Review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the storied company’s attempt at joining Sony and Sennheiser in 2020 with a feature-rich pair of modern, high-end, noise-cancelling consumer headphones.
Up until now Bose’s only product in this price range was the Quiet Comfort over-ear headphones which, while excellent sounding, were lacking in modern features when compared to the Sennheiser PXC 550 IIs and the Sony WH-1000XM3s. The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 finally bring Bose into the space occupied by those two other brands and, despite the obnoxiously long name, give the other two a really good run for their money.
The first and most obvious point where Bose has an advantage compared to the competition is styling. The 700s look absolutely fantastic. The design Bose has gone for with the 700s is sleek and simple. There are no hinges anywhere on the headphones. They’ve been designed to look like the cans are just sitting on the ends of the headbands, without any obvious point where they join. The headband is thick at the point where it rests on your head, and gets thinner and thinner as it goes down towards the earpieces. The Sony’s and Sennheiser’s do not look bad on their own. But when you compare them to the modern, sleek, Bose 700s they look ancient and outdated. The build quality on the Bose headphones is excellent as well. They’re a good weight and feel very well made. But for £300 you shouldn’t expect any less.
When putting the Bose 700s on for the first time I was struck by just how comfortable they are. They are one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones I’ve ever used. The soft, rubber cushion running along the top of the headband is so comfortable you forget it’s there. The earcups look small but are deceptively comfortable. The cushions on them are super soft, and form a great seal around your ear, so even without noise cancelling turned on not much sound gets in. At the front of the right earcup, there’s a touchpad for media controls – something that’s basically a must on high-end headphones these days. Once you know the controls for one headphone touchpad you pretty much know them all. On the Bose 700s, a double-tap plays or pauses whatever you’re listening to. A swipe up or down controls the volume, and a swipe forward or backward changes the song. Standard stuff.
On headphones I’ve used in the past this touchpad area has been significantly bigger than the one on the 700s, so going into using them I was a bit concerned that the area wouldn’t be large enough. At no point during my use was the size of the touchpad an issue. It works perfectly. Unlike with some other headphones that use touch gestures, I can’t think of a single time the Bose 700s misinterpreted what I was trying to do. It’s great. They charge via USB-C, which in 2020 shouldn’t even be a feature I have to bring up, but one of their main competitors (Sennheiser PXC 550 II) STILL uses a micro USB for charging.
There are only three physical buttons on the headphones. On the right ear there’s a power button, which when held activates the Bluetooth pairing mode and there’s a digital assistant button. The digital assistant button can be configured to use almost all of the smartphone digital assistants, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and if you’re one of the ten people that use it, Bixby. The single button on the left ear is used to switch between three preset noise-cancelling modes. Ten which is full noise cancelling, five which is half and zero which is zero. These can be changed from the Bose app, and any level from between zero and ten can be selected. The app also lets you know exactly how much battery is left in the headphones down to the minute, and it includes a handy equaliser if you want to change how your music sounds.
Speaking of which, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 sound brilliant. As you’d expect for a pair of £300 headphones they sound vibrant, punchy, and for a pair of closed-ear headphones they have a wide soundstage. There’s a lot of clarity and great instrument separation when listening to music. Using them is a joy. Out of the box, they are probably a bit more balanced than their competitors, but if you want more bass or treble you can always adjust that yourself using the EQ. In terms of quality between the Bose 700s, the Sennheiser PXC 550 IIs and the Sony WH-1000XM3s, it’s very much a matter of preference. All of them sound great and you won’t be disappointed with any. But the 700s inch ahead of the competition when you switch noise-cancelling on. It’s definitely the best of the three.
For example, I’m currently writing this review during a thunderstorm while listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and if my phone hadn’t told me it was going on I honestly would not have known. The mixture of the tight seal the cups naturally create against your head and the super impressive active noise cancellation technology, almost nothing gets in. On a noisy flight or commute to work, these would be my headphones of choice. The sound quality on the built-in microphones is also class-leading on the 700s. It was clear in every condition I tested it in, which ranged from sitting in a quiet room to walking down the side of a busy road.
So there’s a lot to love with the Bose 700s, but they’re not quite perfect. There are a few little niggles that I have to bring up in this review. The first one is that, while they are definitely very portable, and the case isn’t massive, they don’t fold down smaller like their competition. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me, but as someone who uses public transport a lot, I can see this getting quite frustrating. Another slight annoyance is the pricing. They are fantastic headphones, and if you buy them at full price you absolutely won’t be disappointed, but at RRP they are £20-50 more expensive than the competition and I just can’t work out why. They don’t sound any better, they don’t have any extra features, the noise cancellation is slightly better, and in my personal opinion the styling is a bit better, but those things don’t add up to that amount extra for me. It feels a bit like you’re paying £50 more because they say Bose on them.
Overall the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s are my favourite pair of headphones. They sound just as good as any other pair of consumer headphones, they have all the modern features you want when you’re buying a new pair of headphones, they do noise cancellation a bit better than their competition, and they look absolutely great. On top of all that, they’re super comfortable and I can wear them for hours on end without getting any sort of fatigue. I do wish I could fold them up to make them a bit more portable, but I suspect the inability to fold is the trade-off for the unique styling. And the pricing seems a little bit too much for me when other great headphone options in this price bracket exist for a little bit less. If how your headphones look is important to you then the Bose 700s are definitely going to be the ones you want. If you can get them for the same price as their competition (through sales or discounts) then I can’t recommend them any more highly.