headphones
  • Best of Year 2015

Bose QC25 Headphones Review

The new QC25s from Bose aren't perfect, but they're a worthy successor to the QC15s.

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The Insides That Count

The Bose QuietComfort 25 over-ears (MSRP $299.95) deliver a consumer-friendly sound, great isolation, and low amounts of distortion—as long as active canceling is on. Without it, the sound stage suffers dramatically, and sub-bass/bass elements gain notably more harmonic distortion. The solution? About $4.79 for a four-pack of AAA copper tops.

Isolation

If there's one place the QC 25 over-ears shine without question, it's in the isolation department. Our isolation test measures a set of headphones' ability to isolate noise both with and without an active noise canceling feature triggered, measuring their natural isolation ability as well as the improvements made by triggering the active noise canceling.

With ANC on, the QC 25 over-ears reduce sub-bass/bass tones around 20 dB, meaning they're reduced by 25% of their original volume. While midtones aren't affected as prominently (only around 15-20 dB), high-mid and high-end frequencies are dampened by 25-35 dB, sounding out at only one-eighth of their original volume.

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The Bose QC25s do as good a job quieting outside noise as any other noise cancelers we've tested this year. The meat of bass frequencies are squashed by about 30 dB, for example.

Frequency Response

Like most ANC-equipped cans, these Bose offer up a different soundscape depending upon whether or not their canceling feature is active. We measure the frequency response with ANC turned on and off, and found major differences in bass and midtone emphasis, as well as fairly notable differences between the left and right speaker channels.

With ANC enabled, the QC 25 over-ears give plenty of emphasis to sub-bass and bass tones, mustering a flat, even response that's sure to please audiophiles. This emphasis tapers very gently from ~80 dB to ~75 dB at the 1kHz midrange point, dropping off notably for high-mid trebles and spiking again (slightly) around 6kHz. The result is a consumer-facing sound that's nevertheless subtle and well-balanced—save for a period of under-emphasis right around 3kHz.

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The QC25 over-ears sound best when ANC is active, but they still exhibit a serious lack of emhpasis around 3kHz.

With ANC turned off, the soundscape is thrown off-balance. It's the sub-bass range between 20 and 60 Hz that takes the biggest hit, dropping from a healthy 80 dB playback to ~75 in the left channel and closer to 70 in the right channel. This volume discrepancy between channels doesn't stop there, actually: Across the entire frequency spectrum, the left/right channels are out of sync in terms of volume. There's also a notable lack of emphasis between 1.8kHz and 6kHz, which means a lot of details lost.

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With ANC off, the Bose QC 25 sound quite a bit worse compared to when ANC is active.

Total Harmonic Distortion

Distortion, the natural presence of mechanical sounds and/or clipped harmonics or bass tones during speaker playback, can be the bane of an otherwise stellar set of cans. Akin to their frequency response test, the Bose QC 25 over-ears perform much better with ANC turned on than when it's off, again compelling consumers to simply never run out of juice.

With ANC enabled, distortion is kept very low: Even the sub-bass range, the most distorted frequency range, never rises above ~10% THD. This number quickly drops to below 3% distortion—the ideal amount—between 60 and 10kHz.

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There's a much higher degree of THD present when ANC is turned off, compared to when it's on.

With ANC turned off, things change quite a bit. THD within the sub-bass range (audibly, ~20 Hz–60Hz) jump between 25% and 40% THD depending on the channel analyzed, which is much higher than anything reported while ANC was on. The right channel, in particular, peaks just above 3% THD into the bass range above 60Hz, which is a notably worse result compared to when ANC is on.

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From top to bottom, the QC 25's exhibit less than 4% THD, which is a terrific result.

Other Tests

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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