer’s range of portable headphones. It succeeds the Headphones 700. While the earbuds of the same name offer almost no new features compared to the previous generation, the QC Ultra Headphones at least present a new design. They also promise a slightly improved 24-hour battery life and, of course, the new Immersion listening mode that allows upmixing of any musical content into 3D, similar to Apple’s Spatial Audio. There are no announced evolutions in sound signature or noise reduction.

Build & Comfort

With the QC Ultra Headphones, Bose departs from the distinctive design of its Headphones 700 for a more conventional construction. The long stems integrated into the ear cups are gone; the headband returns with a more traditional fixing system. Thus, the QC Ultra Headphones visually resemble the QC45 more than their high-end predecessor. This step back is not just aesthetic: the ear cups are now foldable for easier storage in the carrying case. As a result, the case is smaller and more easily transportable than that of the Headphones 700. The ear cups can also pivot 90 degrees, but in an unexpected direction; it’s the shells, not the pads, that rest on the collarbones. The materials alternate between dense plastic for the shells and headband, metal for the sliding system, and memory foam covered in faux leather for the pads. The overall feel is premium with an impeccable finish level. There are no squeaks, although the system used to fold the ear cups appears to be a point of fragility, especially as it offers no resistance. With a design more akin to the QC45 than the Headphones 700, the QC Ultra Headphones provide a level of comfort similar to QC models, which is quite pleasing. The headphones are light (252 g) and rest gently on the head and around the ears. The contact with these pads is very soft, although they tend to retain heat somewhat. The headband of the headphones, being wider than that of the Headphones 700, is less noticeable at the top of the skull. It is also notably flexible and offers a wide range of movement, much to the delight of those with larger head sizes. The ear cups are also wide and deep enough to accommodate larger ears. Finally, the QC Ultra Headphones stay in place very well, without causing a marked “clamping” effect.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise

Accessories

In addition to a high-quality rigid case, the headphones come with a 50 cm USB-A to USB-C cable and a 1 m mini-jack to sub-mini-jack cable.

User Experience

Controls

The headphones feature two physical buttons that distribute various controls. The first, located at the base of the ear cup, is used for powering on — which takes an eternity! Expect about ten seconds before you can start listening to your music — and for pairing. The second button is responsible for playback, navigation, calls, and switching listening modes. As responsive as they are, these buttons emit an audible plastic “click” that is not very pleasant. Various actions are accompanied by sound cues, or better, voice prompts to guide the user. Gone is the touch sensor on the outside of the right ear cup; volume is now controlled by a slider on the rear quarter of the right ear cup. A long press on this slider can be set to announce the remaining battery level, call up the phone’s voice assistant, access the Immersion mode settings, or launch the Spotify app.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling

Connectivity

Once paired, the QC Ultra Headphones communicate via Bluetooth 5.3 using SBC, AAC, or aptX Adaptive codecs. To use the latter, the smartphone must be compatible with the Snapdragon Sound suite. So, forget about Pixel, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and other Huawei models. The headphones also feature a multipoint function, allowing them to be connected to two devices simultaneously. We measured a latency of 258 ms, which is fortunately compensated for in video content, but not in video games. Beyond Bluetooth, the QC Ultra Headphones feature an analog input under the left ear cup. No standard mini-jack, but a sub-mini-jack port, as is customary with Bose. Even when wired, the headphones need to be turned on to function; thus, they can’t be used once the battery is flat, nor even while charging. Only the volume and listening mode controls remain active in wired listening, with the rest of the controls and the microphone disabled.

App

Like all Bose headphones and earbuds, the QC Ultra Headphones benefit from the excellent Bose Music app (iOS, Android). This app provides access to a wide range of settings, such as the sleep timer, voice feedback, wear detection, and immersive sound settings. A three-band equalizer is also included, along with a player and a panel for managing different connected Bluetooth sources. The real good news is that it’s no longer mandatory to create an account to use the app!

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless

Audio

Bose does not seem to have made drastic changes to the sound signature of its QC Ultra Headphones compared to the Headphones 700. The headphones thus enjoy clear and well-defined sound reproduction, with a strong emphasis on the upper-mids and a lack of explosiveness in the bass.

