Back when we were all traveling, it seemed like I couldn’t board a flight without entering a sea of Bose noise cancelling headphones dotted throughout the cabin.
Everybody already knows: Bose makes some of the best noise cancelling headphones for travel.
For years I’ve been an avid user of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s. They’ve served me well on dozens—maybe hundreds—of flights over the years. There were some limitations, but no other product on the market that I’d tested could rival the combination of sound quality and noise cancellation together.
So, I was exceptionally excited when Bose asked me to test out the newest addition to their family of noise cancelling headphones: the Bose NC 700’s.
In this face-off, I’ll be doing a top-to-bottom comparison of the Bose 700 vs QC35 headphones. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Bose 700 vs QC35: Audio Quality
Perhaps the biggest question of all: which one has better audio quality?
Out of the box, the answer for me is a no-brainer. I’ve always felt the QC35 II offered good audio quality, but if I’m being honest, they never blew me away. As a self-proclaimed audiophile, I thought the sound was good enough, and worked well in most scenarios.
But I found that the QC35’s were better tuned for voices (audiobooks, movies, etc.) and rock music as opposed to bass-heavy music like hip-hop or house—my two genres of choice.
My best guess is that the audio levels were tuned for the ears of an older generation—a generation that doesn’t normally listen to bass-heavy music. Instead, these headphones were tuned acoustically and geared towards listeners of rock, folk and the like.
And then I turned on the NC 700’s and the difference hit me immediately. The audio is crisp and clear. The bass hits exactly as hard as you want it to. And the sound is rich and full-bodied.
These headphones addressed the qualm that nearly every millennial had with the QC35’s—not enough bass.
What’s more, the NC 700’s automatically adjust the sound to whatever type of music you’re listening to, or, if you prefer, you can use the in-app EQ to make your own personalized adjustments to treble, mids and bass.
The result is a completely immersive audio experience.
It’s important to note that, as a former musician, my ear is relatively well-trained. If these types of nuances aren’t important to you, then the choice in model won’t matter much.
But for me, there’s no comparison here—the sound quality of the NC 700’s blow the QC35’s out of the water.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Noise Cancellation
As far as I can tell, the noise cancelling capabilities of these two models are nearly identical. Both have adjustable noise cancellation, and when cranked up to high, I can’t sense a discernible difference in the effectiveness of either one.
From a functionality standpoint, the Bose QC35 II’s offer three noise cancellation settings: High, Low and Off. These are controlled by the Bose Connect app on your phone, so any change you wish to make requires opening your phone, then the app, navigating to the correct screen and adjusting your settings.
The Bose NC 700’s, however, offer 11 noise cancellation settings, on a sliding scale from 0 (off) to 10. You can create noise cancellation “presets” which you can toggle by using the button located on the left earpiece.
So if you’re walking down the street, in an airport, or you’re just working from home with your significant other, you don’t have to take your headphones off or stop the music when you get interrupted or it’s your turn to order a coffee from the friendly barista,
Just tap the button to enter “Conversation Mode” and your level of noise cancelling reduces, meaning instant access to the world outside your headphones, and then another tap to return to your noise-cancelled world.
With the NC 700’s, Bose designed a pair of headphones that allows you to seamlessly navigate between the real world, your own world, and even find a happy medium between the two.
I particularly love the way Bose has created a way to not only enter and exit each of these worlds, but to also combine them. You can listen to your music with a medium-level of noise-cancellation (or none at all) while having a clear conversation with those around you.
This is definitely the next generation of wearable audio.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Design
From an aesthetics standpoint, the 700’s win by a landslide. They’re less clunky and they look sleeker and more modern. These are headphones designed for the 2020’s.
Functionally speaking, the QC35’s are great because their design allows them to fold into a more compact size for storage. However, when opened to their full size, they’re about the same as the NC 700’s.
That said, the carrying case for the NC 700’s is larger than the QC35’s, but not by a lot. If you have an extra inch or two in your bag, the NC 700’s will surely use it.
Furthermore, Bose integrated intuitive touch controls into the NC 700’s which aren’t available on the QC35’s. I’ll talk more about these below.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Comfort
There are a lot of great headphones out there, but if you can’t wear them for an entire day of work or travel, I don’t think they’re worth having.
Luckily, Bose already knows this. The QC35’s have always been comfortable and I’ve never had an issue wearing them for the entire duration of a long-haul flight or a 10-hour workday.
But Bose took comfort to the next level with the NC 700’s. They replaced the foam on the earpieces and the underside of the headband with a soft, gel-like foam—something that feels a lot more supple and comfortable to wear.
In this category, the Bose 700’s definitely beat out the QC35’s.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Controls
The controls on the QC35’s have always been confusing to me. There is a slew of buttons on the outside to control your audio, whether it’s adjusting volume, taking a call or just skipping to the next track.
Though designed to be intuitive, to me, they weren’t. I could never remember which button was up and which was down. Which button was next and which button was previous.
With the NC 700’s, the guesswork has been squelched entirely. When you want to turn the volume up, just slide your finger in an upward direction on the outside of the earpiece.
Next track? Just slide your finger forward.
Pause? Accept a call? Just double tap.
