Bose has always been a powerhouse in the headphones market. Understated, but most importantly, more than competent at audio delivery, it’s common to find audiophiles all over citing one of Bose’s merchandise when asked for recommendations. Released on June 2006, the Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphone is still around seven years later. There are actually two versions of the pair, the most recent being the focus of this review.
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Design and Comfort
At first glance, Bose QuietComfort 3 does look a little plain compared to other headphones in the marketplace. It’s available only in silver/black, compared to the nine or eight colours other headphones seem to provide for. Nonetheless, that may well work in its favor, as it will resonate nicely with the group of listeners who are not looking for anything flashy. At a comfortable 4.8 oz. even with the cable attached, it’s Bose’s smallest noise-cancelling headphones. Its on-ear design is simple and slim, with black plastic for the headband and cozy leatherette ear cups padded with cushy memory foam. Getting a snug fit is only a few minutes operation.
Despite that, there is some apprehension about the narrow stem snapping easily. Thin and plastic is not exactly a superior pairing. The ear cups are also prone to overheating. Getting unpleasantly warm in about 30 minutes, it could be wholly unsuitable to be used in any strenuous activities or by those in warm weather. This is a shame considering how comfortable the ear cups are. In terms of storage, they can be rotated up to 90 degrees and stored neatly in the slim carrying case provided. There are also allocated sections for the cables and adapter in the carrying case.
Headphones that use batteries may elicit a few groans, but at least Bose had the decency of making them rechargeable, as well as including an airline adapter in addition to a wall-socket charger. Bose’s claim that the battery will last 25 hours can be attested to; when left overnight, there was still juice for a few more hours. Recharging was also painlessly quick, considering the many hours of play time you’re getting. Just in case wall sockets are eluding you, it’s wise to get a spare battery as no juice equals to no music. All in all, a convenient set for travelers and frequent fliers.
Compared to the old version of QuietComfort 3, the new one comes with two cables, one with a remote and microphone compatible with iPhones and iPods. It’s a nice, warranted improvement – the Apple pool should always be tapped into. Non-Apple users can also purchase a mobile kit, although why you should have to is a mystery. Bose should have made it compatible at least with Android phones as well, seeing as the Android pool is wide and deep, if not wider than deeper than Apple’s. There are also concerns about the cable being too thin, resembling other cables worth only $20. With the headphone costing $350 apiece, they should have been much more versatile and thick.
The QC 3 is a pretty piece of audio engineering. The bass is warm and plump, apparently a Bose signature sound. Perfect on hip hop, it nonetheless sounds a little overbearing for acoustic tracks. But on the other hand, the top and middle notes sound lush and pleasant; not what you would expect from a high-end pair, but close enough. Spoken recordings such as audio books are clear and concise, with practically no distortion to speak of. Compared to other noise-cancelling headphones out there, this one is pretty much one of the best in sound.
The real star element in this headphone’s story is the noise-cancellation feature. True to its name, the battery-powered feature drowns out jet engines, nearby chatter, screaming babies, and even the lawnmower. Although not exactly giving you total silence, the circuitry combined with the ear cups reduces noise drastically. In travelling, this is the deal-breaker as a good pair of noise-cancelling headphone can decrease jetlag tremendously. However, those with sensitive ears may find the feature a little too aggressive as the pressure from it will cause some discomfort after a few hours.
The QuietComfort 3 is not a fashion accessory by any means, but that was not the niche Bose was carving for itself. At a hefty $349, it costs $50 more than the old version. If you have the older version, is the new version a must-have upgrade? The answer would be no. If you’re a frequent flier and traveler looking for a new pair, is the QC 3 a must-have purchase? Absolutely. Although possessing a less than superior build, its noise-cancelling property makes for a convincing argument. If you’re diligent about keeping the battery charged, and don’t mind spending a little more for some peace and quiet, then Bose’s QuietComfort 3 is the pair for you.