Bose QuietComfort 45 vs 700 – Newer is Not Always Better

by wanderingted

and The Greatest Song Team

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Summary and Rating: Bose QuietComfort 45 VS 700

Bose QuietComfort 45

Bose QuietComfort 45

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose 700

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Bose QC 45 – Our Rating

3.9 (out of five)

3.4 Sound

4.6 Noise-Cancelling

4.7 Build Quality

4.2 Comfort

3.0 Value

Bose 700 – Our Rating

4.2 (out of five)

3.9 Sound

4.5 Noise-Cancelling

4.8 Build Quality

4.6 Comfort

3.5 Value

Pros – Bose QC 45

  • Excellent Noise Canceling
  • Quality Build
  • Beatiful hard leather carry case

Pros – Bose 700

  • Some of the best stock tuning of any ANC headphones out there
  • Very good noise canceling
  • Premium build
  • Comfortable
  • Excellent playback controls
  • Beatiful hard leather carry case

Cons – Bose QC 45

  • Poor tuning, especially in the treble
  • Very limited soundstage
  • Not responsive to EQ adjustments
  • Battery life not as good as competitors
  • No support for HD codecs

Cons – Bose 700

  • Very limited soundstage
  • Battery Life not as good as competitors
  • No support for HD codecs
Bottom Line

Of the two, the Bose 700 are clearly the better option. Still, competitors like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony XM4 offer better sound and better value.

Introducing the Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones are about to be released and the prices are dropping on Bose’s earlier models. Considering Bose releases a new flagship model almost annually, the ‘old’ models are hardly outdated.  

While the ceiling price for ANC (active noise canceling) headphones keeps going up, the older models (with very similar innards) are definitely worth checking out.

With very similar specs, the QuietComfort 45 were released two years after the flagship Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (For brevity, we will refer to them as the Bose 700). No one knows why Bose keeps releasing remarkably similar headphones.  

Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose 700
Bose 700 (left), Bose QuietComfort 45 (right)

To understand this mystery and to see where these fit in the competitive market of ANC (active noise canceling) headphones, we got our hands on both and tested them side-by-side with the competition.

See here for all of our headphone reviews and here for knowledge and reviews of audio gear.

Who are the Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose 700 for?

The Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose 700 are for everyone in search of quality noise-canceling headphones with good sound.

These headphones are packed with all the hardware and features that we have come to expect from this kind of headphone: ANC (active noise canceling), Bluetooth, the ability to adjust settings and features from your phone, ambient mode so you can hear your environment, and the ability to take phone calls on it with handsfree controls.

Shoppers can expect to pay in the $200-300 USD range. (The sale price is shifting daily on both models since we started this review.)

Who are the Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose 700 NOT for?

Neither of these headphones is recommended for critical listening. They are tuned to appeal to the average consumer and have a very affected frequency response.

For audiophiles in search of quality ANC cans, we would recommend the Focal Bathys. (See here for our complete review of the Focal Bathys)

Alternatives to the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose 700

Focal Bathys

ANC headphones for audiophiles – dynamic punch, excellent resolution.

Focal Bathys Headphones

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Sennheiser Momentum 4

Best value ANC headphones in our book. Very good sound, massive 60-hour battery life.

sennheiser momentum 4 headphones

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Sony WH-1000XM5

Serious competitors. Best noise canceling, very good sound.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones

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Sony WH-1000XM4

Excellent noise canceling, good sound, good value. See here for a comparison of the XM4 and XM5.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones

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Airpods Max

Very good tuning and overall sound, best noise canceling (along with XM5) and very comfortable.

Apple AirPods Max (white)

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Sound

First Impressions

Upon first listen, the Bose 700 were quite satisfying with something missing while the QuietComfort 45 had an odd flavour to the top. Let’s dive into the details…

Bose QuietComfort 45 vs 700 Frequency Response Graph

Bose 700 vs Quietcomfort 45 frequency response chart
Measured on a MiniDSP EARS rig. Connected with Bluetooth, ANC on, average.

The frequency response graph above provides some clues about why I’m hearing what I’m hearing when I listen to these headphones. The target curve is based on the Harman Over-Ear 2018 target curve. It is roughly the sound that most listeners want to hear.

Bass

The bass of both headphones is very similar: nice articulation and not overly bloated like a lot of competitors.  

The only quibble I have is that it would be nice to hear more of a clear delineation between the sub-bass and bass. With a tiny EQ tweak -2dB from 60-400 Hz, this might be achieved.

