$300 dollars gets you a sound signature refined over decades, patented noise-cancelling technology, and nice comfort in a subtle, head-hugging design.
Bose’s motto is “Better Sound through Research.” Their sound signature has evolved subtly over the last few decades, but remains impressively consistent throughout their product line. If you like any Bose headphone, you’ll also like how any of their speakers sound. And vice versa.
The “Bose Sound” is warm, luscious, smooth, and creamy.
Imagine you’re hanging out in your living room and it’s slightly chilly in there. Let’s call that “average sound.” Now imagine you have a nice cozy blanket on. That’s what Bose products sound like.
The Quiet Comfort 25 executes the modern Bose sound perfectly. It makes your music inviting to listen to, even if it’s not recorded or mastered the most proficiently. It’s not overly suited to one type of sound or music genre.
Bass is present, accurate, and powerful…but just shy of being punchy or thumpy. It’s warm, inviting, and soft around the edges.
Vocals are the strength of the Bose sound signature. They’re natural, textured, and smooth without being muffled. You’ll feel like the singer is there with you, but never loud enough to be annoying.
High sounds like cymbals, flutes, and the like come through cleanly without ever being harsh. They’re the softest part of the sound spectrum, but still audible and nice. Tyll at Innerfidelity often describes the highs on Bose headphones as sounding like they come through a piece of crinkly cellophane, and honestly…I’ve never agreed with that. The treble is pleasant and accurate without any harsh grain. Details aren’t accentuated, but they’re audible.
Soundstage is impressive, expansive, and slightly artificial-sounding. You’ll hear sounds way out to the side, in front of, and behind your head.
The Bose sound allows you to listen to your music for hours at a time, and enjoy it. It’s consistent across all their products. Their stuff is easy to find and audition at every major retailer, and despite internet claims to the contrary, I find their demo stations provide an accurate depiction of their sound signature. So it’s really easy to hear a Bose headphone and decide for yourself if it suits you.
Technology and Noise Cancelling
Bose’s strongest suit as a company is patented technology. That’s a weird sentence to read here on my screen, but it’s true.
The QuietComfort 25 features Bose’s noise cancelling, active EQ, and tri-port systems.
The first two are powered by a triple A battery. The battery lasts around 35 hours.
Bose created their Noise Cancelling tech for use on airplanes and other aircraft, to delete the sound of the engines. It works well in other environments too. Some micrphones inside and outside the ear cup listen to your music and to the sound outside, and a little processor generates “anti-noise” to delete the outside sound before it reaches your ear. It works best on low frequency sounds.
I’m impressed that this works at all. Low frequency noises are tough to record at a distance with tiny microphones, and Bose does just that, somehow. That they can then also process this and produce the “anti-noise” without any perceptible latency is really cool, and reminds me that we live in the future.
The Active EQ helps prevent the “anti-noise” from impacting the quality of your music/audio. It also gently massages the sound you feed into the headphones to ensure it has the Bose sound signature, no matter how it was mixed. You can run the headphones without the power on to see the dramatic effect the Active EQ has on sound quality.
TriPort technology is a fancy name for Bose’s ear cup design. Basically, they’ve got three little ports built into the ear cup. Lots of other manufacturers use one port. Ports help enhance/change sound frequencies to massage or balance the sound.
Beats dominates the modern fashion headphone industry. Bose is at the other end of the fashion spectrum now, with a subtle and elegant approach to visual design. Bose headphones don’t scream at the people around you; they disappear on your head. I’ve never felt stupid wearing the QuietComfort line in public. Not even once!
Comfort is excellent, thanks to a highly adjustable, flexible head band and a light overall weight. The ear pads are plush, large, and easily replaceable. New pairs can be ordered cheaply from Bose if you need them. The cable is removable, and comes in two versions: one with an Apple remote, and one with an Android remote.
The QC25 is available in a black/gray/blue color combo, and white/silver/blue color combo. Occasional limited colors have also released in the past. Last year Bose did an all-black model called “Triple Black.” They also did an exclusive Black and Gold version for Apple, which has now been replaced with a Blue and Gold QuietComfort 35. You can also order a custom color through Bose’s web site, but it costs $100 dollars extra.
Personal Experience and Final Thoughts
I first encountered Bose’s sound signature thanks to my dad. He used to be a disco DJ in his spare time. When I was a kid, he built a new disco system using Bose PA speakers. Holy cow. They blew my tiny child mind. They had a warm, luxurious sound that helped set my own personal bar for audio quality. I’ve never forgotten loving those speakers.
The first pair of nice headphones I saved up for and bought with my own money was the original Bose TriPort over-ear. I used them until I wore out the ear pads. They came with a really long extension cable, and their design was more clunky than today’s Bose stuff. But that was how I heard audio for a long time. I loved that I could afford a pair of headphones with the same sound as those speakers from my childhood.
I ignored Bose’s QuietComfort line for years after their release…in part because the notion of spending $300 dollars on headphones was absurd to me. One day, years ago, I went to Best Buy with the intent of buying the newest version of Bose’s TriPort headphone (which still persists today as the SoundTrue II) and I decided to put the QuietComfort 15’s on my head, just to see what they sounded like.
The noise cancelling was amazing, and they still had that same warm, pleasant sound I liked in my old TriPorts. Just like that, my mind was changed. I saved up for a little while, and plunked down $300 bucks on headphones. One listen was all it took to get me, which is kind of crazy if you think about it.
Today, the QuietComfort 25 is my main portable headphone. Even though I have a pair of QuietComfort 35’s, and a few other pairs that audiophiles would consider “Better sounding.” I have the Triple Black limited edition model, and just like with the QC15’s years ago, I didn’t originally intend to purchase them. I had sauntered into Best Buy for something else entirely, not realizing that retail stores were even carrying the limited edition Bose headphones.
Bose limited editions are actually limited, and so I jumped at the chance to get them, as I loved the hyper-subtle look and design. They were also on slight discount as part of the retail madness of the holiday season.
When the QuietComfort 35’s came out, I pondered selling or giving away my 25’s, but I decided to keep them. They’re like a comfort food to me. The limited triple black color has lived on as one of two permanent colors for the QC35, which is great. The light weight and hard case make them a fantastic portable headphone. I use them when I want to get work done in a loud coffee shop. I use them at home when I want to disappear into some nice sound for a while. I don’t use them when I walk outside because holy crap it’s scary and super dangerous to go for a walk in totally isolating headphones.
But I digress.
Are these headphones worth $300 dollars? I think they are. You’re paying for years of research and tech development as much as you are material cost. Bose has been working on this particular sound signature for years and years, same with their noise cancelling tech. It’s all really impressive to me, but I’d recommend a demo before you decide as they’re so easy to try out in so many places. Make sure the power switch is on when you try a demo unit, so you can see how well they isolate and get the fully EQ’ed sound.
This is the first installment of my “new review style” concept. Did you like it? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.