Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Build Quality & Durability9.0/10
Noise Cancelling Performance9.5/10
For Everyday Use9.0/10
- Easily One Of The Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds
- Extended Battery Life & Practical Charging Time
- Lightweight Build & Comfortable Ear Tips
- Compatible With Apple & Android Devices
- Extremely Portable & Ideal For Travelers
- Limited Lifespan Of The Lithium Ion Battery
- Below Average Sound Quality At This Price Point
These definitely aren’t your average pair of in-ear headphones. What makes them stand out from the crowd? Is it their stellar audio playback? Does their noise cancelling feature blow the competition out of the water?
Are they the most comfortable pair of earbuds you’ll ever wear? Throughout this review, we’ll do our best to answer all of those questions and more! There has to be a reason why they’re almost always highly ranked and reviewed, right?
If you’re anything like us, you probably agree with the importance of having all the facts before you draw any conclusions! Keep reading our Bose QuietComfort 20 Review to see if they’re the best noise cancelling earbuds!
Bose QuietComfort 20 Review – Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds?
Features & Technical Specs:
- In-ear canal wearing design
- Built-in Acoustic Noise Cancelling technology
- Features an in-line microphone/remote
- Compatible with Apple, Android, & Samsung devices
- Includes: 3 StayHear+ ear tips (S, M, and L)
- Also Includes: Carrying case and USB charging cable
- Connectivity: Wired
- Colors Available: Black or White
- Charging Time: 2 hours
- Battery Life: 16 hours on a single charge (for noise cancelling features)
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Dimensions: 5 x 2.38 x 7.8 inches
- Weight: 1.55 ounces
Before you move on, take a quick look at the links below that you can use to navigate our review. Each section will provide an in-depth analysis for each individual performance aspect.
Here are the 5 most important performance features you’ll want to consider before making your decision:
- Build Quality & Durability
- Comfort & StayHear+ Ear Tips
- Acoustic Noise Cancelling & Aware Mode
- Sonic Performance – How Do They Sound?
- Who Are These Perfect For?
Now that you’ve taken a quick look at the technical specs and navigation menu, let’s start by examining two of the most important features – build quality and durability!
Build Quality & Durability
These in-ears from Bose are available in either black and gray or white and silver. Both earpieces have a durable plastic build that will easily survive most regular everyday wear and tear. For example: if you accidentally drop them, they won’t crack or shatter (unlike many phone screens which tend to be extremely fragile).
The 3 included ear tips come in small, medium, and large. They can be attached to each earpiece allowing you to experiment with them until you find the most comfortable fit. (We’ll cover the ear tips and comfort in more detail below.)
Since the earpieces fit more loosely inside your ear canal, they do tend to stick out slightly more than other similar in-ear models. The included proprietary silicone ear tips are cone-shaped and utilize a fin tip addition that’s designed to keep them securely in place. Next, let’s take a look at the durability and function of the non-detachable headphone cable!
Headphone Cable & In-Line Microphone
If you decide to grab the black model, the cable will be a combination of both black and gray. The white version has a cable that’s mostly white with a thin blue strip that coils around all the way down to the 3.5 mm connector.
When you hold the cable in your hands, it feels pretty durable and should easily last as long as (if not longer than) the rechargeable lithium ion battery. The non-replaceable battery is used to power the Acoustic Noise Cancellation feature.
Bose claims that the battery has a limited lifespan, allowing you to charge it about 500 times total. This means that if you charge the battery about once every two/three days, the battery should last about 3 full years. Once again, it’s non-replaceable so if you’re looking for something that will last longer than 3 to 4 years – these may not be your ideal choice.
In-Line Mic & ANC Control Module
At the y-split on the cable (about 6/7 inches down from the earpieces) there is a plastic in-line remote control box and microphone. There are also 3 buttons on the front and one on the side.
Using the top and bottom buttons on the front, you can turn the volume up and down. When you press the center button, it will pause or play your music. The center button can also be used to answer or decline phone calls. When you press the button on the side, it will activate Aware Mode.
If you’re wondering what Aware Mode is, it’s another convenient feature that goes hand-in-hand with the Acoustic Noise Cancelling feature covered in full detail below. Near the bottom of the cable, there is another control module with separate functions.
The module near the bottom allows you to activate/deactivate the Acoustic Noise Cancelling function, as well as Aware Mode. It’s made of a matte rubber which makes it easier to grip and less likely to slip out of your hands.