Midrange

The midrange on the Bose 700 is satisfying, however, in the upper-mids, the frequency response problems begin for the QC 45.  

Around the top octave of a standard piano keyboard or the upper vocal range of a male vocalist, the QC 45 sounds a bit unnatural. Everything up here is a little too bright and this persists into the entire treble region.

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones
Bose QuietComfort 45 (in white)

Highs

The high frequencies of the Bose 700 are warm, possibly a bit too warm for some tastes. Hi-hats and cymbals on some tracks are a little muted. If this bothers you, a small EQ tweak of +3-5 dB from 5-12 kHz will do the trick.  

The QC 45 struggles a bit in the high frequencies. High clarinet and flute don’t sound like themselves up here. Cymbals and sibilance are zesty, but the real issue is too much air from 10 kHz up. Generally, things just sound a bit odd up top.

Dynamics

There are very few ANC Bluetooth headphones that have much to offer in the area of dynamics. The palpable weight of instruments and voices is just not there.

(The exception is the Focal Bathys. And, in a very modest way, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony XM5, drop a penny in the dynamics hat.)

Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (in black)

Soundstage and Imaging

In both models, the soundstage and imaging are nearly identical. Competitors such as the Sony XM5, Focal Bathys, or even the Airpods Max offer a much better soundstage experience.  

Overall imaging on the Bose models is, for the most part, clear and consistent in the Left and Right channels, but the soundstage is unnatural. There’s no breath to the sound. The sound stops at the earcup and gives a less-than-satisfying listen. 

Having a gap between the driver and the ear, however slight, makes a difference to the perception of soundstage. We guess that this lack of space on both these headphones is the main culprit in the soundstage problems.

On both models, the inner earcup of both headphones is angled to face into the ear canal, but this angle allows the inner earcups to touch the pinnae.   

For longer sessions, this tight soundstage can be fatiguing.  

EQ Suggestions

With excellent stock tuning, the Bose 700 needed very few EQ adjustments. If you think they are too warm you could tweak the following:

Bose 700

  • +3 dB from 5-12 kHz

On the other hand, the QC45 could use some EQ help. Unfortunately, they are not technically capable enough to respond well to EQ adjustments. We made the following, general adjustments below, without much success:  

QuietComfort 45

  • -3dB at 2.5 kHz, width 3.0
  • roll off the top, center of roll-off at 16 kHz

Conclusions About the Sound

The Bose 700 have some of the best out-of-the-box tuning of any of the ANC headphones we’ve tried. 

But frequency response doesn’t tell the whole story. The ungenerous soundstage of both models makes the overall listen less than it could be.

The QC 45 get the tuning wrong in the treble and upper-midrange. Furthermore, the QC 45 were not technically capable enough to respond well to EQ adjustments.

In the head-to-head battle, the Bose 700 are much nicer to listen to than the QC 45. However, in terms of sound, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony XM4 offer more for less.

Noise Canceling

Bose has long been the noise-canceling king, but the competition is catching up. Models such as the Sony XM5 and AirPods Max outcompete both the QC 45 and the Bose 700 with better overall attenuation, albeit ever so slight.  

In terms of this head-to-head matchup, the QuietComfort 45 have the edge over the Bose 700 on noise canceling. The midrange noise canceling on both headphones is equally impressive.  

In the bass and treble, however, the QC 45 outperform the Bose 700. Low frequencies such as city rumble, motor hum, and plane rumble are about 8 dB quieter on the QC 45.

Build / Design

The QuietComfort 45 take us old-school with a headphone design that is very 2010. In the ilk of the Sony XM4 design, this chunky, collapsible design, makes up for its lack of excitement with comfort and durability.

The materials, glass-filled nylon, pleather, and protein leather for the earpads, are impact-resistant and feel like quality to the touch.

The headband adjusts with a ratchet motion and is rarely felt on the top of the head. For my taste, the clamp force on the QC45 was a bit tight out of the box, but this would soften with use.

When the QuietComfort 45 are in their ‘fetal’ position, they fold up into a smaller case and take up less space in a bag than the Bose 700. While this is a good idea in theory, I prefer the simple side-swivel of the Bose 700 when I’m packing up my cans. I would trade 2 cubic inches of bag space for a quicker exit.

The Bose 700 go for the more slender shape (similar to the Sony XM5) with a skinny headband and earcups angled at a 15-degree angle to fit most human heads.

