After listening to lots of audio products, these wireless headphones provided us with one of the best personal listening experiences we've ever had the pleasure of partaking. And that came as a bit of a surprise, as we honestly felt that Bose didn't have much room to improve on the previous iterations of their headphones. But the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 impressed us with top-notch noise cancellation that doesn't make your ears feel like they're in a vacuum, touch controls that work more intuitively than those of competitors, and the signature balanced, robust, and crisp Bose sound. To top it all off, these headphones are compatible with Bose's new augmented reality audio experiences that, depending on how the technology evolves and is leveraged in the future, could be a fantastic feature. In the end, we really only have two complaints about these headphones: the name (c'mon guys, you couldn't be a little more creative?) and the high price tag, though considering all the performance you get from these cans that price point feels pretty fair.Editor's Note: We update this review on January 18, 2022. It now includes more information on why we love these headphones but what else you might consider if the price isn't right.
Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Review
Pros: Excellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comfortable
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|Pros||Excellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comfortable||Superb active noise cancellation and overall sound quality, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, auto-pause, relatively comfortable for most people||Great sound quality, good noise cancellation, comfortable, built-in Google Assistant||Great sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly features||Inexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortable|
|Cons||Expensive||Expensive||Expensive||Expensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the field||Lacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller heads|
|Bottom Line||Pillowy comfort and one of the best personal listening experiences we've enjoyed from any device||Top-notch in terms of both noise cancellation and sound quality, it's hard to find a better listening experience||Top of the line headphones that offer nearly everything you could want||Premium cans that offer unique features on top of great sound quality and noise cancellation||Impressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfort|
|Rating Categories||Bose Noise Cancelli...||Sony WH-1000XM4||Bose QuietComfort 3...||Jabra Elite 85h||Soundcore Life Q20|
|Sound Quality (30%)|
|Noise Isolation (25%)|
|User Friendliness (10%)|
|Specs||Bose Noise Cancelli...||Sony WH-1000XM4||Bose QuietComfort 3...||Jabra Elite 85h||Soundcore Life Q20|
|Manufacturer reported battery life (hours)||20||30||40 wired, 20 BT||36||40|
|Measured weight (ounces)||9.2||8.8||10.9||10.5||9.3|
|Included case||Semi-hard case||Semi-hard case||Semi-hard case||Semi-hard case||Lined drawstring pouch|
|Earcup padding cover material||Leather||Foamed urethane/leatherette||Synthetic protein leather||Leatherette||Leatherette|
|Charging cable length (inches)||42"||7.9"||47.2"||12"||40"|
|Microphone for voice?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Onboard buttons||Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls||Volume, change track, take/make calls||Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling||Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls, toggle between sound modes||Volume, multifunction, power, NC|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Noise Cancelling 700 provides great sound quality, superior noise-canceling technology, and all-day comfort. There's not much more you could ask for from a set of headphones.
We felt like listening to music on the Noise Cancelling 700 (with its titular technology turned on) gave it a whole new life. Even when hearing our favorite songs that have run through our playlists hundreds of times, they suddenly felt a bit brighter and more evocative. This is largely thanks to the near-perfect balance of deep, precise bass and well-defined, crisp upper ranges that meld together to create a completely engulfing sound, making you feel more present in the music. We found heavier numbers to feel more punchy and invigorating and slower pieces to feel more articulate and nuanced. If you're a podcast nerd like us, you'll enjoy the sensation of closing your eyes and feeling like you're in the studio right next to podcaster Jad Abumrad. Essentially, if you're an audiophile that wants headphones that can please even your discriminating standards, these certainly get our recommendation.
The Bose 700 actually leverages its noise-canceling technology into its phone calls as well, soaking up your voice but canceling all other ambient noise. It even plays your own voice back into the headphones so you can hear yourself talk. While this feature doesn't work quite as well as the standard noise-canceling (both caller and callee were often able to hear some of the background din during a call), it makes talking on the phone feel much more natural than it does with many other active noise-canceling headphones. Other models often had us popping one ear cup off when making phone calls because it felt so odd to not really be able to hear your own voice when speaking.
Bose's engineers outdid themselves with the 700, creating noise-canceling technology that offers near-silence in which to enjoy your music, yet with virtually none of the odd side effects.
The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 passed our baseline test, sitting next to a fan emitting 70 dB of noise, with flying colors, completely eliminating all fan noise. It continued to shine when we took it out into the real world. Even in a bustling cafe, we could barely hear any of the din with no music playing. Once the music was turned on, we generally had no awareness of the surrounding cacophony, even at a low volume. The same went for train stations and long flights, where we were treated to fantastic music almost completely unencumbered by the shackles of noise pollution. Even when we didn't have music playing, we couldn't hear the people sitting next to us talking.
