Bose Headphones 700 review: A new era of noise cancellation
- Sleek new design
- Adjustable levels of noise cancellation
- Better sound than the QC35 II
- Great battery life
- No wall charger included in box
Updated: Bose has rolled out an update that deals with the app issues we experienced during our initial product testing period, so we have updated our review to reflect the improvements.
As the company that first took noise cancellation technology mainstream, Bose has long been touted as one of the best headphone brands on the market. With the past couple of years giving rise to major competitors such as Sony's WH-1000XM3s though, the brand has now upped its game to claim back its number one spot.
Based off the cult-favourite Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 revisit noise cancellation in ways that we haven't previously seen. However, while they are definitely Bose's best yet, they haven't been without their teething issues.
- Sleek design
- Comfortable, lightweight
- Unique adjustment inside the earcup
- Slim travel case
- Not able to be folded
If you are a fan of the QC35 II model, a first inspection of the Bose 700s will likely make you realise that the previous model is actually a little bit out of date. Where the QCs were rather chunky in style, the 700s arrive in a sleeker, more ambitious design that borders on being quite futuristic.
In fact, the entire model seems to have been designed around the headband, which actually also serves as the adjustment. The unique design sees any adjustment take place inside the earcup, making the perfect fit incredibly easy to achieve – just pop them on and gently slide the band accordingly. You can also have your choice of black or silver colourways, similar to the QC model.
As well as being nicely built, the Bose 700s are also extremely comfortable to wear. They're easily the most comfortable pair I've ever tried, with a lightweight design that doesn't clamp down on your head. The headband itself is also made from silicone, making it easy to wipe down and less likely to develop the dreaded signs of wear and tear.
One design change that is sure to divide Bose fans is the step away from the foldable design of the QC 35s. Bose has said that the change comes after many users found the foldable nature of the QCs difficult to navigate. I'm sure many users would agree with me though that the former model made for a much more travel-friendly design.
The step away from a fold-up model though has allowed for both a sleeker design free from screws, along with a slimmer travel case that is able to be easily slipped into a bag or the seat pocket of a plane. The case also now features a convenient magnetic pocket that allows you to easily store your cables without tangling them up. You win some, you lose some.
- 11 levels of noise cancellation
- Works with your choice of VPA
- Voice isolation for clearer calls
- App connectivity issues
Rather than the all-or-nothing noise cancellation of the QuietComfort 35 II model, the Bose 700s boast 11 levels of noise cancellation. So, what does this mean as a user? Well, it means that you can set the headphones to a low noise cancellation setting of 0 or 1 and enjoy your music while still retaining the ability to hear what's going on around you. This is particularly handy if you're listening out for announcements at the airport or just want to remain aware of your surroundings as you walk down the street.
At the opposite end of the scale, setting noise cancellation to 10 will block out a truly impressive amount of surround sound, even when you're not playing music. With music playing, your surrounds may as well not exist. If, like me, you struggle to concentrate in a loud, open-plan office, this feature alone is worth the rather hefty price tag.
While the levels of noise cancellation are controlled through the accompanying Bose Music app, the headphones also feature a button on the left earcup that allows you to quickly toggle through your three favourite levels (default 0/5/10, but can be changed in the app). Better yet, if you hold down the button, your music will immediately pause and noise cancellation will cease. One more press of the button will start the music up again at the same level of noise cancellation, making it simple to pause everything for a quick conversation and then pick up where you left off.
A button on the right earcup lets you summon your voice assistant. Rather than limiting the assistant to just Siri, you can also have your choice of VPA, which is also customisable through the app.
As certain Sony models have begun to surpass the QC35s, it's also unsurprising that the 700s feature certain elements that have made the Sonys so popular – namely, the touch capabilities that allow you to play and pause music with a tap of the earcup, adjust volume by vertically swiping and skip tracks by swiping horizontally. Though it's clearly not a revolutionary idea, it's certainly an addition that I appreciate, and a big step up from the QCs.
The one downside to the controls is that the buttons are quite shallow, making them more difficult to feel out than the chunky buttons of previous models. Overall, I didn't find this to be a huge deal, but it is a factor that will likely frustrate some users.
Voice isolation and sound
While the noise cancellation levels and touch features are certainly worth their merit, the truly noteworthy upgrade comes in the form of voice isolation. A new eight-microphone system works together to cancel noise so that it doesn't reach your ears, and it also isolates your speech, making for crystal-clear calls no matter where you are.
