Block out the world with Bose


 Audio reviewing is a funny thing – for someone like me, who would never consider themselves an audiophile, it seems like there’s a certain standard for products that, let’s face it, 95% of brands meet as a minimum.

I’ve never trialled a bad pair of headphones or earbuds. But I have trialled some truly exceptional ones – it will come as no surprise to those who know their audio products that the Bose QuietComfort II (QCEII for short) fall into that latter category, with a couple of caveats.

The QCEIIs arrive in a nicely crafted hard case that made me (horophile that I am) think I was receiving a watch I hadn’t ordered!

Inside, you’ve got a sleek charge case with buds inside. You also get your charge cable and a selection of ear tips and, for added comfort, stability bands that wrap around the bud to hold more firmly in your outer ear. They work, even with cardio workouts at the gym, the buds never felt in jeopardy.

Like most other earbuds, set-up is pretty simple. At its simplest, you simply pair it via Bluetooth to your laptop or phone – they say that Bose is best paired with Apple but I didn’t have any trouble connecting to my Android. You can also download the Bose Music app which, although slightly glitchy for me, gives you a whole host of extra options to play around with sound EQ and listening modes.

There are two modes already programmed into the buds and they can’t be changed: Aware seems to have little to no noise-cancelling and sound the same as if you’ve got music on a speaker in your chosen space. This mode’s particularly handy for if you’re out and about, crossing roads or things like that.

The second mode, Quiet, is exactly how it sounds. Putting the earbuds in while in Quiet mode makes it feel like the ambient noise of a space has been sucked out of your head – that sounds unnerving and it is, for the first few times but press the ‘play’ button and you’ll soon make your peace with it!

The user can create two additional modes of their own under a variety of names: Commute, Focus, Outdoor, Relax, etc, where they can set noise-cancelling levels to their own preference.

For some reason, I found it difficult to wear full noise cancelling while on public transport – that might be to do with my inconceivable ability to feel travel sick, even on a short PT trip, but either way, I had to set up a mode that reduced the noise cancelling to about the halfway mark.

For any kind of exercise, the Quiet mode was king, especially in the gym where activating it immediately blotted out the loud boom-boom music that you normally get in a gym. The range is also pretty good – I left my phone in the study to go out to the front yard (9/10 metres give or take) and the connection remained solid.

As mentioned, you can also play with the EQ in the app and, even though I left it alone in the end, it was quite interesting to experience some of my favourite songs with increased/decreased bass, mid-range, and treble. It gives you an idea of the type of work that goes into mixing these tracks.

And so we come to the main question – what do they sound like?

Well, again, no surprise that the answer is very, very good. There’s a reason Bose have been doing this for decades.

The sound is crisp and rich. On a track like Vladimir Martynov’s The Beatitudes, the violin is silky smooth where on a lesser device it could be tinny. The bass booms through in Sebastian Bohm’s instrumental version of Blue Monday – it almost reverberates through your body as you move.

And because the earbuds are comfortable to wear, you almost get the feeling that the sound is just there in your head, with no technological aid at all.

One or two points to note in terms of control – I am resigned to the finnicky nature of earbud control – maybe someone out there has the superpower of knowing exactly how much pressure to use for a sliding volume control but that person is not me.

The controls are relatively simple otherwise – one tap to pause, two to skip ahead, three to skip backwards, and the aforementioned slide to control volume.

If you remove an earbud, the music automatically stops – this can be switched off in the app if desired, although it’s generally a welcome feature.

One thing I did notice is that while the buds technically work if you only use one, you’ve got to be specific. You either start with one, leaving the other in the case; or you take the second one out, press play and leave the unused one out of the case. When you put it in the case, it seems to cut the connection completely from device to buds.

These are inconsequential issues that don’t really detract from the quality of the listening experience which, as I’ve said above, is really high-end.

The Bose QCEIIs are, without doubt, the best earbuds I’ve had the pleasure of popping in my ears and, if you want your music to sound as its artists intended, you’d certainly not go wrong with a pair of these beauties.


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