Great sound quality
Long battery life
Smart assistant integration
Bluetooth connectivity issues
You’ve probably heard of Bose QC 35 IIs—they’re benchmark active noise-cancelling headphones, and some of the best wireless headphones we’ve tested to date. So when Bose released the new 700s, I was eager to get them into our labs to see if they could live up to their predecessors.
Updated 11/1/19 — In short, the Bose 700s would be a solidly good set of headphones, but they have design flaws, both minor and major. The showstopper: The Bluetooth stopped working within a month on both pairs of 700s we tested. The second pair also had its ANC fail. We've reached out to Bose for more information on this, but it's pretty hard to recommend a pair of headphones that seems to consistently fail within the first 30 days of use.
Some of the more minor issues involve features that, on paper, seem to be upgrades, but in practice your mileage may vary. While the 700s’ featureless touch controls are technologically superior to the QC 35 IIs’ buttons, they aren’t very responsive, so it’s easy to second guess you’re even touching the right area. There’s an app that offers a lot of different functionality and lets you set up the headphones with a smart assistant (Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant), but lacks some features we've seen on other modern headphones, like the EQ options on the Sony WH-1000XM3s.
About the Bose 700s
The Bose 700s are an expensive set of headphones. They run between $350 and $400, which is on the pricier side, even for wireless active noise cancellers.
Price: ~$350–400 online
Type: Over-Ear Headphones
Noise Canceling: Active noise cancelling
Battery Life: ~20 hours (claimed)
Audio Codecs: AAC and SBC
Passive Operation: Yes (3.5mm cable, included)
In terms of design, we liked how the Bose 700s felt to wear. The band is light and the ear cups fit snugly without applying too much pressure. I found they were comfortable to wear for long periods, and managed to stick in place when I went for a jog.
I only encountered two minor issues with design and fit. First, the band has a soft rubber strip that sometimes snaps out of place when you put on the headphones. Second, the ear cups don’t have full rotation, so if you want to take off the headphones and wear them around your neck temporarily, you have to twist the ear cups so the padding faces outward.
Right out of the box, the Bose 700s put a lot of focus on their app. The only documentation the headphones comes with is a little instruction card telling you to download the app. You can use the app to pair devices, manage your headphones, give your Bose products personalized names, control audio playback and ANC level, and customize your active noise-cancellation shortcuts.
There’s also links to additional, Bose-curated apps that were specifically designed to use with select Bose products, including the 700s QC35 IIs. I explored some of the third-party app offerings and they all seemed to be free, sound-based augmented-reality apps. Most just alter the tracking as you move your head—if there’s a sound to your right and you turn to face it, the tracking will change to make it seem like the sound is happening in front of you. It’s somewhat successful at mimicking a static soundscape, but other than the initial novelty, I’m not sure why you’d boot it up again. There’s also a few games available, like one where you play as a samurai and have to respond to directional noises by turning and swinging your phone like a sword.
Clearly there was a lot of effort put towards creating interesting apps that work with the 700s, but I’m just not sure why. Sure, it’s free, extra functionality, but its low usability just makes it feel like clutter.
What We Like
Great audio quality
The Bose 700s had great audio quality. Subjectively, the sound was crisp, clear, and the bass was capable of a decent punch without being overpowering.
For objective listening, I employed the services of my old pal, the Head and Torso Simulator (HATS). Looking at their frequency response curves, the Bose 700s do a pretty good job maintaining a flat, studio profile. Only the higher tones are boosted a bit. I saw minimal distortion and tracking errors. The headphones also did well at minimizing leakage, so you won’t be contributing to any external noise while you sit in your ANC sensory deprivation bubble.
Excellent battery life
The claimed battery life is about 20 hours and that seemed more or less accurate based on several weeks of wearing them almost all day. I could generally get away with two back-to-back days of heavy use without charging them.
Decent active noise cancellation
The Bose 700s had some impressive active noise cancellation, removing about 20.3 dB of noise from the surroundings. While this raw number is good on its own, it’s also important to note that the noise reduction happened across the frequency spectrum, allowing the headphones to block out more, different kinds of external noise, rather than only negating steady, low-frequency drones.
