Bose has always been the unexpected cool kid on the audio block. They don’t have the most dazzling designs or earth-shattering bass but they do have some of the most balanced sounding audio equipment on the market. With their newest QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, does this still ring true? I recently received a pair of the new Bose QC Ultra earbuds to try out over a few weeks here in my home. I’ll share what they’re like in terms of fit and comfort, how they sound, what the noise cancellation is like and if overall I think I can recommend them to you.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Bose delivers on their brand promise and has released a high-quality, well-designed set of earbuds with the QuietComfort Ultra earbuds.
- Lot of options for fit
- Amazing sound quality
- Great ANC
- Customizable features, including spatial audio
- ANC and Aware modes aren’t adjustable
- Battery life
- Low water resistance
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds: What you get
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are rechargeable wireless earbuds that come with a charging and storage case plus a custom Fitkit to help you find a truly comfortable fit. With ANC or Active Noise Cancelling, plus aware mode, they offer customization for how you want to listen. They have touch controls on the buds or you can access more features with the Bose Music app.
Fit and feel
One of the first things I noticed about the Bose Ultra is their size; these are not what you’d call small or discrete earbuds. The large size of the buds is going to be a turnoff for some, but getting a good fit, should help them feel less ginormous.
The FitKit is a clever combo of silicone tips and stability bands of different sizes that can help the buds feel more comfortable. This should mean no ear fatigue even after binge-listening to your favorite podcast all day.
I found the ear tips that came on the buds were a bit big for my ears, so I sized down a set, and immediately felt a lot more comfortable.
The Ultra buds are long and wide and do protrude out from your ear by quite a bit, so if you like to sleep in your buds, these aren’t going to be comfortable if you roll on your side.
Even so, the buds feel secure in my ear despite their size.
Bose Music App
To get the most from your buds, you’ll want to download the Bose Music app. In here you can pair your buds and adjust all their settings and change preferences
ANC & Aware Mode
One of the most raved-about features of the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds is its ultra-quiet ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) that Bose claims is on par with the best earbuds on the market. Whether you’re trying to drown out the thrum of airplane engines or escape from your neighbor’s drum practice, these earbuds should let you retreat into your own little world of music, podcasts, or just blissful silence.
Remember the time when you had to crank up your earbuds to maximum volume just to hear over the noise? Kiss this problem goodbye (and say hello to longer, happier eardrum lifespan!).
ANC works by digitally listening for sound around you and then canceling it out with another digital sound that you can’t really hear.
The ANC in these headphones is outstanding. You can definitely block oit most sound if you’re trying to work or focus and I’d say these get a 9/10 on ANC ability.
Aware Mode – flip side of ANC
On the flip side of ANC is Aware Mode where you can allow sound to come into your ears, handy if you’re listening for a delivery or a flight. Similarly this works extremely well
The thing I will point out about both ANC and Aware Mode are not adjustable; you’re getting either full ANC or full aware with no stops in between. At the price point these buds are at I would like some more customization of this setting, which you can find on competitor Jabra’s Elite 8 Active and Elite 10.
ANC quick access
Lastly, if you want to control ANC and Aware Mode from the touch controls on the buds, you need to go into the Bose app and make sure it’s on; mine was by default. By touching and holding the left bud you can cycle between Aware, ANC and Spatial Audio.
To access or change this setting, in the Bose app go to Shortcuts.
Touch Controls & Auto Pause
The touch controls on the buds work well; there’s no buttons on the sides of the buds you have to feel for; as long as you get someewhere on the side panel your commands will work. You can single-tap on either bud to play/pause, double-tap to skip or triple-tap to reverse, and swiping on an earbud up or down will adjust volume.
Pulling one bud from your ear will also pause whatever you’re listening to. This works great too.
The one place you can’t knock on the Bose Ultra buds is sound quality; there is absolutely nothing to complain about here. You’re getting an extremely well-balanced sound, with solid, well-rounded bass, clear vocals, and the kind of quality where you won’t want to listen with anything else.
EQ and sound preferences
Inside the Bose app are four sound pre-sets which lets you get less/more bass or treble quickly. There’s also a fuller EQ array if you want to make finer adjustments. For the most part, I kept my buds on the factory setting and found the audio quality was great.
Immersive Audio Feature/Spatial Audio
Bose is touting a feature called Immersive Audio. It seems this is actually Spatial Audio, so I’m not sure why they’re not simply calling it by the name everyone else uses, since if you go on Apple Music you won’t find an ‘Immersive Audio’ playlist but you will find content in Spatial Audio.
Spatial audio takes the music out of the side of your ear and sounds further around your head, mimicking the effect different voices or instruments are coming from different parts of your room. It can be a powerful experience, one that makes you feel as if you’re right in the middle of an orchestra.
How does Spatial Audio sound?
The earbuds play for up to 6 hours (only up to 4 hours if you’re using Immersive Audio) and the case holds up to 3 additional full charges (or up to 12-18 hours).
This is mediocre for buds of this price. Circling back to the Jabra buds I recently reviewed they get you from 36-over 50 hours of battery life, so the Bose Ultra seems a bit anemic by comparison.
A full recharge takes about 2 hours and there’s no fast charging noted.
These earbuds are not made for more active lifestyles in my opinion; with a water resistance rating of just IPX4, they’re only superficially able to resist sweat, they are not waterproof, and are not at all dust resistant, so you’re going to want to limit these it in home or in-office use. As long as you know what you’re getting, this shouldn’t be an issue
Not to sound like a broken record, but this does also seem like a bit of a disappointment in this budget class.
Now, let’s chat about Bluetooth 5.3. Remember those days of stuttering music as you wandered too far from your phone? Those are over. Bluetooth 5.3 offers a better, stronger connection.
Plus, the improved connection speeds with recently released Android phones makes it a clear contender for non-iPhone users. It’s also one of the first headphones made compatible with the new aptX Adaptive format present in most flagship Androids. These features should ensure class-leading latency and connection quality.
Overall review: Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds
Some people might think that Bose is just resting on their laurels here—using their established brand to sell headphones with a higher price tag. And true, they’re not the cheapest pair of buds on the market. But with the QuietComfort Ultra, you know you’re getting a high-quality, thoughtfully designed product that may be worth it for some. After all, Bose delivers on everything it promises.
While it ticks a lot of boxes on the pro side there’s enough features missing or lacking here that it might give you some pause. Let’s go over the pros and cons and tally things up.
They’re comfortable with a lot of options to customize the fit, the sound quality is amazing, as is the ANC, and there’s plenty of customizable features, including Spatial Audio.
On the less than stellar side, the ANC and Aware modes aren’t adjustable, the battery life is merely passable and the lack of water resistance does limit the use to indoors, and to be clear Bose isn’t promising you any more with these features; it’s me wishing they delivered better for the price.
That price tag may be the other major detractor for some; ringing in at about $379CAD/$299USD they’re not cheap, but for those who do think these check all their boxes, they’ll be a huge hit.
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