When it comes to travelling, Bose has long been the headphones king. Its QuietComfort range, with active noise-cancellation (ANC), has improved flights and train rides immeasurably over the years.
That's because the US firm's ANC technology is considered one of the best around. It is class-leading and clever in its implementation. It's also the reason why we've used the QC15 headphones on just about every trip we've been on since their introduction almost seven years ago.
They were replaced by the QC25s in the company line-up, but in truth Bose merely tweaked a winning formula – and we didn't like the lack of a built-in battery (an AAA battery? C'mon).
The QuietComfort 35 headphones are an entirely different kettle of halibut. While they look similar to former models, even feel the same on the old noggin when worn, they take the company's leading ANC tech and put it in a wire-free Bluetooth environment with, finally, a built-in rechargeable battery.
Does that make the QC35 the best travel headphones ever made?
Bose QC35 review: Cutting the cord
Bluetooth connectivity is most welcome in an age where headphone jacks on smartphones are threatening to be a thing of the past – and easy to pair with multiple devices.
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are significant examples; they both have adapters to connect to conventional wired headphone types, and there are some Lightning headphones out there, but really they are primarily designed to make use of Bluetooth. It's the start of a massive sea change in premium phones.
Not only does it free the headset in terms of movement – something we've found very useful when travelling on a long-haul flight – it means they will suit all devices and smartphone types, no matter whether they dispense of socketry or not.
Some will bemoan the absence of aptX compatibility, for the best lossless performance, but considering that's only supported by a handful of phones and, most notably, ignored by Apple, we can see why Bose thought it unnecessary for its main target audience.
That's not to say it turns its back on Android and the rest of the smartphone market. The QC35s have NFC built-in for easy pairing to devices that support it. And there's a Bose Connect app for Android as well as iOS, which helps matters further and gives you finer control over which device is paired from multiple options.
Bose QC35 review: Design
In style terms, coming in all black or silver means the QC35 pretty much suit any device you might own. Unlike previous models in the range these are fairly monotone in look, with ear cups matching the headband. They are, therefore, less aesthetically interesting as some rivals but they're not designed to be a fashion statement.
Besides, in comfort they are up there with the very best. That includes the ear cups themselves, which are made of synthetic leather soft as a pillow made of dreams about unicorns. The headband is durable and has enough spring to clasp your bonce tightly without any feeling of pressure.
Comfort also stretches to the active noise-cancelling tech too. We find that some ANC 'phones can cause earache when used over a long period – not ideal for lengthy flights. Bose QuietComfort models, on the other hand, have always managed to block out ambient noise superbly with no nasty side effects. It's like pixie magic and the QC35s continue the trend.
Bose QC35 review: Powered listening
When they were first released, the Bose headphones only worked when ANC is switched on and you couldn't turn it off. That meant you couldn't listen to music or any other kind of audio without it being activated. Thankfully though, Bose updated the firmware via the dedicated application and not only can you now turn off ANC, you can listen to music when cabled and therefore after battery life has expired.
That brought the QC35s into line with most other Bluetooth headphones, and a much welcome addition in this case. It was a pain previously.
Not that you'll really need it, we feel. The QC35s have a rechargeable battery with enough capacity to last up to a quoted 20 hours with wireless functionality and ANC both in full flow.
We've found that to be a decent estimate too, having done a couple of hops over the Atlantic without needing a recharge. And considering many planes have USB power points these days, you'll probably never be stranded with no charge anyway.
Bose QC35 review: Audio quality
The final and possibly most important aspect of the QC35s worth discussing is the audio performance.
The ANC uses a couple of mics to asses and counter ambient noise, and a built-in digital equaliser ensures clean, accurate audio representation. We find them to be satisfyingly neutral in playback, especially at a time where many manufacturers seem to favour throaty bass.
If anything, music can sound a little too clear at times, exposing poorer quality files when others might hide the foibles. But that's an unfair accusation really, and you'll just have to encode your tracks at higher bitrates.
They are excellent with video tracks and speech in movies too.
Bose has also put great effort into ensuring the headset is clean and clear for phone calls, both in receiving audio and transmitting your own voice. They can also be used to wirelessly speak to Siri, if you favour Apple devices.
As QC15 users for many years we were really looking forward to a Bluetooth version and we're not disappointed by the QC35s. They are as keen when it comes to audio playback and excellent in their active noise-cancellation, and all without the wires.
A rechargeable battery is also much welcome, with days of hunting down the back of drawers for a spare AAA cell blissfully over.
The QuietComfort 35 'phones are certainly not everyone's cup of tea, considering they aren't particularly fashion-conscious or able to playback grime with the growly thump of bass focused peers, but they are perfectly suited to the travelling lifestyle of their target audience.
A plane journey will never feel quite the same without them.
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