As earbuds become more capable and packed with cutting-edge features, it can be difficult to find the earbuds that fit you best. Choosing from different shapes, sizes, and capabilities leaves you with a sea of options.
Also: Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra headphones are some of the most comfortable and best-sounding headphones I’ve tested
But the latest from Bose, the new QuietComfort Ultra earbuds It promises improved noise cancellation, higher-quality sound, all-day comfort, and an interesting spatial audio experience, and it may be just the all-around pair shoppers have been waiting for.
I spent a week with the QuietComfort Ultra earbuds and delved into their best features. Are these the best earbuds you can buy? How do you stack up against the competition? Are they worth the $299 price? I answer all these questions below.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds
Bose’s latest earbuds feature up to six hours of battery life, noise-cancelling capabilities, and two modes for immersive sound — one for sitting or standing in place and one for moving around.
The QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, which I’ll refer to as the QC Ultra earbuds, come with Bose’s Fit Kit that includes three pairs of ear tips, three pairs of stability bands, a charging case, and a 12-inch USB-C cable.
The charging case is quite bulky; They’re larger than the JBL Tour Pro 2 and my roommate’s earbuds AirPods (2nd generation), but has an elegant appearance and has a nice, reassuring weight. Scratches and scratches are also clearly visible on the White Smoke case that the earbuds come in, so I recommend choosing Black or Moonstone Blue if you want your accessories to look original.
In terms of audio performance, the QC Ultra earbuds provide flawless noise cancellation — the best I’ve tried so far — and powerful sound. Thanks to a strong ANC, I was able to delve deeper into my work by listening to my morning classic playlist and blocking out the noisy office chatter around me.
More spherical than circular, the shape of the ear tip adheres well to my ears, and I’ve never had a problem with it falling out while I’m moving. I appreciated that the touch controls on both ears were incredibly receptive, where other earbuds I’ve tried had difficulty mastering the capacitive touch controls.
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One feature I particularly enjoyed while listening to the QC Ultra earbuds are the different sound modes you can access through the companion Bose Music app. These headphones not only come with Quiet Mode and Aware Mode. You can cycle through six audio modes: Quiet, Aware, Immerse, Navigate, Play, and Action. In the app or by gently pressing the left earbud, you can take advantage of preset modes that turn specific sound modes on or off based on your daily activities, such as commuting, running, or working.
Because I want to be aware of my surroundings while commuting on the subway, I particularly enjoyed the app’s navigation mode. It offers some noise cancellation, so I can hear and appreciate my music properly but mixes it with a premium level of audio awareness.
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Immersive sound is Bose’s take on spatial audio, and the new feature is what sets the QC Ultra apart from previous generations of QuietComfort earbuds. Immersive Audio technology creates a completely immersive listening experience by adding airy, multi-dimensional sound to everything you listen to.
You can choose between “Stay” to sit or stand still, or “Move,” which keeps the feature working properly while you’re walking around. It’s a great feature and adds an extra layer of engagement to any workout or physical activity you do using the earbuds.
Also: Best noise-cancelling headphones: Bose, Sony, and more compared
While listening to Dua Lipa’s song Swan song, I switched between Immersive Audio and Aware mode to hear the difference between the different filters. Interestingly, I found that every aspect of the song was more expansive and immersive (no pun intended) with the overall sound on.
Although immersive sound is a great feature, it can also be a battery drain. By design, earbuds have a shorter battery life than larger headphones and speakers, as the internal electrical components can only handle such a small space. If you’re shopping around, the QC Ultra’s six-hour battery life is shorter than Sony’s latest flagship earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, even though both headphones are the same price.
With the Immersive Audio feature turned on, the QC Ultra headphones’ six-hour battery life quickly dropped to four hours, barely enough to get through a workday. It’s not a big deal if you do one- or two-hour listening sessions at a time, of course.
One issue I have with the QC Ultra earbuds is that despite being Bluetooth 5.3-equipped, they are a premium pair of earbuds without multipoint Bluetooth connectivity. Without multipoints, you can’t seamlessly switch the speaker’s audio output between two devices, such as your smartphone and laptop.
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Bose’s accompanying QC Ultra headphones are equipped with multipoint Bluetooth, and the company says this feature is on its way to the earbuds. However, for $299, I expect it to be available immediately.
ZDNET Buying Advice
It’s clear to me that Bose has made noise cancellation and sound quality a priority with the new device Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. For a pair of earbuds, the sound quality is top-notch, and the noise cancellation easily protects me from loud car horns, train rides, and many other New York City sounds.
If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that can keep up with your audio demands, the QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are the perfect solution, especially if you’re on the fence about the older, similarly priced QuietComfort II headphones.