This week we tested the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, a model which combines active noise cancellation technology, Bluetooth SBC transmission and support for Google Assistant. Bose has emerged as a pioneer of the on-the-go music experience by offering the first headphones featuring voice control. In other words, simply speaking to the headphones is all it takes to get them to fulfill a number of tasks, first of which is letting you listen to music. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II uses Google Assistant speech recognition technology, which is integrated into Android smartphones.
A pair of headphones with Google Assistant
If you haven’t been keeping up with the latest developments in artificial intelligence as applied to multimedia, you should know that Amazon made a buzz last year with the Echo wireless speaker and Alexa, its voice-controlled assistant. The Amazon Echo speaker is equipped with a microphone and recognizes the voice of its owner, and it can play music or order a pizza, for example. Google has recently followed Amazon’s example with the even more powerful Google Home speaker. Google’s wireless speaker system includes a processor, RAM and a Linux operating system compatible with Google Assistant. An Android smartphone is required to set up the speaker for the first time and inform it of your preferred online streaming service, for example. Afterwards, the speaker is completely autonomous and responds to any instructions preceded by the key phrase “OK Google”.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are also compatible with Google Assistant. However, they rely on the computing power of the smartphone or Android tablet on which the Bose Connect mobile app is installed. Unlike the Google Home speaker, whose microphones are always active, the microphone of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones must be activated by pressing a button on the left earpiece. Once activated, just saying “play Chet Baker” will prompt a female voice to confirm that the headphones will play Chet Baker. As with any Android smartphone with Google Wizard enabled, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones can respond to different voice requests. You can ask it to tell a joke, estimate the travel time between your location and your home, announce weather forecasts, and much more. Android notifications are automatically indicated by the headphones (“You have a new text message”) and can be activated or deactivated. A rather pleasant function to be informed of an email or important news during a walk or while taking public transportation.
Does it really work?
Yes, even if we encountered some difficulties with our Lenovo P2 smartphone, which runs Android 7.0. In addition to some problems with reconnecting to the smartphone, our pronunciation of “Chet Baker” wasn’t entirely accurate, and the headphones announced that Michel Sardou would be played next. We were met with some difficulty at the beginning, and the Google Wizard didn’t know how to help us. But it learned quickly and made the necessary corrections.
Bose QuietComfort 35: characteristics
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are a closed, circum-aural model with wide-band transducers. Bose does not go into a lot of detail in terms of technical specifications, and the headphones’ sensitivity and impedance ratings, as well as the diameter of the transducers, are unknown. Two levels of active noise cancellation are available, and the technology may be used for wired listening (in which case it cannot be deactivated). Bose announces an autonomy of 20 hours in wireless mode (with active noise reduction). The presence of microphones makes it possible to optimize the active noise reduction technology to make phone calls, and as explained above, to control the Google Wizard app installed on a smartphone. Bluetooth transmission is carried out using the SBC codec, after manual pairing or with NFC pairing.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones come with a micro USB to USB Type-A cable (30 cm), a 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm stereo mini jack cable, and a hard case.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are very lightweight and comfortable. The pressure exerted around the ears is light, and the padded headband is quickly forgotten. There is very little inertia during head movements, even fast ones. The position of the different control buttons requires some getting used to. The Google Wizard activation button, found on the left earpiece, allows you to control the level of noise reduction applied when the smartphone has not been associated with the Wizard. Once the two are associated, you must use the Android Bose application to control this function. On the right earpiece are three buttons, two of which are volume buttons. The third is used to take calls, put a call on hold, skip to the next or previous track, and fast-forward or rewind. To do this, a certain number of presses must be combined, with varying durations. So, it’s better to have a good memory.
We listened to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones with a Macbook and Android smartphone via a Bluetooth SBC connection. To take advantage of the headphones’ voice control features, we installed the Bose Connect app.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II accompanied us for several weeks. We listened in a quiet environment (with and without noise reduction) as well as a noisy one (with noise reduction). The passive insulation is very good on its own, and the active noise reduction technology is very impressive, to such a point that there was a feeling of emptiness – or even a sensation of our eardrums being in a vacuum. Activating the noise reduction technology results in a slight narrowing of the dynamic range and sets the bass register back slightly. The sound signature of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones is characterized by well-balanced bass, clarity in the mid-range and well-placed high frequencies, although limited in terms of extension. Bose’s seems to seek a middle-of-the-road restitution, likely to please the greatest number of people. Only those looking for a frankly dizzying listening experience might prefer a more expressive style to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II… but necessarily passing up on voice control.
What we liked
- The wearing comfort
- The effectiveness of the active noise cancelling technology
- The integration of Google Assistant
What we would have liked
- A more expressive and engaging sound
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones do not lack great qualities, and it’s hard not to be seduced by their light weight and impressive active noise reduction technology. As such, we highly recommend this model for on-the-go listening on a train or plane, for example. Owners of an Android mobile device will be able to take advantage of the built-in Google Wizard, which is a real plus. Had it offered a more ample listening experience, this model would certainly have been the best in its category.French