Noise-canceling headphones aren’t what they used to be. The first pair from Bose, the legend goes, was conceived by founder Amar Bose in 1978 while attempting to listen to music over the incessant hum of a plane engine and first took form as a niche headset for pilots in 1989. A decade later in 2000, the now-iconic QuietComfort line arrived as the first active noise-canceling headphones for everyday buyers.
Today, the purpose headphones serve has rapidly changed. No longer solely a travel companion or stereo component, they are a fixture of everyday life. A 2014 survey by Sol Republic found that millennials clocked in an average four hours per day wearing headphones. In that time, noise-canceling technology has stretched far beyond Bose, and everyone from Sennheiser to Anker has been getting in on the feeding frenzy. According to many discerning ears, Bose has been unseated from the throne it designed most recently by Sony and its WH-1000XM3 headphones, which are as lovely to listen to as they are hard to pronounce.
It’s from this position on the back foot that Bose has developed its latest headphones, which aim to take the tech a leap forward like QuietComfort before it. And as soon as you put them on, it’s clear: the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the culmination of years of worthwhile toil.
Before the Headphones 700, Bose had arguably grown accustomed to effortlessly being the best. Its QuietComfort series had been the king of the noise-canceling headphones for so long that it became an almost untouchable standard. The QuietComfort 25s released in 2009 even look strikingly similar to the QuietComfort 35 IIs released almost a decade later.
But with the Headphones 700, Bose did more than design a completely new, sleek and minimalist look. It also took the technology a step forward to a new, decidedly 2019 use: reinventing how you use your phone. And the results are genuinely stunning.
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When you talk on the phone in a noisy environment, the natural reaction is to talk louder — you raise your voice to the volume of the room. It’s a natural, subconscious, and nigh-unstoppable phenomenon in psychoacoustics. You can’t really help it, and it’s why people wearing headphones and listening to loud music always have a tendency to scream at you. It’s also why, in a noisy room, you will invariably scream at someone when you’re talking to on the phone.
The Headphones 700s put their noise-canceling powers to work to fight this phenomenon by canceling out ambient noises for you, so you feel like you’re in a quieter environment and naturally speak more softly. At the same time, they pluck out your voice specifically for transmission across the phone line.
The secret is the Headphones 700’s completely new eight-microphone system. Six of those microphones take care of the new noise-canceling and transparency modes, while four microphones (one pair is pulling double duty) isolate your voice to separate it from background noise.
The result is twofold: No matter how loud the room you’re in, the Headphones 700s are able to pick out your voice specifically, so that your conversation partner can hear you loud and clear. But better yet, because the headphones’ noise cancelation tricks your brain into letting you talk more softly, you can speak at volumes that are nigh inaudible to eavesdroppers in a noisy room. The end effect is that the Headphones 700s are able to use their noise cancelation not merely to cancel noise, but to deliver a sense of privacy even when you’re in a very public place. This is, for now, a very novel and unconventional feature.
Of course, any noise-canceling headphones worth their salt can’t get by on gimmicks — they still need to check the two big boxes of sound quality and noise-cancelation. Naturally, the Headphones 700 do that as well. They’re the best that Bose has ever made. Throw in all the modern features that the QuietComfort 35 IIs lack, such as ridiculous levels of customization when it comes to noise-cancellation levels, swipe gestures for playback and a fantastic transparency mode, and the Headphones 700 put Bose back where it belongs: on the throne.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Charging Port: USB-C
Battery Life: Up to 20 hours