The 2018 Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless has been replaced by the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless. They resemble their predecessor in terms of appearance and feel, and they have an active noise canceling (ANC) system that is particularly effective at obstructing outside sounds. Unfortunately, when it comes to the midrange and treble range, it performs worse than the QC35 II’s ANC. Despite this, they still provide an overall very good performance due to their neutral sound profile, continuous playback for more than 21 hours, and extremely comfortable fit.
In order to incorporate its unique noise-cancelling technology into mass-produced consumer headphones, Bose first extracted it from the specialized cans worn by pilots. The QC45 was released at £320 / $329 / AU$499. As a result, it priced its own products squarely in the premium noise-cancelling headphones category.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 and the more recent Sony WH-1000XM5, which the QC45 undercut in terms of launch pricing, are Bose’s main rivals given their current prices.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which debuted in 2019 and marked the company’s first noise-cancelling over-ear departure from its QuietComfort range, remain the company’s flagship noise-cancelling over-ears, which is an interesting omission from Bose. These originally retailed for £350, $399, or $599 but are now available for about the same price as the new QC45, if not slightly less.
With its flagship headphones for the majority of the last decade, Bose has maintained a constant design, and the QC45 is no exception.
The faux-leatherette ear cushions and padded foam bridge of the headphones’ exterior give them a stylish, comfortable feel. When not worn around your neck, the pads themselves are simple to tuck away in your carryon bag because they swivel and fold to fit into the carrying box that is included.
The design’s unexpected lightness is what makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Weighing only 8.5 ounces (238g), they truly feel light on the ear. Bose employs some plastic on the headphones’ arms to make them lighter, but metal is used for all the joints and the bridge, or, to put it another way, for all the sections that are most likely to break while being used.
Bose has given the QC45 a handful of simple controls for playback control. The buttons for pause/play, volume up, and volume down are located on the right earcup, while the button for the new ambient aware mode is located on the left earcup. By holding down the play/pause button, you may also activate the built-in assistant on your phone, which is convenient. Although it isn’t as great as having an assistant that is constantly listening built into the headphones, it is still preferable to having no assistant option at all.
Last but not least, the headphones have two major ports: a USB-C port on the bottom of the right earcup and a 2.5mm audio jack on the bottom of the left earcup. Although both connectors are fairly self-explanatory, having them is nevertheless welcome compared to, say, having only a MicroUSB port and no headphone jack at all.
The situation is a little more unsatisfactory in terms of features. Here, Awareness Mode is the main new draw because it enables you to considerably reduce the level of your music and switch off noise canceling without removing your headphones. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Sony has been offering it on its noise-canceling headphones for a while now. It’s great to see it on a pair of Bose headphones at last.
So how does it actually operate in use? It’s only fair. The QC45 mostly basically turn off the noise cancelling technology and perform a poor job of utilizing the external microphones to augment outside audio. Hence, it is still somewhat difficult to hear announcements or discussions taking place further away, or at least not as easily as it would be if Bose amplified them using the external microphones.
The option to adjust the level of noise cancellation is one of the other key features that is currently lacking, albeit a recent update now allows users to adjust the tuning of audio playing via an EQ.
Last but not least, having a built-in virtual assistant like Alexa or Google would have been excellent. By holding down the play/pause button for a long time, you can still use your phone’s assistant, but having an always-listening assistant is useful if you have busy hands.
Apart from sound features and noise-cancelling capabilities, the sound quality of a pair of wireless headphones determines whether it succeeds or fails. And we’re happy to inform that the Bose QC45 isn’t about to die on its own.
On Tidal, we play Safari by J Balvin, Pharrell Williams, BIA, and Sky, and the upbeat reggaeton song is broadcast across the frequencies with passion and energy. It never seems bloated thanks to a tight bassline.
The next song on our playlist is Gasolina by Daddy Yankee, and the leading edges of the notes are clear, impactful, and present throughout the track’s pounding bassline. Yet, there is a timing issue with Don Omar and Beenie Man’s outstanding song Belly Danza, which fuses reggaeton, dancehall, and Jamaican and Spanish vocals into a wild, head-nodding rap. Beenie Man’s particularly meaty lower registers provide bite and resonance to the mix, along with the numerous hype guys and Cuban salsa riffs, but the result is more of a disjointed mess than a seamless, foot-tapping one.
In Billy Joel’s Piano Man, the harmonica is given weight and detail by the bass injection, and the keys are dazzling and three-dimensional through the treble. The quiet drums in our left ear and the beautiful mandolin in our right ear, however, are just two of the musical strands that are better controlled when played through the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM4. Although Joel’s moving vocal can still be heard in the QC45’s presentation, we believe the vocals on the Sonys have a greater sense of dynamic development.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road while using the WH-1000XM4, and you’ll notice that the pensive, quiet harmonica and keys emerge more delicately and develop with greater dynamic impact. Although it may seem like a minor drawback, the Bose QC45’s incremental build does seem a little shoddy in comparison.
Given that the Sony XM5 has since lifted the bar for sound quality at this level, the QC45 now has at least two competitors that outperform it.
The Bose QC 45 beats out most of the competition for the price if you want a pair of wireless over-ear headphones that you can wear, activate noise-cancelling on your commute or at your desk, and largely shut out the outside world for up to 24 hours. That will be the end of the narrative for many people.
You can get better audio for your money. However, you would do better to go elsewhere if you want a more customized noise-cancelling experience, an auto-pause feature when you remove them, or sound EQ modification.
We comprehend the tendency to keep to a successful design formula, and that mentality has resulted in another really endearing pair of QuietComfort headphones. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that we had hoped for a little bit more given the five-year wait for a sizable redesign in the QC range.