Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: what are the differences?

Bose QuietComfort vs Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

After a few years in the making, Bose has updated its wireless noise-cancelling over-ear headphone range with the introduction of the new QuietComfort and QuietComfort Ultra Headphones.

Replacing the previous QuietComfort 45 and Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones models respectively, the QuietComfort and QuietComfort Ultra Headphones come packed with a range of new features including upgraded noise cancelling capabilities.

Unsure of which headphones would be most suitable for you? We’ll be going over all the key differences to help you decide. 

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: price

The Bose QuietComfort Headphones are set to cost £350 / $350 / AU$549  when they become available in the last week of September. This is slightly higher than the previous Bose QuietComfort 45 model, which we tested at £320 / $329 / AU$499.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones will cost £450 / $429 / AU$649 when they go on sale in early October. This is higher than Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones, which launched at £380 / $399 / AU$550, but lower than Apple’s AirPods Max, which hit shelves at £549 / $549 / AU$899. 

The Ultra Headphones are also more expensive than Bose’s previous flagship pair, the Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones, which we tested at £350 / $399 / AU$599. Considering this, we’re hoping to experience an all-around improved performance. 

Due to how new both pairs of headphones are, it’s unlikely we’ll see discounts on either pair of new QuietComfort headphones any time soon.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: design

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Continuing in QuietComfort fashion, both new models of headphones are foldable. This is welcome news to Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones users, who were not afforded this luxury previously. 

Both models are available in Black and White Smoke shades, while the standard QuietComfort Headphones are also available in a limited edition Cypress Green colour. Both also come with a useful protective carrying case. 

The QuietComfort Ultra headphones appear to have more cushioning along the length of the headband compared to the standard model. The earcups also look a little bit thicker and potentially more comfortable, though we need to get both models in for testing before we can confirm this.

Another key technical difference is the capacitive touch strip featured on the Ultra Headphones which is used to control volume and customisable controls. This is absent on the standard QuietComfort Headphones and is instead replaced by standard tactile buttons. 

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: features

Bose QuietComfort Headphones

(Image credit: Bose)

The two new models of QuietComfort Headphones have quite a lot of overall similarities and both boast a range of useful features. 

In terms of similarities, both pairs feature active noise-cancelling technologies, which we’ll cover in more detail in the following section. 

Alongside this, both pairs come with a protective carrying case, are compatible with the Bose Music App, and are said to offer 24 hours of battery life during standard use. The Ultra Headphones are stated to offer 18 hours when ‘Immersive Audio’ is engaged, we’ll be sure to test out these figures for ourselves during our review. 

Aside from the capacitive touch strip featured on the Ultra Headphones, the other major difference is the inclusion of an ‘Immersive Audio’ mode, which is missing from the standard QuietComfort Headphones. This feature is Bose’s take on spatial audio and presents sound in a 3D environment. 

The Immersive Audio feature comes with two different modes, ‘Motion’ and ‘Still’. In the ‘Still’ setting, audio is meant to sound as if it is “coming from two stereo speakers in front of you that stay where they are when you move your head”. “Motion” mode is stated to make audio sound like “it's coming from two stereo speakers in front of you that follow the movements of your head”.

In terms of wireless connectivity, the QuietComfort Headphones feature Bluetooth 5.1 support while the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are Bluetooth 5.3. 

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: noise cancelling 

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Being the inventors of active noise cancelling technology, it’s no surprise that everyone wants to know how Bose’s new headphones fare in this regard. 

Bose states that its new headphones achieve noise cancellation via two methods - passive sealing of the earcups combined with proprietary active electronics. This active circuitry makes use of microphones placed both inside and outside both earcups to cancel out unwanted external noise. 

During our hands-on with the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, we got to try the new cans out for ourselves and found the ANC performed well and didn’t seem to struggle when external noise was fed into the room as part of the demonstration. 

Both models of new Bose headphones feature Quiet and Aware modes within their ANC settings. Quiet mode is said to offer full noise cancellation, ideal for blocking out unwanted distractions, while the Aware setting is said to allow full transparency so you can hear your surroundings while still enjoying audio in stereo sound. 

The Ultra Headphones also feature an additional ActiveSense feature which applies to the Aware ANC mode. This mode only activates ANC when a loud or sudden noise occurs nearby, allowing you to hear your surroundings while also being able to block out any unexpected bursts of noise.

Once we get our hands on both pairs of headphones for the usual rigorous testing, we will be able to give you our full opinions on how each model performs. 

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: sound

We’ve only had a hands-on with the Ultra Headphones so far and no time at all with the standard QuietComfort Headphones just yet.

During the hands-on with the Ultra Headphones, we were treated to a live band demonstrating the capabilities of the Immerse Audio settings. We felt that the music “lifted out of our heads somewhat, seeming open and spacious, but also full of detail”. With this mode switched off we noted that the music sounded “more familiar in standard stereo, but perhaps a little flatter and a little less interesting.” 

We also tried out the Motion mode on the Ultra Headphones, which we found took a little while to get used to but also admitted we need more time with the headphones in general to decide whether we actually preferred Immersive Audio and whether it would lend itself better towards certain tracks over others. 

Moving on to the standard QuietComfort headphones. While we haven’t yet given them a try, we can take a look at the model they supersede in the QuietComfort 45 Headphones. We gave these headphones a solid four-star review, praising their comfort, battery life, and effective ANC. 

We certainly enjoyed the sound of the QuietComfort 45s, however noted that they fell short of the then-class-leading Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones which provided greater dynamic impact.

Given the increased price tag of the new QuietComfort Headphones over the QuietComfort 45 Headphones, we’re hoping for an upgrade to the overall sonic presentation. The same holds true for the Ultra Headphones, considering they are another step up in terms of price. 

We are looking forward to taking both pairs of headphones out for a thorough spin and will keep you updated with all of our thoughts and findings in our in-depth reviews.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: early verdict

At this stage, it’s hard to give a definitive answer as to which pair of headphones offers the most performance per pound. Our hands-on with the Ultra Headphones was a positive experience, however, it was brief and our full review will reveal far more about the true capabilities of these headphones.

There are some features, such as the capacitive touch strip and Immersive Audio, which are unique to the Ultra Headphones, while both models offer Bose’s signature comfort, noise-cancelling technology, and 24-hour battery life.

Keep your eyes peeled for our full reviews of both headphones where we’ll dig deeper into what they can both really offer.


Hands-on: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones review

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones vs Sony WH-1000XM5: the differences between two flagship cans

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones vs Apple AirPods Max: what are the differences?

Staff Writer

Ainsley Walker is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied music journalism at university before working in a variety of roles including as a freelance journalist and teacher. Growing up in a family of hi-fi enthusiasts, this naturally influenced his interest in the topic. Outside of work, Ainsley can be found producing music, tinkering with retro tech, or cheering on Luton Town.