For years, whenever someone asked what brand of headphones to buy for a flight, the answer was simple: Bose. The company’s QuietComfort line has long been synonymous with dampening aircraft noise on long flights. But in recent years, the question has become increasingly difficult, as companies like Apple and Sony have risen to the top of the category.
In mid-September, the company once again planted its flag in the sand. The popular QuietComfort range I was getting upset, with three new entries: the $299 QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, the $349 QuietComfort Earbuds, and the $429 QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. The latter (which, as the title suggests, is our focus today) replaces the $379 Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 (now $279).
As far as naming conventions go, it’s certainly simpler and more streamlined. At least you know where the Quiet Comfort Ultra earbuds stack up against the QuietComfort earbuds (they’re, you know, more ultra). You’ve probably already balked at the price, as any reasonable, non-wealthy person would. The race for premium headphones may have intensified, but that doesn’t make the products any cheaper. We’re about to hit half a mile here.
Are there noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones worth $429? This is a question I certainly can’t answer for everyone. What I can say is that if there are any, it’s them. Bose has created some of the most comfortable, best-performing headphones I’ve ever tested, coupled with best-in-class noise cancellation. These things are indeed the real deal.
Luckily, Bose managed to deliver the pair ahead of a cross-country flight earlier this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to check the size of the auxiliary jack. What can I say, it’s been a while since I’ve worn Bose headphones on a plane (thanks Sony for that), so I’d forgotten that the headphones themselves sport a 2.5mm port, rather than the more standard port. 3.5mm. When all else fails, just follow what they send you in the box.
So no entertainment on the backrest thanks to the new QuietComfort for me this trip. That’s fine, there was nothing good anyway. For the rest of the flight, you’re not going to beat these things for comfort: they’re lightweight and well-padded with a soft lining. The active noise cancellation also did a great job of eliminating the white noise of the plane and even a little of the child’s screams towards the rear. Not quite on that last point, though – the technology just isn’t there yet.
The ANC is good enough, however, that I had to actively switch to “aware” mode when using the headphones during a podcast. Once activated, it was honestly too difficult to hear myself speak, which destabilized me (apologies to the interviewee for this).
Aside from the price, there is one notable complaint. Battery life isn’t comparable to other over-ear pairs, like Sony’s.WH-1000XM5 and the Beats Studio 3. This allowed me to complete the aforementioned cross-country flight and should get you through a day without a problem, but be aware that this is the one place where the Ultras don’t measure up to the competition.