Bose is one of those brand names that invokes a response from most consumers. They'll know first hand, or through others, that the name is synonymous with quality audio - especially those products with top-notch noise-cancelling, such as the QuietComfort 35 on-ears.
With the QuietControl 30, however, Bose is bringing its highly regarded noise-cancelling nous into a wireless in-ear product. Is it possible for these to live up to the lofty standards set by its on-ear QC35 cousin?
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- Best noise-cancelling headphones: The best 'phones to block out external sounds
Bose QC30 review: Design
- Neckband design
- Wide cone-shaped tips
- Flexible fins keep them secure
Like a number of new earphones, such as the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless, Bose has opted for a neckband design for the QuietControl 30. This means the internal components like the processors, Bluetooth chip and battery are all housed inside a collar that sits around your neck.
While the Sennheiser's neckband is a horse-shoe shaped and covered in leather, the Bose is more circular design that's finished in a soft, grippy plastic. It's noticeably thinner at the arch than at the ends, too, thus giving it a flexible centre that's necessary to make it easy to put on and take off. It's not just a rigid piece of plastic sitting on your neck.
When you first wear the QC30, the plastic does feel a little cold and takes a few minutes to warm up, otherwise, it's really comfortable to wear. One other thing we noticed is that if you move a little too much - bending down to pick things up, for example - the neckband has a habit of sliding around so that one ear was being tugged on a little.
The ear tips are virtually identical to those we used on the Bose SoundSport Pulse: soft silicone tips with attached ear fins to keep them in place securely.
As with the sporty earphones, the QC30's tips are a wide, cone-shaped design which sits comfortably in the ear. This shape also helps isolate noise, creating a decent seal without pressing all the air out of your ears (which would otherwise give you that horrible pressured feeling).
The ear fins are designed to keep the tips in your ears are soft and easy to manipulate. So soft that you can barely feel them. They hold in firmly, but aren't so secure that they don't move at all. During a brisk walk, the right earbud did sometimes feel as though it was getting looser, although it never fell out.
If you find the default sized tips and fins are too big or small, there are smaller and larger pairs included in the packaging along with a USB cable.
They're built on to slightly chunky earbuds containing the drivers, which then attach to the neckband using traditional cabling. The right earbud cable plays home to the inline remote, which we would have prefered to be built into the neckband. It adds a little extra weight to the cable, but more importantly, you can feel a tugging in your ear whenever you reach to skip a track, or change the volume. That wouldn't happen if the controls weren't attached to the earbuds.
Despite this, the controls are really well designed. The three main buttons for adjusting the volume and playing or pausing tracks are easy to distinguish blindly thanks to the recessed centre button. There are two other buttons on the side as well for increasing or decreasing the level of active noise-cancellation.
The only button on the collar itself is the power button which you press once to power on, or press-and-hold to launch Bluetooth pairing.
When you're done with the earphones, you can carry them in their slim soft-touch hard case which looks just about the right shape and size to be repurposed as a case for your old, round Sony Discman.
Bose QC30 review: Features and performance
- 10-hour battery life
- 10-metre Bluetooth range
- Share music with other Bose earphones
Similar to the Momentum In-Ear Wireless from Sennheiser, the Bose QC30 offer a 10-hour battery life per full charge. In our testing we found it wasn't far off this claimed figure. With between four to five hours of listening to music, the headphones were down to 50 per cent.
We had no issues with Bluetooth connectivity either, although the claimed range of 10-meters is slightly generous. Saying that, we still managed to step into the next room and remain connected without drop-outs. With the phone in the same room as you, or in your pocket, you should never have the slightest issues with connectivity.
One cool feature we weren't able to test - due to lack of other Bose headphones in our possession - is the fun-sounding Music Share feature. This allows you to beam your music to another pair of wireless Bose earphones in the same room. This means you can share what you're listening to with someone else, presuming they wear the right brand of headphones.
Bose QC30 review: Sound, no noise
- Active noise-cancelling
- Trademark Bose sound
Connect the QC30 to your phone, play your favourite album, and it's immediately apparent you're listening to a pair of Bose earphones. They have that trademark full and clear sound profile which is consistent throughout the frequency range.
The quality lets you hear all the slightest details in the music, like ends of drumsticks paradiddling on a hi-hat, or a plectrum plucking a top E string. It's detailed and clear, while also being full and immersive with ample bass.
It's a great balance, but one that's sadly not customisable as there's no equaliser (EQ) adjustment in the Bose Connect app that you download to manage the earphones.
One of the most standout elements of the QC30 is how ambient noise is treated. The active noise-cancelling and ambient noise pass-through is simply superb. Using the Connect app you can fine tune how much or how little surrounding noise you want to allow through, using a simple slider.
With noise-cancelling turned all the way to the top we could put on a coffee grinder, or listen to music near a washing machine in its spin cycle and only just about hear them. With the setting turned down, we walked along a road and could hear cars coming from more than 100m away. It's probably the best example of active noise-cancelling we've seen (or heard) in a pair of in-ears.
With Bose you expect audio quality and noise-cancelling to be great - and the QuietControl 30 definitely deliver on that reputation.
The only thing holding them back from in-ear perfection is the high price point and the neckband design and controls placement not feeling as balanced as, say, the likes of the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless.
That aside, however, the QC30 shows that Bose knows exactly what it's doing. In-ear noise-cancelling doesn't get any better than this.
The alternatives to consider...
Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless
You may not get the high end noise cancelling found in the Bose, and may get a slightly less durable design, but the Sennheisers cost £100 less, offer great battery life, sound and are very comfortable to wear. Definitely one to consider if you like the neckband idea, but don't want to spend over £200.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless review
They might be wired, but the Denons are among some of the best in-ears we've used. At £169, they cost the same as the Sennheisers, and they deliver incredible sound through their well-built drivers. From the moment we put them in our ears fell in love and didn't want to take them out. We love their premium look and finish, their fit and , ultimately, the sound they produce.
Read the full review: Denon AH-C821 review: Big sound in a small package