The cups are padded with thick halos of foam, covered in a layer of soft, pleather-type material. On the inside of the cup is a piece of cloth over the sound elements. The outsides of the cups are light gray with silvery detailing and branding.
The left cup has a divot of a cord jack on its underside; the right cup has a power switch near its top, and an LED that lights up when they are turned on. The cups themselves can tilt back and forth and rotate perpendicular to the band. With minimal force, you can actually rotate the cups a full 360 degrees around, but we wouldn't recommend doing this.
The band is mostly plastic, at least on the outside; extending the band reveals a metal core. The top of the band, like the cups, is padded and pleathered.
The cord is a decent quality. It isn't overly thick, but it is very sturdy. The part that plugs into the headphones is a bit different. First off, it has a bottom piece that conforms to the curve of the cup, so the cable fits right in with the design. Second of all, it has a tiny volume switch, which can be set to either high or low.
The Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones are by no means lonely in their box. The headphones and their cord are accompanied by a 5-foot extension cable, a two-pronged adapter for airplane use, a 1/4-inch plug adapter, a single AAA battery, and a case. Inside the case is a Velcro-backed pouch for holding the various adapters and a Velcro-back wallet of sorts, which holds Bose Courtesy Cards. The front of these cards have a picture of the headphones, their name, and a small paragraph explaining what the card's purpose is. Apparently, everyone who sets eyes on a Bose product is stricken with a desperate desire for purchasing information. The back contains contact numbers for various countries Bose has managed to conquer, so you can hand out the card if someone asks you where you got the headphones from. Once you've run out, you could use the Velcro wallet to store your own business cards in case you misplace the case.
Overall, the QC2s are well constructed, and feel durable. The cable is of a good quality, and its cable guards seem to be robust enough to keep the junction where the cable stops safe enough. The cable guard toward the plug is the worse of the two, since it's rigid and doesn't have a lot of give.
There are two minor durability issues and one problem that's potentially serious. For one, the band isn't collapsible. Even though the metal interior adds durability, if it gets bent, it could still break. Also, the cloth covering the sound elements is barely attached at all, offering protection only against the least persistent dust. The more pressing durability problem lies in the cup rotation. As we mentioned before, the cups have about 120 degrees of rotation so they can fold flat to fit inside the case. They can twist a bit further before they hit areas of resistance, and, with very minimal force, you can keep twisting them around. In fact, we can see many users thinking this is simply a feature. It isn't, however. If you check out the cord as you spin the cups around, it twists. If the cups are spun too much, it will eventually break parts inside the cord. Again, if you own the Bose QuietComfort2 headphones, be cautious about how far you rotate the cups.
It'd be hard for even a staunch anti-Bose audiophile to deny that the company can make a good looking pair of headphones. The QuietComfort2 headphones are understated and classy looking. They aren't the flashiest headphones out there; they won't make you look like a rebellious teen or a DJ on the road. As on-ear headphones, however, they are much bigger and more obvious than ear buds. But the QuietComfort2s are a reserved, professional set of on-ear headphones.
Distortion is a problem; if the sound gets clipped or otherwise distorted, you don't get the same sound the producers of the sound intended. The QuietComfort 2 headphones didn't show a huge amount of distortion, but there is some evidence of minor distortion there. In the below graph, the green line represents the left ear cup, and the red line is the right.
The QuietComfort 2 has generally low distortion, but we did notice a few peaks in the graph, which indicate distortion at particular frequencies, especially at around 2kHz in the left channel. There is also some distortion in the low frequencies, but again this could be caused by the noise canceling feature being active all the time.
Headphones have one channel for each ear, so it is important that the two sides produce the same sound. That's what we look at in this test; how well balanced the two sides of the headphones are. The QuietComfort 2s has some minor issues here; the balance of sound shifts to a slight degree from side to side.
The QC2s managed to reach an ear-splitting118 dBSPL before our testing system called a halt to the test; that's loud enough that even the most avid loud music fans can enjoy distortion-free tunes (unless you like metal or punk, where it's kind of mandatory). You should remember that, although our testing system has replaceable ears, you don't. If you crank the volume up that high, you're likely to permanently damage them.
