Get on a plane anywhere and you'll see frequent flyers wearing headphones to drown out that background noise and interference. A lot of the time this will be the Bose QC35 cans adorn such travelers' heads - because the American company makes what is widely regarded as the best active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones out there.
- The best ANC headphones: behind the ear, in the ear and beyond
But times have changed and the competition is tougher than ever. We've seen significant success from Sony, Bowers & Wilkins, Beoplay, among others. Bose hasn't had any of it though, with 2019 to reveal its 700 Intelligent Noise Canceling Headphones, built from the ground up over-the-ears, which are here to take back the ANC crown.
We lived with the 700 for two weeks, during which time we tested them on three long-haul flights, on public transport, walking, walking on the streets and in the office. Spoiler alert: You'll struggle to find a better pair of over-the-ear noise canceling headphones.
Design & Comfort
- Measures: 203 x 165 x 51mm / Weight: 250g
- Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Siri support
- Case included (218 x 179 x 62mm)
- USB-C charging (cable included, no connector)
- 2.5-3.5mm cable for passive listening
- Touch control (i.e./skip/pause/play)
- Black / silver finish
Available in black or silver, the first thing you'll see about the Bose 700 headphones is that the quality has upped its game compared to the second's QC35. It's not that the latter was badly built - it used high quality materials like anodized aluminium, but it just didn't to look like as if he did.
The Headphone 700 changes that. The design is built around a stainless steel main frame, with a double swivel arm that is designed to sit in the perfect place on any head. It swivels in all necessary directions to suit head length and shape, temple adjustment, and folds so these cans sit comfortably when sat idly by the neck. Even if worn loosely around the neck nothing gets in the way or digs to any degree, it's all just comfort.
We wear these headphones for many hours at a time - including while sleeping on flights - and find them very comfortable. No unreasonable pinch, but the fit feels good sticking to the ears; There is no burrowing headband into the skull, due to the gel silicone material and padding used, and the leather-like earmuff lining feels luxurious against the petals.
But, as you'll see from our photo, there's more than once in the Bose 700 headphones. What if you QC35 users want to go to the next level, can strike fear in the heart. We thought this might be a hurdle for many buyers, but having side-swept two pairs, including their wear cases, the difference isn't particularly big: after all, the 700 is thinner and therefore her body is taller, but less fat. So, as it turns out, we didn't miss out on folding when we thought it would be a big problem in the first place.
In addition, the non-folding design means the noise canceling 700 brings a much cleaner design. No screws sticking out anywhere to be seen. There are hardly any creases or divisions in the materials, it all looks remarkably smooth. There is a small, subdued logo on each earcup - we advise all brands opt for this, none of the massive logo embellishments that JBL seems to love - and finish as being made of stainless steel is tougher and more resistant to scratch-resistant than previous Bose headphones offerings. Of course, we've only been wearing it for two weeks, but so far clamping these cans into bags with other technological elements has not caused any trouble.
Touch control is another big advantage of this design. In front of the right earphone appearance can be used as follows: drag the mouse up to increase the volume; drag down to decrease the volume; swipe forward to skip track, swipe back to skip rewind/repeat track; and double click to play/pause.
It's all intuitive, you don't have to tap too hard (although you'll get some slight resonant feedback while doing it), and the nimble control of the volume control isn't 'in' style, as it traces with your finger and can go from, say, three-quarters volume up to half in flash - super smooth. No ugly markings or buttons, making for an easy introduction. We found this very handy when, say, getting into an elevator and wanting to turn down the tune before swiping up while exiting the volume boost and walking down the street.
Noise canceling mode and sound quality
- 10 levels of active noise cancellation (ANC)
- Optional level 0 on transparency mode
- 8 system microphones for isolation
- Beam-speech isolation system
- 20 hours of operation on a single battery charge
But the real reason you'll be buying these headphones is for the active noise canceling technology. Which has had a major overhaul in the 700 headphones with the introduction of transparency mode and 10 different degrees of noise reduction strength.
All of this is quickly adjustable in the Bose music app, when connected to headphones via Bluetooth. However, like you, you don't always feel like digging into what's in the app; a dedicated button on the left earcup controls noise cancellation in two ways: either on/off if it's settings in the app; or by iterating over the three allocated levels (which are 0, 5 and 10 by default, but could be, say, 6, 8 and 10) as you wish.
Bose is renowned for its noise canceling technology because it delivers a strong form that is great for travelers looking to cut out train, plane and other on-the-go sounds. But sometimes it can maybe be a little too much, like being sucked into a vacuum. With the 700 headphones, being able to dive down to, say, 7 levels rather than a full 10 is perfect for those looking for more subtlety. Even level 0 (which is transparent mode) offers some sound isolation, but allows for most audio, especially voices, so conversation is easy to get through.
All this makes these new banks much more versatile in their appeal. Like adding a voice assistant, with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple's Siri all supported from outside. You just have to choose the one you're using in the Bose app and good job Kun - activation happens with a dedicated button on the right earcup. The location of this button is quite odd, but as we've accidentially fired up an unregistered assistant several times, interrupting playback when we were looking for the Bluetooth pairing button instead. Luckily you don't have to have it active.
Noise canceling technology is one thing, but the action is my Bose with voice isolation technology in the 700 headphones. Indeed, this is the first company to use what is called an adaptive quad microphone to isolate the voice from ambient noise - which can be useful in a video conference or by phone.
As much as we love the idea - and it worked well when tested on the streets of Central London - we just don't see the 700 Series as the pinnacle of the place for that kind of technology to come. Maybe it's just our way of being, but I don't usually feel like wearing headphones when making phone calls. But, hey, to each their own, and when this technology is rolled out to other locations we're confident that this upgraded beam technology will be greatly received.
Much more important to us is the soundproofing and cancellation. Walking the streets in a relatively strong wind it became apparent that these banks do a great job of resisting an extra wind tear (such distorted awful hum that is often unavoidable due to the presence of microphones used in noise cancellation). Of course, the 700 cannot deny this 100 percent, but since there are many microphones present in the headphone design, it adapts what is used and when, even depending on the direction of the wind, and keep the sound clear. It's the best we've experienced from such a pair of headphones and no write-offs go down the road while listening to music.
When it comes to sound quality, the noise canceling headphones 700 also deliver with aplomb, offering crisp highs, chiming mids and plenty of bass. The low end really comes alive with noise cancellation maximized where it almost feels connected to your brain. And how we love cerebral rumble. But it's not all about the low-end: whether we're listening to spoken language on Chernobyl podcast, or banging ringtones thanks hospital records podcasts, there is a wide choice in processing. If the battery calls it a day, then there is a 2.5-3.5mm cable included for passive listening.
Speaking of which, the onboard battery is said to provide up to 20 hours of listening time. Using USB-C for recharging, however, means just 15 minutes on the plug can provide around 90 minutes of playback, which is potentially very useful if you forget to toggle noise cancellation off (a feature that can be set to turn off automatically from within the app - but not by default). for those travelers who would like to leave the ANC even if there is no trigger signal on the headphones, usually as a sleeping pill). We're closer to 15 hours on a single charge, but it's still a good enough and comfortable conversational voice to tell you how much time is left when switching the earphones on each time.
The app is also adept, offering the ability to pair with two devices, which is great for phone and laptop switch with ease - and point source for all the detailed settings. However, unfortunately there is no EQ (EQ) adjustment here, which we would like to see. Not because we don't like the 700 sound profile, so some tracks/records can do with a certain boost from time to time.