In this week’s spotlight, we’ll be taking a closer look at the excellent QuietComfort® siblings from the Atlas® Sound and Vision catalogue.
We’ll have a look at features which make the QuietComfort® 20 and 25s the flagship headphones from Bose®. Each one boasts a level of comfort and embedded technology that easily surpasses other headphones in their respective classes.
What do they do?
If you haven’t deduced from the QuietComfort® moniker, these two (the 20 and the 25) are noise-cancelling headphones. This is what they have in common and really, it is what they do best. First a bit of background and pedigree. Dr. Amar Bose, MIT professor, prolific inventor, and founder of Bose® Corporation—driven by his curiosity—developed a way of actively cancelling ambient noise by producing sound opposite to the prevailing noise. This idea, as legend presents, came to Dr. Bose during a flight from the USA to Switzerland in 1978. He was offered headphones on which to listen to music, but the cabin noise was all too overwhelming for the audio-conscious Dr. Bose to enjoy any of the music. With problem in mind (and a few flying hours to spend) he developed a noise-cancelling algorithm and upon returning to the US, started development at Bose® Laboratories. To this day, Bose® leads in noise-cancelling technology and applications.
Now back to our headphones. They carry advanced and much more refined versions of Dr. Bose’s earlier noise-cancelling units. Both headphones require a battery to power their noise-cancelling module. The QC20 comes with a built-in lithium-ion battery while the QC25 is powered by a single AAA battery. We should add that they both work fine as regular headphones should one run out of power for the noise-cancelling module.
Noise dampening begins once you put them on. Both headphones offer and good amount of passive noise cancellation via the seal created by around-ear pads or in-ear tips.
However, once powered and switched-on, ambient noise quite literally dissipates. Noise cancelling is especially good for repeating background noises. Think air-conditioning hum, or the heavy drone of an airplane engine. It still will reduce more present sounds like voices and telephones—they sound somewhat distant and faint. From our use in an open office, we’ve found that our productivity is increased by a considerable margin. Sure, regular headphones do isolate you, but the added insulation provided by active noise-cancellation takes our focus to another level. It’s not that we zone-out. It’s more about the number of distractions that are eliminated. On a recent long-haul flight, the QC25s proved to be such a god-send. Not only did it allow a great deal of productivity, but we who used it felt much less fatigued. It’s amazing how taxing repetitive noise can be on your state of mind. With the QC25s on the A380’s jet engines faded away. Bose® has tuned these newer models to block out low-frequency rumbling. This meant that music didn’t need to be turned too high (again less tiring on the ears).
What do they look like?
The larger of the two, the QuietComfort® 25, is a circumaural headphone. It has generous sized ear cups that go around the ears. These cups are padded with protein-leather-wrapped memory foam. Inside each cup, the divers are shielded by fabric with large R and L printed on them. This makes it easy to orient the headphones to your ears. The detachable cable (with in-line mic and music controls) goes into a plug on the left ear cup, while the right ear cup holds the battery and a switch to toggle noise-cancellation on and off. The cup faces are cool-to-the-touch aluminium with Bose® elegantly embossed.
The band that connects the two cups is made of composite plastic materials. The top section of this band is padded and wrapped in a special fabric used in high-end automotive applications. Why the detail? This section of a headset makes contact to the top of your head. After a while, pressure (however light) grows and can cause discomfort. This extra detail that Bose® provides ensures long-term comfort. The QC25 is designed to fold compact for easy packing. Where the cups meet, the band are pivots and hinges that give the QC25 shape-shifting abilities. The hinges are metal and are considerably tougher.
All together these around-ear headphones are light. So light you’d be forgiven if you forget that you’re wearing them. The choice of materials and how they have been combined give a premium and elegantly functional unit.
Now the QuietComfort® 20 is an in-ear headphone. In place of ear cups are soft and secure StayHear+ ear tips. These proprietary Bose® in-ears create a soft, secure fit with no need to be forced into the ears. The cone shape spreads contact evenly across the ear for maximum comfort. This forms a gentle seal that contributes to the headphones' full-spectrum noise reduction.
Follow the tangle-resistant cables down and you meet an in-line mic and remote. Along side the usual music and call controls is another button to toggle the ActiveAware mode. This function essentially squelches the noise-cancellation function so that you can be easily made aware of everything around you. Handy when crossing the street or tuning into a conversation. Keep going further and you’ll meet a small control unit closer to the 3.5mm input jack. The control box houses the smarts of the noise-cancelling system along with the built-in lithium-ion battery. To the side of the box are function buttons and LED indicators.
What do they sound like?
In a word: amazing. Bose® took their earlier model—the good sounding QuietComfort® 15s, listened to the customer comments and fine-tuned the drivers. The result: both QC20 and QC25 are clean and even handed at delivering audio. No harsh highs nor overwhelming lows. What you get is a well-balanced and open sound (yes, even from the in-ears). One of the biggest benefits of having active noise-cancellation is that you don’t need to push your source volume higher as you don’t need to compensate for the outside noise. This means you get to hear more detail from your music with much less ear fatigue. Overall, your ears will thank you.
Comparing the two, the QC20 seemingly has more bass. That’s to be expected from in-ears. The QC25 has a slightly more open soundstage. Again to be expected from speakers that sit just outside your ear. Both of them do well in eliciting an emotional response. What we mean is that both are capable of getting you involved with your music. They’ll get you tapping your feet and bobbing your head to the beat. Altogether, the music from both are neutral. Not analytical or cold. You might say it tends ever so slightly to the warmer side.
What’s in the box?
Bose® puts quite a few things in the QuietComfort® package. With the QC20s you get 3 pairs StayHear+ tips (S, M, L—choose one that fits you well), clothing clip, rechargeable lithium-ion battery (already built-in), a USB charging cable and handsome carrying case. Along with the QC25s you’ll find an inline remote and microphone cable, airline adapter, a clever carrying case (with a slot for a spare battery), and AAA battery to get you started.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you tried the Bose QuietComfort range? Do you own one? How has noise-cancelling saved your sanity? Tell us in the comments below.
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