On a subjective note, the active noise cancellation algorithm seems to be better than many other ANC-headphones we’ve tried out as well. Typically active noise cancellation has its quirks, where it might react to a sudden, temporary external noise, effectively echoing that sound back at you. This effect is especially noticeable in a city setting, where there’s lots of sudden screeches, honks, and folks just yelling. I noticed the Bose 700s handled a city environment very well, with barely any subway squeals or honking horns echoed back at us. I also noticed it didn’t echo our footsteps, which is a common pitfall for lots of ANC algorithms.
Smart assistant compatibility
Using the Bose app, you can set up your headphones to work with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. Setup is fairly easy, and you can choose a wake word to make sure you aren't accidentally asking Siri questions while you're on a phone call.
The overall design & aesthetic
These headphones look nice and are very comfortable to wear. The band is a singular piece lined with padding that’s very soft to the touch. The ear pads feel firm but comfortable. Everything about the ear cups is sleek and featureless, keeping buttons on the rear side and facing downwards. Everything about these headphones says “premium.”
What We Don’t Like
My overall experience with the Bose 700s wasn't bad. They were some solidly good headphones with a few annoying quirks. By far, the worst feature was their Bluetooth connectivity. Early on, I ran into multiple issues with Bluetooth pairing that required deleting the pairing and re-pairing. It was a mild inconvenience at worst—not something I'd expect from a pair of high-end headphones, but also nothing that ruined the overall experience. Worse was when the Bluetooth would drop out entirely, and require I plugged them in to charge to reset the problem. While the headphones do come with a 3.5mm cable you can use instead of Bluetooth, the wireless connectivity is likely a significant part of why you'd want to purchase the 700s.
Within a month, the Bluetooth stopped working entirely. On the first pair, we could at least still continue using the ANC and listen via the 3.5mm cable. On the second pair, the ANC broke as well—it seemed like the ANC's levels kept cycling, as we'd notice it seemed to slowly fade in and out rhythmically.
We've reached out to Bose for more information on these issues and will update this article once we know more about this problem.
A lot of the controls aren’t easy to use or intuitive
The Bose 700s feature basic playback controls by performing relatively intuitive touch gestures on the outside of the ear cup—essentially, they have a little, hidden zone that functions like a trackpad. You can swipe up or down to affect volume, or forward and backward to control playback. The problem is, due to this touch area’s featureless integration, there’s nothing you can feel around for to confirm you’re in the right zone. Controls aren’t particularly responsive either, so it takes a while before you can feel comfortable issuing commands.
You can also perform a lot of complex actions with the Bose 700 headphones, but many of those actions are not easy to access or have intuitive controls. Many advanced functions require pressing and holding a button for long periods of time, which you probably wouldn’t know even existed without studying up on the manual.
The exchange processes could use some work
If you do run into an issue with your Bose 700s, make sure to follow-up on your order. When I tried to replace our initial, faulty pair, our return request apparently just fell through the cracks: our replacement just hadn’t been shipped out and the rep couldn’t figure out why.
No system is error-proof and it’s possible our experience isn’t particularly common. If you do wind up with a faulty pair of 700s, though, it’s probably a good idea to follow-up on your return, to make sure your order didn’t fall through the same cracks ours did.
Should You Buy them?
Updated 11/1/19 — Typically, when we get in a product and it doesn't work, we try to keep an open mind. Most products have a non-zero failure rate, and sometimes you're going to wind up with a lemon.
In this case, we've had two different pairs of the Bose 700s fail in exactly the same way. The Bluetooth would start randomly disconnecting and required a reset via plugging them in to charge. In both cases this solution eventually stopped working—neither one could connect via Bluetooth at all. Given that wireless connectivity is a core feature of these headphones, we simply can't recommend purchasing the 700s.
We've reached out to Bose for more information and will update this review when we hear back.
Meet the testers
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
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