Perhaps there has been a new noise canceling kid on the market since the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 was released in the summer of 2019, but that doesn’t mean the QuietComfort 35 II should be written off – in fact, they’re still among the best noise-canceling headphones that we tested.
If you want top-notch headphones, then you should definitely have a pair that offers both wireless operation and active noise cancellation – which is no easy feat given the common problems with Bluetooth and audio quality.
Bose already offered a pair of such headphones (the impressive Bose QuietComfort 35), but as voice assistants become more prominent, it is felt appropriate to update their flagship headphones with built-in support for Google Assistant.
Step inside the Bose QC35 II NC, the world’s first headphones to incorporate Google’s voice assistant – and many other brands have followed suit since its release in 2017.
With the Google Assistant on board, you can simply press and hold a button to interact with Google without yelling “OK Google”. The headphones will also read notifications to you so you don’t have to look for your smartphone in your pocket or pocket.
The addition of the Google Assistant is appreciated – it is – but comes at the cost of other, more useful features like autoplay / pause or instant mute.
While the QC35 II NC remains a solid recommendation for travelers and commuters, there are some annoying omissions from features that keep it from being on the top, especially for the $ 350 / £ 330 / AU $ 500 / 9,500 R price point.
TO UPDATE: Amazon Prime Day 2021 is just around the corner. We know that on June 21st and 22nd on Prime Day 2021 there are usually lots of discounts on devices – especially headphones. We’ll only know shortly whether the Bose QC35 II NC will be discounted, but if you’re in the market for new headphones, wait for the Prime Day 2021 deals to go into effect. Keep checking back on TechRadar as we will be collecting the best discounts ahead of the big day.
The Bose QC35 II NC looks just like the previous generation headphones, except for the new Google Assistant button on the left earcup. The headphones come in black or silver and their design is … well, overwhelmingly generic. That makes them perfect for the humble business class traveler, but less perfect for those looking to make an impression with their headphones on.
Also disappointing is the plastic construction, which, while nice to save weight, feels extremely cheap, especially when compared to luxury headphones like this Master & Dynamic MW50that washes your head in lambskin and aluminum.
Fortunately, the plastic construction doesn’t affect the headphones’ resilience as they are very solid to the touch. The headphones also come with a travel hard case, which is nicer than the pouches many headphone manufacturers use.
The plastic construction adds to the comfort of the QC35 II NC, and we were impressed with how comfortable the headphones were to use for an extended period of time. While plastic doesn’t feel as nice to the touch as metal, it does wonders in weight-saving, which travelers will love on long flights.
The pads that Bose uses in the QC35 II NC are amazing as they block a lot of ambient noise even when the noise cancellation is turned off. This is great if you want to save the battery and listen with the noise canceling turned off.
The controls on the headphones are just as simple and effective: they have a switch-on and pairing slider on the right earcup as well as buttons for increasing / decreasing the volume and playback. The left earcup only houses a button for Google Assistant, although you can remap the button using the Bose Android or iOS app to toggle noise cancellation.
Bose QC35 II specifications
Weight: 10.9 ounces
Battery life: 20 hours)
Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 4.1
Google Assistant is the headline feature of the Bose QC35 II NC and for the most part works well. During our tests, we were impressed with the speed and accuracy of the Google Assistant and how well the headphones could pick up our voice even in a crowded train and coffee shop.
Before turning on the headphones for the first time, you will be prompted to download the Bose app for your phone as the headphones use the app for many functions such as toggling the noise cancellation, remapping the Google Assistant button, updating the firmware and more requires.
The app is simple and worked well, although from time to time we’ve had some connection issues on Android where the app doesn’t recognize our headphones. Restarting the app would fix this, so hopefully Bose will keep working on its mobile app to be more stable.
Using the Google Assistant with the Bose QC35 II NC works the same as before Google Home. You can ask him to read headlines, add reminders, or ask tons of other questions. The assistant also reads you your incoming notifications, which is nice but may be redundant if you already have a smartwatch.
In short, the addition of Google Assistant is nice, but by no means the reason you should buy the Bose QC35 II NC: Get these headphones for their great noise cancellation, balanced sound, and incredible comfort.
Where Bose falls short are simple things like automatically pausing your music when you take off your headphones. There is also no instant mute function like on the Sony WH-1000XM2, where you can put your palm over an ear cup to hear what is going on around you. This feature is a godsend for travelers who need to hear the airport PA quickly. It’s disappointing that Bose doesn’t include these features when the budget is sufficient Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 has both.
The strength of Bose is active noise cancellation and this is evident in the QC35 II NC. Turning on noise cancellation is like walking into a quiet room after being on a busy city street. The headphones drown out everything from the rumble of a train, cars passing by, and even voices.
There is still some pressure we felt with noise cancellation enabled, but it wasn’t bad. (However, they may not like those who are sensitive to noise canceling.) The headphones are great at blocking out ambient noise even when the noise canceling is turned off, which testifies to Bose’s ear pad design.
In terms of sound, the Bose QC35 II NC is good, but not class-leading. While the tonal balance is relatively neutral with slight mid-bass bumps, the sound is much better when compared to competitors like the Sony WH-1000X M2 (formerly the Sony MDR-1000X). This means that the dynamic range is somewhat limited and makes for a somewhat dull display. The resolution is good but not great and the soundstage is average.
Most listeners will find the sound quality of the Bose great on its own. Audiophiles will be happy with the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2 instead.
The battery life is an excellent 20 hours with noise cancellation turned on and at moderate volume. We found this review to be spot on and you don’t have to worry about charging these headphones in the middle of a flight. However, the battery is not removable like that B&O Beoplay H9 So bring a microUSB charging cable and battery with you just in case.
If you want to save some battery life, you can hear in wired mode with the noise cancellation still on, which is a nice option. It’s annoying that Bose decided to go for a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable – which means finding a replacement isn’t that easy – but it’s by no means a deal breaker.
Bose took the already excellent QC35 and updated it with Google Assistant. The headphones are identical in every way except for the new Google Assistant button. This means you still get the top-notch noise cancellation Bose is known for, great sound quality, and incredible comfort.
The Google Assistant works well on both Android and iOS and offers an experience similar to using a Google Home. The headphones also read back your notifications, which may be redundant for smartwatch users. Google Assistant is nice to have, but by no means why you should buy these headphones.
Overall, the Bose QC35 II NC are great headphones for travelers and commuters. Bose has struck a good balance of features that will satisfy most mainstream listeners. Audiophiles, however, should check out our roundup of the best headphones for the ultimate in sound quality.
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