Wireless earbuds are a dime a dozen these days, and overall standards have improved so much that you could pick up a $30 pair of wireless earbuds and get at least decent audio and solid connection. If you pay above $99, you're going to get a good pair with quality sound, solid construction, and perhaps even active noise cancelation (ANC). So the big question for me when I was asked to review the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 wasn't whether the earbuds are any good — of course they are! — but rather, "do these things justify the high $300 price tag?".
Spoiler alert: The Bose QuietComfort 2 does indeed have the best ANC I've ever tested, but everything else, from looks/design to audio quality to special features, they fall behind Apple's AirPods Pro 2, which are 17% cheaper at $250.
Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2
Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds 2 bring tremendous active noise cancelation and a secure, comfortable fit.
- Battery Life
- Six hours on a single charge (case adds another three charges)
- IP Rating
- Driver Size
- Wireless Charging
- Dimensions (earbuds)
- 1.2" x 0.68" x 0.88"
- Dimensions (case)
- 2.61" x 2.34" x 1.05"
- Black, White
- Charging Port
- Noise Cancellation
- The best active noise cancelation of any earbuds
- Stability rings make for more secure fit
- Easy-to-use touch controls
- Out-of-box audio tuning below par
- No wireless charging
About this review: This review was written after a week testing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 purchased by XDA. Bose, obviously, had no input in this article.
Price and Availability
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are available now at most electronics retailers (Amazon, Best Buy, etc) for $299.
Packaging, Hardware and Design
- Extra "stability ring" in addition to silicon tip make for very secure fit
- Relatively large case and earbuds
- 9.3mm drivers
The QC Earbuds 2 come in a two-part black box with a white sleeve. Remove the sleeve, pull off the top half, and you're greeted by the earbuds case. You'll notice the case are relatively large compared to almost any other wireless earbuds from phone brands like Apple or Samsung.
The package includes two instruction booklets — a thin quick start one, and then a thick one with multiple languages that seem unnecessary in 2023. There's a short USB-A to USB-C charging cable and extra silicon ear tips and "stability rings".
Most people should be familiar with the silicon ear tips, which are the parts that go inside our ear canals. The stability rings, however, wrap around the core of the earbuds and are meant to sit fit under the concha or our ears to prevent the earbuds from falling out. I do appreciate the rings when I'm cycling or doing high-intensity exercises as the earbuds feel just a bit more secure.
As mentioned, the case is relatively large, measuring 2.61" x 2.34" x 1.05", but the earbuds are also larger than competitors, and it's 6.24g per bud is also heavier than other earbuds from the likes of Apple, Nothing or Huawei. It's wild to think that the QC Earbuds 2 are already 30% larger than the original QC Earbuds (which I have not seen in person).
This next bit is purely my opinion, but whether it's the shape of the case or earbuds, I find Bose' design to look clunky and inelegant compared to other earbuds I have tested in recent months. The extra size of Bose product doesn't even bring better battery life, as the QC Earbuds 2 can go six hours on a single charge, with the case adding another 18 hours of charge. The Apple AirPods Pro 2, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2, and Nothing Ear 1 all offer longer battery life.
Each bud houses a 9.3mm driver, with four microphones (two on outside, two on inside) and a touch sensitive panel on each stalk. There is a black or white glossy coating over the plastic construction.
Fit and comfort
I am someone who don't love the feeling of in-ear earbuds where the silicon tip goes inside my ear canal — I prefer outer-ear design (like the non-Pro AirPods or Nothing Ear Stick if possible), but for in-ear buds, the QC Earbuds 2 are comfortable when I swapped the default medium size tips to small. As mentioned, the stability ring tucks into my concha for additional "grip," which keeps the buds more securely. I often cycle around town, and the thought of earbuds falling out of my ears mid-ride is a concern and these earbuds give me more peace of mind than, say, Apple's AirPods Pro.
Software: Pairing, App, Controls
- Companion app allows customization of touch controls, audio EQ, among other things
- Tremendous active noise cancelation
- Missing some special features seen in other big name earbuds
The QC Earbuds 2 can connect to any device straight away, but to make the most of the experience you'll want to download Bose's companion app. The app offers customization of touch controls and strength of ANC, but more importantly, it allows you to tweak the EQ, which I found necessary because I thought the out-of-the-box tuning sounded flat.
The touch panel works as you'd expect: tap once to start/pause audio, tap twice to skip tracks, and long press to switch between either ANC or transparency mode (which Bose dubs "Aware" mode). You can change the long press action to activate Siri or Google Assistant instead. The app also has an "eartip seal test" in which the earbuds will broadcast a rather loud chime and determine whether the earbud tips are in properly.
