The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 come with a lot of history. After almost 20 years of making noise-cancelling ‘phones, Bose has become quite good at it, and its headphones are firm favourites among business class passengers on airlines the world over.
Competition is huge in this sector, with Sony and B&W making sets that rival Bose in terms of features and audio. They can’t touch its noise-cancelling, though, which is why they’re so popular on planes, and the reason they rank among our best headphones in 2020. But is top-notch ambient sound removal enough when you’re up against the best the big names have to offer? We’ll see.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Design
You can never fault Bose for design. Even when the build quality is a bit wobbly, they look great, and distinctive. There are no worries with the 700s, as not only is the silver and white finish (black is also available) stunning to look at, but it feels top-quality too. The 700s are a step up over Bose’s previous offering, the QC35IIs, in terms of build, their new slimmer, seamless metal band replacing the segmented one of old, while the earcups are also smooth, a few vent and microphone holes are all that spoils their surface.
Available in three colors - Arctic White, Triple Black, and Silver Luxe - and with new touch controls on the right earcup (tap it twice for play/pause and answer calls, swipe your finger up/down for volume change; and swipe to the side to skip tracks) these are a match for any other manufacturer when it comes to innovation. The Bose logo itself is also touch-sensitive, with a press declining an incoming call, and a press-and-hold giving a battery level readout. They take it a step further with digital assistant integration (all three, though Alexa is most prominent and invoked by voice, with Google Assistant and Siri requiring a button-press) allowing you to mutter to yourself in public and draw strange looks from passers-by.
Preset buttons on the earcups allow toggling of noise-cancellation settings, which are controlled by the accompanying phone app, and with a 20-hour battery life these are some of the best designed headphones we’ve seen, even if they don’t fold down particularly small. They’re comfortable too, without the high levels of head-squeeze some models can exert.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Performance
Regular price: $399
Type: Over-ear wireless headphones
Weight: 0.55 lbs
What’s more important? Sound quality or noise-cancelling ability? After all, what’s the point of a soundstage that offers sublime bass, mids and trebles if you can’t hear it over the howl of a jet engine?
Bose has you covered. While its audio quality is decent enough, yet outdone elsewhere, its noise-cancelling is second to none. The company is renowned for its ambient-removal tech, and it has had a bit of an overhaul for these earphones. There’s a new mode, Transparency, which drops the strength to zero. This isn’t quite the same as merely turning noise-cancelling off, as some isolation remains, but it also allows you to carry out a normal conversation without having to pause or remove the headphones as ambient sound is added to the mix through the microphones on the earcups.
The level can be set as high as 10, which is extremely strong and can feel a little disorienting. Being able to hear no background noise whatsoever is a strange feeling when you’re in a situation where you’re expecting to hear it. Road traffic is rendered silent, station announcements become pointless. Of course, you’ll want to use different settings in different environments, and there are preset buttons on the earcups themselves, which you can assign different levels to, and you can fine-tune the level using the app.
Sound quality is clear and bold, easily matching the company’s previous headphones. Bass is a little weak - you’ll certainly find better elsewhere - but vocals and other mids are rendered cleanly and neutrally, meaning you’d expect to find an equalizer within the bundled app to tweak it. Unfortunately, it’s not there, so you’re forced to use the offerings in the various playback and streaming apps. This is a shame, but something we hope can be added later.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: Value
If you’re looking for the best noise-cancelling in your headphones, then these are excellent value. Bose’ reworked algorithms and changes to the structure of its headphones have worked wonders. Up against the competition, however, they start to look a little expensive compared to the Sony WH-1000XM3, which arguably have better sound quality, although can’t touch the Bose set for noise-cancelling. Our best overall headphones, the B&W PX, are also at the Sony’s price level - making this a very tough choice. Again, the Bose set wins in terms of noise cancellation, and it’s really quite close with the audio quality.
Should you buy the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700?
Are you a commuter? Do you fly often? Is the road outside your window frequently dug up by roadworkers? All of these are excellent reasons to get the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. If you don’t want to spend quite so much as Bose is asking, however, there are some excellent alternatives on the market. None of those has the incredible levels of noise-cancelling that the 700s are capable of, however, and if that’s important to you, then these are definitely the pair to buy.