For years, any time someone asked which brand of headphones they should buy for a flight, the answer was a simple one syllable: Bose. The company’s QuietComfort line had long been synonymous with drowning out plane noise on long flights. But over the last several years, the question has become an increasingly difficult one, as companies like Apple and Sony have shot to the top of the category.
Back in mid-September, the company planted its flag in the sand once again. The well-loved QuietComfort line was getting a shakeup , with three new entries: the $299 QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, $349 QuietComfort Headphones and the $429 QuietComfort Ultra headphones. The latter (which, as the headline suggests, is our focus today) replaces the $379 (now $279) Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
As naming conventions go, it’s certainly simpler and more streamlined. At least you know where the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones stand relative to the QuietComfort Headphones (they’re, you know, more ultra). You’ve probably already balked at the price tag, as any reasonable, non-independently wealthy person would. The premium headphone race may have heated up, but it’s not making the products any cheaper. We’re eyewateringly close to hitting half-a-grand here.
Are any noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones worth $429? That’s a question I certainly can’t answer for everyone. What I can say is that if any are, these are them. Bose has created some of the most comfortable and best sounding headphones I’ve ever tested, coupled with best in class noise cancelation. These things are, indeed, the real deal.
Thankfully, Bose managed to deliver the pair before a cross-country flight earlier this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to double check the size of the auxiliary jack. What can I say, it’s been a while since I’ve actually worn a pair of Bose headphones on a flight (thank Sony for that), so I’d forgotten that the headphones themselves sport a 2.5mm port, rather than the more standard 3.5mm. When all else fails, just go with whatever they ship you in the box.
So, no seatback entertainment through the new QuietComfort for me this trip. That’s fine, there was nothing good on anyway. As for the rest of the flight, you’re not going to beat these things in terms of comfort — they’re lightweight and well-padded with a soft lining. The active noise canceling also did an excellent job eliminating the plane white noise and even a bit of the shrieking child toward the back. Not fully on that last bit, however — 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. With it activated, it was honestly too difficult to hear myself speaking, which threw me off (apologies to the interviewee on that one).
Pricing aside, there is one notable complaint. The battery life isn’t on-par with other over-ear pairs, like Sony’s WH-1000XM5 and the Beats Studio 3 . It got me through the aforementioned cross-country flight, and should get you through a day no problem, but be forewarned that it’s the one place where the Ultras fall short of the competition.