This week, we reviewed the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. These headphones feature an adjustable noise cancelling system, offer up to 20 hours of battery life, and are compatible with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the successor to the iconic Bose QuietComfort 35 II, to which it adds a new touch control interface, a better customization of the noise cancelling system and a revamped design. Can these headphones do as well as their predecessor did? This is what we’re about to discover with this review.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: the brand
The Bose Corporation was started in 1964 in Massachusetts and has been a major player in the world of audio since its very beginning. Amar G. Bose, founder of the brand and former M.I.T professor, based his work on his observation that audio systems available to consumers were not capable of accurately reproducing the sound heard in concert halls. After extensive research in psychoacoustics (study of the human perception of sound), Dr. Bose released his first speaker in 1966, the Bose 2201. This revolutionary model loaded with no less than 22 drivers was the first to use a brand new configuration named Bose Direct/Reflecting. This design ensured a sound restitution based on the diffusion of direct and indirect sounds, reflected by the walls of the listening room.
After extensive research in design and psychoacoustics, Bose released the first generation of the Bose 901 in 1968. This new speaker featured nine identical 4.5” unfiltered speaker drivers, one of which was oriented toward the listener. The eight other drivers were responsible for almost 90% of the sound dispersion in the room. This speaker was extremely successful and was lauded by the press, making Bose famous across the world. It was revamped multiple times up until 1989 with the release of the Bose 901 series VI.
In 1975, Bose released the Bose 301 Directing/Reflecting speaker. This compact speaker was designed to ensure high-fidelity sound restitution with a wide dispersion of lows in the listening room. It featured a distinctive, large, front-firing woofer loaded by a port located on top of the speaker. There was also a tweeter on top of the speaker to ensure optimal sound dispersion. Thanks to its high quality and affordable price, the Bose 301 Direct/Reflecting was the world’s best-selling speaker for many years. It was followed by numerous other generations, including the last version which, to this day, is still part of Bose’s catalog under the name Bose 301. Bose’s reflection technology trickled down to a multitude of other speakers, such as the Bose 201 (1982) or more recently with the Bose Acoustimass home theater pack.
In addition to the production of speakers, the American manufacturer used its know-how in other areas of expertise such as in-car audio, home theater, professional sound, civil aviation, and for the military. To this day, Bose pursues research and continues to innovate, especially in the world of portable audio with the brand’s iconic Bluetooth speakers and active noise cancelling headphones. Some Bose headphones are even considered to be amongst the best noise cancelling headphones in the world. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that the brand has always been a leading player in this field. Everything began in 1978 when, during a transatlantic flight, Dr. Bose observed that the sound of the plane caused audible interference in the headphones. It took ten years of research and many prototypes before the release of the Bose Serie I, the first headphones featuring an active noise cancelling system. These headphones were so effective that the United States Air Force used them for many years.
In 1998, the brand maintained its position at the forefront of innovation in the domain of noise reduction with the release of the Bose X. Also destined for pilots, these new headphones boasted an even better noise cancellation system as well as a lighter and more compact design. The success of this model was such that Professional Pilot Magazine ranked Bose the number one manufacturer of headphones for nine consecutive years.
Today, Bose is still one of the leaders in the domain of noise cancelling headphones for pilots, but the brand has also made a name for itself in consumer electronics with the release of the first QuietComfort headphones featuring Bose Acoustic Noise Cancelling technology in 2000. In 2009, Bose released the Bose QuietComfort 15. This model immediately became the new undisputed reference for travelers and enjoyed great commercial success. Over the years, Bose continued to improve its noise cancelling technology to the point that the brand managed to integrate it into its Bose QuietComfort 20 in-ear headphones. These emblematic in-ear headphones are still part of the brand’s catalog.
