When I slipped the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones over my ears, I transported to the "sweet spot" of a recording studio — the place with the most immersive soundstage for listening to all the elements that bring a rock song together.
With spatialized audio and at the forefront, the new $429 Bose QuietComfort Ultra replace the Bose 700 as the company's flagship noise-cancelling headphones. They arrive with an updated design, improved performance and a few more hours of battery life than their predecessor.
I had the chance to go hands-on with the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones ahead of full availability in October. Here are my first impressions, plus everything else you'll need to know.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones price and availability
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones will arrive for $429 in “early October,” though Bose did not announce a specific release date. Before then, you can pre-order the headphones on Bose.com.
It's worth pointing out that the Bose 700 costs $399 when they debuted, so there is a $50 price bump for the QuietComfort Ultra. For $349, Bose has also announced the Bose QuietComfort Headphones to replace the Bose QuietComfort 45. The non-Ultra cans don't get the new set of immersive audio features, though.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones design
I'll admit, I never really liked the Bose 700 design. I thought the telescoping arms bisecting the earcups looked a bit cartoon-ish, and the rigid headband limited flexibility.
By comparison, I think the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones look much more approachable. Their appearance — limited to Black and White Smoke color options — isn't as zestful as the AirPods Max, but the simplistic, modern look is still sharp.
There’s a 2.5mm headphone jack and USB-C input for charging on the left cup, and a connection button and control button on the right cup. A short press of the control button is a pause/play toggle, while a long press activates a carousel of settings you can configure with the Bose app. The unit I tried had "Aware" (a.k.a. transparency), Quiet, and Immersive Audio as presets.
Also on the right earcup is a capacitative volume rail, which you can feel as a raised strip. From first impressions, using the volume control felt intuitive and I found it performed responsively.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones fold in and fit into a rigid oval zipper pouch. Not only does this promote compact storage, but it makes it seem like the case would offer the pricey headphones the necessary protection, too.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones performance and features
Universal spatialized audio in the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones is made possible by proprietary digital signal processing software, so whatever music source or streaming platform you use, you should benefit from immersive listening.
With the new "Still" setting, I felt like I was listening to live music. Sound wrapped around my head with a degree of intention that I can't say I've heard from headphones before.
And let me tell you, the degree of immersion on the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones is phenomenal from first impressions. With the new "Still" setting, I felt like I was listening to live music. Sound wrapped around my head with a degree of intention that I can't say I've heard from headphones before. Of course, I was in a controlled environment, so I'd need to spend more time analyzing the performance across a variety of genres, as well as seeing whether the "Motion" setting delivers the same dynamic listening experience when I'm on-the-go.
The noise cancellation and transparency quality is there, too. With ANC enabled, I couldn't hear a lick of simulated city sounds fed into the listening space for the sake of the demo. In pass-through mode, ambient sounds and conversations sounded real, not simply recreated via the headphone microphones.
Speaking of microphones, I didn't get to try call quality or voice assistants, but a new beamforming array claims to prioritize my voice even with 360 degrees of environmental sounds.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones battery life
Bose says the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones should get 24 hours of continuous listening on a full charge. That said, enabling immersive audio modes brings that estimate down to 18 hours. In this respect, Bose's headphones aren't likely to be the best headphones for battery life, with the Sony WH-1000XM5 lasting 30 hours with ANC turned on.
Considering battery life is often a big factor for our headphone recommendations, we'll need to see how it performs in day-to-day use, as well as how quickly the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones recharge.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones outlook
I'm seriously impressed by the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones from what I've seen and heard. While $429 certainly isn't cheap, the spatialized audio performance seems to live up to the asking price.
An in-depth review is needed to see how they stack up against the best headphones out now, but it's safe to say the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones could set a new standard for what I means to be immersed in sound.