Personal Tech | October 18, 2021 11:55 am

Review: The Bose QuietComfort 45 Is a Long-Awaited Update of a Classic

Decidedly not flashy, the QC 45 is a return-to-travel (or office) necessity

A pair of smoke white Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones lying in their case on a desk. The new headphones offer excellent noise cancellation.
Modest in size, Bose's new QuietComfort 45 headphones offer superior noise cancellation
Bose

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits.

If you aren’t traveling much, do you really need over-ear noise-cancelling headphones?

That’s a question I pondered over the last 20 months, as my Bose QuietComfort 35 II cans gathered dust in a drawer. I own a lot of headphones, but I only use my Bose (the QC 35 II and previous models) on flights. While working from home, I’d switched almost exclusively to speakers — the joys of working home alone — and then noise-cancelling earbuds during times I did leave my apartment/office.

I actually wasn’t sure if I’d ever go back to over-ear audio. Even the most lightweight and comfy models are bulky, and both ANC and battery power has massively improved in the earbuds realm.

But I’ve started flying again, and also taking a 40-minute commute to work a few days a week. I needed something for my desk that I’d also be happy to pack as a carry-on for flights, where wireless audio isn’t always an option if you’re working with a seatback screen (even though they’re wireless, Bose and other over-ear headphones brands always offer a wired connector.)

Another concern: On my first Covid-era flight a few months back, I dug out my QC 35 II headphones and they kept me audio isolated just fine. Did I really need an upgrade? To find out, I spent a few days with Bose’s new QuietComfort 45 headphones — not on planes, sadly, but in the InsideHook office and in the noisiest spot I know: rush hour on the NYC subways. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, shown in black and smoke white, the two available colors
The two colorways of Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones
Bose

Setting up: The set-up guide for the QC 45 is two steps. I ignored it and figured out how to pair my headphones, download the Bose Connect app and use the controls in about two minutes with no help. If you do need reminders on, say, how to use the voice assistant, the app has all the necessary info. 

The specs:

  • Arrives with carrying case, 12″ USB-C charging cable and 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm audio cable
  • Headphones: 7.25″ H x 6″ W x 3″ D (8.5 oz)
  • Bluetooth (5.1) range: up to 30 ft (9 m)
  • Two hours to fully charge; 24 hours of playtime on a full charge
  • Available in black or “white smoke”
  • Two listening modes (Quiet, Aware)
  • USB-C charging
  • Six microphones (four for voice)

What works:

  • The Quiet Mode. This is definitely some of the best noise cancellation I’ve experienced, even when I was just keeping the headphones on with no audio. People in the office talking near me were reduced to a very, very low mumble. And distorted subway announcements were completely lost — which means I did miss why we had a 10-minute delay, but that’s why …
  • There’s an Aware Mode. While the Bose 700 headphones offer 11 levels of noise cancellation, having just two on the QC 45 is an advantage, at least for quick switching. And when I flipped over to Aware, the world opened up nicely (while my music stayed clear)
  • They’re comfy. Lightweight, durable but flexible and featuring smooth ear cushions with no pleats and plush synthetic leather, the headphones were fine as an all-day wear. And my ears didn’t get overly warm after several hours of use.
  • Tactile controls. There are four buttons and one tiny switch, and you’ll figure out their use cases quickly … and never accidentally pause or skip a song.
Two screenshots from the Bose Music app, which pairs with the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones
Screenshots from the very minimalist Bose Music app
Kirk Miller

What kind of works:

  • The Bose Music app is almost unnecessary, but besides battery level, it also provides an easy-to-read list of product tips and a few settings you won’t be able to access from the headphones themselves, like voice levels on calls and an auto-off timer.
  • The headphones would find my phone and connect immediately after the first pairing set-up. My laptop took a bit longer, and even though Bose says you can connect two devices at once, I wasn’t able to get that feature to work (to use with my computer, I ended up manually disconnecting them from my phone)
  • I pretty much kept the headphones on all day, even when I wasn’t listening to music or podcasts, to check on their 24-hour claim. Based on the diminishing battery levels, I’d say that number might be closer to 20 hours. Still, plenty of power.

What needs work:

  • I’ve been testing out a lot of headphones, and I recently realized while Bose offers a nice, clean and balanced sound, it’s not what I’d call powerful or dynamic audio. Music and podcasts also sounded a bit distant, albeit crystal clear.
  • The headphones were surprisingly loud if I was listening to music and needed to take them off. You’ll want to reduce volume before you remove ‘em from your ear holes, unless you want everyone to know you’re listening to [checks Spotify playlist] Volbeat. 

What others are saying:

9/10. The noise-canceling could well be the best out right now — CNET

4.5/5. The Bose QuietComfort 45 isn’t the brand’s prime offering (that honor belongs to the Bose 700), but it’s a solid upgrade in the popular noise-cancelling headphones series. — Tom’s Guide

8.5/10. With the QC45s, Bose is moving away from the flashy, “modern” style of the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and going back to what worked. — The Verge

What we’re saying: I use Bose purely to shut out the world when I travel or when I’m concentrating at work. The QC 45 accomplishes that. But if you have the QC 35 II, like I do, there’s probably little reason to upgrade for now, even if the ANC is a bit better. I tend to use my Bose headphones for yearsif you don’t have a pair, get these and you won’t need another until maybe 2030 (no joke).

A pair of black Bose 700 headphones lying on a desk near a smartphone
For a sleeker look, touch controls and more noise cancellation options, consider Bose’s 700 headphones
Bose

As well, while I find this Bose model to be pleasantly minimalist, you may want to consider their 700 headphones, which offer 11 levels of noise cancellation, capacitive touch controls and hands-free access to voice assistants like Alexa (albeit with a slightly shorter battery life and higher price point).

Where to buy: The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are available here for $329.95.