Bose QuietComfort 45 BT, ANC Headphones – travellers cans (QC45 review)
The Bose QuietComfort 45 Bluetooth, Noise Cancelling, over-the-ear headphones replace the ageing QC35 that set standards for weary travellers.
The original QC35 (circa 2016) was the class leader in many respects. Version 2 followed in 2017 with the same look and feel but updated tech. So, it has been four long years between drinks. In that time, the venerable QC35s lost serious ground to Sony WH-1000XM* (M2, M3 and M4 $395), Sennheiser PXC-550 (Mark 1 and II $299) and the seriously excellent (music-wise) open-back Sennheiser Momentum 3 ($599 on runout for $449). And we should not forget the JBL Club One and Sony and Sennheiser mid-tier models either.
Will the Bose QC45 reverse the trend? We suspect Bose lovers will update, but the competition is too stiff for non-Bose users.
Bose QuietComfort 45
Note that, as usual, Bose publish severely limited specs
|Item||Bose QuietComfort 45 (QC45)|
|Warranty||12-months ACL if bought from Bose approved reseller|
|Country of origin||Thailand|
|Colours||Black or White Smoke|
|Bluetooth||5.1 with SBC and AAC|
Multi-point pairing to two devices
|Battery (claims)||24 hours 50% volume and ANC on|
|Charge time||USB-C 2.5 hours (cannot play while charging)|
15-minutes for three hours of playtime
|ANC (Active noise cancellation)||Quiet mode|
|Controls||Buttons: (Right) Power/Bluetooth on/off, Volume up/down, Power and multi-function button. (Left) Quiet/Aware mode|
|Sidetone||Adjustable in App|
|Hear through||Aware mode|
|Sound stage||Tri-port design (we presume that means quasi-open-back), but the sound stage is pretty narrow (like a closed-back) – just outside your ears. Good Left/right separation.|
|Personal sound profile||No|
|Simple Sync||Connect to a Bose Soundbar (700, 500) or Smart speaker (500, 300n and portable home speaker)|
|Mic||Not specified but expect 2 x inside ear cup for ANC and external microphone array for voice detection and noise cancellation|
|Build||Glass-filled nylon reinforces the headband to protect against falls and maintain its shape.Each pivot point has a cast-metal hinge.Synthetic leather (PU) on the earcup cushions and headbandFold-flat and in for storage|
|Inbox||Hard-sided carry case|
30.5cm USB-A-USB-C charge cable
3.5mm to 2.5mm 3-pole (stereo) cable – No ANC or microphone
|Voice assistants||Uses phones default|
First impression – well-made
We still use the Bose QC35 and QC35II daily. The QC45 is very similar apart from the change to USB-C and the action button on the left cup. The QC35 has stood up to four years of use, and it is about time to buy replacement earpads as my wife’s makeup has slightly affected the PU material.
We have the White Smoke for review. It is a nice change from the metallic silver or black paint (that has stood up well).
The design is great for travellers as it folds flat and inwards for storage in its hard-sided zipper case.
The App – basic
The Bose Music App (V 5.1.4, 16 November) update is necessary because prior versions had difficulties connecting to the QC45 and did not always ‘activate’ them so they could receive firmware updates.
The app is basic – quiet or aware mode, sidetone preference, simple sync to two devices, and that is about that.
No EQ, pre-sets, sound preferences, ANC settings. It also depreciates some QC35II settings. It is not class-leading.
Sound – Bose sound signature
Like most Bose products, it has the typical Bose Balanced sound signature (bass boosted, mid recessed, treble boosted). It is kind of what Bose wants us to hear via its digital signal processor. I don’t mind it for most music genres, but it is not class-leading. There are no pre-sets or an EQ; what you hear is what you get.
