Forget AirPods Pro: These Bose noise-canceling earbuds sound better and feel premium

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds on grass background

Nina Raymont/ZDNet

As earbuds become more capable and packed with advanced features, figuring out which earbuds will work best for you can be a daunting task. Choosing from different shapes, sizes and capacities gives you a sea of ​​options.

Also: Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra are the most comfortable, best-sounding headphones I’ve tested

But the latest from Bose, is new QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds Advanced noise-canceling, high-quality sound, all-day comfort, and the promise of an interesting take on spatial audio, and it could be the all-encompassing duo that buyers have been waiting for.

I spent a week with the QuietComfort Ultra earbuds and took a deep dive into its best features. Are these the top earbuds you can buy? How do they stack up against the competition? And are they worth the $299 price tag? I answer all these questions below.

Holding a pair of Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds

Bose’s new earbuds feature a six-hour battery life, noise-canceling capabilities, and two modes of immersive audio — one for sitting or standing still and one for moving around.

The QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, which I’ll refer to as the QC Ultra earbuds, come with Bose’s Fit Kit that includes three pairs of ear tips, three pairs of stability bands, a charging case, and a 12-inch USB-C cable.

The charging case is quite heavy; It’s bigger than my JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds and my roommate’s AirPods (2nd Gen), but it has a smooth finish and it has a nice, reassuring weight. Scratches and scratches are also very visible on the white smoke case that the earbuds come in, so I’d recommend opting for the black or moonstone blue colors if you want your accessories to look pristine.

As far as audio performance goes, the QC Ultra earbuds offer impeccable noise cancellation — the best I’ve tried yet — and powerful sound. With strong ANC, I was able to dig into my work listening to my morning classical playlist and blocking out the noisy office chatter around me.

More rounded than round, the shape of the ear tip snugs up well against my ear, and I’ve never had a problem with it falling off as I move around. I appreciated that the touch controls on both ears were incredibly responsive, as other earbuds I’ve tried have difficulty mastering the capacitive touch controls.

Also: Forget Sony and Bose: these JBL headphones are my top sleeper pick of 2023

One feature I particularly enjoyed while listening to the QC Ultra earbuds was the different sound modes you can access through the Bose Music Companion app. These buds not only come with a quiet mode and an alert mode. You can cycle through six audio modes: Calm, Conscious, Immerse, Commute, Run and Work. In the app or by lightly pressing your left earbud, you can take advantage of pre-set modes that turn specific audio modes on or off based on your daily activity, such as a commute, run or work.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Nina Raymont/ZDNet

Because I like to be aware of my surroundings during my subway commute, I especially enjoyed the app’s commute mode. It offers some noise cancellation, so I can properly hear and appreciate my music but mixes it up with a distinct level of noise awareness.

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Immersive Audio is Bose’s spatial audio, and the new feature is something that sets the QC Ultra apart from previous generations of QuietComfort earbuds. Immersive audio adds an airy, multidimensional sound to what you’re listening to, creating a completely immersive listening experience.

You can choose between “Still” or “Motion” to sit or stand in place, which makes the feature work properly when you’re walking around. This is a great feature and adds an extra layer of engagement to any workout or physical activity you do with the earbuds.

Also: Best noise-canceling earbuds: Bose, Sony and more compared

While listening to Lipar Dua swan song, I toggled between Immersive Audio and Aware mode to hear the difference between the various filters Funnily enough, I found every aspect of the song to be more spacious and immersive (no pun intended) with Immersive Audio turned on.

While immersive audio is a great feature, it can also be a battery drain. By design, earbuds have a shorter battery life than larger headphones and speakers, because the internal electrical components can only handle so much with such a small room. If you’re cross-shopping, the QC Ultra earbuds’ six-hour battery life is less than Sony’s latest flagship earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, despite both earbuds being priced the same.

Holding the Bose QuietComfort Ultra case

Nina Raymont/ZDNet

With the Immersive Audio feature turned on, the QC Ultra earbuds’ six-hour battery life quickly drops to four hours, which isn’t enough to get me through a workday. This isn’t a big problem if you’re going through one to two hour listening sessions at a time, of course.

One issue I have with the QC Ultra earbuds is that despite being equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, they are a pair of premium earbuds without Bluetooth multipoint connectivity. Without Multipoint, you can’t seamlessly switch the Bud’s audio output between two devices, like your smartphone and your laptop.

Also: I was skeptical of these $350 wireless earbuds — until they knocked my socks off

Bose’s accompanying QC Ultra over-ear headphones are equipped with Bluetooth multipoint, and the company says the feature is on the way for earbuds. Still, at $299, I expect it to be available out of the box.

ZDNET’s buying advice

It’s clear to me that Bose prioritized noise-cancellation and sound quality with the new ones Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. For a pair of earbuds, the sound quality is top-notch, and the noise-canceling easily shielded me from car horns, train rides, and many other New York City noises.

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that can keep up with your audio needs, the QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are the way to go, especially if you’re on the fence about the older, similarly priced QuietComfort II buds.

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