Bose is introducing not one, not two, but three new products today. It’s an ambitious move from a company that’s traditionally been very calculated, and it points to a nimbler future for Bose that could see new devices brought to market at a faster clip. Today’s announcements include the $429 QuietComfort Ultra Headphones that I showed you last month alongside the $299 QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and $349 QuietComfort Headphones.
Each of them replaces a model in Bose’s current hardware portfolio. That’s surprising in the case of the earbuds; their expensive predecessors are only a year old. But speaking to media in Brooklyn today, CEO Lila Snyder and chief product officer Raza Haider said Bose had meaningful improvements ready to go and didn’t feel like waiting.
As the naming makes clear, Bose is fully embracing the brand that consumers are so familiar with and shedding other product names that didn’t resonate as well. (Farewell, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.) It’s also making a push into spatial audio, although Bose calls its version “Immersive Audio.”
To start off, Bose’s approach has nothing to do with Dolby Atmos; the company is using its own proprietary audio processing to spatialize stereo tracks — and yes, there’s optional head tracking. The QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and Earbuds both contain an inertial measurement unit sensor that detects your head movements so that when you activate the “still” mode for Immersive Audio, you can turn from side to side and the music’s sweet spot will remain in the center. A “motion” mode keeps the music anchored in front of you on the go. (The entry-level QuietComfort Headphones don’t offer this feature.)
Let’s dig into each of the new products, which are all available for preorder today and are set to begin shipping over the next few weeks.
QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
$429, available early October
Replacing: Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
As Bose’s new flagship offering, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones improve upon the NCH700 with a design that blends aspects of those headphones with the signature QuietComfort line: they fold down for easier storage but still carry a premium feel with minimal seams and a sleek overall design. And in my brief time sampling them, the QC Ultras felt very, very comfortable. Here’s Bose’s marketing spiel on them:
A completely re-engineered system includes proprietary signal processing, a robust chip set, and advanced microphones. All of this innovation not only enables improved noise cancellation and CustomTune technology, but it also supports Bose Aware Mode with ActiveSense and remarkable voice pickup. Using a beamform-array to differentiate your voice from 360 degrees of unwanted nearby sound, the QC Ultra Headphones deliver crystal clear calls to friends and family, clients and coworkers, and stunning accuracy from VPAs (virtual personal assistants) for seamless convenience when summoning playlists, textx, or directions.
They offer up to 24 hours of continuous battery life on a charge, though this drops to 18 hours if you’re using Immersive Audio the whole time. The physical controls have also been improved; Bose added a volume slider in addition to the usual multifunction and power / Bluetooth buttons. There’s still no wired USB-C audio support, but the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones retain the company’s standard 2.5mm jack if you want to plug in.
QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
$299, available early October
Replacing: QuietComfort Earbuds II
This is the one that feels a bit... soon, but hey, why not. The QC Earbuds II were only released last fall, and Bose isn’t making any claims about more powerful ANC or better sound quality with these. Noise cancellation was already best in class, so leaving it as is here isn’t what I’d consider a disappointment.
But it does believe the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds will offer improved voice call quality — particularly for whoever’s on the other side talking to you — and make you more intelligible in less than ideal conditions.
Sound fidelity is also getting an upgrade with Bose’s support of Snapdragon Sound, which means Android listeners can stream music with the AptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec at a higher bitrate (if their connection is strong) than the other AAC or SBC codecs. Snapdragon Sound is included on both “Ultra” models.
The silicone stability bands that come with the earbuds are now easier to fit onto the earbuds with less chance of user error. The QC Ultra Earbuds come in slightly different black or white finishes, and Bose plans to sell an optional $49 wireless charging case that will be backward-compatible with the QC Earbuds II. Speaking of battery, you get six hours with Immersive Audio off or just four with it on, so Bose’s signal processing definitely has an effect on endurance.
$349, available September 21st
Replacing: QuietComfort 45 headphones
Rounding out the new lineup are the standard QuietComfort Headphones, which preserve the design of the QC45s while adding new software features. Bose says you can now adjust noise cancellation levels (instead of just on or off) and set custom modes. And the QuietComfort Headphones will be available in a green finish in addition to black and white when they go on sale on September 21st; they’ll be the first of this trio to start shipping. They still support multipoint pairing and offer up to 24 hours of battery life.
Stay tuned for more on Bose’s trio of new gadgets over the coming weeks.