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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Excellent audio quality
Very comfortable for extended listening
Impressive noise cancelling
Durable yet lightweight design
Attractive, unobtrusive form
Touch controls are easily triggered by accident
Battery life doesn’t quite measure up to the competition
Companion app needs work
The Bose 700 are very nearly the perfect wireless headphones. Though expensive they easily justify their high price point.
When we tested the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 we had high expectations. Not only do they come at a very premium price point, they have a lot of competition to measure up to and big boots to fill—Bose has established a reputation for high quality headphones, speakers, and audio equipment. You expect their products to provide excellent performance and to withstand the test of time. Now more than ever, with their competitors nipping at their heels, Bose needs to hit the ball out of the park, and the 700 might be the headphones to do just that.
As soon as we unboxed the Bose 700 we could tell these headphones are built to a high standard. Though their exterior is made of plastic, they don’t feel cheap in any way, and give the impression of quality and durability, an assessment proved out across the course of our testing. The earphones and headband are well padded, but not bulky—they are, in fact, remarkably slim.
The sliding hinge mechanism with which the headphone’s fit is adjusted is also noteworthy. It’s a particularly clever bit of engineering, where the two prongs of the head band fit into an open groove in the back of the earcups. These prongs slide up and down easily for adjustments, but lock firmly into the necessary position. They also allow the ear pieces to swivel and tilt as needed.
The matte black exterior is subtle and understated, and the material does not pick up unsightly fingerprints.. This is fortunate as many of the controls are handled via a touch sensitive interface on the right hand earphone. Swipe up or down on the exterior to raise or lower the volume, back or forward to skip, or double tap to play/pause.
As soon as we unboxed the Bose 700 we could tell these headphones are built to a high standard.
This is an elegant design with a number of advantages, but also some definite downsides. On one hand, you no longer have to blindly hunt for the correct button, and there are fewer moving parts to degrade over time. On the other, it took us some time to get the hang of the touch surface, and even then we often accidentally pressed the wrong button or triggered the interface without meaning to. We found this to be especially interesting when wearing the headphones temporarily around our neck. Our skin and clothing contact was enough to randomly cause music to play and pause or skip backwards and forwards.
Fortunately Bose didn’t ditch physical buttons entirely, with power, Bluetooth pairing, virtual assistant activation, and noise cancellation settings still being assigned to real, clicky buttons.
Included with the Bose 700 are a USB-C cable for charging and an AUX cable. Unfortunately Bose did not include a full 3.5mm jack, and instead used a smaller 2.5mm jack, so you may have a hard time finding a compatible cable other than the included 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable, though the fact that 700 is intended for wireless use mitigates this issue.
Getting started with the NC 700 can be a little bit of a fiddly process. Though Bluetooth connects and pairs almost instantly, you will also need to pair the headphones to the Bose Music App. For this you need to create a Bose account or sign into an existing account. Once this is done the app will search for Bose products, and you’ll need to press the Bluetooth button on the headphones, after which they will pair to the phone.
Our issue occurred because we connected the headphones via Bluetooth before we used the app, and the app refused to acknowledge the already paired headphones. We had to unpair the headphones, restart the app, and pair through the app in order for the app to recognize the headphones. Once we did this the rest of the process went smoothly.
After pairing, the app asks you to name the headphones, either from a selection of names or your own custom name. We could have just selected “Bose NC 700 Headphones”, but how could we resist “Dark Star”? Next the app presents you with a product tour menu to get you acquainted with the many features of the NC 700, which you can skip if you like and access later in the settings menu.
Amazingly, we found that the Bose 700 felt as comfortable after hours of non-stop listening as they did when we started. They rest gently on your head without applying more than the most mild pressure. This is partly due to the excellent engineering that went into the design, and partly due to the impressive adjustability which allows them to fit a wide range of head sizes.
Bose claims the 700 gets 20 hours of battery life, which our testing confirmed. With fairly frequent, day-to-day listening we found that we could easily go for more than a week without having to plug in the headphones. They charge quickly enough that just a half hour of charging should get you through the day, though your mileage will vary based on your noise-cancelling settings and other factors.
Our handful of nitpicks with the Bose 700 were all overshadowed by the incredible audio quality. Highs are clear and sharp, mid tones rich and detailed, and the bass is powerful, yet never does it obscure or overpower the wider range of tones.
