Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II serious about noise cancellation

Bose doesn’t want Apple to swear all in the spotlight today. On the day Apple showed its latest AirPods Pro model, Bose showed off the QuietComfort Earbuds II – $299.99 wireless earbuds that claim to deliver the “best noise cancellation in the world,” according to Bose’s press release. They’re available for pre-order in black today (white coming the first week of October) and shipping begins September 15.

I spent about 10 minutes with the new earbuds at the launch event, with Bose storming the press with a cacophony of sounds from everyday life (trains, planes, cars) to show off two new features: CustomTune sound calibration and Aware mode. with ActiveSense . It’s impressive; ANC always makes a big difference, but the jump sounded particularly big. With the “Silent” mode activated, I had to seriously try my best to hear the sounds in the background.

The CustomTune process locally recalibrates each earbud each time you take them out of the case. It plays a quick startup sound, then calculates how your ear canal distorts the sound and adjusts accordingly. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all ANC filter to work its magic for everyone’s ears, it leaves the guesswork to an algorithm. Both you and I have heard numerous companies say they adapt the sound to your ear anatomy, but this one was pretty convincing.

The white-colored version of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II will ship in early October, without the initial launch.
Image: Bose

The other new feature, ActiveSense, works in Aware Mode – Bose’s name for its Transparency Mode, which lets in outside noise and adjusts ANC sensitivity in real time based on the sounds happening around you. Each earbud has four microphones: one on the inside and three on the outside. Bose says this microphone array can “detect, measure and transmit unwanted noise to a proprietary electronic chip” to cancel it in “less than a fraction of a millisecond.” I was also impressed here. The ambient sound was much more realistic and a lot less noisy and distorted than I’m used to. We’ll have to wait and see if the seemingly solid microphone quality translates into good-sounding voice calls.

The QuietComfort Earbuds II use Bluetooth 5.3, although they don’t have multipoint pairing, which is a strange omission at this price. Bose claims they last up to six hours with ANC on, and the USB-C charging case (no wireless charging) supports an additional 18 hours of battery life. A 20-minute charge in the case can provide up to two hours of playback time. They have IPX4 water resistance, which is good for sweat and light rain, but probably not a downpour. The earbuds come with three earbuds and three stability bands.

Bose had to show off something good to justify its launch on an Apple event day. We’ll have to spend more time testing, but in my short time with the demo unit in a controlled environment, the sound quality was great in both “Quiet” and “Aware” modes – enough that I’d consider giving my over-ear WH-1000XM3s. While their low-profile design might limit the amount of splash they’ll make today, keep it locked for our review to see if the QuietComfort Earbuds II can live up to Bose’s hype.

A woman wearing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II looks contentedly into the distance.

At a glance, the QuietComfort Earbuds II could pass for some of Bose’s other wireless earbuds.
Image: Bose