Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Verdict

The same look and sound – but not quite the same noise-cancelling performance. The Bose QC Ultra Earbuds remain an impressive pair of true wireless earbuds, but there are areas for improvement

Pros

  • Comfy to wear
  • Very good noise-cancellation
  • Excellent wireless performance
  • Engaging audio quality

Cons

  • Average call quality
  • Noise-cancellation seems slightly diminished compared to previous gen
  • More expensive than previous model


  • CustomTuneFeature that optimises both ANC and sound quality

  • Snapdragon SoundHigh quality audio with aptX Lossless compatible phones

  • Bose Immersive AudioUpmixes stereo audio into 3D

Introduction

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds. So how could Bose improve on excellence?

Firstly, it launched a whole new range of headphones. Having initially stated the QuietComfort Earbuds II were to receive a post-launch update that would bring Snapdragon Sound support, Bose instead launched new over-ear and true wireless models that included the Snapdragon platform and Bose’s own Immersive Audio tech.

That would seem a fair enough upgrade for a slightly higher asking price. The end result is not quite as straightforward as you might expect.

Design

  • Same aesthetics as before
  • More comfortable
  • Touch controls

Bose hasn’t changed much in the way of aesthetics for the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. They are practically the same aside from the silver lick of paint on both the earphones and the charging case logo.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds stability bandsBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds stability bands
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

They also fit slightly better – at least, for me – than the previous buds, which I imagine is down to the slightly tweaked design of the stability bands. The predecessor always made me itch my ears after a while but there’s no discomfort with this pair. They come with three pairs of tips (small, medium, and large), and three pairs of the stability bands in the same sizes to best fit your ears.

Controls are the same and cover playback (taps) and volume (swipe up or down), and appear more precise than they were on the QC Earbuds II (taps aren’t interpreted as swipes). Sometimes touch controls can be hit or miss but here they’re more the former than the latter.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds charging caseBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds charging case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The earphones are rated to IPX4 to cover against sweat and rain, the case is the same design as well. Colours are a choice of black, white, and blue.

Features

  • aptX Lossless support
  • Same battery life as before
  • Bose ActiveSense technology

Like the QC Earbuds II the QC Earbuds Ultra support Bluetooth 5.3, with Snapdragon Sound added to this model. Depending on your phone, there’s a choice of SBC, aptX Adaptive, or aptX Lossless. I don’t see the option of AAC streaming but I imagine it’ll pop up on iOS devices.

There’s no Bluetooth multipoint support, an odd omission for a premium true wireless. If you want to connect to another device, you’ll need to disconnect from your current one. Google Fast Pair at least makes those connections quicker if you have an Android device.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds earphonesBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds earphones
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Stranger still is the QuietComfort Earbuds Ultra noise-cancellation. It still puts in a performance that’s impressive on public transport and walking the streets of London. Not many noises slip past these buds, shushing nearby conversations and they remain imperious on the London Underground where even the loudest parts of the Victoria Line are blocked out so music remains audible.

But they’re not as good as the previous model. Comparing the two on a plane, the QuietComfort Earbuds II are stronger, and when I loaded up a pink noise test both the older Bose and the Jabra Elite 10 proved better at reducing the intensity of the sound.

They also still suffer from wind noise, which I’d hoped Bose had rectified but in blustery conditions I could hear some noise whipping the surface of the buds. No complaints with the Aware mode, which is about as natural and clear as any bud on the market.

Bose’s ActiveSense technology is back, cancelling noise when the Aware mode is engaged to automatically adjust the noise-cancelling performance. For it to work, the In-Ear Detection feature needs to be enabled in the Bose app.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds silver finishBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds silver finish
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Call quality remains an odd area for Bose earphones. An update earlier in 2024 was said to bring in machine learning to help latch onto voices but the overall performance hasn’t changed.

Before the update, the person on the other end said the call quality was the worst he had heard. Cars and large vehicles going past sounded as if they were banging and crashing past, my voice competing against the noise. Post update and the performance remained similar, so while pick up of my voice is solid, any loud noise that came past was a distraction.