The build materials of the Bose 700 are leather, silicone gel (in the earcups and headband), protein leather (earpads), and stainless steel. The overall build is premium and built-to-last.  

Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose Noise Cancelling 700 in cases
The Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose 700 in their cases.

Accessories

Both headphones come with a lovely hard leather travel case, a seriously annoying non-standard 3.5-to-2.5mm cable (more on that later), and a 12-inch USB-A to USB-C cable.

Controls

For Controls, the QuietComfort 45 have four buttons on the right ear cup for power, volume, play/pause, and track forward and back. The buttons work well, better in fact than most gesture pads found on other ANC headphones. They also have an additional button on the left earcup for switching between noise-canceling/transparency.  

The normal switch for power on/off on the QuietComfort 45 is also better than the press-and-hold power buttons found on most headphones these days.

Speaking of power buttons, we had some problems shutting the Bose 700 down using the power/connect button. They automatically shut off if they are not moved for 10 minutes but good luck manually shutting them down. A double press of the power/connect button is supposed to do it, but they kept automatically turning on to connect to remembered devices in the room.

On the positive side, for playback the Bose 700 use three buttons only with playback controlled by an excellent touch-sensitive gesture pad. The gestures happen on the very front half of the right earcup similar to the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Sony XM4 and XM5.

Unlike these competitors, the Bose 700’s gesture pad is very responsive. No delays! When you swipe forward, the track changes instantly.

Connectivity

The QC 45 use Bluetooth 5.1 and the Bose 700 use Bluetooth 5.0, which makes absolutely no difference to headphone performance. (The upgrade from Bluetooth 5.0 to 5.1 had to do with location and nothing to do with transfer rates, energy efficiency, or sound quality.)

Both models support SBC and AAC but notably, neither supports higher definition codecs such as AptX, AptX HD, or LDAC. This could be a deal breaker for audio enthusiasts who pay for higher-quality streaming.  

In that case, consider the Sennheiser Momentum 4, Sony XM4, XM5, or for true audiophiles, the Focal Bathys.

Both the QC45 and the 700 provide the handy option of connecting with a cable. If the battery is exhausted, this is a handy option to have. As handy as this is, the non-standard 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable is annoying and likely to make your life difficult if you forget yours and need to get on a plane.  

Software

The Bose Music App is nothing to get excited about. It has a bare-bones 3-band EQ, battery level display, and that’s about it. To make matters worse, they also require you to share location, call, and message history if you would like to enable the voice assistant.

Battery Life

The battery life is an area where both of these headphones fall short of the competition. The QC 45 offers 22 hours of listening connected via Bluetooth with ANC turned on and the Bose 700 offer 20 hours.  

 As you can see in the chart below, these numbers make both models bottom feeders in terms of battery life. And, Bose is not offering much more with the new model, the QuietComfort Ultra. The new model boasts a whopping extra two hours, bringing its total battery life to 24. 

ANC Headphones Battery Life Comparison Chart

Battery Life ANC Headphones Comparison Graph
Battery Life measured in hours, connected with Bluetooth and ANC turned on.

In terms of charging, both models charge via USB-C. The QuietComfort 45 will give you 180 minutes of play after a 15-minute charge and the Bose 700 will give you 120 minutes of play after a 15-minute charge.  

Both headphones take 2.5 hours to charge from empty to full.

Calls

The Bose 700 specs list 4 dedicated microphones for voice on the headphones. The QuietComfort 45 specs state that they have “a built-in microphone”.

Regardless of how many mics they have, it was clear in our tests below that the older model, the Bose 700, deliver better quality on phone calls.

In fact, the Bose 700 performance under windy conditions is one of the best of all the ANC headphones we have tried. Listen below.

Bose QuietComfort 45 Microphone Test – Normal Conditions

Bose QuietComfort 45 Microphone Test – Windy Conditions

Bose 700 Microphone Test – Normal Conditions

Bose 700 Microphone Test – Windy Conditions

Verdict: Which is better? are either of these cans worth it?

Bose QuietComfort 45

Bose QuietComfort 45

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Bose 700

Bose 700

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The QueitComfort 45 have slightly better noise canceling than the Bose 700. Other than that, the Bose 700 are clearly the better option of the two headphones. The overall sound is better, the design is more comfortable.

Still, the competition is fierce in the ANC market and competitors like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony XM4 offer better sound and better value.

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