What might be even more impressive than the 700's noise-canceling ability is the fact that it achieves such isolation without creating an odd sensation in your eardrums. When using headphones with active noise cancellation, many people report feeling pressure or a vacuum in their ears (which are two sides of the same coin). Even the best models we've tested can only minimize that feeling, but the Bose 700 manages to all but eliminate it.
In general, and particularly for those with large ears, Bose has been the field leader in headphone comfort for many years, and the 700 is no exception.
Despite a complete aesthetic redesign, the 700 maintains its predecessors' signature ergonomic earcup shape and still uses Bose's proprietary padding and faux leather. This results in ear cups that accommodate even large ears without creating any hotspots and a soft, pillowy feeling as the cups rest onto your head. The band applies just the right amount of pressure to make the headphones feel secure but not restrictive and has just the right amount of padding to prevent any discomfort on the top of your head.
The only comfort complaint we got about these headphones was that they are a tad heavier than many other models. At 9.2 ounces, they are on the heavy side of average, but even those that noticed the extra weight didn't feel it kept the headphones from being comfortable when worn for long periods of time.
We've generally been a bit wary of touch controls on wireless headphones, but the 700 manages to apply the technology with aplomb, making these headphones quite user-friendly.
The right ear cup of the 700 serves as a touchpad, allowing you to control most basic functions. Swiping up and down to adjust volume and forward and back to skip tracks feels very intuitive, and the pad feels responsive, particularly when making subtle volume adjustments. Double tapping to play and pause is a bit less intuitive but works well once you realize you need to tap twice instead of just once. Since Bose released these headphones in the summer, we'll have to wait a bit before we can ascertain the touchpad's cold-weather performance.
Separate from the touchpad, there are two buttons on the outside of the right earcup and one on the left earcup. The button on the left earcup lets you cycle through three different noise cancellation presets. The default presets are off, 50% and 100%, but with the Bose Music app, you can select any one of 11 noise cancellation levels for those presets. Holding the button for a second pauses your music, turns off noise-canceling, and turns on conversation mode, which allows you to hear everything around you. You can then press the button again, or touch the touchpad, to get straight back into your music. The buttons on the right cup let you summon a virtual assistant (the 700 is compatible with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant) and turn the headphones on and off. Speaking of on and off, there is also an auto-off mode that can turn the headphones off autonomously if they haven't moved for more than 10 minutes (yup, there's an accelerometer in there).
As far as top-shelf wireless headphones go, the Bose 700 is quite well designed for travel. While the high-quality carrying case that the phones come with is a bit bigger than those of many competitors, Bose has opted for a wider and flatter shape. We've found this shape often fits better in a laptop bag than the smaller but boxier designs of other models. It also lets Bose do away with the hinges on the headphones, resulting in a much sleeker look. The 700 can last 20 hours on a single charge, plenty for a long plane ride, and the quick charging USB-C port can net you 2 hours of playback from just 15 minutes of charging. You can usually get a full charge in less than 3 hours.
What is Bose AR?
Bose developed an augmented reality audio program when they first started to put speakers into sunglasses, and the 700 is the first pair of headphones to be privy to the technology. The headphones rely on the computing power of your smartphone to do things like warning you if your train is going to be late, let you know what Yelp thinks of the restaurants you walk by and suggest a soundtrack for your particular location based on what other people have listened to there. Bose has also released some other features of varying usefulness that show the capabilities of the technology. For instance, the headphones can hear a song playing where you are and then play the same song, synced up to the timing of the live version near you, so you can hear it better (like we said, probably not something most people would use, but dang if that isn't impressive). The system is open to independent developers, so there's no telling how it might be used in the future. Still, we're hoping for geographically-aware audio tours of museums narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Should You Buy the Bose Noise Cancelling 700?
The list price of these headphones is what you'd expect for a pair of top-tier noise-canceling headphones, and if you're willing to pay a premium for great performance, we think they are a fair kickback. For those that demand the highest quality audio possible or that need as much of the outside world blocked out as possible so they can concentrate, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 definitely fit the bill. Pushing them over the top is their overall comfort.
What Other Wireless Headphones Should You Consider?
On the flip-side, these are not the absolute best of the bunch in our tests, and they sport a price tag that is about fifty dollars more than our absolute favorites. Depending on your goals and needs, we think the Sony WH-1000XM4 are ones to consider as they offer slightly better sound quality. While their score for comfort is just beneath the Bose, we suspect most users won't notice the difference as much as they do the $50 savings. However, if on-board functionality and buttons are your things, the Bose is definitely the one you want, and the price bump might feel worth it to you.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell
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