Bose is a pioneer in noise-cancelling technology. From pro-grade aviation headphones to consumer cans such as the QuietComfort 35, its innovations have played a big role in shaping the industry. And now, for the first time in nearly two decades, its latest creation, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, introduces a new design.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: What you need to know
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones with active noise-cancelling (ANC) technology built in. There are plenty of those on the market, but these are a premium product, with a stylish, streamlined design. They’re also made almost entirely out of stainless steel for a real quality feel.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Price and competition
The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are available for £350. That’s quite a bit more than their predecessor, the QC35 Series II, which can currently be had for £289. They’re also considerably more expensive than my personal favourite noise-cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3, available for £272. If you’ve got £350 to spend on a pair of headphones, it’s also worth considering the innovative Nuraphone headphones.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Build quality and design
The 700’s new design represents a major revamp, looking like a cross between the older Bose QC35 and Bowers & Wilkins’ PX. And in my view they’re among the most stylish over-ear headphones I’ve come across: the stainless steel headband arcs gracefully around the top of your head, before making its way seamlessly down to the hinge. This, in turn, attaches to the driver housing with a distinctive and highly adjustable pivot mechanism: as with like the QC35, you can swivel the drivers around by almost 90°, although you can’t fold them inwards any more.
They’re comfortable too, thanks to soft memory-foam pads that cushion your ears, while a rubbery coating on the inner part of the headband makes it easy to clean.
At the bottom of the right cup, there’s a modern USB Type-C connector for charging. Battery life is quoted at 20 hours, with a full charge taking around 2.5 hours; if you’re in a hurry, a short 15-minute charge will give you up to 3.5 hours of music. On the opposite cup, there’s a 2.5mm port for wired listening, and a metre-long audio cable (with a 3.5mm plug on the other end) is provided in the box.
There are also three buttons on the headphones. The one on the left lets you cycle through three levels of ANC: you can configure these in the Bose Music App from a selection of 11 presets, including a hear-through mode.
Move over to the right cup and you’ll find a small power and pairing button, plus a larger one that invokes a voice assistant. Like the QC35, the 700s come with both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant built in, so you can use whichever voice platform you prefer to control your headphones, check the news, control your smart home devices and so forth. Siri and Bixby are supported too, although the integration isn’t so extensive.
What about volume and playback controls? These are invisibly implemented through a touch-sensitive area on the outer part of the right driver. You can swipe up and down to adjust the volume, back and forth to skip or go back a song, and double-tap to play or pause your music.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: First impressions
Sonically, the 700s sound a lot like the QC35. They have a tight bass response, forward-sounding mids and accentuated highs. Indeed, I found the treble a touch sibilant in Bruno Mars’ energetic “24K Magic”, which might be a concern to those with sensitive ears. Instrument separation and tonality sound good to me on first listening, but I’ll reserve proper judgement after I’ve spent more time with them.
The headphones’ noise-cancelling capabilities are impressive too. The 700s feature no fewer than eight microphones positioned around the headphones; four of these are used solely for the ANC feature, two are dedicated to enhancing the clarity of your own voice on calls, and a further two do both jobs at once. Call quality and ANC performance were already very good on the QC35, but on the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 they’re even better.
My one concern with the Bose 700 is to do with codec support. These headphones don’t use aptX, aptX HD or LDAC – only the SBC and AAC codecs are available. Unfortunately, using AAC causes lip-sync issues when you’re watching video in the YouTube app on Android, and there’s no word from Google as to when or whether this will be fixed. Switch to SBC, on the other hand, and you’ll be getting noticeably inferior audio quality, which is a big waste of a pair of premium headphones.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Early verdict
Bose’s QC35 headphones were comfortable and sounded great. These, their redesigned successors, keep those qualities and add a unique design that really makes them stand out from the crowd. However, at £350, they’re expensive, especially since they lack support for the highest-quality codecs. I’ll be posting a full conclusion soon, but on early showing, it looks like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 might be a tough sell in the face of competition from Sony and Nura.