The QC Ultra Headphones therefore adopt the same W-shaped signature as their predecessor, with a pronounced bump around 1.5 kHz and a dip in the first part of the highs (between 2 kHz and 6 kHz). This signature gives a sharp, incisive, and somewhat pinched aspect to the sound, which will not be to everyone’s taste. This demonstrative character is quite tiring over time, as many instruments in this frequency region, such as overdriven guitars, snare drums, or voices, seem to be reproduced very close to the listener and therefore appear louder than certain other instruments. This is particularly the case for cymbals, which always seem to be in the background. This behavior also tends to compress the soundstage somewhat. This tiring character is especially true when listening at high volume: at a more moderate volume, the QC Ultra Headphones are extremely pleasant to listen to. One can then fully enjoy the excellent handling of the mids and highs, which are reproduced with accuracy and precision.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless 4

The Bose model is still a slight step behind Sony’s WH-1000XM models in terms of the naturalness of the high frequencies, as the headphones still tend to reproduce highs that are a bit too “synthetic” for our taste. Like the Headphones 700, the QC Ultra Headphones are slightly lacking in responsiveness in the bass, resulting in somewhat diffuse impacts and a lack of explosiveness.

The headphones also put a bit more emphasis on the bass than their predecessor, and it can sometimes be necessary to rein in their enthusiasm using the app’s equalizer. Once adjusted, the headphones demonstrate good control with bass that is always very present, but never overwhelming, and which enjoys a very good level of detail. Where the QC Ultra Headphones differ from the Headphones 700 is in the presence of the Immersion mode, which virtualizes any stereo source into 3D.

No Dolby Atmos or 360 Reality Audio here; the headphones do their own thing. As we wrote in our test of the QC Ultra Earbuds, this mode is quite successful on certain perfectly sculpted tracks, but much more diffuse on tracks rich in harmonics. Moreover, it still suffers from a certain latency when turning the head, thus impacting the stated goal: immersion.

Noise Reduction

The QC Ultra Headphones stand out from their competitors with the naturalness and clarity of their environmental sound listening mode, called Attentive. While not reaching the spectacular performance of the AirPods Max in this area, the Bose headphones perform admirably well. It is entirely possible to have a conversation with the headphones on. Environmental sounds are reproduced accurately, and the perception of distances is perfectly viable. However, beware of gusts of wind, which can cause the microphones to malfunction.

The headphones feature ActiveSense technology, which automatically adjusts the level of noise reduction based on the intensity of surrounding noises. Introduced on the QC Earbuds II, this technology still struggles to function properly, particularly due to a lack of responsiveness that prevents it from competing with Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and their adaptive Transparency mode.

Hands-Free

As with sound reproduction and noise reduction, Bose does not seem to have evolved the quality of its headphones’ hands-free kit compared to the previous model, despite the addition of an extra microphone. The QC Ultra Headphones thus continue to set the standard for voice intelligibility and noise attenuation. Whether in a quiet or very noisy environment, the voice is always clear and distinct, never drowned out by outside noises, even when the user is near a busy intersection. It’s still quite impressive! The quality of the voice, however, lacks a bit of naturalness. It is thin, slightly catches plosive and sibilant syllables, and seems a bit distant.

Battery Life With the QC Ultra Headphones, Bose catches up to its direct competitor, the Sony WH-1000XM5, and even surpasses it with a measured battery life of 29 hours with noise reduction enabled (volume at 60%, AAC codec). This is still below the current average of around 32 hours, but sufficient for a week of work or a long-haul flight without worry. Fast charging, meanwhile, provides 2 hours of operation with 15 minutes of charging. Expect about 2 hours for a full charge.

Conclusion

Aside from the aesthetic overhaul, a few ergonomic choices, and the presence of the Immersion mode, the QuietComfort Ultra is essentially a Headphones 700. This is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Strength, because the QC Ultra Headphones are an excellent product, capable of offering a refined experience with one of the most effective hands-free kits and noise reduction capabilities on the market. Weakness, because the innovations are rather slight to justify such a price increase.

★★★★★

NEW Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones with Spatial Audio, Over-the-Ear Headphones with Mic, Up to 24 Hours of Battery Life, Black

BUY NOW
Amazon.co.uk
Wait For A Price Drop

Price History

Statistics

Current Price -
Highest Price £449.95 November 9, 2023
Lowest Price £99.00 February 7, 2024
Since November 9, 2023

Last price changes

£449.00 March 16, 2024
£99.00 February 7, 2024
£426.55 January 31, 2024
£399.00 December 23, 2023
£399.95 December 22, 2023
★★★★★

NEW Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones with Spatial Audio, Over-the-Ear Headphones with Mic, Up to 24 Hours of Battery Life, Black

BUY NOW
Amazon.com
Wait For A Price Drop

Price History

Statistics

Current Price -
Highest Price $37,900,380.00 February 8, 2024
Lowest Price $373.00 January 8, 2024
Since November 9, 2023

Last price changes

$379.00 March 16, 2024
$37,900,380.00 March 2, 2024
$37,900,380.00 March 1, 2024
$37,900,380.00 February 28, 2024
$37,900,380.00 February 27, 2024
5/5 (1 Review)

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Richard Garrett

Richard Garrett

As an expert on the latest techy stuff, the primary focus is PCs and laptops. Much of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, focusing on the latest devices.
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