Bose QC Earbuds 2 Review

I have owned the last two generations of Bose Earbuds, and have been increasingly impressed with the music playback sound quality. Apple’s AirPods Pros encroach on Bose’s excellent noise canceling technology with the benefit of having it tightly integrated in the Apple ecosystem. AirPods are not an option for me, for they fall out of my ears.

The challenge to both companies, Bose and Apple, is the following. Apple is a technology company trying to build better sound. Bose is a sound company attempting to build better technology, in desperate need of a new naming convention for its technology.

Sadly, Bose is not for sale as the shares privately held by former engineer and founder Amar Bose (1929 – 2013) are now owned by MIT. A purchase of Bose by Apple would have been much better than the decrepit sound of Beats, in my view. The purchase of Beats by Apple was clearly meant to block other technology purveyors from gaining access to popular sound technology, rather than to gain access to superior sound. Sorry to hurt your now billion dollar feelings, Dr Dre.

The challenge of Bose is to become a better technology company, as technology increasingly defines the agenda of sound. Sound remains Bose’s core competency, and it shows in the 3rd generation of Bose wireless Earbuds, the second version with active Noise Cancelling. The sound quality is outright astounding. Every time I pop them in, at the gym, shooting hoops, or walking the beach I am amazed.

The Bad

No automatic reconnect after lost connection

When walking out of range of the phone, the earbuds do not automatically reconnect to the phone.

No automatic device switching

The automatic device switching from Apple phone to desktop is not available. Clearly Bose has not gotten familiar with Apple’s cloud based authentication needed to do so.

Can’t remember what LED status on base means

Two LED’s on the base, one for connection status and one for battery charge are non-intuitive. The older models had multiple charge LED’s offering you to be prepared for long-haul charging when needed. One LED for battery status is useless.

MacOS does not display battery levels (non-Apple devices do), iOS does

Desktop use of the Earbuds prevents you from keeping an eye on battery status. Battery status can be viewed when connected on iOS, not on MacOS.

Hokey first time activation, unclear if activated

Activation is characteristic to Bose’s prior earbud models and hokey to say the least. The name of the bluetooth connection is different from the name of the earbuds, causing a lot of confusion of how and whether the earbuds are connected. Once you overcome this hurdle and the earbuds are connected over bluetooth, all is fine.

Too dependent on Bose App on iPhone (should work independent)

The Bose App required to pair the device shows Bose’s inexperience as a technology purveyor. It forces you to do things the Bose way, rather than to relinquish control to the phone operating system that in actuality determines your Audio usage. The fiasco of Bose trying to discern what music you play appears to linger.

No Bose Lock Screen widgets

Bose has no widgets that would make its control more user friendly. A big missed opportunity.

No way to check base battery level

You cannot see the charge status of the base, except to see it’s not empty. 5 LED’s missing. I do not understand or cannot seem to remember what the base lights indicate.

Base placement and extraction

The glossy surface of the earbuds and how far they sink in the base makes them extremely prone to slipping out of hand when pulling lose from the internal magnets. Occasionally, the position of the earbuds, with the case closed, prevented one earbud from charging. The black finish makes it hard to see which earbud goes into which slot, especially at night.

Occasional dropout of left earbud, quickly reconnects

A symptom of Bose earbuds since the first version, an occasional dropout of left earbud cause the sound to disappear and noise cancelling to be muted and then reconnecting back to normal. An unpleasant audio experience, making you feel one earbud physically fell out.

Base Firmware Upgrade Process Unacceptable

The Firmware upgrade process of the base is outright abhorrent. Via laptop, usb, and non safari browser only. Clearly Bose has not spent the necessary R&D budget and time to match real world user experience. This really makes my point of how Bose has yet to become a technology savvy company. This procedure stems from the old age. Few technology novices consumer will complete this successfully. Thankfully the Earbuds themselves will update through the Bose phone app. 

The Good

Best NC, best sound, great bass (does not make ears tired)

Bose still makes the best noise cancelling technology available today. The sound is phenomenal, and quite surprising for the tiny package of the earbuds pretty much disappearing in your ears.

Automatic sound calibration to ear resonance

Every time you pop the earbuds in, the sound is calibrated to the actual fit in each ear. I have found the sound profile to be very consistent. Quite unusual, since most other earbuds require some wiggling in the ear canal to get the proper tonal response.

Adjustable EQ

I love the adjustable EQ allowing you to modify the sound profile to your liking. You can pump up the bass quite bit to make the earbuds sound more alive. You can go to extremes without distorting sound too much.

Touch controls work well, and responsive

When instantly recognized (some false negatives), the touch controls on the earbuds allow for pausing, volume control and next song playback. They take a little getting used to but work consistently when enough pressure is applied.

Great transparency mode

Bose’s aware mode offers a great way to remain aware of your surroundings, for let’s say walking the dog. I can clearly hear the waves of the ocean in aware mode, not when noise cancelling is one. An easy reminder sounds is Bose’s core competency.

Phone Call Quality

Phone call quality is much better than in previous versions. Good voice reception reported by the other end. But I hear some cracking, fading, and amplitude changes in response to external sounds.

Smaller earbuds

The size of the earbuds is much smaller than previous versions. Nothing is sticking out of your ear. They fit flush to my ears with the adjustable rings provided. I can brush against my ear without the earbuds falling out. I experienced very acceptable noise level when windy on the beach, sound still came through beautifully.

Sound levels are monitored in iOS

The sound level is monitored by Apple’s iOS. Meaning, you do get warnings when the prolonged sound level could damage your ears. A handy reminder, when the great quality of sound makes you want to pump them up.

Includes earbud fit test

You can perform a manual ear fit test through the Bose App. Handy to ensure you are using the right rings to secure the earbuds in place. I would prefer this test to be done automatically each time I put the earbuds in with an audio alert indicating a suboptimal fit. A boy can dream. No?

Great fit

Wearing the earbuds for three hours at a time, I almost do not feel their presence anymore. Great stability due to rings, I cannot shake them during beach runs or other activities. I have never experienced one falling out of my ear.

Conclusion

If you need great sounding earbuds to accompany you in your daily activities, the Bose QC Earbuds 2 are a great find. Apple’s sound from the EarPods Pro is just not there for me, besides the incompatibility with the shape of my ears. Call quality on the Bose has gotten better, but needs improvement. So, if your activities include occasional calls with the emphasis on music playback, Bose latest Noise Canceling wireless Earbuds are for you.

Enjoy!

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