On the left side you have a button to enter “Conversation Mode” by toggling your noise cancellation presets. On the right you have the power button and a button to trigger Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa.
While I love these controls, I do find that, if I need to adjust the fit of the headphones on my head, I’ll often tap the touch controls or buttons by accident, causing the track to skip, the volume to go up, down or mute, or to trigger the voice assistant.
And then I’d get confused about what button I just pressed, what exactly it did, and how to get back to the audio I was just listening to.
There is a lot to love about the touch controls, but this is a source of extreme frustration for me.
Regardless, I call the NC 700’s a winner in this category due to the accessible nature of the controls. And once you get used to handling them, it’s not much of a problem.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Battery Life
Personally, I can’t recall ever having an issue with battery life on either model. Both claim to offer up to 20 hours of battery life and, as far as I can tell, that’s totally accurate.
I love that, when you turn on the Bose NC 700’s, a voice tells you exactly how much battery life is left—not in a percentage, but in terms of time. If you have six hours of listening time left, it will tell you exactly that.
No clear winner here. Both models offer the same amount of battery and last long-enough that I don’t have to worry about running out of juice.
Bose NC 700 Features
The Bose NC 700’s come with a whole new set of features that up-level the entire music-listening experience. Here are a few of them.
Bose Music App
The QC35’s had Bose Connect. The NC 700’s have Bose Music—a comprehensive app that acts as your control station for everything related to the headphones.
Bose Connect is purpose-built for the QC35’s and limited in its functionality insofar as the headphones themselves are limited in their capabilities.
Bose Music is an app built specifically for the newer generation of Bose products that gives you a full overview of the headphones in a more intuitive and modern interface.
You can manually control noise cancellation levels, the built-in EQ and Bose AR apps. Plus, if you pair the app with a Bose soundbar at home, you can easily switch your audio from the soundbar straight to your headphones—perfect if you’re wanting to watch TV at home without bothering your partner.
It’s like Bose is creating an audio ecosystem with different devices that all work seamlessly together.
Overall, the apps for each set of headphones are relatively similar, providing firmware updates and fine-tuned access to the features of each model.
A long-awaited feature of Bose noise cancelling headphones has finally arrived—an adjustable EQ.
Bose has already implemented a sort of adaptive equalizer, in which the EQ adjusts automatically depending on what type of audio you’re listening to. This all happens behind the scenes, so you never see it happening—you only get the best audio experience possible.
Fine tuning based on personal preference is easy, too, as you can simply adjust the treble, mids and bass via the Bose Music app.
Personally, as someone who’s quite picky about audio (and who likes to have full control over their devices), I wish the EQ was a little more robust so I could control it better, but in complete honesty, it’s almost not necessary.
It’s simple and the sound is so good it really doesn’t matter.
Headphones rarely offer any kind of quality mic, but with more and more people working from home, working from coffee shops or even working while traveling, the need for a quality microphone on any pair of headphones is abundantly clear.
Bose came through on this and implemented “an unrivaled four-microphone system that picks up and isolates your voice while cancelling the noise around you.”
So not only do the NC 700’s reduce external noise through your headphones, but they do it for whoever is on the other end of your phone call, too.
The headphones also allow you to hear your own voice, which means you can turn noise cancellation all the way up and still hear yourself crisply and cleanly.
So, whether you’re on a phone call, a virtual hangout with friends or recording a podcast, you get clear audio on both sides of the conversation.
I tested this feature numerous times on numerous phone calls and when I asked how well they could hear me, “loud and clear” was always the answer.
Color me impressed!
Adjustable Noise Cancellation
One of the best things about the NC 700’s is the ability to change levels of noise cancellation on the fly.
Aptly named “Conversation Mode,” the addition of this feature means you can easily transition between full noise cancellation and partial noise cancellation, allowing you to either block out the world around you or enter it at your own will—and have a conversation—without ever having to remove your headphones.
The point is, you never have to take them off, which is a common frustration with so many other noise cancelling headphones. A voice inside the headphones tells you exactly the level, on a scale from one to ten, and the button on the left side of the headphones switches between your presets.
The NC 700’s ship with 0, 5 and 10 as the presets, and I haven’t found the need to change them. Off, 50% and 100% noise cancellation suit my purposes perfectly.
When I received these headphones, they actually didn’t have an adjustable equalizer! But after connecting my phone to the headphones using the Bose Music app and updating the firmware, the new feature immediately appeared.
Firmware updates are something that we’re seeing across the board with high-end electronics and especially mirrorless cameras, a feature that I particularly love. It means that, as software technology progresses, and as Bose may continue to work on or develop new features, they can easily roll them out to your device.
Without ever purchasing a new piece of hardware, you could get new features added to your headphones down the line for free. While Bose hasn’t specifically said this is something they’ll do, many manufacturers have taken full advantage of this capability and I hope Bose will, too.
Bose 700 vs QC35: Winner
In my mind, there’s a very clear winner, here. Based on audio quality, the adaptive mic technology and the fact that the NC 700’s only cost $50 more than the QuietComfort 35 II’s, the choice is a no-brainer.
This new model is more than just an upgrade—it’s a completely new experience, and one that’s set to last for years to come.