Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 Review: Bose’s best headphones yet
For a long time, Bose’s QC series headphones were the benchmark when it came to ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) earphones. Sony, however, turned the table with its WH-1000XM3 headphones, which we tested was a great sounding pair of cans that set a new standard. However, in August of this year, Bose unveiled its new, completely redesigned Noise Canceling 700 (NC700) headphones that are expected to take the crown back from Sony. Will the latest pair of Bose headphones replace Sony and regain its position as the best consumer-grade wireless headphone? Find out in our review.
In the box
Bose Noise Canceling 700 Headphones
Type-C charging wire
3.5mm audio cable
Directly diving into how the Bose NC 700 performs, we noticed that the device’s drivers have been further tuned to provide better sound quality than the company’s previous offers. The new cans also have a fairly stable and well-known Bose sound signature across the entire range of the audio spectrum, which is neutral. This means that there is no significant emphasis on a specific range of the word spectrum, whether it is low, medium or high. While this kind of sound signature setting would be appreciated by purists, standard consumers, who prefer boosted bass frequencies, may not find the sound signature exciting because most headphone manufacturers these days raise the low frequencies a bit.
Bose is well known for its almost flat word signatures and the Bose NC 700 is no exception. The headphones have a neutral sound signature and at the lower end of the audio spectrum, we have noticed that it is capable of giving accurate bus response with good depth and precise decay. It is easiest to tarnish the quality of lower mediums because most of the overlapping frequencies in this range mix similar sound instruments. However, the headphones have managed to save the subtle continuous soft thumping bus drum kick on the track, the Howlin for You by the Black Key. It does the same thing for the extremely fine and fast baseline tabs of the Muse’s Nights of Sydney, which can be easily lost on heavy layered tracks.
The Bose NC700 is also capable of handling mids almost perfectly. It has a smooth mid so that long listening sessions do not tire the listener but there is a slight tradeoff in terms of details if Active Noise Cancellation is turned on. However, this is a standard case for almost all earphones equipped with the option, and on the Bose NC700, the phenomenon is noticeable in the lower-middle audio range. Singers’ vocals, including the type of baritone voice, may sound a bit boxy, and the prime example is Chris Rear’s Call on Me track where some details of the singer’s husky voice are lost during the chorus. Note that this is our netpicking, as most of the details are well preserved in the upper-middle and middle audio sections.
We note that some cracking appeared in the audio of the Bose QC 35 II when we tested the tracks at high volume but this did not happen on the Bose NC700. We were a little surprised to hear tracks such as Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Martin Garrix and Baby Rexer in the Name of Love, when the volume exceeded 90 percent. Below the 90 percent volume mark, there is no noticeable sibilance and the overall height is relaxed with a smooth roll-off at the extreme end of the audio spectrum.
The tuning soundstage is something that Bose has mastered and it has done well with the Bose NC700 again. It performs well on our Standard Test Gun Hunter by Björk with a wide stereo trajectory of the prominent attenuated base across the track. Similarly, soundstaging plays a prominent role in AR Rehman’s heavy-layered leafy gooey, and the headphones do justice to the track with its wide and spacious sound stage. Imaging and positioning are also remarkably handled by the new Bose Can.
The position of the various instruments on The Look By Metronomy track is almost perfect. When the percussive tone starts on the left, Bose renders the drum and guitar riff in front of the NC700 and in the center right. The acapella bits of the track also rise clearly from the left and then from the right before meeting in the middle, where the washboard is clearly heard on the very left. We can say for sure that the wide and spacious soundstaging, combined with the complex management of imaging, makes the Bose Noise Cancelation 700 a beautiful pair of headphones.
Noise cancellation performance
Bose has worked hard to improve noise cancellation on the Bose NC700 headphones, but it’s still not perfect. The passive seal formed by the earcaps of the headphones is good enough to prevent less noise from the surroundings. We tested the Bose NC700 on multiple occasions and found that when Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is converted to 10, the maximum setting, low humming like a light keyboard tap, and the sound produced by an AC are almost safe. 90 percent. However, the headphones allow sharp or sharp sounds to sound like a horning horn or the clanking of a mechanical keyboard a few feet away.
We also tested the headphones on a flight and it was able to absorb about 50 to 60 percent of the total ambient noise. Although the ANC of the Bose NC700 is not as good as we expected it to be, at least a 50 percent increase in music would completely drown out the ambient noise. Overall, the active sound cancellation on the new Bose headphones is much better than its predecessor, but it still lags behind the competition.
With the single button on the left earcup, the sound cancellation level can be toggled smoothly between the three levels, and it can be further tuned with the Bose Music app. We’ll talk more about the app and its features in another section. If the excellent ANC is what you want, we believe that Sony WH-1000XM3 (review) will serve you better.
