Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II – this is the one!

So I splurged some of my hard earned money and bought myself the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. 🥳

It was, of course, a question between these or the latest AirPods Pro 2. I didn’t go for the latter because I wasn’t a fan of the original AirPods Pro, and I don’t like this “squeezing” way of doing things – squeeze the stem to turn on transparency mode, double squeeze and triple squeeze to skip or rewind, or hold with two fingers and slide to change volume. So while I waited for the AirPods Pro 2 ship and see if the reviews found its noise cancelling to be better than the Bose – that would have been the only deciding factor for it – most reviews either didn’t compare these to the Bose, or if they did they found the latter better in terms of noise cancelling. So the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II was it.

It’s only been a few days and I’m loving it. This isn’t my first nosie cancelling earbuds or headphones, but this is the best so far and the first time I feel the effects of noise cancelling. The closest to these would have been the Sony WF-1000XM3 for me (or the WF-1000XM4 which I tried but had to return) but those are effective also because you have to jam them up the ear canal. With the Bose QCE II (am going to shorten the name going forward) I don’t have to jamp them in, they sit comfortably and there’s no pressure.

This is not my first Bose noise cancelling equipment either. For a long time I was on the Bose QC 35 II (loved it a lot, I bought two pairs in the end) and the Bose NC 700 (great noise cancelling, but not so comfortable to wear – sold it in the end, a rare thing for me) but the Bose QCE II beats both of these when it comes to noise cancelling. The Bose QC 35 II was comfortable to wear, and it did a good amount of noise cancelling – but it wasn’t too impressive because I could still hear a lot of the outside noise, just that they were lower in volume. In fact, that’s one thing with noise cancelling headphones – they can reduce or cancel the noises like the hum of your train (or Dubai Metro when I had the Bose QC 35 IIs) but when it does that all other noises like people talking are still present, and in fact become more clear and hence distracting. Same with other noise cancelling headphones like the Sennheiser PXC 550 (good noise cancelling, not as great as the Bose QC 35 II or as comfortable to wear, but I loved its sound signature more). The QCE IIs aren’t like that though. They reduce the train sounds, and also the sounds of people talking… so the latter don’t get highlighted when the former is reduced. It just feels natural like how you’d expect noise cancelling to be.

Recently I had even bought the Beats Fit Pro. They are great, I love their sound, and I love all the fancy stuff they do like head-tracking (there’s no way to explain how awesome this is – try and you’ll either love it, or not! 😀). They are comfortable to wear too, but their noise cancelling isn’t that great – mainly because they don’t seal that well I think. I know if I push them a bit into the ear they seal well, but with the default/ single wing they come with I couldn’t get a good seal. Still, I love them because I can use them at home where it isn’t much noise for when I am watching TV (easy to pair with an Apple TV) and I can turn on transparency in case anyone’s talking to me. Their transparency, sound, and head-tracking are really great. If only that seal were better and I could get better noise cancelling out of them.

Sidebar: I think the trick with the Beats Fit Pro is to put them in per instructions (see picture below and video on official website) but after that holds the earbuds with your two fingers along the side (such that the “b” is between your fingers basically) and then slightly nudge them in. If I am holding these with my fingers the thumb is below and the index finger on the top, so I push in with the thumb while sort of pushing out with the index finger such that it goes in a bit more into the ear canal while at the same time not being wedged into it. This gives a comfortable feel and better noise cancelling.

Anyways, enter the Bose QCE II. They have an amazing seal to begin with and it’s all thanks to the stablity bands they come with. It took me a while to get a good seal because I would try one of the sizes and go for a walk, get a feel of how stable they were or how good the seal was… sometimes I was unsure if one size was better than the other… but eventually I think I’ve finally settled on the largest size for both ears. That gives me a good seal. Similarly I think I went with the largest size for the eartips. They all seem very finicky and as if pulling them out could break them, but I guess that is also what contributes to how well they mould to the shape of the ears and fit snugly.

Once you fit them in and the noise cancelling turns on there’s no other way to describe the feeling as if you are in a cone of silence. It’s a pure experience. As if I am in some black room with just me and whatever is playing. It’s a bit jarring too, to be honest, because I am so used to hearing some outside noise with all the noise cancelling headphones and earbuds so far, that’s it’s unsettling when all that is blocked out and it’s just me and the music. Yes, I can hear some noise from the outside world – a cyclist or a car goes by quickly for instance – but it’s very muted and hearable only if I keep the volume low. In fact, that’s one thing I started doing once I got these – keep the volume low, because I don’t need a higher volume any more to block out the outside world. This is probably the first time I am listening to music at 1/3rd the max volume… usually it is quite high and my Apple Watch keeps telling me to reduce it.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a silenced environment when I am outside. It’s magic!

Thankfully, like the AirPods Pro 2, these too come with the ability to change volume via swipes (yes the Sony WF-1000XM3 too had these, but there were limitations). You long press either bud for transparency mode; you do the usual single tap, double tap, triple tap for pause, skip forward, skip backware; and you swipe up and down for volume. The latter takes a bit getting used to (and I still am), coz one has a tendency to press and swipe up and that can inadvertently trigger transparency mode. I think the trick is to try and swipe along the edges – I am still figuring this out.

Compared to the Beats Fit Pro or Sonys their Bluetooth connection seems quite stable too. Again, could be early days, but I never noticed a stuttering like I occassionally do with those. It’s always been stable and smooth. I don’t care that the Bose QCE IIs don’t do multi-point – I don’t like multi-point as sometimes one device can take over when you don’t want them to. As long as I can create multiple connections but have only one active at a time that’s fine by me (and the Bose Music app supports and lets you do that). I have it connected to my phone and laptop, and whenever I want to switch to the QCE IIs on these I just select it from the Bluetooth menu of that device.

I didn’t test the call quality with these but did a couple of voice memos to myself to test it out. Wasn’t too impressed, but that’s expected I guess considering these are small earbuds.

Onto the sound itself – the only word I can think of again is pure. 🙂 It just sounds so clean and detailed. I still love the sounds from the Beats Fit Pro – they just have a different sound signature – but that’s Beats being Beats, I know. I actually started listening to more music and less Podcasts or Audiobooks since getting the QCE IIs since I just love how they sound and I want to re-hear most of my music through these. And all this without having to shove these earbuds into my ear – they just sit gently on the ear thanks to the stability bands and eartips. And that’s basically what I keep coming to with these earbuds – they are so effortless and great. I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything to get some good noise cancelling (except a lot of money of course hah!). They fit well, sound great, are comfortable to wear, noise cancel the heck out of things, and all I am left with is the sound of music – pure, simple, and balanced. I don’t know what more I can ask for from a pair of earbuds!