The module also features an LED battery life indicator along with the micro USB port used for charging. Read the section below to see how long the battery will last!
Battery Status & Charging Time
The LED battery life indicator on the module is located directly next to the power button. When you’re running low on battery, the LED will turn yellow. When they’re fully-charged, the light will turn green. Using the included micro USB cable, it usually takes about 2 hours to get a full charge.
By now, you might be wondering if you can continue listening to your music after the battery dies. The good news is yes, you can. The only downside is that you will not be able to activate any noise cancelling or Aware Mode features. Another feature to keep in mind is that the sound quality will noticeably decrease when the ANC is deactivated.
How Much Battery Life Can You Expect?
Once your ‘phones are fully-charged, you can expect to get up to 16 full hours of continuous playback. Their ANC battery life is pretty impressive – especially when you compare it side-by-side with many over-ear noise cancelling headphones.
Cloth Zip Carrying Case
The included nylon carrying case is very compact and has a zipper all the way around. It’s a convenient way to store your earbuds when you’re not using them. It’s also important to note that the case isn’t reinforced at all, but will keep them safe from most dust, dirt, and other debris.
The carrying case is also small-enough to keep in your pocket, purse, or laptop bag. Its compact shape is one of a few reasons these ‘buds are such a great travel companion. Now that you know what to expect in terms of durability, let’s take a closer look at how comfortable they are!
Comfort & StayHear+ Ear Tips
When you include words like ‘comfort’ in the actual headphone model name, they better deliver on that promise. Before we get into more details about the proprietary ear tips, there are a few other factors that will affect your overall comfort.
As you were scanning the technical specs (at the top of the page), you may have noticed how lightweight these are. They weigh only 1.55 ounces which is less than you might expect, especially considering the ANC control module near the bottom of the cable.
How Does The ANC Control Module Effect Your Comfort?
If you decide to take these with you on a walk, you probably want to consider how the control module will effect your comfort. While their lightweight design does make these great for walking, the module does tend to slightly move from side to side.
For the most part, the side to side movement only occurs when you’re holding your phone (or other DAP) and searching for a new song. On the other hand, if you keep your phone in your pocket while you’re walking, the movement will be much less noticeable. This is also one of many reasons why these aren’t recommended for use in the gym.
As you’re walking – when the cable brushes against your shirt, you shouldn’t hear any cable noise (despite the movement of the control module). If you do find that the cable is moving more than you’d like, you can use the included shirt clip to help solve the issue.
Overall, the cable doesn’t bounce around too much but you will probably want to consider how the ANC control module will effect your listening experience. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s see if the StayHear+ ear tips are as comfy as they claim to be!
StayHear+ Ear Tips
The proprietary StayHear+ ear tips feature a wing tip design that’s more-commonly seen on headphones designed for active use. Why did Bose decide to include them on the QC20? The main reason is that the wing tipped silicone will help them stay securely in place.
When you first put them in your ears, you’ll notice that their fit is somewhat loose compared to other in-ears. Although they are made of silicone, the ear tips are soft and even fairly form-fitting. In most cases, they succeed at providing much better comfort than your average silicone tips.
Are they comfortable for longer periods of use? After more than 2 hours of continuous use, the ear tips can start to become somewhat uncomfortable. That being said, experiencing this type of discomfort is almost always to be expected when wearing ‘phones of this style.
The slight discomfort after 2 or more hours definitely isn’t unbearable but will affect how long you can keep them in your ears. Above all else, the lightweight build and comfy StayHear+ ear tips will allow you to listen for hours at a time without causing any major issues. Now, you might be wondering if the loosely-fitting ear tips will affect the noise cancelling feature.
Acoustic Noise Cancelling & Aware Mode
One of the most stand-out features these ‘buds have to offer is their extremely impressive Acoustic Noise Cancelling feature. How much outside noise does it block out? Does it block out enough ambient noise to use them on an airplane? How does it work?
The ANC feature operates using a similar mechanism that other high-end noise cancelling headphones implement. Gone are the days where you had to just accept sub-par noise blockage. The new standard (explained in detail below) is exactly why the QC20 have gotten such positive feedback.
Each earpiece has 2 external microphones that monitor the decibel level of any noise around you. As the outside noise is being monitored, the noise cancelling feature will adjust accordingly. They do so by sending an opposite signal outwards which will counteract any noise trying to find its way past the earpieces.
