One of the biggest names in audio is prepping a new pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Bose made some of the first ever noise-cancelling headphones for aeroplane pilots, and was instrumental in bringing them to the consumer market years later. As you might expect with a track record like that, it now makes some of the best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy.
That makes a new model all the more exciting. The Bose QuietComfort 45 (aka QC 45) have leaked, and they've been a long time coming – their predecessors, the QuietComfort 35, launched back in 2016, back when David Bowie's Blackstar was wowing ears worldwide, and Deadpool was cleaning up at the box office.
Five years is a long time in the headphone world – since then we've seen Sony dominate with the WH-1000XM4, Apple turn the market on its head with the brilliant but pricey AirPods Max, Bose raise the bar in terms of bespoke noise-cancellation with the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and a lot more pairs besides.
The QuietComfort 35 were updated to QuietComfort 35 II in 2019, but that was a minor refresh aimed at adding voice assistant functionality.
The QuietComfort 45, on the other hand, should be the real deal. Will they be able to cut it against those cutting-edge rivals from Sony and Apple? What will they offer in terms features? And when are we likely to see them? Here's everything we know so far...
Bose QuietComfort 45: price
Let's get straight to one of the most important considerations when choosing a pair of headphones: the price.
Bose makes some of the finest headphones around and, as such, charges a premium for them. They're not quite at the level of the Apple AirPods Max, which cost £549 ($549, AU$899, but they're not that far off.
We don't know how much the QC 45 will cost, but let's look at Bose's other pairs to get a rough estimation.
Their predecessors, the QC 35, cost £290 ($300) when they launched, but that was five years ago. The QuietComfort 35 II were a little pricier, coming in at £330 ($350), while its most recent pair, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, have a price tag of £350 ($399, AU$599).
Bose's main competition is the Sony WH-1000XM4, which cost £350 ($350, AU$550). Bose will want to stay competitive, but undercutting the competition too much will send the signal that it's an inferior product. As such, we would expect the QuietComfort 45 to cost around the same £330 ($350, around AU$600) as the QC 35 II.
Bose QuietComfort 45: release date
Release dates can be hard to predict, especially for products that aren't refreshed on an annual cycle. The iPhone 13? No problem – that'll launch in September, as a new iPhone always does (apart from 2020, for obvious reasons). An update to a five-year-old pair of headphones? Much trickier to nail down. But thankfully, we do have one rather large clue...
It came as part of the QC45's FCC filing – this is when the US Federal Communications Commission officially accredits devices before allowing them to go on sale. This lists the "confidentiality agreement" as set to expire on 1st December of this year, after which time the headphones can be made public (presumably even more public than an FCC filing). Which suggests they will launch before 1st December 2021.
But when before? That's the big question. The one big tech show left this year is IFA, which takes place in Berlin from 2nd – 6th September. IFA sees all manner of new gadgetry launched, including smartphones, TVs and more. It's not traditionally a big show for headphones, and as an American company, Bose is unlikely to choose a European show to debut its latest cans. But it's still a possibility.
For reference, the Sony WF-1000XM4 were spotted at the FCC in April of this year before launching two months later, in June. Following the same timeframe, we would expect to see the QC45 around mid-September, just ahead of the busy holidays period, with the ensuing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Fingers crossed for a deal.
Bose QuietComfort 45: design
The photo from the FCC filing is all we have to go on in terms of the QC 45's design. But it does tell us a fair bit.
Mainly, that not much has changed in the aesthetics department. They seem to have the same chunky headband and ear cushions as their forebears, and – also like their predecessors – it looks like they fold away for stashing in a bag while travelling. One of their main uses is to block out surrounding noise on a plane, after all.
The QC 35 and QC 35 II both came with a carry case, and we would assume the QC 45 would do the same.
The QC 45 also appear to sport a rather fetching white finish.
There is one other rather major change. As WinFuture notes, the microUSB port is replaced by a USB-C. MicroUSB is ancient in the world of cutting-edge consumer electronics, so USB-C will bring the headphones bang up to date. Thanks to its greater transfer speeds, it should also mean faster charging times. Good stuff.
Bose QuietComfort 45: features
The meat of the matter: what can these cans actually do?
The FCC filing hasn't revealed an awful lot in terms of features, unfortunately, but going on Bose's past form, as well as the current crop of competitors, we can make an educated guess.
Let's start with the QC 35, as we can expect the QC 45 to have all of their features and more. They added Bluetooth for wireless listening, and NFC for one-touch pairing with a source device. They also did away with AA batteries – my, 2016 was a long time ago – and used a rechargeable one instead. Which saved owners lots of money on replacements.
These were followed by the QC 35 II, which added a dedicated button for Google Assistant, throwing voice controls into the mix. There was also a Gaming edition, but that was more of a diversion.
But they're not the only headphones Bose has made in recent years. Its recent on-ear Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 upped the ante somewhat by adding 11 gradients of noise cancelling, going from 0 all the way up to 10. That's an unprecedented amount of control over how much outside noise you want to drown out.
They also introduced a Conversation Mode – hold a button, and the headphones let in outside sounds, so you can hear what someone is saying. It's a very handy feature, though not quite as advanced as Sony's Speak to Chat, which kicks in automatically when you start talking.
Bose's touch controls also debuted on the 700, and for handsfree controls they support both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Because the QC 45 will probably be positioned below the flagship 700, we can expect a slightly scaled down feature set. While we may get more granular control over noise cancellation, the 11 levels is one of the 700's main selling points, so maybe Bose will limit this to three, four or five levels, say. We found ourselves skipping two at a time anyway to hear any difference between them, so fewer levels could just streamline the whole experience.
Voice assistant control is a dead cert, as is aptX HD Bluetooth, and one or more ways of letting in outside sounds without taking the headphones off.
Bose QuietComfort 45: the early verdict
It's obviously too early to give a definitive verdict on the QC 45. But one thing is for sure: Bose is one of the biggest names in headphones, and when it launches a new noise-cancelling pair, the competition sits up and listens.
Its on-ear pairs always score well, and with its unrivalled experience of noise-cancelling tech, the QC 45 is sure to be another compelling proposition. Can it compete with the best at this level? Or will it fall victim to the progress of Sony, Apple and Sennheiser? We shouldn't have to wait long to find out.
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