Bose has long been the OG when it comes to best-in-class noise-canceling headphones. Or at least they were until Sony unseated them with the universally-acclaimed WH‑1000XM3. Now Bose has dumped the QuietComfort moniker with the release of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Yes, that’s the actual name and it’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll be referring to them as just the Bose 700s for the rest of this review. Full disclosure here, I have not owned or used the Sony WH-1000XM3 or any of the Bose QuietComfort series, so this will be a stand-alone review and not a comparison.
Fit and Feel
Out of the box, the look of the Bose 700s is dramatically different than its predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II. Now keep in mind, Bose doesn’t intend the Bose 700s to replace the QC 35 but to be an additional product series. The Bose 700s lay flat in their case which is rather narrow but does not fold which seems to be causing some consternation among other reviewers. I like the design and have had issues in the past with folding headphones.
The metal headband feels sturdy and seems to provide a bit more “clamping” power than other headphones. This allows the Bose 700s to stay in place during a run or vigorous workout. Overall, they are very comfortable, but I should point out that I have a large head and proportionately-sized ears, so the earcups don’t fit completely over my ears. I found myself adjusting them occasionally, but this should not be an issue for the majority of users. I have worn the Bose 700s for hours at a time with no discomfort.
Charging and Battery
A nice upgrade on the Bose 700s in the addition of USB-C charging. Honestly, any electronic item coming out that does not include USB-C is becoming a major inconvenience. I’m looking at you Apple. The battery is rated for 20+ hours with noise-canceling on and that is exactly what I experienced.
There are three physical buttons and a touch surface for controlling your experience on the Bose 700s. There is a single button on the left earcups and that toggles through the three levels of noise-canceling you set up in the Bose Music app, while a long press of this button will enter conversation mode which pauses video or music and turns off noise-canceling, allowing you to have a conversation or listen to announcements in the airport without having to remove the headphones.
On the right earcup, a short press turns the headphones on and off and longer presses control your Bluetooth connections with other devices. I really appreciated the ability to connect multiple devices simultaneously and not having to constantly switch back and forth. The bottom button triggers the voice assistant you set up in the Bose Music app. The rest of the controls are on the touch surface located outside of the right earcup in front of the headband mount. You swipe up and down to control the volume, forward and back to skip tracks and double-tap to play/pause your content. I appreciate the double-tap and I am sure it prevented numerous errant pauses and I touched the headphones. You can also double-tap to answer or end a call and touch and hold for one second to decline a call.
Bose Music App
I do recommend downloading the Bose Music App during setup. The app allows you to determine the noise-canceling levels assigned to physical buttons on the headphones, manage paired devices and assign which digital assistant you prefer. Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the available options. With my iPhone, I also still had the ability to just say “Hey Siri”. Unfortunately, there is not an equalizer built into the app allowing you to fine-tune the audio to your preference. Hopefully in a later release.
There are 4 integrated microphones and Bose’s microphone technology does an amazing job of canceling out background noise and providing clean voice quality. Several people mentioned it sounded like I had the phone right up to my mouth. While music quality can be subjective, I can state that I believe the NC-700s are the best headphones for making voice calls and interacting with digital assistants.
In an unrealistic, but interesting test, I wore the Bose 700s and stood in front of the drumline at my daughter’s high school marching band camp. I surprised at how well the noise-cancellation worked in this extreme environment. It certainly didn’t block out all of the percussion, the snare drums seemed to leak through the most, but I could still easily hear the music I was listening to.
And now to the heart of the matter. I do not consider myself to be an audiophile, don’t get me wrong, I love music, I just tend to stay away from the in-depth technical discussions that seem to pop-up around audio hardware. But, I do know what sounds good to me, and these Bose 700s sound damn good. Crisp and clear without getting harsh and surprisingly decent bass. Combine that with best-in-class noise canceling and you have the best noise-canceling headphones on the market today.
Bose AR is new audio augmented reality (AR) technology and platform that uses a combination of sensors built into the Headphones 700 to superimpose sound on top of the real world. It is the combination of sensors embedded in the headphones (together with a mobile device’s existing sensors like GPS) that app makers use to generate audio information that augments and is superimposed on the user’s real world.
There are a number of compatible audio AR apps that you can download through the Bose Music app.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have raised the standard for active noise-canceling headphones. Available in black and silver, they are stylish and comfortable and have very quickly integrated into my daily routine. While not inexpensive at $400 at the time of this review, if you spend any time conversing with voice assistants or others over the phone, they are worth every penny.