As mentioned earlier, I found the out-of-box audio tuning to sound a bit flat, but after jumping into the app and making some tweaks in the EQ, audio sounded excellent, with very precise, punchy bass. The QC Earbuds 2 supports only SBC and AAC codecs, which honestly is more than enough and sound perfectly fine, but there are those who demand higher bitrate options like AptX may be disappointed.
Let's get to the main selling point of these earbuds, and something I've already teased multiple times in this review: the active noise cancelation (ANC) is uncannily good, and the best I've heard anywhere. It almost feels like Bose is showing it off too, because unlike other wireless earbuds, whose noise cancelation activates in one step (you go from hearing full ambient noise to significantly less in an instant), Bose does it in a delayed two-step process. When you first put on the earbuds, you'll hear outside noise as normal, then that loud Bose chime kicks in, followed by a robotic voice telling you battery percentage and device that's paired, after which, the noise cancelation begins in two parts: you first hear a major reduction in outside noise, and then, in most instances, almost complete silence.
I can't stress this enough — unless you're in a very loud environment, the QC Earbuds 2' ANC can almost provide complete silence when the ANC is fully kicked in. Even the AirPods Pro 2, whose ANC is excellent on its own, falls behind. As a test, I took all the major wireless earbuds I own outside next to a major road, with plenty of traffic noise, and I can confirm the Bose QC Earbuds 2's ANC easily beats the Huawei FreeBuds 2 Pro, Nothing Ear 1, and another pair of Chinese phone brand "Pro" earbuds I can't quite talk about yet due to embargo restrictions. Apple's AirPods Pro 2 fared better than those other buds, but still lost to Bose.
I no longer have Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 Pro or Google's Pixel Buds Pro on me, but I tested those thoroughly a few months ago, and I am certain their ANC can't match Bose's too.
Bose's "Aware" mode (transparency mode) works very well too. The company advertise this technology "Active Sense" which, apparently, has the earbuds' brains constantly analyzing the surrounding sound and then adjusting volume of sound that passes through. The idea is that Aware mode will know to highlight human voices, and important sounds like car honks, but tone down sounds that serve no real practical purpose, like the whirring of an air conditioner.
I can't say I notice the intelligent adjustment of audio, but I can say Aware mode here sound very natural, as if I'm not wearing earbuds at all, and that's exactly what a great transparency mode should do. I previously thought the AirPods Pro 2's transparency mode was the best in the business, and I think Bose' can claim a very close second place, or even 1B to Apple's 1A.
Regardless, the absolute best feature of these Bose earbuds are the ANC and Aware mode, everything else, from the six-hour battery life per charge to audio performance to gesture controls, are good but nothing special compared to the half dozen other premium earbuds.
Missing special features of other brands
The QC Earbuds 2 do miss some crucial features found in other earbuds. There's no wireless charging, for example, so you must top up via a USB-C cable. There's no multipoint connection, meaning the earbuds can only connect to one device at a time. The buds also miss smart features like Apple's Spatial Audio, or the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's ability to work as a wireless microphone.
Should you buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2?
You should buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 if:
- It's crucial for you to have the best ANC — let's say you work in noisy environments often
- You want a more secure fit than other wireless earbuds
- You like the Bose brand
You should not buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 if:
- Saving $50-$80 matters to you
- You want a sleeker design earbud or a more compact case
The Bose QC Earbuds 2 has a clear and major appeal: do you want earbuds that let you mostly eliminate outside noise and give you some peace and quiet? As someone who constantly works at coffee shops and spends chunks of the year in very dense and crowded cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong, I can say that yes, I very much appreciate the best-in-class ANC.
But here's the thing: The AirPods Pro 2's ANC is also very good (if I were to give out grades, Bose' ANC is a 10/10 and AirPods Pro 2 would be an 8.5/10), and then the AirPods Pro 2 win in every other area, from having superior audio output, a slightly better transparency mode, a sleeker build without sacrificing battery life, and all the extras like wireless charging and compatibility with Apple's FindMy network. Oh, it's cheaper too! Therefore, I think if you're an iPhone user, the AirPods Pro 2 still makes a lot more sense. If you're an Android user, there's the excellent Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which are sleeker, have superior audio output, and cheaper — although its ANC isn't as good as Bose or Apple's. Also, I want to add, AirPods Pro 2 works fine with Android too if you're okay with not having spatial audio.
So really, the case for Bose' earbuds is: do you want to pay another $50 for better ANC? Evaluate your lifestyle, the city you live in, and the decision should be clear.
Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2
The Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2 have the best ANC we've ever tested in any earbuds, but the price is higher than other earbuds.