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The Bose QC15s are currently available for $299.99.

The Bose QuietComfort 15s, ladies and gents!

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The ear cups have oval padding that fits around the ears.

The right ear cup has the active cancellation switch on it. Push it to the right to activate it, and a cheery green LED will turn on.

The bottom of the left ear cup is where you plug in the headphones' cord.

The band is covered in padding and can extend to provide a better fit.

The QC15s cable has a normal, 1/8-inch plug at one end, and a proprietary 1/8-inch plug on the other end (the end that connects to the left ear cup). There's also a control on the proprietary end, which allows you to control the level of amplification.

The battery goes in a little well on top of the right ear cup.

Bose headphones thankfully come with a courtesy card, and thank goodness for these things. While we were testing these headphones out, we were constantly accosted by total strangers on the street, who demanded information on our awesome headphones.


Seriously, Bose?


Anyway, there's also a handy instruction card in case you forget how to use the headphones.


In the box, you'll find the headphones, a travel case, a cord, some manuals, an airplane adapter, some convenience cards, and a battery.

The QC15s are a durable set of headphones. They don't seem plasticky at all, and their band has a metal core. Further, they have a removable cord, allowing you to replace the most fragile part of the setup pretty easily. The cups are also removable, should they tear.

If Bose does anything exceedingly well, it's making a swanky set of headphones. These things look great, except for the Bose branding on the outside. The Bose brand is abhorrent to certain audiophiles and will cause them to recoil in revulsion. Be sure to use your QC15s with caution.

This curve is a bit too erratic in the high end. The bass starts out slightly too loud, then gradually dips down to a more normalized value. Then, just before 1kHz, it starts increasing again, peaking above the limits a bit—the left channel more so than the right. After that small hill drops off, however, all hell breaks lose and the response graph starts looking like the worst EKG imaginable.

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Overall, this isn't the worst response we've seen, but it lends itself to an odd-sounding high-end.

Frequency Response Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Frequency_Response) We saw typical distortion for a set of active-cancellers. Since they're injecting anti-noise into your normal playback, it's inevitable that some distortion will occur. The distortion levels really aren't that terrible, though, and only hit 1.5% at their peak.
Distortion Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Distortion) Up until 1kHz, the QC15s have pretty good tracking. At that point they go a bit erratic, and the two channels have a vacillating emphasis. This unevenness can reach up to 6% difference at times, which is definitely noticeable. Fortunately, there are only a couple points where you'd notice any unevenness.
Tracking Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Tracking) If you'll notice, the QC15s' active cancellation tends to work like gangbusters for blocking out bass frequencies, but actually creates a non-insignificant amount of noise towards the higher end of the spectrum and does a poor isolation job all around. This is what we've learned to expect from a set of active-cancellers: they block out a lot of bass, but you're pretty much out of luck for frequencies above 1kHz. This shortcoming aside, the QC15s put up some truly impressive isolation in the bass frequencies, blocking out about 36 dBSPL of noise at their peak. This is absurdly good for any set of headphones, let alone a set of typically-underachieving active-cancellers. The QC15s have the best active cancellation we've seen so far.
Isolation Graph
[Click here for more information on our isolation test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Isolation) The QC15s leak quite a bit of noise. Most active-cancellers leak a lot of sound, but it's really hard to notice if you're wearing them. Basically, since the active cancellation is knocking out incoming noise, it'll sound like you're totally isolated from the outside world. The rest of the world isn't getting that active cancellation, however, and chances are the headphones' passive isolation isn't stopping much of your music from polluting the world around you. [Click here for more information on our leakage test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Leakage) We were able to boost the Bose QuietComfort 15s up to 107.15dBSPL before we hit a noticeable 3% distortion. This is pretty good for a set of headphones, especially given the excellent isolation the QC15s offer (spoiler alert, sry). Also, you shouldn't be listening to your headphones at anything exceeding 120dBSPL, since that can harm your hearing over time. Headphones already catch enough flack for deafening the youth of our world, so please don't contribute to those statistics. [Click here for more on our maximum usable volume test](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Maximum Usable Volume) The Bose QuietComfort 15s are initially very comfortable. They have a ton of padding on the ear cups, fairly soft padding on the band, and don't squeeze the head too badly. The one problem: the headphones' heft, coupled with their relatively weak noggin grip, means they might slide around a bit when you move. We wouldn't recommend these headphones for those who want a set of headphones for the gym. The only other caveat we'd add to this is that, if you're not used to active cancellation, the feature is going to cause you some initial discomfort. Active cancellation can be a bit disorienting at first—it feels like your head is underwater, or like you've suddenly lost a good chunk of your hearing—but that unpleasantness fades over time. Over six hours of constant wear, the forces of gravity took their terrible toll and the QC15s' band padding wasn't enough to maintain the blissful wear experience we'd had hours prior. They weren't necessarily uncomfortable, but we were aware there were headphones sitting on our head. There really isn't a whole lot you can do for customizability. There are no faceplates or different padding options included. You can remove the cord if you're just looking for cancellation, the band is extendable, and the ear cups can swivel and tilt. Typically full-size headphones don't have nearly as many customization options as in-ears do, which come bundled with multiple sets of sleeves and (at times) in-line accessories. The Bose QuietComfort 15s have a cord that's about 5.5 feet long. This is a pretty good compromise: portables usually stick to a 4 foot-long cord, and stationary cans' cables typically start at 8 feet. The extra length doesn't really hurt portability much, because it's so thin. The extra 1.5 feet should help connect to a stationary audio source without feeling like you're right on top of it, but it won't span an entire room either.
Cable Image