Isolation is one of the big selling points of the QuietComfort 2 headphones; Bose claims its active noise cancelling circuitry identifies and cancels noise, and our tests show that these headphones did a very good job of this.
As you can see, the active noise cancelling (the blue line) does a much more effective job, especially at lower frequencies. With these low frequency noises (such as you would get inside an airplane in flight), the headphones with noise cancelling turned off don't block anything; low frequency rumbles go straight through them. But with the noise cancelling turned on, a significant amount of these noises are blocked; over the entire frequency range, they block an average of about 18.5 dB of noise. It is also interesting to note that enabling the noise cancelling circuitry seems to make the noise blocking slightly worse in the mid range (where the blue line goes below the green one at around 1Khz); this seems to be at the edge of the frequency range that the active noise cancelling circuitry tries to block, so it may end up actually amplifying the noise slightly.
However, it is worth comparing the effectiveness of these against another type of headphones; the in-ear ear canal ones, such as the Etymotic ER6i and Shure SE210. Both of these blocked more noise than the QuietComfort 2 headphones, because they effectively act as earplugs, blocking the ear canal with an average reduction of about 30dB. They do a more effective job overall than both the QuietComfort 2 and their siblings, the QuietComfort 3, but many people don't like putting things in their ears. For these people, the QuietConfort 2 headphones do an effective job blocking out unwanted sounds.
Although the QuietComfort 2 headphones do a reasonable job blocking sound from reaching your ears, they let quite a lot escape to annoy your friends and neighbors; with the headphones set at a high 90 dBSPL level, the sound could easily be heard several feet away. This is because the over-ear design doesn't form a perfect seal; there are some gaps that allow the sound to escape, no matter how carefully the headphones are place
For the comfort score, we customize the headphones so they conform perfectly to our head, then wear them for an hour. There aren't many areas to be customizes, which meas maximizing comfort is limited to making sure the band is extended properly.
We think the QC2s are comfortable. The padded ear cups and band padding help distribute pressure; they don't pinch or put any pressure on the ears or head. The main issue users may run into is one of weight. These are not in-ear headphones that weigh an ounce and change; they weigh a sizable 5.6 ounces. Also, motion causes their weight to shift around, so these definitely aren't a good choice to take on a jog.
Since these headphones have active noise cancelling, we have to give our customary warning: if you haven't used noise cancelling headphones before, try them out first. Many people find them quite disorientating, as the active noise cancelling produces an odd sensation, as if your head is underwater, or you need to pop your ears. Some don't notice anything, though. Regardless, we highly recommend testing out the feature first. We also recommend you give yourself at least an hour to get used to the sensation. Fortunately, Bose offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can buy, try, and then return them if they make you feel uncomfortable.
Even after six hours of use, the comfort level of these headphones didn't really change much. The pressure around our ears got a bit worse, and we noticed the QC2s' weight more. Other than this slight deterioration in comfort, the QC2s held up well.
The QC2's cord is about 5.5 feet long, which should offer an accommodating leash between you and your device. Don't fret if you find yourself in need of more cord - the box has the perfect solution: 5 feet of extension cord. That brings the total to a whopping 10.5 feet of cord, which should be enough for just about any user, and is a bonus for in-home use; that's long enough to reach the TV or a HiFi some distance from your favorite chair. We did notice the plug is a bit longer than the extension cord's jack was deep. This inequality means some of the jack will poke out if its hilt, making it appear as though it's only partially inserted. The plug and jack do mesh and hold well, however, so this is probably more of an aesthetic issue than an actual problem. The trade-off for this minor quirk is that the jack fits into a recessed headphone port, such as on the iPhone.
These headphones come with two adapters, as well. One has two 3.5mm plugs, designed to work with old style headphone jacks on some airlines.
The second adapter lets you connect to a 1/4-inch jack, such as the ones on most HiFi systems.
There isn't too much the Bose QuietComfort2 headphones offer for customization. The band can extend to add about 1.38 inches (35mm) to each side. Also, as mentioned previously, the cups can both rotate and tilt. The rotation can be a full 360, though you should really only operate within the 120-degree arc that Bose intended, or else risk harming the cord. They can also tilt back and forth along a 30-degree arc.
