I want to start of this review by clearly stating that I am not a Bose fanboy. I don't automatically recommend all of their products just because they carry the Bose name. I tested 19 headphones for this review.
Noise cancelling headphones are the only options for frequent travellers looking for small oasis in an otherwise jungle of airports, taxis and urban sprawl. When I recommend a pair of noise cancelling headphones, it is a job I take very seriously. Having said all of this this, the Bose QC25 noise cancelling headphones are the best choice for anyone frequent user of planes, trains or any urban dweller looking to create a little oasis of silence. Let me be clear, these aren't reference headphones that perfectly reproduce music but are good sounding headphones with amazing voice cancellation. This is an important distinction to make sure you are not disapointed.
When I tested noise cancelling headphones, I wanted something that worked well, that was light/comfortable and that can be easily stowed away when not in use.
How does the QC25 compare to the QC15?
The first question I asked the Bose clerk was to enumerate the difference between the new Bose QC25 and the older QC15. After several minutes of verbal diarrhea it became clear he didn't know what he was talking about. For those wondering what the differences are, here you go:
- Bose QC15 have been discontinued and quickly sold from the channel
- The QC25 can play music even when the noise cancelling mechanism is turned off or when your battery dies
- The QC25 has a marginally improved noise cancellation profile (but nothing too dramatic)
- The QC25 has a slightly livelier mids and lows
Those are the main differences. If you already own a pair of QC15s, don't even think about upgrading.
What's a lower cost alternative to the QC25?
Many of my readers email me asking for a recommendation cheaper than the Bose. If you want something cheaper (understanding the sound quality won't be as good and the noise quality is also inferior) then look at the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b.
I own a pair of these and find that the band is slightly too small for my medium head. I find it just doesn't sit comfortably on my head and it bothers me. But for the price (almost half the price of the Bose), you get a decent bang for your buck.
Disclaimer about noise cancelling headphones
I know a handful of readers that purchased the QC15 and were disappointed because they didn't understand the real usefulness (or lack) of these types of headphones. Noise cancellation headphones work by listening to your environment and then add a negative sound pattern in your ear to cancel our the external noise. They work very well for continuous low mechanical sounds (like train sounds, airplane engines, air conditioner, fan, etc).
They don't work so well for higher pitch non repetitive sounds like screaming co-workers or crying babies. They will still reduce the intensity of those sounds but buying a $300 pair of headphones can't be justified for them.
If you want good headphones and will occasionally (read rarely) use the noise cancellation functionality then noise cancelling headphones aren't for you. You would be better served with a lower cost but higher quality close back over the ear headphones.
What about in ear noise isolating headphones?
I am a big fan of in-ear noise isolating headphones and my 2 favourite headphones right now are the :
- Ultimate Ears Triple-FI 10
- Etymotic ER-4 microPro (I love these)
- Etymotic hf5
The Etymotic ER-4 microPro offer amazing sound reproduction and fantastic noise isolation (35-42db). I find that the noise reduction powers of the ER-4 are better than the Bose but this requires that I jam the earphones deep into my ear canal.
This jamming of the earphones doesn't bother me but many many people I know just can't stand it. For these people the Bose is the better option.
Back to the QC25
I had a chance to compare the QC25 to the older Bose QC15 and the QC20 in ear noise cancelling headphones. The QC25 just sounds cleaner, better and more engaging.
The QC25 is also lighter and more comfortable than the 2 others.
If you are ok shoving an in-ear earphone into your ear canal, the Etymotic ER-4 is another option that has better sound, is smaller and lighter.
In conclusion the QC25 is the best noise on ear cancelling headphone you can buy.