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In our quest to find the best headphones we have tested many types, but how does this pair stack up? Chances are that you’ve heard of Bose and their headphone noise-cancellation technology. The audio manufacturer is popular for a reason.
So when we were approached with a chance to check out the flagship QuietComfort 25, we couldn’t turn that down up! Continue reading our Bose QC 25 review to find out if these over-ear headphones should be your next pair of noise-canceling headphones. Or, you could read our I-MEGO Walker JR noise-canceling headphones review to compare the Bose with another high-quality pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Bose’s design language hasn’t changed much over the years, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It works. That said, the QC 25 has a covert trick. The earcups can rotate flat and there are hinges on the headband. This gives it the flexibility to collapse down to a travel-friendly footprint. When other brands try to come out with the best noise cancellation headphones, Bose is often the standard for comparison.
In the unboxing, the QC 25 come folded within the supplied carrying case. The case is as sturdy as they come and is secured by a zipper around the perimeter. Included inside is an airplane adapter and a AAA battery (to power the noise cancellation).
Unlike the Bowers & Wilkins P7 wireless over-ear headphones, the build of the QC 25 is mostly hard plastic. It’s definitely not the most premium-feeling headphones out there, but when you pick them up, you can tell that they’re of solid build quality. In other words, I have no reservations that the materials won’t hold up.
Related: If you like noise-cancelling headphones, also check out our Bose Quietcomfort 20 Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphone review.
There are three color schemes to choose from: Black, Triple Black, and White. We were given the “Black” version to review and it actually has a couple of additional color accents. The outside of the earcups is gray and the edges of the earpads are blue. Everything has a nice, smooth finish and the two colors are deep.
The top of the headband is lined with fabric and cushion support. The frame expands in size just like any other headphone, with a clicking mechanism.
See also: Our Bose Quietcomfort 35 Ii review.
The earcups swivel upon the plastic stems that extend from the band. The allowed rotation, coupled with the soft, leather earpads, means that you should have no problem with fit or seal. Bose nails the clapping force and comfort. I’ve had no issues listening over lengthy periods of time.
It’s worth mentioning that the cord is detachable, unlike most wireless headphones like the Cowin E7 Pro, which doesn’t use any wires and offers 30-hours of playtime before recharging. But for the Bose QC, this gives the user flexibility, in case the cable fails or if you want a third-party cable (as long as the cable’s headphone jack is straight and can fit in within the slot).
Unlike the Cowin E7 headphones, which are wireless by design, there’s an in-line 3-button remote/mic on the stock cable. However, be aware that there’s two different versions of the QC 25, for iOS and Android. Make sure that you choose the correct one for the system that you use.
To turn on the noise cancellation feature, there’s a simple switch on the surface of the right earcup. There’s a red dot when it’s off and a green LED when you flip it on.
Bose was considerate to allow the QC 25 to work without noise cancellation. This is important because if you run out of juice, you won’t be left with a paperweight. And the leather earcups do a sufficient job themselves to block out ambient noise. The passive isolation won’t be nearly as good, but listening to the headphones that way is certainly better than not at all.
I was a little disappointed to see that the QC 25 doesn’t use a rechargeable Li-ion battery. Most manufacturers have moved on from replaceable batteries, for convenience. But on the plus size, it’s nice that you can pop in another battery when the noise cancellation feature runs out of juice (as long as you have another battery in hand). The bad part is that you have to keep buying batteries. I’d recommend getting rechargeable AAA’s.
Changing the battery is pretty easy (it uses just one). The compartment is on the side of the right earcup. Just press down a latch and the door opens. The battery doesn’t click in place; you just drop it in. To remove, just turn the headphones over and give ’em a little shake. A single battery can provide up to 35 hours of playback.
So how well does the noise-cancellation perform? Excellently. The drastic difference in ambient noise when you flip the switch is just super impressive. Distractions disappear and your attention is drawn more than ever to the music, as it should be.
If you’ve never used active noise cancellation, it’s important to know that it doesn’t block out all sounds. The technology is able to cancel out the mid/lower end of the frequency spectrum. This means that high-pitched sounds will still be audible. There isn’t technology that yet provides complete sound isolation, but it still helps a ton (i.e. the engine noise of airplanes or humming noises at your workplace).
Bose prides itself on delivering a high standard of audio quality. You won’t find boomy bass or a V-shaped sound signature. Bose aims for a pure and true musical experience.
Can the QC 25 be said to succeed at that? No doubt. The transparency of the reproduction can be noticed from the bat. The spectrum is treated with neutrality, to let the music do the talking. The QC 25 is certainly a fantastic offering if you want to make sure that no frequency range is recessed.
Even despite the balance, I didn’t find the music to not be engaging. Sometimes when headphones reach for a “reference” sound, the music can lose its impact. Bose makes it hard to find anything wrong with the tuning.
Down in the nitty-gritty of particular sounds, things are still good. The treble reaches far to surface the details. The mid-range is very present and delivers naturalness in vocals and instruments. The bass is no slouch; I would say that it should be able to satisfy most bassheads. But with that said, I have heard harder-hitting over-ear headphones. Particularly, I feel like sub-bass should be a notch higher in amplitude.
Clarity is great but notes could land with more crispness. I would also like a bit more from the soundstage. While the QC 25 does a great job of being encompassing (filling the perceived 3D space around your head), it doesn’t reach outward as far as I’ve heard from some competitors.
However, this criticism is minor and advice for improvements in the future. The overall audio experience of the QC 25 is a job well done.
One last concern is over the sound not being exactly maintained with the noise cancellation on or off. It sounds better with the feature activated, and muffled, in comparison, with it off. This is probably okay, since consumers will buy it for the noise cancellation (and only resort to the feature deactivated if the battery runs out), but I feel like the sound quality shouldn’t be allowed change.
The QC 25 has a lot going for it, and I totally feel like it’s worth the asking price. The build is immaculate and well thought-out. There’s the conveniences that we want, such as a detachable cable, remote/mic, and collapsible design. Comfort over a lengthy period of use is no problem whatsoever. Bose also holds a superiority in the efficiency of noise-cancellation technology.
The sound quality doesn’t leave to be desired. It’s not perfect, but it’s not far from it either. I admire how Bose is reaching for true sounds while still being fun and engaging. I hope that Bose continues to push the limit and make improvements to get closer to that perfect sound.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones retail for $299.