Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones


The QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the best noise-cancelling over-ears on the market with Bose somehow managing to best its predecessors’ already excellent performance.

Improvements to the audio, battery life, and wireless performance are also welcome, although the call quality is slightly iffy. While the Immersive Audio is a confident stab at spatial audio, it’s not quite an essential feature.


  • Class-leading noise-cancellation
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Reliable wireless performance
  • Richer but still balanced sound


  • Odd call performance
  • Sony still the more exciting listen
  • Expensive
  • Immersive Audio works but lacks detail and sounds thin

  • Drivers35mm full-range dynamic drivers

  • Battery24 hours battery life, with 2 hours available after 15 minutes of charging

  • SpatialSupports new ‘immersive audio’ feature


When rumours were flying around of a new Bose headphone, I was expecting a sequel to the popular NCH 700 series. It’s a surprise to me that the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones arrived instead.

The Ultra Headphones are part of Bose’s revamped headphone line-up. Despite the QuietComfort 45 and QuietComfort Earbuds II being fairly recent; they’ve been ushered aside for new models that embrace higher quality performance and spatial audio.

3D audio could be the future if a brand gets it right, and if you’ve ever bought a pair of Bose ANC headphones, you’ll know how impressive they are. Can Bose, with its QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, make the ultimate pair of wireless over-ears?


  • Similar looks to QuietComfort 45
  • Black or white finishes
  • Comfortable to wear

Given the popularity of the Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700, my assumption was a sequel to those headphones that carried the same design – but no. The QuietComfort Ultra Headphones see Bose back on more traditional ground as far as aesthetics go.

They look like a more premium version of the QuietComfort 45, more rounded and svelte in appearance but still distinctly Bose. The headphones can be folded up and stowed away in the accompanying carrying case, and if that’s important to you then at least the Bose incorporates that design feature.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones collapsed design
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Available in black, white, and a fetching sandstone finish, these are very comfortable headphones even if they are not quite as comfy as the Sonos Ace. The clamping force is not too tight on the head, and the weight of the headphones is kept to a very acceptable 250g. The earcups are a little bulky but there’s enough space within to accommodate my fairly big ears.

As far as operating the headphones is concerned, most of that is confined to the right earcup. There’s a capacitive touch-strip for volume control and shortcuts that takes a little while to get used to; as well as physical controls for power/Bluetooth and a multifunction button that covers playback and noise-cancelling modes. The feedback from using physical buttons is always welcome when it comes to controlling headphones.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones control buttonsBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones control buttons
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Turn your attention to the left-hand earcup and there’s a USB-C input (USB-C to USB-A cable) for charging – it seems you can’t listen to audio over the connection which is a shame, and there’s a 2.5mm cable that terminates in a 3.5mm jack for wired listening.


  • Bose Custom Tune to optimise audio
  • AptX Adaptive support
  • 24-hour battery life

Headphones such as the Technics EAH-A800 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless have upped the ante for battery life, but I’d imagine Bose still believes in the idea of quality over quantity.

Bose claims 24 hours with ANC (the Immersive Audio feature is around 18 hours) and a test confirmed that a three-hour drain left them at around 80% – so 23-24 hours is achievable.

Bose has always been one of the best brands for delivering top noise-cancellation, and with the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones it has fitted the headphones with a new mic array to reap an even better performance.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones earcups designBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones earcups design
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Whereas with previous generations I felt the Bose were quite even with their Sony counterparts for ANC, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are a step ahead of the WH-1000XM5 or any over-ear headphones for that matter. I’m not talking about complete silence but most sounds that get close to the Bose’s mics are expertly dispatched with.

Such is the strength of the ANC that even when there’s a lull in music, I’m still able to hear what’s playing at default volumes without being disrupted by surrounding noises. Public transport, airplanes, and busy environments are food and drink for the QC Ultra Headphones.

The only areas I’ve noticed it’s not as imperious is when the London Underground makes an almighty din – the line between Finsbury Park and Highbury is too loud for even these headphones to calm down, though they are excellent in dulling screeching sounds on the tube. In most of these situations, a nudge on the volume control helps.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones logo close upBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones logo close up
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There used to be a chilly tone to Bose’s noise-cancelling, one that made music sound slightly processed and less natural but that’s gone. The Aware Mode is very effectively done – loud and clear to the point where I can hear other people and their conversations. The difference between wearing the headphones with Aware Mode and taking them off at times seems negligible. The other audio mode is Immersion, but I’ll get to that in the sound quality section.

Bose says it has improved the call quality of these headphones but I’m not too sure. An update rolled across all its new headphones was meant to help out with voice pick-up with machine learning integration but doesn’t appear to have had too great an effect.

Actual call quality is solid, and voice pick-up is excellent but like the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, whenever you start talking the headphones let in external noise – so much so that the person on the other end heard loud banging and crashing noises whenever a loud vehicle went past. It’s not enough to distract from what’s said but whenever I wasn’t talking, the headphones let in no noise. Strange.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones yoke close upBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones yoke close up
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The QuietComfort Headphones Ultra use Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, with SBC, AAC and aptX streaming, which includes aptX Lossless delivered courtesy of Snapdragon Sound. Aside from a few stutters, the wireless performance is as solid as you can get from a pair of over-ears. Bluetooth multipoint is also included for connecting to two devices at once.