With ANC on volume peaks at 84dB (good) on it starts with some over-emphasised 50Hz (mid-bass) and builds to 100Hz (high-bass) where is almost flat to 1kHz (high-mid). But it ramps up strongly again between 1-4kHz (low treble), then dips again and is relatively flat to 20kHz. If you want to know more about sound signatures, read our guide How to tell if you have good music (a sound signature is the key).
With the 3.5mm cable (native analogue sound), there is almost no low-mid-high-bass building from 300Hz, peaking at 1.3kHz (mid-mid), and it is pretty well downhill from there with harsh mid-high-treble. Volume peaks at 74dB (OK). Cable listening gives it a Bright vocal signature that can be harsh. If you added more bass (and you can’t), it would be back to a Bose Balanced Signature.
BT Codecs – limited
It has SBC for everything bar Apple with ACC. We would have liked some high-res (LDAC) or adaptive codecs (aptX), and as it does not support aptX (any variant), the BT chip is likely not from Qualcomm. At best, you will get 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality, which is OK over Bluetooth.
ANC – Quiet mode or aware mode
Some ANC headphones have adjustable levels, but Bose has Aware (hear-through) or Quiet – no ‘off’ unless using a 3.5mm cable.
There is nothing wrong with Quite – it does a fantastic job blocking everything pretty well. But there is a perceptible, nit unpleasant, ear ‘pressure’ that may affect some people.
Aware mode uses the mics to bring the outside in, and it does a good job with minimal blocking.
Our view. Not as good as the QC35II and a long way from the Bose 700 but acceptable for a 240g travel headphone.
Sound leakage – yes
Because of Tri-porting, you can hear the headphones from an adjacent seat!
Handsfree – BT only
We suspect that there is only one voice mic on the right cup and one ANC mic on the left. Callers said the voice was clear but a bit thin (limited frequency range) as long as there was no background noise or wind. It is not class-leading.
Latency – not for gamers
There is nothing noticeable on Android and iOS but a perceptible lag on a PC/TV (SBC codec) playing a movie. These are not for gamers or video devices that don’t have lip-sync adjustment.
Battery – plenty for long haul travel
Bose quote 24hours at 50% volume with ANC on. Well, for starters, most users will listen at 70-80%, and we got 18 hours and 43 minutes. Charge time was 2 hours and 12 minutes – under the 2.5-hour claim. Still quite impressive.
These are USB-C but only require a 5V/.5A/2.5W charger. It will charge with any USB-C or USB-A charger.
Comfort – yes!
We tested for the best part of an office day. They are 240g and quite comfortable with just enough clamping to stay on your head. The PU earpads are relatively small, so you may need to look at larger ‘cans’ if you have larger ears. There was a little heat build-up after about 2 hours, but a quick break fixes that.
Cybershack view – Bose QuietComfort 45 BT, ANC Headphones for travellers
If you are a traveller, this offers everything you need – solid on/off ANC, reasonable music quality, comfort, and the carry case. The only downside is the 2.5-hour charge where you cannot use them.
I must admit to a bit of disappointment as, after the QC35II, I had great expectations for the QC45. I prefer the QC35II – better ANC and music quality. The QC35II was class-leading in many areas, but these have slipped to class-middling. And at $499.95, they are well over the Sennheiser Momentum 3 ($449 and suitable for larger ears), the Bose 700 ($445 and superior in most ways), JBL Club One ($399 and probably the pick for larger cans), Sony WH-1000M4 ($395, no aptX, and far better ANC).
Its nearest competitor is the Sennheiser PXC550-II ($299), which is slightly lighter, has adaptive noise cancelling, Qualcomm aptX LL, pre-sets, a better warm sweet sound signature, and you can listen via USB and BT while it charges.
But Bose buyers tend to be loyal, don’t care about specifications and will likely upgrade from their QC35s.
Class-leading is how review items earn extra points. The Bose QuietComfort 45 are good and take them to up to 8/10 overall, but they lose value and, to a lesser degree, performance. Bose lovers are welcome to ignore this review.