Since that review Bose introduced a new member of its noise reducing headphone lineup: The QuietComfort 15. So how does it compare?
The short answer is: incredibly well.
Counterintuitively, the Bose QC15 replaces the Q2C but complements the QC3 in the QuietComfort lineup (thus ruining what had been the trend of the higher the QC number equating to the higher quality and price). In fact, the QC15 looks nearly indistinguishable from the QC2 save for a few chrome accents. The largest physical upgrade is to the included carrying case. In our experience the case that came with the QC2 was prone to opening spontaneously; the QC15 case seems to stay closed and provide better headphone protection.
Where the QuietComfort 15 has really been ungraded is on the inside. The biggest improvement is to the noise canceling ability. By improving the circuitry and adding a second mic inside the ear cup the electronic noise canceling is truly remarkable. Happily, Bose was not content with merely improving the noise canceling and created a better all-around audio experience too. As we noted in our previous noise canceling headphones review, the bass quality of the QC2s is rather disappointing. Bass notes on the QC3 sound rich and textured without being throbbing.
Clearly the QC15 is a step up from the QC2. Here’s how it compares to other models:
Compared to the Sennheiser PXC 450
Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: We give the QC15 a slight edge in comfort and audio quality. The QC15 also weighs 1.1oz (32g) less than the PXC 450 and has more than twice the batty life (35 hours vs 16). But the big advantage to the QC15 is the noise canceling ability. As good as the noise canceling is on the Sennheiser even the most casual of listeners would instantly hear the superiority of QC15. On an airplane trip it is almost eerie how well the QC15 cuts out engine noise. Add up these advantages and you can see why the QC15 has replaced the PXC 450 as our favorite noise canceling headphones.
Advantages of the Sennheiser PXC 450: Both headphones require a battery for noise canceling but with the PXCs you can continue to get non-noise-cancelled audio after the batteries run out; not so with the QC15. Also, the PXC 450 is about $20 less.
Compared to the Bose QuietComfort 3
Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: The QC15 is about $50 less expensive than the QC3. Perhaps more importantly, the QC15 is significantly more comfortable after prolonged use. This increased comfort comes from the huge ear pieces that cup over the entire ear. The QC3′s ear pieces fit on top of the ear, pressing down on the lobe and the top of the ear in a way that starts feeling uncomfortable to us after about 20~30 minutes and made the QC3s nearly unwearably painful after about 90 minutes~2 hours. The QC15 also has the somewhat superior sounding noise canceling, though we can’t tell whether this is because of better electronic technology or because the QC15′s ear-encompassing cups help keep noise out.
Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 3: The QC3 is about one-third smaller and one-third lighter than the QC15—that might not sound like much but it makes a huge difference when it comes to portability. The QC3 also comes with a lithium-ion battery; it doesn’t last as long as the AAA batteries used on the QC15 (25 hours vs 35) but have the use convenience and environmental benefit of being rechargeable while inside the headphones (a wall outlet cord is included).
Compared to the Dr. Dre Monster Beats
Advantages of the Bose QuietComfort 15: The Bose QC15 is virtually the same price as a pair of Dr. Dre Monster Beats but has the far superior noise reduction. There seems to be no official battery life listing for the Monster Beats but in our tests the QC15 batteries lasted about 6 hours longer—both headphones use AAAs and can’t be used without batteries. To us the QC15 also seemed a little more solidly built.
Advantages of the Dr. Dre Monster Beats: One very cool feature of the Monster Beats not available on any other headphones in this review: These headphones can double as a headset for a mobile phone or Skype! The headphones come with a special cell phone connector cable that includes a mic and an answer button—this system is compatible with most cell phones including BlackBerry and iPhone models. The Monster Beats also live up to their name when it comes to producing mind thumping bass notes. We found the bass excessive (and rather headache-inducing) when listing to audiobooks but rather amazing with rock and techno music. Read our full review of the Dr. Dre Monster Beats here.
After years of suggesting Sennheiser PXC 450 noise canceling headphones we suddenly (and, to us, surprisingly) find ourselves switching up to the Bose QuietComfort 15. The noise canceling the QC15 offers is simply outstanding.
If you travel a lot—and have another set of headphones for home use—the increased quality of the Bose QuietComfort 3 probably makes more sense for you than the QC15s. If substantial bass and/or cell phone integration is more important to you than optimal noise reduction choose the Dr. Dre Monster Beats.
There’s no longer any compelling logic that would lead one to the Sennheiser PXC 450, not with a mere $20 price difference. If are looking for a good noise canceling headphones that are less expensive than the $300 QuietComfort 15s then we suggest the $100 Sennheiser PXC 300. The noise canceling ability of the PXC 300 is only about half that of the QuietComfort 15 (making the QC15 worth the extra money to us). Still, The PXC 300 has superior noise reduction compared to any other pair of sub-$150 headphones we’ve tried and, of course, they are infinitely better than not having noise canceling headphones at all.
For everyone else, spring for a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15s. You’ll be quietly, and comfortably, happy with them.
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