When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, Bose is one of biggest names around. While the likes of Sony and Apple are relative newcomers to the field, American firm Bose has been cutting out background noise for decades.
Two of its most popular offerings are the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Both are over-ear headphones with similar price tags and similar specs. But there are some key differences between them.
We'll run them down category by category to see how they differ, so you can see which pair is right for you.
The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 IIs have two levels of noise-cancelling: low and high. To cycle through them, just press the 'program' button on the ear cup.
Their noise-cancellation set a new benchmark when the headphones launched back in 2017, but it's fair to say that more modern rivals such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless have overtaken them. Both of these pairs boast superior noise-cancelling and greater control over how much external noise you can block out.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s are better rivals for the models mentioned above, especially when it comes to noise-cancelling. There are eight microphones (six to cancel noise, two to pick up your voice) and noise-cancelling can be altered on a scale from zero to ten. This means you can make gradual steps to find the right level for you.
Zero slightly dulls outside sound, while 10 is the most effective. Think of zero as a gossamer-thin veil over the sound, while 10 is a 12-tog duvet. It's a very sophisticated system, though you might find yourself skipping ahead at two-level increments to hear a real difference.
There's also a Conversation mode – hold a button, and it'll let in noise so you can hear a station announcement or have a quick chat with someone.
**Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700**
In terms of battery life, there's not much to choose between them. Both pairs of Bose headphones offer 20 hours of wireless performance with noise-cancelling switched on. Of course, this can vary slightly, depending on the volume level you're listening at.
Design and fit
The QuietComfort 35 IIs certainly live up to the 'comfort' part of their name. At 310g, they are significantly lighter than some rivals, and their grip firmness is nicely judged. That's especially good news for the glasses-wearers among us.
Their hinges mean they fold down nicely, and their build quality suggests that they could survive being kept in a rucksack, without needing the carry-case that comes with them. These are robust, hardwearing headphones that are built to last.
The NC 700s have a sleeker, more modern look than their stablemates. They're largely a one-piece structure with no visible hinges. The stainless steel headband is beautifully integrated into the earcups, with the bottom section acting as a slider for the cups to move up and down. The chamfered, shimmer-finished cups are adorned with the Bose logo, the microphone holes and three function buttons for noise-cancelling, power/pairing and voice control. Make no mistake, these are visually very striking headphones.
They're comfy too. Their secure grip is just the right balance between loose and vice-like. And weighing just 254g, they weigh less than the QC 35IIs.
But there is a downside to these futuristic looks: durability. And we’d keep the supplied carry case handy, too – the Bose’s earcup sliders ended up a little scratched after sharing a bag with an Apple MacBook Air, so we’d recommend taking good care of your new purchase.
The case is no thicker than your average paperback book, and the 700s fit comfortably inside once the cups are folded flat – they don’t collapse inwards like their siblings, due to their hinge-free form.
We wouldn't sling them in a bag as we would the QC 35 IIs. But then these are a more premium product and require a slightly more delicate touch.
The QC 35 IIs have buttons around the right housing to control playback. They are intuitively placed and feel good to use. You’ll soon get used to the series of taps needed to rewind or skip your songs.
The NC 700s do things a little differently. They're the first Bose noise-cancelling headphones with touch controls alongside the buttons. These make the button layout pleasingly sparse, and not at all crowded.
The touch controls are pretty simple to use. You tap twice to play/pause and answer calls, swipe your finger up/down for volume change, and swipe to the side to skip tracks. Hold the Bose logo for a battery level reading, and press it for one second during an incoming call to decline it.
It only takes a couple of days to learn the various touch and button actions, although one obvious drawback is their sensitivity. On occasion, the play/pause double-tap functions don’t work first time, and any slight touch accidentally triggers the headphones’ actions. While this issue isn’t exclusive to Bose, the app could also do with increased stability – every so often, it takes ages to acknowledge the Bluetooth connection with our phone, or fails altogether.
For a hands-free experience, there’s built-in voice control. Both pairs support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, with either activated with a press of a button. With Google Assistant, you can ask the headphones to play specific songs, albums and artists on supported apps (such as Spotify), read out and reply to messages and notifications, ask questions or even sing happy birthday. It's a neat feature that could become a go-to if you've got your hands full.
The QuietComfort 35 IIs deal with any music you send their way. They dig up an impressive amount of detail that otherwise would have gone unheard, and they perform particularly well in the midrange.
Downsides? They could use a touch more bass, timing and dynamics could be bettered and compared to more modern rivals, highs could sound a tad more refined.
The 700s mirror their siblings’ familiar sonic character – bold, clear and upfront - but they give you a bit more across the board.
While their clarity and directness is impressive, again they're a little lacking in the bass department. But then it's only really noticeable when played side-by-side with the very best at the money.
**Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700**
The Bose 700s launched in May 2019 for £350/$399, but are available for around £290/$299 if you shop around online. The QC 35 IIs hit the market way back in 2017 and were priced at £330/$350 at launch. These can be picked up with a discount of around £100/$100.
Given the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700s have more advanced features, better noise-cancelling and boast a more premium design and finish, you'd expect them to be the more expensive of the two. But it's a lot closer than you might think, and it could be worth spending that little bit extra.
There isn't much to choose between these two headphones. Both have very similar features, and both deliver quality in spades. It really depends on your priorities.
The QC 35 IIs have the edge in terms of portability and durability, but the 700s have more advanced noise-cancellation, a sleeker design and slightly better sonics. Both are extremely light and comfortable. Your decision could come down to price, in which case the older model has the edge, but we think it's worth considering spending a little extra for that superior noise-cancelling and smarter design.
Whichever you decide to go for, we think you'll have many hours of happy listening ahead.