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Noise-cancelling earbuds have changed the way I hear music when I’m commuting. But as excellent as they sound, they don’t always make it easy to hear what’s going on around me. Fortunately, more audio companies are starting to give listeners more control with their Bluetooth buds — and it makes these high-end picks all the more functional.
The Bose QuietComforts, which earned the title of “Best Travel Earbuds” in our 2022 Rolling Stone Audio Awards, are one of the company’s newest noise-cancelling wireless buds. The company recently gave its Bluetooth buds an update behind the scenes, which aims to improve how they sound in your ears, along with providing a handful of new settings within Bose’s convenient app.
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We spent hours testing out the Bose QuietComfort earbuds in all sorts of situations. Here’s how they performed — and whether they’re worth buying.
Note: You can score the QuietComforts for 22% off for just $219, thanks to a limited-time discount right now on Amazon and with Bose’s own deal. The buds normally cost $279, but these promotions save you up to $60 if you buy them today. And if you order from Bose directly, the brand says it includes two-day shipping when you spend $50 and up, along with free returns if they don’t work out.
Bose QuietComfort Fit: Small Design Feature Pays Off in a Big Way
The Bose earbud tips, appropriately dubbed “StayHear Max” ear tips, come with hooks. Great for keeping them fitted in your ears with no wiggling, the QuietComforts fit extremely well, though you may need to adjust yours with one of the other included tips. Instead of forcing you to insert the buds far into your ears, their design actually feels comfortable and more like they’re simply resting outside of your ears.
Your music doesn’t suffer in the process, and it all results in letting you listen longer. The tips pay off big, especially when you’re exercising. Meanwhile, they’re also sweat- and water-resistant, and they performed well even during one of our sweaty cycling workouts.
You Can Customize the Bose Earbuds’ Noise-Cancelling Levels
The Bose QuietComfort earbuds feature noise-cancelling technology, but how does it fare upon review? It all depends on a sliding noise-cancellation scale within the free Bose Music app on your phone. You can change how much outside noise they let in, from 0 to 10. The app also lets you tweak your noise-cancelling levels by choosing up to four different sound modes. Selecting “Run,” for instance, lets in a little more sound (which you can adjust), while “Quiet” fully minimizes noise (think: on a flight or listening to music).
Once set, all you have to do is double-tap on the left earbud to change to a different noise-cancelling setting. This gives you slightly more control of how your earbuds sound, making it easier to block background noise on-the-go, or let more of it in, when it’s necessary.
In addition to their noise cancellation, it’s easy to boost or reduce the levels of bass or treble in the equalizer within the app, too.
The QuietComforts Are Easy to Control and Include Plenty of Customizable Shortcuts
You don’t have to constantly adjust the earbuds in the Bose Music app, but it really helps you get a little more out of your gear. You can create different shortcuts for how you control them in the app.
To change to a new mode, you can double-tap the left earbud. And once I removed my earbud, I could still double-tap my right earbud to continue my music. Meantime, I could simply slide my finger up on the earbud to increase the volume. Of course, all of these controls can be customized within the Bose Music app.
You Can Hear Your Surroundings, But Your Music Somehow Still Sounds Super Clear
Testing the buds outside a loud coffee shop, the QuietComforts delivered incredible sound.
Bose recently added a software update to the QuietComforts that change the way you may hear your surroundings. The buds now have what the brand calls Aware mode with ActiveSense tech. That update takes advantage of the earbuds’ built-in mics to make sure you’re always able to hear your tunes, uninterrupted. In other words, if a delivery truck suddenly roars by you, the built-in mics help minimize the sound right when it happens.
With Quiet mode activated — the top noise-cancelling level — acoustic guitar-heavy songs sounded like a live set. I could barely pick up the loud music booming out of the outdoor speakers above me, and I didn’t notice just how loud it was until I took one of the buds out of my ears. In between songs, I could slightly pick up nearby people’s voices, but it was barely noticeable. My surroundings were still clear, but somehow it didn’t deter from the music playing out of the earbuds.
They’re Functional, But They’re Still Kind of Big
While the design of these QuietComforts makes for a better-fitting (and better-sounding) set of buds, they still end up looking a little larger when they’re in my ears. The pair I tested were the soapstone color, and it stood out more than, say, Sony’s recent noise-cancelling earbuds. It’s ultimately not a dealbreaker, but I do wish they were slightly smaller. That said, despite their size, they happen to move around less than some of the other buds I’ve used in the past.
Are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Worth It?
This one’s easy: Buy them. The QuiteComforts’ price tag aside, their level of customization and their crisp, well-balanced and premium sound make them worth every cent.
In short, they’re among the best earbuds available right now, and they’re a good investment for music lovers and for anyone who listens to music while working out.
Combine that with their comfort and the thoughtful ear tips that keep them secured in your ears, and these earbuds are early contenders as the best stocking stuffer to give the music lover in your life — yourself included.