As over-ear headphones, it's easy to see how the QuietComfort2s might not be very portable. They do, however, have a few things in their favor. For one, the cups can rotate to make the headphones lay as flat as possible without any collapsibility.
The other portability aid the QC2s have is their case. This semi-rigid case has a pocket to hold the headphones and all their various accessories, keeping them relatively tidy. The interior of the case has two protrusions meant to hold the cups steady.
The case has a Velcro pouch stuck inside, which can be crammed with spare cord and adapters.
The front cover is where the Velcro wallet is located. Being Velcro, the pouch and wallet can adhere to just about any flat surface on the case's interior. All in all, this is a great case. That being said, the case is still really large. It'll fit into a backpack, but it will take up a lot of space. Most purses will have trouble accommodating. Even with a great case, over-ear headphones generally require a lot more space than the average pair of in-ear headphones.
Maintaining the QC2s seems to be a fairly easy task. The cups are removable, as is the cloth Bose lazily draped over the sound element. Between the cups and cloth, getting to the sound elements is easy. Should the need to clean them arise, there isn't much standing between you and a spotless sound element.
Beyond replacing the cup or cloth, there isn't much maintenance you can do. The band's padding and pleather covering can't be replaced easily, and neither can any of the other hard pieces. Bose does not offer replacement ear cups, but they do offer a replacement battery for $50.
Typically, if headphones connect to a device with a cable, you automatically assume a battery isn't necessary. Why would it need a battery if it wasn't wireless? To be honest, we're not entirely sure, but the Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones refuse to work unless regularly fed voltage.
Active Noise Cancellation
The feature itself is simple enough: pop in a battery and flip the switch. In fact, we couldn't imagine the process being much easier. There are only two times you'll run into problems. The first is when you don't want noise cancelling turned on. Unfortunately, there's no way to use the headphones without active noise cancellation. The second issue is that, when active noise cancellation eats up the last of its battery, the headphones will stop functioning. The headphones won't work unless there's a battery in there, and won't work unless noise cancellation works. Once the battery's gone, so are your audio playback privileges. Though we only had two issues with the noise cancelling feature, they ended up severely limiting the headphones' functionality.
Really, when you're buying Bose, you're getting a lot in the aesthetics department. The QuietComfort2 headphones are a luxury model. Your $300 will get you a nice case, a ton of extras, and a stylish look. In terms of audio quality, these headphones perform adequately; the sound quality is nothing to write home about, but it's not awful, either. The two ear cups have trouble keeping their volumes in sync, and for some reason the right channel has a small issue with distortion in the mid-range frequencies. Where these headphones really suffer, however, is in the usability department. Simply put, while functional, the noise cancellation feature simply should be optional. If you run out of batteries, that's it: your music experience is over until you find an outlet for the charger. We can understand battery dependence if the headphones are wireless, but this is simply not the case. Noise cancellation should be an additional feature, not a requirement that imposes an unnecessary life span restriction.
This being said, for most users, the Bose QuietComfort2 headphones should be considered if noise cancelling is at the top of your feature list, albeit with skepticism. They look great, and the noise cancellation feature certainly make these headphones attractive for those who are phobic of sticking things in their ears. The audio quality isn't great, but the noise cancellation feature works well and they are comfortable to use.
The Bose QuietComfort2 headphones are certainly a great-looking pair of headphones. It's probably a good idea to look at these like a luxury model: they have a professional appearance and noise cancellation, which is the latest buzzword feature, and offer better sound quality than included-in-box headphones.
Of course, like most luxury devices, the aesthetics come at the cost of quality. The QC2s don't offer good sound quality. Also, while a great feature, the noise cancellation is mandatory and requires a battery. The inability to function as regular headphones without a battery is very limiting, and should definitely be a consideration to anyone looking to buy these.
To summarize, these are headphones made for mainstream consumption. As such, most of the ticket price goes towards the 'shiny new high-end gadget' look, the noise cancelling feature and a carrying case full of goodies.
Meet the tester
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
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