Hello everyone! Guess what’s making a comeback in 2021! Covi…Okay, too soon, too soon. Geekysplash! That’s what. We’ve clearly been slacking the last couple of years, but we are dedicated to posting more often this year. For those of you who’ve stuck around, thank you! Things will be different in 2021. Things will be better. That being said, let’s get into the review!
Bose came out with the QC35 II back in 2017 as a follow-up to their all-time classic QC35. Although a little dated, the QC35 II is still very relevant in today’s market. Especially with Apple launching their first-ever foray into the premium headphone market with the Airpods Max priced $550, a lot more people see the sub 200 and 300 price segment affordable.
Anyway, I’ve had the Bose QC35 II for over a month now. And here is what I think of it.
Looks & Build Quality
The headphone itself has got a pretty classic look to it. Physically, it is very similar to its predecessor – swivel earcups with supple protein leather that is oh so soft, power toggle, volume controls, and a mini-USB (!) charging slot on the right earcup, a headphone jack on the left, and an Alcantara leather-cushioned headband to top things off. Additionally, it does have an action button on the left cup which can either be used to control the active noise cancellation level (high/low/none) or activate the voice assistant on your phone.
You can argue it could look more sleek and modern, but you cannot really go wrong with the classics. The premium leathers, coupled with a lightweight of 235gms and angled drivers in the earcup which ensure nothing is ever touching your ear, make the QC35 II a VERY comfortable pair of headphones to use. It is one of the best in terms of comfort, if not the best. Now, I got myself the matte-black version which I think looks good but if that’s not your thing, Bose does also offer custom colors for an additional $50.
The build of the QC35 II is very robust and the earcups can turn just about any way you’d want it to. It can easily withstand daily wear and tear. And then some. To make things better, it comes with a sturdy case into which the headphone can be tucked away – making it the perfect companion for travel.
The QC35 II supports Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. A Bluetooth version of 4 and above means that the unit supports multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, i.e. the headphone can connect to two devices at once! I didn’t really think much about this when I got the headphone, but it is life-changing! I can seamlessly switch between my phone and laptop, something which turns out, I do way too often. Multipoint connectivity aside, it’s pretty standard stuff – turn on Bluetooth on your phone and turn on your headphones, and boom, you’re done. Takes about a minute. You can also use the Bose Connect app to connect to the headphones.
Bose Connect App
The Bose Connect app is pretty barebones. It’s got all the basic settings – renaming your device, connecting to other devices, setting a standby timer, etc. It has also got a music share option which enables you to stream music between two Bose headphones. But my biggest gripe is with a notably missing feature in the app – sound equalizer settings. Yes, your phone can probably do that, your music streaming app can probably do that, but why not the Bose app. Is that too much to ask? And this is something that Bose offers for it’s newer variants in it’s Bose Music app. And something that should be a standard software upgrade. But here we are, four years later still talking about. It obviously can be worked around easily and isn’t a deal-breaker, but would have been a useful feature to have in-house.
The QC35 II has an estimated battery life of 20 hours on paper. And so does it in practice! The 20-hour mark is pretty bang on. I operate my headphones on low ANC and 50 – 60% volume and use ’em to stream music and take calls regularly and they almost always last me 20-22 hours consistently. And it takes close to 2 hours to charge them 0 to 100. Pretty standard stuff. Other devices in the price segment offer longer battery lives, but QC35 II’s works just fine for me.
Bose has always provided great audio quality and it continues to do so with the QC35 II. I have an eclectic taste in music ranging from chill-hop and deep-house to indie-pop and rock to electro-rap (S/O to Neffex fans in the house) you name it. In every genre, the QC35 IIs delivered clear, crisp music. Adam Levine to Corpse Husband, the QC35 IIs can handle the airy highs and the bassy lows. The sounds stay precise and don’t distort even on higher volumes. If I had to complain about anything, I’d say the bass performance could be a bit better. Sometimes it’s just not deep enough. Say if I’m listening to Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive, I don’t feel it in my bones. They are by no means a pair of studio headphones, but as an average consumer who listens to more music than they’d like to admit, I have little to complain about the QC35 II – the in-built EQ does the job for me more often than not.
The QC35 II also comes with a wired mode so you can plug in and use the headphones if it’s out of charge. It’s a pretty cool feature but you cannot use Active Noice Cancellation and Active EQ when in wired mode. So make sure you only use the wired mode only when you really need to.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) & Call quality
ANC is one area Bose has historically shined in. And nothing has changed with the QC35 IIs. It continues to set the gold standard for the industry with the ANC on this device. With multiple microphones and their proprietary algorithm, the QC35 IIs can drown out a wide array of sounds ranging from vacuum cleaners to the loud humdrum that is the NYC subway. It is perfect for a quick getaway into your own world. Not to say it completely shuts out the outer world, noises do still trickle in. Especially in louder environments. But I wouldn’t feel safe any other way. I’d probably walk in front of a truck. Rest assured, the QC35 IIs provide the best ANC one can hope for. The none/low/high toggle is pretty good but it is what it is – a toggle, not a knob. Not something you can adjust right down to the percentage.
The QC35 II’s integrated microphone does a pretty good job with calls. The voice is transmitted pretty loud and clear, and I’ve had no issues with calls dropping – even with distances as far as 30 feet from my phone. It even lets you hear your own voice while on calls which is always fun. Now, I’ve had the occasional complaint that it picks up too much background noise. But I guess that’s most headphones for you. Nothing too crazy though. Does well overall. My regular indoor calls aside, I’ve also tried the QC35 II outside in the windy streets of New York City. And it did a pretty good job of tuning out the wind about 90% of the time. But then again it gets really windy out here sometimes. For the average user, taking a stroll in the average park, I doubt they’d be any issues at all.
And now, for the big question – are the Bose QC35 II still worth a buy in 2021? Well, the answer is complicated. The Bose QC35 II is an amazing headset that gets a lot of things right. Top-notch comfort, classic sleek design, great build and an overall strong audio performance. No major chinks in its armor. That said, it did come out in 2017. The hardware is definitely dated. It still uses mini-USB. It does not come with gesture controls. The app is limited and ANC customization is limited.
With other worthy headsets like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and even the latest XM4, the Jabra 85H, the Sennheiser PXC 550 ii, the latest Sennheiser Momentum 3, and even Bose’s own NC-700, it becomes really hard to answer this question. Even other headsets in the series like the older variant QC35 and the gaming QC35 II variant are valid options. It boils down to what your budget is and what you are looking for. If comfort is your single biggest priority, it would be hard to look beyond the QC35 IIs. If you’re looking for a more modern, sleeker device with better sound quality, the immensely popular Sony WH-1000XM4 might be your best bet. Sennheiser’s PXC 550 ii might make the most sense if you’re on a tighter budget. As I said, comes down to your requirements, but you cannot really go wrong with any one of these devices.
Bose is well aware of where it stands and in an attempt to stay relevant has slashed the price down to $300, about $50 cheaper than its biggest competitor – the Sony XM3. And to top that, the QC35 II is often on sale for cheaper. In fact, I managed to snag mine for about $200. All I’m going to say is that the QC35 II is a powerful headset with a great overall performance. Regardless of the price point, it is a great buy. Particularly so if comfort is high on your list. It has definitely improved my life and I highly recommend it. Especially if you find one for below $300. Either way, I doubt you’ll have much to complain about.