Bose’s range of noise cancelling headphones continued to expand with increasingly notable products, in particular the Bose QuietComfort 25 released in 2014, followed by the Bose QuietComfort 35 two years later. In 2017, the American manufacturer introduced the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the first model compatible with Google Assistant. To this day, the specialized press considers these headphones to be the best noise cancelling model in the world. This might change with the recent release of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which advertise an even better noise cancelling system. But is it really possible? That’s what we’ll find out during this test.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: packaging & accessories
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 come in relatively minimalistic packaging. The box contains a hard-shell carrying case with an elegant leatherette finish in which the headphones are laid flat. The Bose Headphones 700 also comes with a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable to recharge the headphones, as well as a mini-jack cable so you can keep using them when the battery is depleted. A quick start guide is also provided. Note that the latter is quite succinct and that more information is available via the online user guide or the mobile app.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: presentation
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are principally made up of a polymer structure. It is a lot more flexible and thinner than that of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Using this material allows the weight of the headphones to be reduced by 60g, which brings the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 under the 250g mark. This should make it an ideal companion for frequent travelers. The two ear pieces can rotate at 180° so that they can fit any type of head shape, but also so that the headphones may rest around the user’s neck without being cumbersome. The height of each earpiece can be adjusted thanks to rotative hinges which can move up and down the lower part of the headband. Nevertheless, a certain amount of force is needed to adjust the height of the earpieces, which may leave marks on the headband. We can only hope that this issue comes from the fact that the headphones we tested were brand new and that this phenomenon will disappear with time.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is an over-ear, closed-back model. The leatherette earpads boast generous padding and their color matches that of the headphones. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are so comfortable that we quickly forgot that we were even wearing them. This is partially due to the fact that these headphones are so light. The earpads sit perfectly around the ears, which makes for great passive isolation. However, they do have a tendency to heat up after a few hours of using them. This phenomenon is even more noticeable with the right ear cup as this is where the battery is located. It isn’t unbearable, though. For those who are very sensitive to heat, taking the headphones off for a few minutes allows them to cool down.
The left ear cup of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is fitted with a 2.5mm mini-jack input as well as a control button which lets the user select one of the three noise reduction presets. These presets can be assigned from the mobile app on a 1 to 10 scale, as we will demonstrate later in this review. The three default presets are 0, 5, and 10. The right earpiece of the Bose 700 features a USB Type-C connector to charge the headphones, a power button, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a button which lets the user quickly activate the vocal assistant of the device paired with the headphones. In addition to these controls, the Bose Cancelling Headphones 700 are fitted with a tactile interface located under the shell of the right earcup. This interface may be used to start and pause playback, answer phone calls, skip tracks, and adjust the volume with a simple touch. The reactivity is excellent and using the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is very intuitive.
Under the hood, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 feature wideband transducers. As per usual, Bose hasn’t released much information regarding technical specs and the size of the transducers, as well as their sensitivity and impedance, are unknown. The announced battery life in Bluetooth mode with the noise cancelling system activated is 20 hours. A quick charge mode allows you to accumulate three and a half hours of battery life in only 15 minutes. The Bose 700 headphones feature a convenient eco mode which uses a gyroscopic system to detect head movements and put the headphones in standby mode after 10 minutes of inactivity.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: 11 levels of noise cancellation
Just like its predecessor, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Bluetooth headphones’ strength resides in its active noise cancellation system. While the QuietComfort 35 II already benefited from an excellent noise cancellation system, the Bose 700 is designed to raise the bar even higher with an optimized system featuring an adjustable level of noise cancelation graded from 0 to 10. This system allows the user to adjust the noise cancellation in order to slightly reduce or completely eliminate background noise. Three noise cancellation presets can be quickly selected via the dedicated button located on the left earpiece of the headphones, but the Bose application is essential to access all eleven levels of noise cancellation. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 also offers a conversation mode which may be activated by pressing the NC preset button for one second. This will deactivate the noise cancellation system and pause playback. This function can prove very convenient to hear an announcement made via a public address system in a train station or to safely cross the street, for example.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: vocal assistants and phone calls
The Bose 700 Bluetooth headphones are fitted with a total of 8 microphones, 4 of which are specifically implemented to identify and isolate the user’s voice while reducing surrounding noises. These Bose headphones let you enjoy clear phone calls, even in a noisy or windy environment. These integrated microphones may also be used to interact with vocal assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri if they are installed on the device paired with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Unlike a smart speaker which keeps its microphones activated at all times, the user has to press the dedicated button on the headphones to activate them. It is then possible to start a playlist, skip tracks, adjust the volume, etc. without having to pull your smartphone out of your pocket. Nevertheless, note that this function is only available when the headphones are used in Bluetooth mode.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: initial setup
Like any other set of Bluetooth headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 can be used as soon as they have been paired with a compatible Bluetooth device. However, in order to have full control over the noise cancellation system and enjoy the features offered by the vocal assistant, it is necessary to configure the Headphones using the Bose Music app for iOS and Android. Setting up the headphones via the app only takes a few minutes.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: listening impressions
We first listened to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 using the FiiO M11 audiophile DAP as a source with Bluetooth transmission. We listened to tracks stored on the DAP’s internal memory. This initial listening session was carried out in a relatively quiet environment. The headphones’ passive isolation proved to be sufficient and we didn’t have to activate the noise cancellation system. We will discuss this function in the second part of this review. The sound signature of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is especially clear in the mids. The lows are energetic and bold, as these Bose headphones have a slight tendency to emphasize this frequency range. This should please people looking for powerful bass, although the sound restitution would benefit from softer and deeper lows on certain tracks. High frequencies are well handled never aggressive, even with demanding tracks. The soundstage is convincing but lacks depth. The closed-back structure and the very good passive isolation of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seem to prevent sound from fully expanding. This is especially noticeable with instruments which require a lot of room such as saxophones and violins.