Also below is a gigantic picture of the airplane adapter, for your viewing pleasure.


The QC15s are meant to be portable, but don't really have the form factor for it. Like all Bose headphones, the QC15s come with a fancy case to lug the things around in. We'd recommend using it, even though it adds a lot of unnecessary bulk. The QC15s don't have a collapsible band,and their ear cups don't collapse particularly well.

Below is the case, which has a pouch to help keep the cord contained.

You can remove the headphones' pads and the small oval of felt underneath, but you can't get much further than that unless you have a tiny screwdriver.

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The headphones won't work without batteries. That's annoying, since you'll have to replace the battery every so often.

Active Noise Cancellation

The QC15 might have really effective active cancellation, but it's implemented much more poorly here than other active-cancellers. You can't listen to music without cancellation turned on, so if you run out of batteries, you've also run out of luck (we are assuming you define 'luck' as 'the ability to listen to your music with a set of headphones, because seriously, is that too much to ask).

The QC15s and ATH-ANC7s are about the same in terms of aesthetics and design. Both look great and are well constructed.

The QC15 has a more erratic frequency response than the ATH-ANC7.

Both headphones have low levels of distortion, but the QC15s have slightly more across the board.

The ATH-ANC7s have less extreme, more frequent emphasis shifts.

The QC15s beat the pants off the ATH-ANC7s on isolation.

Both headphones are about the same level of comfort.

If you're looking for quality, the QC15s aren't quite as good as the ATH-ANC7s. If you want active cancellation, the QC15s are, by far, the better choice.

The QC15s look slightly more swanky and slightly better construction than the AH-NC732s.

The AH-NC732s don't have a very strong high end.

The AH-NC732s have significantly less distortion, since you can turn off the cancellation feature.

The AH-NC732s have much more significant issues with tracking.

The QC15s have much better isolation.

We thought the Bose headphones were more comfortable, but this is pretty much a judgment call: do you like over-ear or on-ear headphones better?

The QC15s have a pretty big leg up on the AH-NC732s: they have arguably better sound quality and significantly better isolation. The problem is the QC15s can't turn off the cancellation feature or play back music without a battery.

The QC3s are on-ears and the QC15s are over-ears. That's just about the only difference. Both are feature a durable construction and look nice.

The QC15 has a much better frequency response.

The QC3s had much lower levels of distortion.

The QC3s have some significant issues with tracking.

The QC15s can isolate far better than the QC3s.

Both headphones have the same kind of padding, so the only real difference is their form factor. If you like on-ears, the QC3s will be more comfortable; if you like over-ears, the QC15s will be more comfortable.

The QC15s are better headphones in just about every way.

The NC200s aren't as well constructed and don't have the same style as the QC15s.

The NC200s are less erratic in the high end, but have a less-smooth low end.

The NC200s have slightly less distortion overall.

The NC200s have more uneven tracking overall, but the QC15s have some troubles with the high-end.

The QC15s' active cancellation is much better than the QC3s'.

We thought the QC15s were more comfortable than the NC200s.

The NC200s aren't great, but they're very inexpensive. They cost 1/3 what the QC15s do. If you don't mind spending the extra money for some significant improvements, the QC15s are the right choice.

The Bose QuietComfort 15s have a lot of improvements over the QC3s. They don't have the greatest sound quality, but their active cancellation feature is absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, even this strength has a weakness: you can't use the QC15s without the active cancellation feature and the headphones won't work without a battery charge.

If you're looking for over-ears with awesome isolation the Bose QuietComfort 15s are one of the best choices out there.

Meet the tester

Mark Brezinski

Mark Brezinski

Senior Writer


Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.

See all of Mark Brezinski's reviews

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