Battery life is the same – six hours per charge and 24 hours with the case included. A battery drain over two hours confirmed that with 70% of the battery left. There’s no wireless charging support – in fact like the Open Ultra Earbuds, you’ll need a buy an additional wireless charging case cover (£49.95). That’s a convoluted, not to mention pricey way to go about things.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds app controlBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds app control
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The Bose app (formerly Bose Music) remains the same sleek and simple experience that enables customisation and personalisation of the QC Ultra Earbuds. You can create several noise-cancelling profiles (with custom names), create shortcuts on each bud, alter the sound with presets or the three-band EQ, perform the Earbud Seal Test to make sure the earphones are tucked in, as well as calibrate the Immersive Audio feature.

Bose’s Immersive Audio turns stereo audio three-dimensional in an attempt to make music sound as if were being played right in front of you. You can choose between Still and Motion modes, the former means music stays fixed as you turn your head while the latter allows music to shift so it’s always centred as you move. Turn your head right and music will sound as if it’s coming from the left.

Sound Quality

  • Same sound as before
  • Weighty bass performance
  • Spatial audio

Given how similar the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are to their predecessors, you may wonder whether Bose made any changes to the sound. As far as I can tell, there’s no difference. If Bose has made changes they must be microscopic in detail.

The original QuietComfort Earbuds were neutral in tone, sharp and lean in their presentation, but that changed with the QuietComfort Earbuds II, which were more mainstream. That’s carried over with the Ultra Earbuds, with bass that has a sense of weightiness but without overdoing it.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds against a wallBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds against a wall
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

That low end presence is bigger than either the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4, the midrange supplied with clarity and detail while highs are sharply and clearly defined in a track such as GoGo Penguin’s Erased by Sunlight without overreaching. There’s a good balance that the Bose achieves.

They beat the Sennheiser for clarity and detail, though perhaps don’t quite offer the same levels of insight as the Sony – at least with the midrange, but the balanced performance the Bose offers across the frequency range ensures they’re always an engaging listen no matter the music genre listened to.

Listening to Benjamin Clementine’s Nemesis (made popular by The Morning Show on Apple TV+), there’s a lovely sense of detail and texture to the woodblock-sounding instruments that open the song.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds logoBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds logo
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Clementine’s voice is presented clearly and smoothly, the soundstage is open and spacious – the only nitpick I’d have is the Bose aren’t particularly dynamic on a major or minor scale. Neither with Clementine’s Nemesis or Gregory Porter’s Concorde do the earbuds really capture the shifts or soaring notes in the vocal inflexions of each performance.

But they do boast a fine sense of rhythm with faster-flowing tracks – not the most energetic, but certainly more musical and flowing than the original Bose earbuds.

The Immersive Audio feature works in terms of expanding the soundstage and creating a sense of depth, but like on the QC Ultra Headphones and the Ultra Open Earbuds, while the performance is consistent, there’s a reduction in clarity and detail – music sounds a little softer with it on. But the immersive effect is fun and it works. It’s just not quite an essential feature yet.

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Should you buy it?

If you’re after excellent noise-cancelling

These Bose are an excellent ANC true wireless, and although the performance isn’t quite as impressive as the previous earbud, they’re still among the best for ANC

Call quality is still weird

If you use the earbuds for calls, the QC Ultra Earbuds still put in an odd performance on that front

Final Thoughts

I’ve pondered over what score to give the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. Despite the new features, I don’t think they’re noticeably better than the previous buds, and the noise-cancelling performance isn’t as good for whatever reason.

The Immersive Audio feature is fun, but doesn’t provide the same levels of clarity and detail that stereo music provides. The wireless performance is excellent but the call quality is still rather ho-hum. There’s no Bluetooth multipoint and wireless charging costs extra. For every area where the Bose is good, there’s another where it could be better.

At the time of review, they have (or had) been discounted to £219 from £299 ($299), which makes them more of an appealing buy, but I am reviewing them at their RRP; and while the new features are nice to have, they’re not substantial enough if you’re jumping from the QuietComfort Earbuds II.

How we test

We test every pair 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

Battery drain carried out

Tested with real world use

FAQs

Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds support wireless charging?

There isn’t any wireless charging support for the Ultra Earbuds, but if you buy the Bose Wireless Charging case then you can turn the original case into one that can be wireless charged.

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