Performance On Airplanes & Other Busy Areas
As we mentioned above, the noise cancelling performance is phenomenal. Here are a few real-life examples of how much ambient noise they block out:
If you’ve ever used headphones while using a vacuum cleaner or lawn mower – you know how much noise they can make. When you have these ‘buds in your ears, the vacuum will be barely audible above the sound of your music. By barely audible, we mean that you might be able to hear a slight hiss instead of the obnoxious roar of the engine.
They are also excellent for use during air travel. When you’re on an airplane, there are multiple factors that add to the level of noise around you. Other passengers having conversations, laughing, and crying babies plus the sound of the engine all make for a pretty noisy environment.
Even just putting the earpieces in your ears will drown out some of that noise, but when you activate the ANC – all that noise instantly becomes a slight murmur. Depending on how loud you like to enjoy your music, you can turn the volume up slightly louder than usual to further eliminate any outside noise leaking in.
Control Module Functions & Aware Mode
As we mentioned in the section about build quality, the ANC control module (located near the base of the cable) allows you to switch back and forth between modes without much effort at all. What’s the actual purpose of Aware Mode?
The Aware Mode function basically lowers the volume of your music and allows ambient noise to be heard. It’s very similar to the Ambient Aware feature built-in to the Sony WH1000XM2 Noise Cancelling headphones. Why would you want to be able to hear any outside noise?
Well, if you’re walking down the street and need to communicate with someone – you can activate the feature and have a conversation. Also, if you’re waiting for your flight number to be called at the airport, it allows you to make sure you don’t miss your flight.
Overall, it’s a convenient feature to use during any other short interaction where you need to be aware of your surroundings. As you press the aware button on the control module, the volume turns down. Once you press it again, the volume returns to its original level and you can keep enjoying your favorite playlist or album.
Speaking of enjoying your favorite music, how do these actually sound?
Sonic Performance – How Do They Sound?
Most ‘phones from this company are known for producing fairly easy-going and dynamic playback. Do these earbuds live up to that reputation, or does the ANC feature alter the way they sound?
Although the ANC feature definitely has an effect on the way your music sounds, its effect is only positive. When you have the ANC activated, your music will sound noticeably better with more depth and fullness. When it’s deactivated (or the battery dies), and your listening in passive mode – there will be a noticeable decrease in sound quality.
Let’s take a closer look at each frequency to see how they handle most styles of music!
When you’re listening to electronic, hip-hop, EDM, or other music that requires a dynamic bass response – you’ll notice how well these ‘phones perform. They have a somewhat warm bass response that’s also fairly accurate and extended.
The mid range is one of the weaker points when it comes to their overall sonic performance. Since the bass response isn’t subdued or quiet and the treble is emphasized – the mid range usually takes a back seat. While this is true, that isn’t to say that they are completely inaudible.
In the upper range, there are absolutely zero sharp peaks or tinny effect that makes it feel like the music notes are piercing your ear drum. Vocals and other instruments in this range are pretty well-balanced for the most part. Since they are slightly accented, there is a tendency to often times overshadow the mid range.
In terms of sonic performance, these ‘phones are surprisingly well-balanced with better detail separation than you might expect. They usually lean towards a slightly warm overall tone that makes for an enjoyable (but not necessarily mind-blowing) listening experience. If you made it this far, you’re probably wondering who these are the most ideal for.
Who Are These Perfect For?
These ‘phones would be perfect for you if you travel a lot and need a pair of lightweight ‘buds for use on the airplane, train, or other form of public transportation. Although they don’t have the strongest sonic performance, their noise cancellation features help pick up some of the slack.
They are easily one of the most feature-packed noise cancelling earbuds that also manage to provide above-average comfort. Keep in mind that these are definitely not ideal for working out. They do not carry an official water or sweat-resistant rating. Also, the slightly bulky ANC control module would get in the way if you tried to take them on a run or use them at the gym.
Their Acoustic Noise Cancellation feature is extremely reliable and consistent – which makes them absolutely ideal for any situation where you’d rather listen to your music than the people around you. Once again, they’re a great travel companion (as long as you don’t have a problem with their 3 to 4 year average life expectancy.
Overall, these ‘buds are great for frequent flyers, travelers, or for use as an everyday pair of earbuds. Take a quick look at the review table below to see the main pros/cons as well as how we calculated their final rating out of 10.
Now that you’ve seen all the facts, what do you think? Do you think these headphones are the best noise cancelling earbuds, or not?
If you’d like to see more information before you decide, click the link below!
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