Bose Battle! QuietComfort 45 vs. Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Battle! QuietComfort 45 vs. Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The $329 Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are among the best you can buy if you're looking for active noise cancellation (ANC). So are the $379 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Confusing? A little bit. While the two pairs share many qualities, their differences are far more than cosmetic. Here we're detailing how they stack up in a number of categories to help you determine which headphones are right for you.

Noise Cancellation Performance

The QC 45 headphones offer the best noise cancellation we’ve tested to date, effortlessly dialing back deep, low-frequency rumble, like you’d hear on an airplane. They also excel with the variable highs you might hear in a busy restaurant or cafe, like conversations and clinking glasses, tamping down the mids and highs dramatically, as well as dampening the lows. In testing, the headphones impressively cut back loud music with deep bass, bright guitars, and percussion playing at high volumes through near-field monitors. They can't completely eliminate these high-volume sounds, but we doubt that any noise-cancelling circuitry can.

Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700(Photo: Tim Gideon)

The NC 700 headphones are no slouch in the ANC department by any means. However, they aren't quite as effective at eliminating noise as the QC 45, particularly for powerful low frequencies as well as challenging mids and highs. That said, they're still among the top five models we've tested, so we're really splitting hairs here.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 45

Noise Cancellation Adjustability

The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 offer far more versatility in terms of ANC, as they let you adjust their settings. In their companion app, you can move a fader between 0 and 10. At 0, the headphones are fully in ambient listening mode, while at 10, they're fully in ANC mode. Levels in between blend the two modes.

With the QuietComfort 45, the app merely lets you switch between Quiet and Aware modes.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700(Photo: Tim Gideon)


You might assume that the pair with the word “comfort” in its name would win this category—and it does. The QC 45's lush earpads and generously padded headband make the headphones pleasant to wear over long listening periods. The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 also have a well-padded headband and comfortable earpads, but they fit less snugly around the ear. The snugness of the QC 45's soft earpads is what gives them the edge.

Bose Battle! QuietComfort 45 vs. Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 45


Both headphones use the same app—Bose Music, for Android and iOS. However, each pair unlocks different features in the app. On the plus side, both models benefit from a smooth pairing process: power up the headphones, open the app, and it will pair the headphones with your mobile device without requiring you to open the Bluetooth menu.

Beyond pairing, the app is far more useful for the NC 700 than the QC 45. For instance, the NC 700 headphones get a three-band, user-adjustable EQ, something you don't get with the QC 45. When you switch back and forth between the two headphones in the app, you can literally watch the EQ functionality disappear.

That’s not the only difference. As mentioned in the noise cancellation section, the app offers the option to blend ambient and ANC modes for the NC 700, which is more than you get with the QC 45.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700(Photo: Tim Gideon)

Audio Performance

Bose isn't always revered by audiophiles, as its headphones tend to have highly sculpted sound signatures. To be clear, the headphones don't sound bad, but you should look elsewhere if accuracy is your top priority. For example, consider the Editors' Choice-winning Sony WH-1000MX4 headphones or the Apple AirPods Max.

That said, most people trying out the QC 45 or the NC 700 will find plenty to like about their respective audio performance. Out of the box, they sound quite similar. The QC 45 headphones deliver a slightly brighter sound signature than the NC 700, but both have very similar bass.

The difference is the in-app EQ that the NC 700 headphones unlock. You can choose between various simple presets, such as Bass Reducer or Treble Boost, and get a three-band EQ—the three bands are labeled Bass, Mid, and Treble. We would prefer EQ with a little more information (such as one that lists specific frequencies and decibel levels), but this is still a significant advantage over the QC 45, as it allows you to sculpt the sound signature to taste.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700


Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700(Photo: Tim Gideon)

Both pairs come with zip-up cases made from the same black, leather-like material and are exceptionally flat. But when you place them side by side, there’s a clear winner. Because the QuietComfort 45's case houses the headphones when they’re folded in at the hinge (as opposed to the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which lay flat), it's more compact and easier to carry. Both cases offer excellent padding and protection, however.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 45

Battery Life

Bose rates the QC 45 headphones for 24 hours of battery life and the NC 700 for 20 hours. Playback volume and noise cancellation will play a huge role in how much battery life you eat up with either model, but the QC 45 pair has the edge here.

It's worth noting that both headphones can be used in passive mode, with included audio cables.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 45

Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700(Photo: Tim Gideon)

Mic Clarity

Both pairs of headphones offer very similar mic clarity, which is a good thing. Bose makes the headsets NFL coaches wear, so the focus here isn’t on a perfectly lifelike recreation of the audio, but on vocal intelligibility. Will you hear some Bluetooth audio artifacts in the mic signal? Yes. But both mics dial back unnecessary frequencies and boost others associated with intelligibility in the name of clarity.

Winner: Tie

Which Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones Are Best?

Based on the number of wins in each category, the QuietComfort 45 headphones edge out a narrow victory. But the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are still very competitive, especially if audio performance is more important to you than noise cancellation. Similarly, if you like the design of the NC 700 more, the pair's slightly less effective ANC shouldn't bother you. And what you lose in efficacy, you gain in control and EQ adjustability.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 45

Left to right: Bose QuietComfort 45, Apple AirPods Max, Sony WH-1000XM4(Photo: Tim Gideon)

Noise Cancellation Beyond Bose

Bose is good, but it isn't the only game in town. Are Apple's AirPods Max worth $200 more than the QuietComfort 45 or Sony's WH-1000XM4? Here's how the top three pairs of noise-cancelling headphones stack up on price, performance, and features.

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