Though I don't tend to make a lot of phone calls, I tested the feature on multiple occasions (and in multiple locations) and all I can say is that the difference it makes cannot be understated. Even while standing in a packed train station, I was able to have a completely clear conversation with the receiver of my call – something that is normally almost impossible.
In terms of sound, the 700s are once again a step up from their predecessor. Not only is the sound quality more dynamic as a whole but it also delivers more bass without being too heavy or too murky.
The 700s also have a notable increase in the upper midrange, adding detail to more easy-going tracks. Play a track with a lot of cymbals though and they are just a touch aggressive. However, overall the sound quality really is quite impressive.
In usual Bose style, the headphones are made to be paired with an accompanying app, this time titled Bose Music. Upon first release though, the app had major issues pairing to some devices, mine included. Given that the app is the sole way to customise your headphones, including choosing your VPA and your favourite levels of noise cancellation for easy toggling, this presented a huge problem for affected users.
In fact, an entire community of disgruntled customers took to the Bose Community page in search of an answer. Luckily, Bose has worked to fix the issue which now appears to be resolved.
The given explanation was that the connection from the 700s to the Bose server was taking longer than expected from the Australian market (over 10 seconds). As a result, product authentication repeatedly failed for some users, leaving affected devices unable to be paired. Any users still experiencing issues will need to update the app to version 2.3.2, or simply delete and re-download it.
The issue has certainly been a disappointing one from a premium brand such as Bose; however, it is nice that the brand has worked to resolve it in a timely manner. So, moving along from initial frustrations, we can now share with you exactly what the app experience is actually like.
With the pairing problem fixed, connecting to the Bose Music app is an incredibly straightforward process. The app will give you a series of prompts to find and pair your 700s, followed by the opportunity to name your device. It will even give you several rather creative suggestions (my personal favourites are "Earmuffs", "Fortress" and "Ground Control").
It will then offer you an introductory tour of the app, followed by the option to choose your favourite voice assistant. Once selected, you are able to summon your selected VPA from the voice assistant button on the headphones.
With the app set up, you are able to easily see the battery life down to the minutes remaining. You are also able to see all levels of noise cancellation and flick through them to immediately engage them.
It is also here that you are able to select your three favourite NC modes for easy toggling through the noise cancellation button. Product name, choice of VPA, audio levels and top 3 levels of NC are all able to be adjusted at any time through the settings option.
Overall, the interface is clean and very simple to navigate. My only gripe is the same as always – that an app shouldn't be necessary to use the device (a point which now seems to have been proven thanks to initial issues that rendered the product useless without app connectivity).
- 20 hours of battery life
- Easy USB-C connection (cable included)
- No charger included
- Time remaining told in hours and minutes
Despite the notable upgrades on the 700s, Bose claims that the headphones still hold up to 20 hours of battery life. While I am yet to run them for the full 20 hours, they're certainly taking a long time to run out of steam, leading me to believe that the timeframe is indeed accurate. This is especially impressive if you consider that it means you can take them on a long-haul international flight on the one charge.
When it is time to charge them, you will need to give them 2.5 hours to be at full capacity. However, similar to the QC 35s, the 700s come with a fast charge option that will give you 3.5 hours of use after just a 15-minute charge. This has to be one of the most helpful features of the headphones, as it allows you to do things like quickly plug them into your work computer, before leaving with ample listening time for your commute home.
Another nice feature of the 700s is the upgrade from the less popular Micro USB-C cable to the USB-C version. While the cable is included in the box though, the actual charger is not, which is a pain for those who don't already own one.
A final upgrade comes in the form of remaining battery life being told to you in hours and minutes rather than in a percentage. Not only will you hear the time remaining when you first turn them on, but you can also press and release the front panel of the right earcup at any time to hear an update, which is incredibly handy.
- Unbeatable noise cancellation
- Truly superb voice isolation
- Extremely comfortable
(Left: Bose QC35 II headphones Right: Bose 700 headphones)
Undoubtedly, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the best model Bose has released yet. The new noise cancellation technology paired with truly impressive voice isolation capabilities make them a cut above other models currently on the market, as well as an easy recommendation if you have the cash to spare.
And if you're interested in trying headphones that are also sunglasses, we have a full review of the new Bose Frames Tempo.
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Images: Lauren Chaplin
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