Review: Bose QuietComfort noise-cancelling headphones

A snapshot of the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphonesI compared the premium Bose QuietComfort (QC) noise-cancelling headphones with the more affordable Philips SHB8850NC noise-cancelling headphones and the ordinary Apple iPhone 7 earpods.Although I tested the Bose QuietComfort 15 model, I've also briefly tried the QuietComfort 25, and they seem almost identical, with the QC25 having slightly better sound and comfort. So for all intents and purposes, consider the test below to apply to both the QC15 and QC25.

FIT: 4/5

The Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancelling headphones (pictured right) sit around the ear in an oval cup with padded edges. This makes them supremely comfortable for a long flight. Unlike on-ear headphones, such as the Philips SHB8850NC, the Bose QCs don’t press on your ear, unless you have quite large ears. I've not given them a 5/5 simply because I think there could still be a bit more cushioning on the ears.

A side-by-side comparison of the earcup sizes of the Philips SHB8850NC headphones with the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones

Philips SHB8850 headphones on the left, Bose QuietComfort 15 on the right


These are bulky, even with though the headphones twist inwards for a vague semblance of flat-packing. And the hard protective case they come in is absurdly large.A side-by-side comparison of how small the Philips SHB8850NC headphones fold down to compared with the Bose QC15 headphones


Black and matt silver, these might not win the hipster fashion awards, but they’re entirely unoffensive.


Simply the best. I’ve tried more than a dozen pairs of noise-cancelling headphones, and none beat the Bose QuietComfort models. No, they don’t drown out every little sound – you’ll still hear that baby crying, but it’ll sound like it’s far away rather than in the seat next to you – but they make a huge difference on trains, planes and in automobiles. Engine noise becomes virtually non-existent, and while you can tell the pilot is making an announcement, you’ll need to remove the headphones to hear what is being said. As with the Philips, these use active noise-cancelling technology, rather than passive, and that makes a world of difference to their effectiveness.

SOUND: 5/5

Top of the line. Dialogue is crystal clear, bass is rich and treble isn’t tinny.


These don't have a wireless Bluetooth option, so if you want your noise-cancelling headphones to also be wireless, then try the newer Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones or the cheaper Philips SHB8850NC model.

COST: 2/5

If you find these for less than £175/$300, you’re getting a deal. These ain’t cheap.


Taking a single AAA battery, these are easy as pie. I’ve never had them run out of juice on me - they're reputed to last 35 hours from a single AAA battery - but I typically recharge my AAA after every long-haul flights, so I can't verify this. It’s dead easy to carry a spare, too, since AAA batteries are tiny. But it would be great if Bose – or any headphone maker – could put an indicator to show how much battery life remains so you know when you need to recharge or switch the battery.


My favourite headphones. I’ve tried more than a dozen noise-cancelling headphones, but the Bose QuietComfort models are my go-tos for almost every trip. The only time I don't bother with them is when I'm taking a very short flight or train journey, in which case, I just use the iPhone 7 headphones and put up with the background chatter.