Sometimes it seems like wireless earbuds are taking control. What once seemed like a niche product for tech freaks who didn’t know anything about sound quality has soon become a mainstream offering. As technology has improved, so has sound quality – and prices have come down at the same time. No wonder so many people cut the cord and go really wireless.
Apple’s AirPods Pro are some of the best you can buy, but they now have new competition from Hi-Fi Bose. It just announced the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, a premium pair of noise-canceling buds that look very appealing indeed.
But can they do enough to beat Apple̵
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Apple AirPods Pro: Price
The AirPods Pro are Apple’s top-end wireless earbuds, so they’re not cheap. They currently sell for £ 249 ($ 249, AU $ 399), though there’s a good chance you can find an AirPods Pro deal somewhere. Students can also get them for free with certain Mac or iPad purchases. Please visit the Apple website for more information.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are only £ 1 more expensive in the UK at £ 250 and USD 30 more in America at USD 280. As such, this round goes to Apple. Straight.
** Winner ** Apple AirPods Pro
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds versus Apple AirPods Pro: battery life
One of the disadvantages of a wireless device is that it requires charging. With a total of 24 hours of runtime per charge, the AirPods Pro are one of the more durable pairs.
Of course, you don’t get the full 24 hours at once. The buds themselves have a battery life of five hours. The supplied carrying case offers an additional 19 by multiple charging. So while you can’t hear for 24 hours, you can work that long without finding an electrical outlet.
The Bose QuietComfort earbuds don’t do quite as well. The buds hold six hours of juice while the fall gives an additional 12 hours for a total of 18 hours.
Both pairs have fast charging technology. The AirPods Pros let you listen for an hour after a five-minute blast, while Bose’s earbuds promise two hours of music time from a 15-minute juice-up.
** Winner ** Apple AirPods Pro
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds versus Apple AirPods Pro: Design
Aesthetically, the two are very different. Apple is all about white curves and shiny surfaces – in other words, usually Apple. Bose’s are a bit stronger in their industrial design, with an oval look and muted colors (triple black or a beige-y soapstone are your options). The AirPods Pro are only available in white.
Both have silicone tips that dig into your ears to stay in place while moving, and both come in three sizes. So you should find some that fit.
Maybe it’s just us, but we’re a little beyond the typical white look of the AirPods. It’s a bit of an iPod ad circa-2003. That, and the fact that they come in more color options, give the QuietComfort earbuds this round.
** Winner ** Bose QuietComfort earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs Apple AirPods Pro: Features
As with all Apple, there is no lack of nice features with the AirPods Pro. They have touch controls, but they can be a little tricky to get to grips with, especially on the go. You can perform an “Ear Tip Fit Test” on your iPhone, during which five seconds of music are played, which is analyzed to identify any sound leaks. If you get a green “Good Seal” score, you’re good to go. However, if the pros do find a problem, they will be asked to try a different size tip.
Apple’s H1 chip makes pairing a breeze and playback goes smoothly.
While we haven’t reviewed the Bose QuietComfort earbuds yet, we can examine their spec sheet to see what features they offer. Like the AirPods Pro, they have noise suppression – more on that later – and the volume-optimized Active EQ technology from Bose. This works automatically to adjust the highlighting of low and high frequencies so that you get consistent performance across all volume levels.
Bluetooth 5.1 promises a range of 30 feet and the waterproof IPX4 rating ensures that they withstand a rain shower. That’s the same rating as the AirPods Pro.
** Winner ** Tie
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Apple AirPods Pro: Noise Cancellation
Both pairs offer active noise cancellation (ANC). But they are pursuing completely different approaches.
Each AirPod Pro has two microphones: one on the outside to detect incoming noise, which can be canceled out by noise cancellation, and one on the inside, which detects noise that passes through the seal and analyzes how your music reacts to the individual geometry Of your ear. The noise cancellation is continuously adjusted 200 times per second – according to Apple this is an industry first.
There are no levels of noise cancellation – either on or off – although there is a transparency mode that lets in more outside noise so you can hear prompts and try conversations.
Bose is the forefather of noise cancellation – after all, the company invented the first pair of commercially available noise canceling headphones. The over-ear models offer fantastic – and yes, class-leading – noise cancellation, and the same technology has impacted the in-ear models as well. Of course we expect great things here too.
The QuietComfort earbuds have eleven levels of noise cancellation that you can select using the Bose Music app on your phone. For isolated voice calls as well as music playback, the microphone array on the right earbud picks up the sound of your voice and suppresses noise around you – something that worked very well with the Noise Canceling Headphones 700.
Now, we haven’t tested Bose’s QuietComfort earbuds, so we can’t vouch for how effective the noise cancellation is. But like I said, it works great in Bose’s other headphones. We look forward to a test drive.
** Winner ** Tie … for now
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds versus Apple AirPods Pro: sound quality
The AirPods Pro offer Apple’s typically neutral sound balance – there is no tendency to throbbing bass. They sound more spacious than their design suggests (this is due to the air vents Apple built in). As a result, it’s more like listening outdoors than having music pumped right into your brain like some in-ear headphones do. And that’s a very good thing.
The midrange is particularly impressive. Vocals have a lot of texture and detail, while the treble has a fair amount of shine too. It’s just a shame that the sound quality suffers a bit with noise canceling or transparency mode enabled. It’s not a massive step down, but it’s there anyway.
We still have to test the QuietComfort earphones, so we cannot assess their sound quality. But if they have anything to do with Bose’s other wireless earbuds, we’ll be happy.
The closest equivalent is the Bose SoundSport Frees. These provide a good seal for your ear without feeling too invasive – it’s a difficult balance that many earbuds can’t strike. They offer a bold but balanced sound with a rich, weighty bass that works well across a range of genres. Cross your fingers, the QuietComfort earphones meet or even exceed this very high standard.
** Winner ** Tie … for now
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Apple AirPods Pro: Verdict
While we can make some early conclusions in certain areas (like design and battery life), we also can’t declare any of the winners without reviewing the Bose QuietComfort earbuds. Nevertheless, it is certainly interesting to measure them against each other on paper.
The AirPods Pro have better battery life and great sound quality, but then the QuietComfort earbuds have a more interesting look and more detailed noise cancellation that could prove to be even more effective.
Based on Bose’s track record, they should make an excellent pair of earbuds and a real challenger to not just the AirPods Pro but the best wireless headphones out there as well. We can’t wait to audition them.
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