Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphone range goes big on spatial audio – and includes Sony XM5 rivals

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

Well, hasn’t Bose been busy? Following recent reports which pointed to a brand new pair of premium wireless over-ears and earbuds being readied for launch, Bose has officially whipped off the covers for the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

Available in Black or White Smoke, the former replace the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, while the latter take the place of the five-star QuietComfort Earbuds II.

Bose Immersive Audio makes its debut on both Ultra pairs. The tech is designed to make “spatial audio accessible to all” thanks to some powerful new onboard processing. According to Bose, the mode reveals music’s “true depth, spatialising what you're hearing by virtually placing it in front of you” and “virtually seating you in the acoustic sweet spot.”

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

There are two modes of Immersive Audio to switch between – Still and Motion. Still is recommended for when you are stationary and you want your music to be in a fixed position. Motion “allows the audio to move with you, so it’s always out in front of you - great for staying immersed on the go,” according to Bose.

The Ultra models also get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound Technology suite which gives them both aptX Adaptive support.

On top of the new spatial audio processing and aptX Adaptive, the QuietComfort Ultra models also feature Bose’s CustomTune calibration and Bose Aware Mode with ActiveSense which automatically adjusts the amount of ANC being used automatically, so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises

Bose claims to have improved the call quality of the over-ears too, with more advanced microphones in a beamform array that reduces the impact of external noise.

The QuietComfort Ultra Headphones fold flat like the old 700 model but they have been given a cleaner design. On the right earcup there is a button for power/Bluetooth pairing, a capacitive touch strip for volume and accessing shortcuts, and a multifunctional button which can be used for various tasks, including switching listening modes, answering calls or playing your music.

The left earcup has an LED indicator, 2.5mm jack, and USB-C charging port. Bose claims battery life is up to 24 hours with Immersive Audio turned off and 18 hours with it turned on.

So what do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones cost? Well, the pricing makes for interesting reading. They are more expensive than their predecessors and will cost £450 / $429 / AU$649 when they go on sale in October. This places them at a higher price point than the excellent Sony WH-1000XM5 £380 / $399 / AU$550 but still keeps a decent amount of distance between themselves and the Apple AirPods Max £549 / $549 / AU$899.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

(Image credit: Bose)

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds get Immersive Audio, CustomTune, touch controls and an IPX4 rating. Again, Bose claims to have improved call quality in tricky environments – the headphones can prioritise the mic on each bud that is experiencing the least noise, and also filter noise out so your voice sounds clearer.

Look closely and you will see that the buds have a new metallic treatment, while the fit of the stability bands that wrap around the edge of each earbud has been tweaked too.

Battery life comes in at an average of six hours when Bose Immersive Audio is turned off and this drops to four hours when it’s turned on. This seems like quite a sacrifice – hopefully the experience will be worth it.

The new earbuds are also getting a price increase over the outgoing model. They will be available for £300 / $299 / AU$450 from early October. In comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM5 cost £259 / $299 / AU$419 and Apple AirPods Pro 2 £249 / $249 / AU$399 at launch.

Bose also now offers a £50 / $49 optional wireless charging case for the earbuds cover which slips over the normal case. It goes on sale on the 20th October and is also compatible with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones

(Image credit: Bose)

But two new headphone models aren’t enough for Bose. It has also launched another pair of over-ear headphones that do without ‘Ultra’ status and their associated features. They are simply called the Bose QuietComfort Headphones. They replace the QuietComfort 45 and add the ability to adjust levels of ANC and set custom noise-cancelling modes. There’s also multipoint Bluetooth and up to 24 hours of battery life.

They are available in Black and White Smoke and a limited edition Cypress Green colourway and will launch on September 21st for £350 / $349 / AU$550.

Well, that’s quite a lot to take in. We have to say it’s a little surprising that Bose is replacing the QuietComfort Earbuds II so soon. They are barely 12 months old, but launching the complete ‘Ultra’ range in one go does make sense.

When it comes to the over-ears, it always seemed a little strange that Bose had a flagship model without QuietComfort in the title given the rich history of the sub-brand. And given the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 launched way back in 2019, a new flagship pair has arguably been a long time coming.

We will hopefully be going hands-on with all the new pairs in the near future, so stay tuned to What Hi-Fi? for our first impressions.


Bose’s spatial audio tech is a nice idea for headphones but it’s too hit-and-miss

Bose QuietComfort 45 vs Bose 700: wireless noise-cancelling headphones compared

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

Apple spatial audio: what is it? How do you get it? And is it like Dolby Atmos?

I switched from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II to the Sony XM5 and... I’m torn

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Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.