The Bad $50 to $100 more than their closest competitors; QuietComfort 35 II is slightly more comfortable; battery life isn't as good as the of some competitors; the accompanying mobile app isn't fully baked.
The Bottom Line While not a quantum leap forward over the QC35 IIs, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 offers slightly better noise canceling, sound and call quality.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, have a lot to live up to. The QuietComfort series is almost 20 years old and is essentially the gold standard for active noise-canceling headphones, beloved by airline travelers and open-office residents the world over for their ability to block out a good chunk of external distractions. Simply put, the QC35s are a hard act to follow, and some people aren't going to like all the changes that Bose has made in creating this new successor headphone.
They also won't like the new, higher price: The Bose 700 is $400 (£350 or about AU$570), which is $50 more than the QC35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3, CNET's current top-rated noise-canceling headphone. (The latter has recently sold for $300 or less, in fact.) But leaving aside the debate over the new design and higher price tag for a moment, I'll say this: The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 sound and perform better than their predecessor, and shine as a headset for making calls.
To be clear, this really is a new headphone, both on the outside and the inside, with new drivers and a total of eight microphones to help enable Bose's "evolved noise-canceling functionality." One of the biggest external changes is to the headband. The QuietComfort 35 II has a high-tech resin (read: plastic) headband, while the Headphones 700's headband incorporates a single, seamless piece of stainless steel that seemingly makes it a little sturdier. However, as a result of the new design, there's no hinge, so they don't fold up, just flat, and you simply lay them into their protective carrying case, which is larger than the QuietComfort 35 II's case.
Some will like that you don't have to bother folding the headphones while others will prefer the predecessor's smaller case. I did like that there's a little compartment in the case -- its door closes magnetically -- for storing the USB-C charging cable and the short cable for wired listening. It's worth noting that the port on the headphone is the smaller 2.5mm variety so, bizarrely, it's a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable.
In the past, Bose has tried to shave weight off its headphones, but at 254g this model is actually about half an ounce heavier than the QuietComfort 35 II, which will remain in the line. You can feel the weight difference. Personally, I didn't find the headphone any less or more comfortable than the QuietComfort 35 II; it just felt a little different (I don't have a large head). But some other editors in our office thought the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 clamped down on their heads a little more forcefully than the Quiet Comfort 35 II, creating slightly more pressure.
The material on the inside of the headband is also different. The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have a soft-to-the-touch rubberized inside band that's filled with air for extra cushioning while the Quiet Comfort 35 II relies on foam padding covered in a fancy cloth material for its cushioning. The rubber doesn't absorb sweat, which is good, but some people will prefer the cloth and padding on the Quiet Comfort 35 II.
The long and short of it is the Noise Cancelling Headphones are comfortable, but the Quiet Comfort 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3 arguably feel slightly better. On the other hand, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seems slightly more durable. That said, it's a good idea to store the headphones in their protective carrying case. The finish on the metal part of the band is a little susceptible to getting scratched up if they rub up against metal objects in a bag or backpack.
Bose is touting the headphone's voice communication features. While the overall sound quality is a relatively small step up from the QuietComfort 35 II -- more on that in a minute -- the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 perform significantly better as a headset for making calls. The new microphones are designed to pick up your voice better (some of them are beam-forming mics) and reduce noise around you so people can hear you better in noisier environments. That goes for voice assistants as well -- the headphone supports Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, all of which should better understand what you're saying in noisier environments.
I made some calls from the noisy streets of New York and people could hear me even when I was standing next to a trash truck that was compacting old furniture outside our office building. The headphones do a really good job filtering out background noise. Not all of it, but a lot of it. When you're not talking, the headphones greatly reduce the ambient noise around you. However, when you speak, the headphones do let some background noise in because the microphones, even beamed into your voice, pick up some outside noise. Needless to say, the headphones' computer chips are doing a fair amount of sound processing.
There's also an adjustable sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphones (which prevents you from talking too loudly when on a call). The QuietComfort 35 II has some light sidetone that not everybody notices, but you can really sense it in this new model.
In Bose's Music companion app for iOS and Android, you designate which assistant you want to use and then access that assistant with a button push like you do on the QuietComfort 35 II. If you choose Alexa, you can activate Amazon's voice assistant by simply saying the wake word "Alexa." That makes this one of the few headphones to offer always-on Alexa and it performs about as well as the AirPods and Beats Powerbeats Pro do with always-on Siri. The Jabra Elite 85h, another headphone that's great for making calls and is equipped with lots of microphones, was supposed to have this feature but Jabra ended up leaving it off after it discovered that it had too great an impact on battery life.
I asked a Bose rep about the possible adverse impact on battery life when using always-on Alexa because the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700's 20 hours of battery life is shorter than that of a lot of its competitors (a quick-charge feature does allow you to get 3.5 hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge). The rep said that it did not have an impact on battery life and that the battery life was the same whether you had Bluetooth on or off, say, if you were in wired mode on a plane. To that end, it's also worth noting that you can use the headphone in wired mode if the battery dies. It doesn't sound quite as good unplugged -- yes, I tried it -- but it still sounds pretty decent (the bass isn't as strong) and the headphones passively muffle a fair amount noise simply by virtue of being an over-ear model.
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This is the first Bose headphone equipped with touch controls. The touch area is on the right side of the right ear cup. I found that they worked well and that same Bose rep told me that Bose's engineers were aware of the problems that some Sony WH-1000XM3 users were having with that headphone's touch controls in cold weather and that the Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones had been tested in the cold. The touch controls supposedly work but we'll have to wait until winter to test it out ourselves.
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