The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 (QC35, hereafter) headphones can transform a shared space into an intimate one. When I listened to In the Night1, I could smell gin from the jazz club. The second movement—Adagio Sostenuto2—from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 transported me back to the Kennedy Center.
I’m crazy about headphones. I invest a lot—financially, and mentally—into the sound I thrust into my ears3. From writer, and performer, to studio mixer, the combined efforts of several artists are required to produce a single recording. I want equipment that respects their intentions.
The Bose were evaluated across technical and practical capabilities. I flexed their ability to: (1) resolve detail, (2) convey space and proximity—i.e., their soundstage, and (3) travel—particularly their comfort during extensive use.
The Bose perform extremely well, with subtle flaws that are outstripped by their convenience and comfort.
Latin percussion can make cheap headphones sound like a muddy pile of shit. Consider the opening track, Los Muertos Vivos Estan, from Thomas Newman’s Spectre score. You need definition to resolve the contact strikes on the bongo drums. This cannot come at the expense of presence at the lower end—required to feel the deep resonance of the djembes.
The QC35 sings, while Beats Solo 2 overwhelm me with bass, and my venerable B&O H6 underwhelm, without a separate amplifier. The QC35’s built-in EQ4 is doing some hefty processing, and I notice an edge if the volume is maxed.
Then again, the distorted guitars of the Black Keys—e.g., She’s Long Gone5 or Gold on the Ceiling6—sound terrific and detailed even at max volume. The dissonant, and electronic play right into the power band of the QC35’s equalizer. The opening to The Social Network score7, from Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, epitomize this favoritism.
You can hear a slight midrange drop-off, if you’re paying attention. Two minutes into the opening8 of Lorne Balfe’s score for Terminator Genisys, the brass choir sounds muted and shallow underneath the heavy drum rhythms.
Still, the sound of the QC35s defy the missing wire.
Resolution is one thing, but headphones are often claustrophobic. The king of soundstage is the aforementioned Bang and Olufsen H6. The QC35s do not quite match them. While dinged in detail, I think the Bose have a greater sense of space with orchestral music9 because of a slightly aggressive bass response.
Michael Giacchino’s bombastic score for Jupiter Ascending10 is a personal favorite and was recorded at Abbey Roads studio. I Hate My Life wants to fill a room. The QC35s convey a massive, but balanced sound as the track crescendos into an enormous brass choir.
Loud isn’t everything to a good soundstage. The QC35s perform quiet just as admirably. Consider The Constant from Giacchino’s score for LOST: Season 4. Felt piano, ukulele, and soft strings combine for an ethereal, romantic sound. It sounds like a distant dream—poised to sweep you off your feet—thanks to terrific noise cancelation on the Bose.
The QC35s are comfortable—damn comfortable. There’s only two pairs of headphones I can wear without fatigue: the B&O H6 and the Bose QC35. I barely notice they’re on my head—even over my chunky eyeglasses.
There is no cord. When typing, you don’t play the stupid “where can I put the cord” game. Like my Beats Solo 2, the Bose sound as good unplugged, as they do plugged-in. Unfortunately, the Beats sound like shit either way and squeeze your head in a vise grip.
Finally, the QC35s ship with a travel-friendly hardshell case. Not the whimpy, felt soft case bullshit that B&O ships with $300 headphones. You could spend $50 to purchase a proper travel case for the B&O or buy the Bose for the same money.
If you want H6 sound12 without the cord, the QC35s get you closer than any other headphone sold today. And I’m talking really close.
I bought mine from an Apple Store, in Limited Edition Midnight Blue and Gold. Buy them from Amazon using my get-rich affiliate code.
I have many recordings of this piece—one of my current favorites is Lang Lang’s performance with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. ↩
I’ve been a musician my entire life. Both of my parents are music lovers. My father infected me with an ear for the finer qualities of sound. I come by it honest. ↩
I’ve found no way to turn it off, but I suspect I wouldn’t prefer the results if I did. ↩
I’m counting both Hand Covers Bruise and In Motion as the “opening” of the soundtrack. Both sound incredible. ↩
And I listen to a lot of orchestral music, which are recorded in large auditoriums, and concert halls. ↩
The score honestly deserves a better movie. If you only know Giacchino from Up or LOST, you owe it to yourself to listen to Jupiter Ascending. ↩
Your office mates will; Buyer beware. ↩
Purists are gonna kvetch about the H6’s needing amplification. Yes, properly amplified, the H6 will outperform the QC35s by a larger margin. However, I don’t know how I could amplify bluetooth headphones, so I compared the un-amplified H6 sound. ↩
1,000 words and 13 footnotes wasn’t everything I had to say about these headphones. Believe it, or not. ↩