We then listened to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 while using public transport to put the noise cancelling system to the test in a real-life situation. For this second listening session, we connected the Bose 700 headphones to an iOS smartphone using Bluetooth transmission and streamed music via Qobuz and Spotify. The active noise cancelling system is so impressive that once activated, it felt like being sucked in a vacuum. When set to 10, the highest level possible, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are completely airtight and not a single sound leaks in or out. We immediately noticed that the new noise cancelling system is even better than that of the QuietComfort 35 II. Better yet, it doesn’t impact the sound signature, which isn’t the case with the Bose QuietComfort 35 as this function has a tendency to slightly compress the dynamic range and scoop the lows. The listening experience is truly immersive here and there isn’t a single unwanted sound to be heard. We just closed our eyes and completely forgot where we were.
The active noise cancelling system is impressive and there isn’t a single unwanted sound to be heard.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: compared to…
Bose Quietcomfort 35 II: up until now, the QuietComfort boasted one of the best active noise cancelling systems on the market, but the Bose 700 headphones go even further with their new system with 11 levels. The Bose 700 headphones also have the upper hand when it comes to design and comfort, thanks to its slimline structure and intuitive tactile interface. Regarding sound restitution, the two models are quite similar, although the Bose 700 is slightly more generous in the lows.
Technics F70: the three-mode active noise cancelling system of the Technics headphones is very convincing, but doesn’t quite measure up to that of the Bose 700 in very noisy environments. On the other hand, the Technics headphones feature many more assets, including compatibility with the aptX HD and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Moreover, it is Hi-Res Audio certified. When it comes to sound, the Technics F70 are more precise and offer a wider soundstage. It is clearly more appropriate for an audiophile grade listening experience.
Sony WH-1000XM3: the Sony headphones features a three-mode noise cancelling system. The highest level of noise cancellation comes very close to the QuietComfort 35 II. Which means it remains slightly below the Bose 700. On the other hand, the Sony headphones have the edge over the Bose 700 with their extensive frequency response ranging from 4 Hz to 40 kHz, which grants them the Hi-Res Audio certification. The sound restitution is a lot more precise and the lows are deeper. It also has the added benefit of being compatible with the Bluetooth aptX HD and LDAC codecs. When it comes to design and comfort, the Sony headphones also boast a tactile interface to control music playback.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: conclusion
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have proven themselves worthy of their predecessor and offers many improvements. The soundstage is very similar, but the new revamped noise cancelling system and design make all the difference. Their slim design and generous padding ensure great comfort, to the point that the headphones are completely unnoticeable after a short while. However, the earpieces do have a tendency to heat up after a few hours. This is not a major problem in and of itself, as it rapidly cools down after being taken off for a few minutes. The new design of the Bose Headphones 700 offers a level of comfort rarely provided by headphones. The tactile interface is so intuitive and user-friendly that using vocal assistants to control playback almost seems pointless. However, the vocal assistant function is quite convenient for everyday use. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 boast many assets which makes them the perfect companion for users on-the-go who often travel in a noisy environment, as long as they are not too demanding when it comes to sound quality. The sound restitution is convincing, but we would have liked for Bose to add higher quality Bluetooth codecs such as aptX HD and LDAC considering the fact that these headphones are sold for €400.
What we liked
- The impressive noise cancelling system
- The comfort
- The tactile interface
- The compatibility with vocal assistants
- The quality of phone calls
We would have liked
- Compatibility with the Bluetooth aptX HD and LDAC codecs
- A wider soundstage
- Better ventilated earcups