Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones

July 05, 2006

Update: I've returned the QC3s and have since purchased a pair of Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 Pro earphones, which are, umm, sonic heaven. I'll likely do a full write-up after the bar.

I don't have too much to say, or too much time to say it, so let's see if I can stream-of-consciousness my way through this real quick.

When I got wind of these a couple of months ago I couldn't wait to try them out. I've long resisted noise-cancelling headphones and have instead opted for the noise-muffling, in-ear models (I've had the Eytmotic ER-6i, Shure E2c, and Shure E3c to name just a few). So, I went down to the Bose store the day the QC3 headphones were released and was told that I wouldn't be able to buy them for a couple of weeks, though they had a pair on display. I put my name on the call-me-when-they-arrive list and picked them up a couple of weeks ago when the store got them.

I'm well aware of Bose's shortcomings when it comes to home-audio fidelity (it's been well established by those in the know that the the brand is much stronger than the product), but I have tended to like their headphones (I've owned two pairs of TriPorts) even if they are a little bass-happy and fragile. I never got into the QuietComfort 2 noise-cancelling set because (1) they looked like ear-muffs you might wear in an Antarctic blizzard and (2) they took regular batteries. I'm not completely against over-the-ear designs and have owned some pretty nice cans of that variety over the years, but the QC2s just seemed a bit cumbersome to me.  *shrug*

Shut up already and tell me what you think

First off, and this was certainly no surprise to me, they don't sound as good as my Shure E3c earphones. They're alright, but there's definitely no jaw-dropping going on here. What did surprise me though was how much better the Shures were at blocking out noise. The Bose are great for equalizing ambient, background noise, but if you're looking to shut out the conversation three feet over, you might as well not have them on. Obviously this depends a bit on the type of music you're listening to and how loud you have it turned up, but overall I was underwhelmed.

For whatever reason, I thought I was going to be able to charge them through a power cable that plugged directly into the headphones; I'm guessing that it was a pre-launch review somewhere that had me thinking that as nothing in the Bose ad copy gives me that impression. That said, charging them is not a big deal -- you simply slide the lithium-ion battery out and plug it into the wall adapter -- but it would have been nice to simply plug them directly into the wall.

Battery life is great and I would say that it meets their quoted time of 20 hours on a single charge. The flashing LED is nice too; it alerts you when there are ~4 hours of juice left.

The audio cable only plugs into the left ear-cup; for the price, it would have been nice if you could plug into either side (I prefer the right).

One feature held over from the QC2s that I really like is the ability to remove the cord while still being able to take advantage of the noise cancellation. However, given the above, in that situation you might be better off with old-fashioned earplugs.

All in all, they are quite comfortable over prolonged periods of use and they sound pretty good. I've got two more weeks to decide if I'm going to keep them or not (30-day return policy), but I think I probably will.

Come on Bose, give me a break

Just when I thought the company couldn't get any more pretentious, what did I find on the inside of the rather nice travel case? A "wallet" velcroed to the wall of the case that contained 10 business cards that read, "Customers tell us they're often asked about their Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones. For your convenience, this courtesy card is yours to pass along." How do they know that already? In any event, the backs contain phone numbers for Bose operations in various countries.

Ooooh, I can't wait for the first person to ask me about the headphones. I'm going to tell him to hold on, dig around in the travel case, and then pass him one of these sweet cards that will not only tell him how self-righteous the company is, but will also keep him completely oblivious as to what makes the headphones so appealing. He'll stand there confused, wondering why I don't just talk up the headphones, and I'll tell him, ever so cooly, to flip that bad-ass card around and see what's waiting for him on the other side. He'll smile, nod, and tell me that's he's tired of the whole Internet thing and would much rather call up the company, wait on hold for 15 minutes, and then ask the friendly operator about my headphones. I'll smile back and just think, "Yah...," as I nod my head in agreement.

What?

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