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Beats vs. Bose: Which is the better value?

Beats vs. Bose: Which Is the Better Value?
(Image credit: Bose/Beats)

Its time for a showdown as we pit Beats vs Bose to find which one makes the best headphones?

Sure, we’ve not been commuting as much in the last year, but there’s still something to be said for a quality pair of headphones, and for many it’ll come down to Beats vs Bose in a battle for supremacy. The trouble is that there are so many permutations to choose from - do you want over ear? Noise-cancellation? Fast-charging?

Headphones are also a modern way for people to express their own personal preference, with a plethora of styles and colorways, and there are two brands that listeners can’t get enough of: Beats and Bose. Thankfully, there’s never been a better time to invest, and while Sony and Sennheiser are also solid options, there’s a reason Bose and Beats are the most popular in this space.

Beats vs Bose: Beats Studio3 vs Bose QC 35 II

We’ve chosen two comparable pairs of headphones as champions for this battle. In the Beats corner, the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones - these premium wireless over ear headphones have an MSRP of $350 and they’re the top end of what Beats has to offer. Meanwhile in the Bose corner, we have the Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise-cancelling headphones. These premium cans also have an MSRP of $350 and are widely considered to be some of the best noise cancelling headphones on the market.

We’ve split this contest down into five distinct categories: comfort, noise-cancelling, audio quality, battery life, and style

Beats vs Bose: Comfort

Over-ear headphones are meant to cup your ears so you can wear them comfortably for hours at a time. These Beats are adjustable, like most headphones, so they'll fit your head without issue. However, your ears may not sit just right inside the ear cup unless your ears are relatively small. The craftsmanship of the earpieces leaves something to be desired, too, as many customers reported peeling materials after only six months' use.

Beats Studio 3 headphones

(Image credit: Beats)

Compared to the Bose wireless headphones, these Beats cans are a bit heavier. They aren't so heavy that your neck tires quickly, but these are a little heftier than the Bose QC 35 IIs. They do provide a tight fit, though, so they're less likely to slip off.

When it comes to the Bose QC 35 II, you can wear them for hours and not feel like your ear is being squished against the rims of the cans or up next to scratchy mesh. Your ears are cupped quite comfortably by these headphones. Additionally, the Bose are surprisingly lightweight, so you can wear them for hours and still be comfortable. The only noticeable disadvantage to the weight of these headphones is that there is some audio leakage, so others may hear your music if you crank it up.

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Noise-Cancelling

Often, noise-cancelling comes down to what you can perceive. If you have sensitive hearing, you may be able to pick up a slight hissing sound while using these Beats wireless headphones. They employ Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which is noise created through microphones in the ear cups to help block out background noise. The effect is staggering, and it really does block out almost all external noise.

Bose QC 35 II hedphones

(Image credit: Bose)

The downside is that this could be irritating to some listeners, but we’ve never had any issues with it, especially when listening to music or other audio. You’re only likely to hear the sound when the headphones are on, but nothing is playing.

No one does noise-cancelling better than Bose (though Sony gives it a run for its money). Even when you use these over-ear headphones without music playing, outside noise is greatly reduced. And the most noticeable difference between Bose and Beats is the lack of hiss. The pressure that's produced may be noticeable if you're sensitive to it, but it's less obvious compared to Beats and other manufacturers.

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Audio Quality

Traditionally, Beats are known for heavy bass, but that's not the case for the Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphones. The sound quality of these Beats is more balanced than ever, but perhaps a bit muddled. Audio quality is largely subjective, so without trying them out yourself, you have to blindly trust reviewers – who all have a different set of ears. If clarity and purity in sound is what you seek, you won't find it in these Beats, but the quality is decent enough for all the other features you get.

As we said, it's important to remember that audio quality is a subjective measurement. That being said, Bose rises to the top when it comes to mid-range sound. You get more separation of instruments and vocals through these wireless headphones compared to Beats, but the bass and highs aren't as clear.

Winner: Bose

Beats vs Bose: Battery Life

Beats includes a built-in rechargeable battery that is meant to last up to 22 hours during wireless use, which is right on the target for most users. In fact, if you turn the Active Noise Cancelling off, you can squeeze up to 40 hours of battery life out of these things. They last even longer when plugged in too. Now that’s not bad, not bad at all.

Beats Studio 3 headphones

(Image credit: Beats)

Meanwhile Bose claims its headphones can last 20 hours, and it's a fair claim. Customers report 25 to 30 hours of wireless use on a full charge. And the headphones can go for 40 hours while you use the included wire.

Winner: Beats

Beats vs Bose: Style

You won't find a better-looking pair of headphones on the market than these Beats. They come in 9 different colors, so you can consider these an accessory to your outfit as much as a piece of technology.. These headphones fold up to a compact size and fit neatly in the included case.

By comparison, the Bose QC 35 II’s look more reserved, but certainly not bad. They come in black or silver and are made to a high standard using quality materials. If you want a pair of headphones that looks good but don't draw attention to themselves, Bose has you covered, but they’re hardly a fashion statement. We have to give this one to the Beats.

Winner: Beats

Should you buy the Beats Studio3 or Bose QC 35 II?

In the end, both Bose and Beats headphones offer something different, so it really depends on what you value. The Bose QC 35 II headphones have superior sound quality (especially in the mid-range), better noise cancelling, and are more comfortable to wear. On the flip side, the Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones are certainly the more stylish headphones, and they offer better battery life to boot. So, it’s a case of style vs substance.

What’s that? You’re not going to let us cop out and call it a tie? Fine, Bose wins. Neither set of headphones is a bad choice, and while we think the audio quality in the Bose cans is superior, Beats certainly aren’t bad. But when you’re dropping $350 on a pair of headphones, you expect better than “not bad” audio quality.

Ian Stokes is the Tech Editor here at Top Ten Reviews. He has extensive experience in tech and games journalism, with work published on IGN, Kotaku UK, Waypoint, GamesRadar, Trusted Reviews, and many more. You'll find him covering everything from smartphones and home computers to 3D printers and headphones. He's also our resident cocktail expert.