Sum 41’s latest album “Order In Decline” was pulse pounding and raucous in all its punk-rock glory. The guitar work, vocals, and drums were all well defined and engrossingly rendered with excellent stereo rendition.
Wagner’s “Siegfried” Act 1 rumbled with subtle depth and building, ominous notes that echoed across the Bose 700’s ample sound stage and gave the impression of attending a performance in a grand concert hall.
Our handful of nitpicks with the Bose 700 were all overshadowed by the incredible audio quality.
The Bose 700 faired equally well with movies and television. Simon Pegg’s classic action comedy film Hot Fuzz, with its ridiculously overdramatized sound design, showed off the astonishing ability of the headphones to emulate the soundscape of the cinema.
Phone conversation audio quality is also phenomenal, on both ends. The lightweight nature of the headphones gave the distinct impression that we weren’t talking to someone hundreds of miles away, but right beside us. The distortion caused by the connection was the only factor that served to mar the illusion.
The other end of the conversation benefited from the various microphones working in concert to detect our voice and differentiate it from ambient noise. The result was crisp and clear, so that even though we were outdoors with a strong breeze blowing and with a high volume of background noise, it was eliminated entirely so that only our voices remained. After talking with the Bose 700 it’s hard to go back to making phone calls without their impressive tech.
Active Noise Cancelling (or ANC) in the Bose 700 is both very capable of eliminating the vast majority of exterior noises and highly customizable. The default (0, 5, 10) settings can all be altered in the app.
Of note is how we didn’t experience as much of an illusion of pressure on our ears as we have with other noise-cancelling headphones. This is a potential side effect of ANC due to the way it actively cancels exterior noise, but in this case it was markedly improved over other ANC headphones. If ANC is something that causes you discomfort it can be deactivated completely.
Hear through mode was crisp and accurate, so that we could barely tell it was microphones piping exterior noise in. This is very useful as you can quickly improve your situational awareness or have a conversation without having to remove your headphones.
In terms of its wireless capabilities, the Bose 700 performs very well with a strong Bluetooth connection that is quick to establish and difficult to break thanks to its considerable strength. We could walk a considerable distance from our connected device without experiencing interruptions. The headphones also come with an audio cable for wired listening.
The Bose Music app is unfortunately a weak point for these headphones. It’s functional but barebones, and it’s annoying to have to create a Bose account and sign into the app, especially since if you ever get signed out and don’t have an internet connection you can’t access the Bose 700 settings.
However, on the plus side the app allows you to easily switch between different paired Bluetooth audio devices, adjust noise-cancelling levels, volume, and the amount of your voice you hear during calls, as well as other basic settings like the name of your headphones. You can also play and pause music from within the app, though we found this didn’t work consistently.
A potentially exciting feature of the Bose 700 is Bose AR compatibility. With this you can experience spatial, 3D augmented reality audio. In theory, this could lead to some really interesting integration with other apps such as virtual tour guides, but unfortunately this feature lacks app support and is only available if you’re using the headphones with an Apple device—no Android support yet.
With an MSRP of $400 the Bose 700 is far from cheap, but the price is justified. The incredible sound, remarkable comfort, and powerful noise cancelling justify your investment, and the robust build quality will help ensure they outlast cheaper competitors. However, it’s worth noting that there are other, very good wireless noise-cancelling headphones available for much less money.
Right now the market for wireless headphones is extremely competitive, and that’s a good thing for consumers. There are a plethora of excellent, high quality headphones available that offer comparable features and solid if unexceptional sound quality for much less money.
For nearly half the price of the 700 there is the Sony WH-XB900, which lack a high quality exterior but make up for it with stellar sound quality. While they’re an inferior set to the 700, it’s not by as much as the price differential suggests, and for the price they’re an absolute bargain.
At $300 the Jabra Elite 85H offers sound quality and noise cancelling that’s almost as good as the Bose 700 as well as a better companion app, nice ease-of-use features, and physical buttons instead of finicky touch controls. It also sports a battery life that’s nearly double that of the 700. However, where it really counts the Bose 700 still beats the 85H by a considerable margin.
Incredible headphones, despite a few flaws
Despite its flaws, we absolutely adored our time with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Between the awesome sound quality, the powerful noise-cancelling technology, and the blissful comfort, the Bose 700 manages to stand out even against so many great alternatives. If you can afford them, these headphones will bring you countless hours of listening joy for years to come.
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