Hands-on: Bose QuietComfort 20 review - in-ear noise-cancelling headphones with a twist

If you've ever travelled business or first class with any airline then you will no doubt have seen several passengers relaxing back with Bose QC 15 noise-cancelling headphones on. However, while they are perfectly suited to relaxing air travel, they're quite conspicuous when worn on other forms of transport, perhaps too conspicuous.

That's why Bose has spent the best part of two years devising a new set of noise-cancelling 'phones,  which offer just as much a barrier to ambient noise as the QC 15s, but without the overt aesthetics. The end result is the Bose QuietComfort 20, in-ear headphones that the company claims are so unique that they incorporate technologies with more patents pending than any device the company has ever made.

A new version of the StayHear tip has been designed, StayHear+, which offers passive noise reduction through the shape of the plug which fits into the ear. And there are dual microphones in each earbud, which, when combined with proprietary digital signal processing and active equalisation, eliminate all grubby ambient noise, leaving the music played to come through without distraction.

The QC 20 comes with a powered battery come control box which, when fully charged, will give up to 16 hours of continuous powered playback and, unlike the QC 15 headphones, you can also use the buds to listen to music even when the battery has worn down. You won't get noise cancellation, but they still work.

Another new feature, which Bose has added is an Aware Mode. This allows you to let certain frequencies of audio to penetrate the cancellation tech at the touch of a small button on the in-line remote control/microphone. For example, if there's an announcement in an airport or train station, it will adapt so you can hear it, but with certain other ambient gabble still drowned out.

In Pocket-lint's hands-on demo, this worked very effectively with public address announcements. It's not too much fuss to remove an earbud to hear somebody talking or the like, but this allows you to continue to have the music in the background while you eavesdrop.

Our hands-on, or ears-on we should say, also revealed just how meaty the playback the Bose QC 20 buds are capable of. We listened to a large variety of music, from The Who, Seasick Steve, Maroon 5 (yeah, we know), and Jimi Hendrix and they shared several things in common. Nothing was lost and bass response was excellent. We'll be able to give them more of a workout in a full review later this summer, but we're initially impressed, especially with the noise cancellation doing such a great job to boot.

The in-ears come in two variants, one for Apple devices and one for all others, including Android.

They will be available in Bose shops and online later this summer and will cost £259.95. When they do appear in stock, we advise you pop down to the actual Bose vendors and give them a listen for sure.



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