Review: Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones offer awesome noise cancelling, solid sound

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, reviewed by Daniel Rutledge of Newshub.
Photo credit: Newshub.

US audio giant Bose has released its latest set of wireless, over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones just in time for silly season in New Zealand. 

The QuietComfort 45 (QC45) is a direct competitor to Sony's WH-1000XM4 in particular, at the upper end of the everyday consumer headphone market - generally between $500 and $600 for the latest models.

When Sony's latest were released last year, multiple critics labelled them "the best getting even better", so has Bose now caught up to or even surpassed its Japanese rival?

If you have an older QuietComfort model, is there enough new stuff in the new one to warrant an upgrade?

I've been using the QC45 for the past few weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

First and foremost, the sound quality on the QC45 is great.

Bose has been mastering consumer headphones for over two decades now and are a favourite brand for many people. It's obvious why as soon as you hit play.

I've listened to classic rock, metal, pop, hip-hop, drum and bass, trance and country and it all sounds brilliant through the QC45.

I'll say upfront the bass is a little less pronounced than it is with both the Sony and Apple over-ear headphones I regularly use currently, but there is a wonderful, crisp clarity of the QC45.

As for the active noise-cancellation (ANC), it's just fantastic. There are six mics, four of which are beamforming, as a step up from the four with two beamforming in the QC35 II.

My ears aren't quite good enough to say if this is definitely the best ANC I've experienced, but it's right up there with the very best, for sure.

I also really like the ANC modes - 'Quiet' and 'Aware', which don't need further explanation. That's honestly all I need and both are instantly accessible with the one single button on the left earcup.

This, for me, is better than the three modes offered on one of two buttons on the left earcup of the WH-1000XM4.

It's a case of strength in simplicity.

Speaking of which, Bose is clearly convinced their design has been perfect for a while now, so don't expect any noticeable difference from the last few models. That suits me fine because they are super, super comfy.

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, photographed by Newshub.
Photo credit: Newshub.

I've worn these for the better part of many an eight hour work-from-home days and had no ear strain at the end of them.

Thanks to the addition of Bluetooth 5.1, you get multipoint connection, which is awesome when you want to be connected to a PC or TV at the same time as your phone, and swap between the two on the fly.

Another great feature is when you switch the headphones on, instead of just a beep to tell you you're connected, it actually audibly says the names of the devices you're connected to - particularly handy if you have a whole bunch.

Other upgrades include a USB-C plug, of course, which brings with it faster charging. The battery offers an impressive 24 hour charge, then a charge to 100 percent from zero takes a couple of hours. If you plug it in for around five minutes you'll get between two and three hours of juice.

That's very good.

One last positive is the price. The QC45 launched in Aotearoa with an RRP of $550, which is $50 cheaper than the WH-1000XM4 launch price.

You can get both brands cheaper in sales and by shopping around, but for the quality you're getting with the QC45 and for the years it'll last, that's a good deal.

The bad

While the sound quality is solid, if you listen very closely and go between the two quickly with the same music, the WH-1000XM4 sound just a little bit better.

It's not just the less punchy bass described earlier, there's slightly more richness to the sound.

To be clear, I really have to listen hard to hear the difference as a non-audiophile. The QC45 offers fantastic audio quality and perhaps better ANC, it's just the WH-1000XM4 appears to give a tiny bit more fidelity.

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones supplied product image.
Photo credit: supplied

The QC45 offers only one mode of maximum ANC, which is all many people will need. But if you want customised levels of noise-cancelling, or the adaptive version that changes levels depending on the environment around you, these aren't the headphones for you.

One annoying issue was my connection dropping in and out. It appeared to be only when I had two devices connected, and the one playing music would just cut in and out every now and then. Hopefully this will be patched, but as a temporary fix I simply disconnected one device.

Whether or not you prefer the swipe controls of the WH-1000XM4 or the physical buttons of the QC45 is more personal preference than a good or bad thing. But I would like Bose's buttons to feel nicer.

There's a lovely, super tactile clicky feel to the buttons on the D-pad of an Xbox Series X controller, and a similar satisfaction in turning Apple's Digital Crown.

The QC45 buttons just lack that extra prestige feel.

It also lacks an on-ear detection feature, so won't stop playing automatically when you take it off your head nor restart when you put it back on.

The WH-1000XM4 also allows you to place a hand over an earcup to turn the music down temporarily, beyond just turning off the ANC. The QC45 lacks this feature, too, as well as head-tracking spatial audio and a few other bits of tech in other modern headphones.

One other silly criticism I shouldn't make, but will - the robotic voice of Bose isn't as pleasant as many other audio devices.

Again this doesn't really matter, but every time you turn it on or change a setting you hear the droney computer voice and y'know, that could just be a bit nicer.

The verdict

Bose's latest QuietComfort release is a great product and if you've enjoyed headphones from this brand before, you're sure to love this latest and greatest version.

But in many ways they simply bring the QuietComfort brand up to the same level of its competitors rather than break new ground.

That's not a problem, especially if you're a Bose fan, but if you're brand-agnostic and always want the newest features it's a bit unexciting.

The QC45 is instead a slightly cheaper product that sticks to the basics of what it does well.

If you want a pair of over-ear, wireless headphones with top-notch noise-cancelling that play music great, are fantastic for making phone calls or having video chats with and can easily switch between devices, you'll be very happy with this.

If you want the very best sound quality available and as many features as possible for headphones that cost around the same amount or a bit more, you may want to check out some rival products.

Newshub was supplied a set of Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones for this review.