Another selling point is Bose’s Immersive Audio. It’s a form of spatial audio that takes stereo tracks and upconverts them to create a bigger, more immersive presentation.

Head into the Bose Music app and you can calibrate it to personalise the experience to your head (it takes practically a second to do), and from there you have the option of Still and Motion modes. Still provides the bigger spacious soundstage but audio stays in space (best suited for sitting down), Motion keeps up the movements of your head, so if you turn your head, music will shift to compensate.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Music appBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Music app
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The app itself hasn’t changed too much over the years with small additions added. There’s a fairly simple EQ setting for the audio, with a three-band custom setting or the option to boost or reduce treble and bass.

You can bound between the noise-cancelling and Immersive modes, check battery life, enable a multi-point connection and switch between various paired devices. The app is where you can choose a shortcut, which can be either battery prompts, Immersive Audio modes, voice assistance, or jumping back into your Spotify mix. You can also control volume and audio in the app too. The app keeps things relatively straightforward, which is appreciated.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Music app customisationBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Music app customisation
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Sound Quality

  • Immersive Audio support
  • Clear, detailed sound
  • Weightier bass than before

Audio is transmitted through 35mm full-range dynamic drivers, although the size of the drivers doesn’t appear to have had an impact on the size of the sound.

What’s more pertinent is the tuning. I’ve felt that Bose headphones in the past had a crisp, lean tuning that didn’t lend themselves to the most musical performance, especially compared to Sony’s headphones. That’s all changed with the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones.

There is a smoother sounding and weightier listen, but still maintain that balance through the frequency range.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones laid flatBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones laid flat
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The bass is richer when listening to Royal Blood’s Troubles Coming than either the QuietComfort 45 or Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, both of which were defined by a taut, punchy feel towards the low end. But the QC Ultra Headphones’ performance is not to the point where bass overwhelms or is a burden on midrange clarity. There’s a fine sense of detail and clarity about how the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones go about their business, presenting a more mainstream sound than before by giving the low frequencies a little padding.

The highs are reproduced with detail, clarity and variation, though short of the sharpness the Sonos Ace can produce. The QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have a clarity to treble that edges out the Sony WH-1000XM5 with GoGo Penguin’s Erased by Sunlight, which takes a richer approach to describing highs.

It’s the midrange where it feels like the Bose’s new tuning has had the most impact. Vocals consistently sound clearer on the Bose than they do on the smoother, richer-sounding Sony with the Bose dropping the clinical tone of previous Bose headphones. There’s more emotion and naturalism conveyed with singers’ voices on this Bose than I recall on older models.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones earpads detailBose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones earpads detail
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Detail and clarity levels are above that of the Sonos Ace, but in a straight fight with the WH-1000XM5, Sony’s headphones retrieve more detail from the midrange and sound more dynamic and exciting of the two. The Bose benefit from nudging the volume up as they lack a bit of dynamism and energy at their default volume.

The Immersive Audio feature is an impressive piece of tech – move around and the music moves with you, or you can choose to keep still and benefit from a wider sense of space. Switching to Immersive Audio does result in slightly lower levels of detail, but having listened to the Sonos Ace’s dynamic Head Tracking, there’s a thinness to the Immersive Audio. Performers’ voices and instruments are resolved a little too thinly compared to when Immersive Audio is off.

There’s also the question of whether it works for all types of tracks and genres. Listening to Neil Young’s Old Man, Young’s voice is more distant in the soundstage compared to the untouched stereo track. Do you want to be further from the musician or closer to it? My bet is on the latter.

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Should you buy it?

If you want the best ANC

Bose has surpassed the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the noise-cancelling stakes. If you want the most suppressive performance, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones currently wear that crown.

If you want the best sound

So while Bose offers the best ANC, the Sony are still the best to listen to with their exciting, dynamic, and detailed performance.

Final Thoughts

To circle back to the question in the introduction of whether the Bose could be the ultimate pair of wireless headphones, the answer is “not quite”, though the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are better than the brand’s predecessors.

They’re one of the most comfortable headphones to wear, the noise-cancellation is outstanding and the audio quality is an upgrade over the QuietComfort 45 and Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Bose has moved more towards a mainstream sound that’s well removed from the lean tone and lack of musicality of other models.

But the Immersive Audio doesn’t quite blow my socks off. You get a better sense of depth and movement but you lose a sliver of detail, definition, and clarity, as well as music becoming thinner with it on, although the head tracking is genuinely impressive. Like the Yamaha YH-L700A, this is a confident attempt at 3D audio but I still prefer listening to music with Immersive Audio off.

All that said are an excellent pair of wireless over-ears, the noise-cancellation is class-leading for over-ears, the wireless performance is terrific and they good call quality. If hell is other people then the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones will take you closer to audio heaven.

How we test

We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy

Tested across several months

Tested with real world use


Does the Bose QC Ultra Headphones have spatial audio?

The Bose QC Ultra Headphones have their own form of spatial audio in the Immersive Audio feature, which can take any stereo track and upconvert it into 3D.




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