Gaming, movie and call audio performance
Headphones and other audio devices were never restricted to a specific use. While audiofiles tend to have different devices for audio needs, most people use the same pair of cans to listen to music, watch movies, and / or play games. Broad soundstages are extremely helpful when playing battle royal games like PUBG and Apex Legends because it makes it easier to figure out which direction the enemies are coming from. However, while watching the action movie, we noticed that the regular gun shots and explosions were not as impressive, although the audio clarity is great and the overall audio is a few steps shy from perfect.
The Bose NC700 is equipped with a new eight microphone system and the four mics work together to deliver improved voice pickup. While calling, the person on the other end could hear us clearly, even with some words and chatter in the background. Bose says it employs a beamform-array to isolate speech and adds a ‘rejection-array’ to mute background sounds. If you are in a call or commanding a voice assistant it definitely works to get you right on what you are saying.
Construction and design features
Bose has excelled in redesigning its headphones. While we don’t know if its future headphones will feature the same design, the company has completely redesigned the Bose NC700. Although the headbands and earcaps are still made of hard ABS plastic, they feel premium with a glossy finish. Its entire interior, and the upper outer part is covered with soft rubber which not only gives the device a premium look and feel, but also makes it more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time or when it rests on your neck.
The ear cup supports an arch-like extension and finish, which we think looks bolder and better. The overall design of the ear cups has also changed as they are now slightly larger in size to fit your ears better. Memory foam earpads offer significant clamping force, which makes for excellent passive noise isolation but can be uncomfortable when listening to music for long periods of time. It took me a few hours to take a break from the Bose NC700. However, a colleague of mine was able to use it directly for eight hours without any discomfort.
Both Bose NC700 earpacks feature pill-shaped buttons, which are sensitive, easy to detect and provide good feedback. The left earcap has only one button that can be used to toggle between the three pre-set noise cancellation levels, which can also be changed manually from the Bose Connect app. Long press this button to enter conversation mode, which seems to have no headphones turned on because the music has been paused and the surrounding sounds have been improved. The right earcup has two buttons, one for enabling Bluetooth and pairing, the other a dedicated button for calling the smart assistant on your phone.
With the NC700, Bose finally introduces gesture controls, which are incorporated into the right half of the right earcap. You can swipe up or down the right half of the earcup in the Bose logo to increase or decrease the volume, and swipe right or left to change tracks. The single tap will play / pause the current track and press and hold for a voice notification that informs about the remaining life of the battery. Gestures work flawlessly but there is a small hurdle in implementing new designs and gestures.
While the design is remarkable, it’s not all roses. Due to the new design, the earpacks face inwards when the headphones are on your neck. We noticed that more than once, the headphones would automatically start playing due to the touch of ghosts. While this isn’t a big deal, it can certainly be a bit annoying when you’re talking to someone and listening to track or faded dialogue, even when you pause media playback.
Battery life, dual-pairing and app interface
When the Bose claims a battery life of up to 20 hours on a single charge on the NC700, we set the maximum number of noise cancellations to about 21 hours. Since headphones have a Type-C port, charging them is not a big deal, although it can easily take about a few hours to fully charge. The Bose NC700’s battery life could have been a little better if we had tweaked it. The new headphones can be paired with two devices at once, and Bose is now almost dual-pairing.
We’ve paired the headphones with a laptop and a smartphone so that the smartphone dominates when receiving a call. The audio source is switched to the laptop as soon as the media playback on the phone is stopped. The switch is not seamless although it can take up to four seconds, which is enough to avoid some dialogue while watching a movie. However, dual-pairing on the Bose NC700 is one of the best implementations of the feature we’ve got yet, and we hope it will get better with software updates over time.
Although not mandatory, the Bose NC700 can be integrated with the Bose Music app for enhanced performance. Connecting headphones to the app is a breeze, and once connected, you can access options like granular control over noise cancellation, switching between different sources, and more. A notable feature Bose has added is Self Voice, which enables you to hear your own voice in calls. This is really helpful in not having to shout because you can’t hear your own voice while your headphones are on. However, one feature that is missing is the ability to modify the overall sound profile using a built-in EQ.
The last row
The Bose NC700 is a great pair of headphones when we talk about overall audio performance. Although Active Noise Cancellation may be better, it works well in most situations. Add to this the new and upgraded design and additional options you’ll find with the app, there’s no denying that the Bose NC700 is still Bose’s best headphone. If you need top-of-the-line consumer-grade audio, the Bose NC700 won’t disappoint. However, if you prefer a better sound cancellation, don’t miss a warm sound signature and the need for additional sound customization options The Sony WH-1000MX3 is still a great option since last year.