You don't realise how important noise cancelling headphones are for you until such time as you get a pair. As a fairly frequent flyer and a bit of a tech head I would often find myself in Dixons Travel ogling the premium headphones. In particular the Bose range. This was just last year, back in the days before Apple went on company wide I/O blitz. Back when we had a 3.5mm headphone jack on our phones and an SD card slot on our laptops. More than once I came close to pulling the trigger on the previous generation of Bose Quiet Comfort 25's to make all the air travel that bit more manageable. I was still rocking the iPhone 5S as my upgrade was late cycle. I was trying to eek out the old hardware for the impending iPhone 7. The tech blogs had been rife with rumours that Apple was going to ditch the headphone jack. so dropping a couple of hundred pounds on a pair of headphones that could soon become obsolete didn't seem like the right move.
Fast forward a few months and the new range of iPhones had been announced sans 3.5mm port and with what I still consider to be a janky lightning adaptor in it's place. I upgraded to the 7 plus and came round to Apple's way of thinking. The future of my personal audio would be wireless. With the Bose QC25's out of the picture, I was left with the Bose QC35's as my primary option. Sure other brands do wireless noise cancelling headphones. Sennheiser, Audio Technika, Sony and even Beats to name a few. But based on my research and in particular according to the brilliant Wirecutter, Bose's noise cancelling technology was the best. To me the noise cancellation was the most important factor. I am someone who is on 50-60 flights a year, and that aeroplane drone is real. Plus I had a trip to Australia coming up. That's about 24 hours each way of jet engine humming.
I can safely report the noise cancellation is as advertised. Bose has adopted some kind of technological wizardry here. You may notice the small grilles and holes on the ear cup, well they house microphones that pick up ambient noise. The headphones then synthesise the exact a sound wave that is the exact opposite of the ambient and as a result completely neutralises outside noise. At least that's my understanding of how it works. And work it does, although it's not without it's flaws. These are not the headphones to buy for walking the dog. Wind is a real issue. If you've ever recorded audio outdoors on a mic with a dead cat you will know that mic in the wind noise. That happens if you've got the QC35's out in the wide world, and it's annoying. As most noise cancelling headphone use similar technology, I'm guessing that this is an issue across the whole sector. Also if you're on a plane, and you've got the window seat for those take off and landing 'grams then there may be a slight issue. At some point you are going to tilt your head to the side and rest your head on the interior fuselage wall. Then you're going to have a heavy duty rumble go through your entire head. The hard plastic on the headband of the QC35's makes all the vibrations and passing wind noise of a plane going hundreds of miles per hour pass into your head. Believe me when I say that this is enough to wake you up.
Speaking of that hard plastic headband, let's talk about the comfort of the QC35's. For me they are spot on. Under the headband there is a soft suede liner that just works. These are moderately heavy headphones and if you're more used to wearing earbuds will be noticeable, but after a short period of time you forget about the weight on your head as it is distributed well.
The cups themselves are well padded and comfortable for long periods of listening. Some people may get slightly sweaty ears with the leather ear cups, but even on extended listening sessions this has never been an issue for me personally. The ear cups are directional, and marked left and right inside the cups, but when you put them on, you can tell right away if they are the wrong way round. The ergonomics are spot on. Bose have evolved this design over a number of iterations and it shows.
As with everything else these days the QC35's have an app. Of course they do. The app doesn't really do much to be honest though. It allows you to change the name on the bluetooth profile, alter volume and displays what audio you are playing. There's no EQ or sound profiles to choose between which some audiophiles may have issue with, but that's not an issue to me. You notice how I've got this far in this review without mentioning the audio? That's simply because I'm not an audiophile by any means. My listening habits break down to about 60% podcasts and 40% music, of which all is streamed. I don't do lossless audio formats, I don't keep music on my phone. I am listener of convenience. My ears are not cultured enough to be able to hear the difference. Streaming audio quality is fine for me, as it is I imagine for 95% of people out there. What I will say is that the audio is crisp, and I very rarely have had any issues with audio dropout on bluetooth. Even leaving my phone in the living room whilst I'm cooking up a storm in the kitchen. That's with a house built in the mid 50's. The internal walls are block as opposed to plaster and stud.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the QC35's is the battery life. The advertised 20 hours of wireless and 40 hours of wired performance is in my experience as advertised. Add in that you can get a couple of hours of listening from a 15 minute charge (admittedly not as impressive as the 2 hours from 5 minutes of the new Beats X buds). Battery anxiety is not something you are ever really worried about. They use a micro USB cable to charge the lithium ion batteries so you can hypothetically use an battery power bank to give them a zap charge, but that's not something I've had to do in my 6 months of ownership. You can check the battery with a right swipe from home on iOS, so you don't even have to dive into the app to check your current battery status you should always know where you are at battery wise.
As you can probably tell, I love the Bose QC35's. For me they are everything that someone who regularly travels for work could want from a noise cancelling headphone. I am the first to concede that they are a tad on the pricey side, but they make such a difference to the quality of travel that to me they actually represent decent value. If you have been undecided whether they are worth all that, all I can say that for me they are, but you have to make up your own mind.