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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: Review

Our review of the Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones is going to upset some of you.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Every hobby has at least one brand that polarizes the community and for over two decades that has been Bose within the high-end audio world. Audiophiles love to raise their noses and proclaim their disdain for the brand started by Dr. Amar Bose in 1964, but mainstream consumers would beg to disagree.

The pandemic was quite the shot in the arm for the company with sales of over $3.2 billion in 2021; the company made the decision in 2020 to close all of its physical retail stores and focus on Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and its own online store. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 may not be the latest model in the lineup but it is the one that deserves the most attention if you truly care about sound quality.

Audiophiles need to get over their almost fanatical hatred of the brand that could teach more than a few high-end companies how to properly grow a base and become a household name like Coke, Apple and Disney.

Bose headphones, loudspeakers, and soundbars can be found everywhere; private homes, school classrooms, automobiles, retail stores, and it is almost impossible to board a plane in 2022 anywhere on the planet and not see their headphones being used.

While it is perfectly legitimate to dislike a brand because you don’t enjoy the sound quality, there is something to be said about those who have never heard their products and jump on the anti-Bose bandwagon.

Their loudspeakers are certainly a bit unorthodox, but what can’t be argued is their dominance of the Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headphone market; Bose were developing their QuietComfort models long before any other companies in the headphone space were even thinking about the technology and they have dominated the segment since launch.

If you think they have won the battle only because of superior marketing — I’m 100% certain that you have never listened to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in Travel Case Open

For years the NFL relied on Bose headsets for coaches on the sidelines, the military used Bose headphones for pilots, and NASA used Bose headsets during rocket launches. As one can imagine, all of these situations call for some serious noise abatement and Bose was the Company each chose to partner with for their noise cancelling technologies.

The NFL, which utilizes headphones and headsets on the field, press box and for its overall operations — selected Bose. Do you really think the second most popular professional sports league on the planet selected Bose’s products because they got a good deal on a few hundred pairs of headsets? Bose also dominates the commercial aviation segment with some excellent models that pilots recommend highly.

Bose’s current lineup has benefited enormously from more than two decades of R&D work that went into designing top quality headsets for loud environments like sports stadiums, transportation, and aviation. Their ANC technology is second to none with Sony barely hanging onto the back of their jersey in the race.

During my recent series of cross-country flights from Tennessee to Texas and S. California for T.H.E. Show 2022, I spent a lot of time in 3 airports and took 4 flights. Over the 8 hours (each way), I conducted an informal survey of headphones being used in airport terminals and on the flights themselves.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Kit
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

One would think that Apple AirPods would represent the majority of the products that I observed — but that would be an incorrect assumption. The Bose NC 700 were being used in all 3 locations and on every flight by both female and male travelers.

It wasn’t even close in some locations with Bose representing more than 50% of the headphones being used on the flights.

The Skinny

The NC 700 isn’t the newest model in Bose line-up; that distinction goes to the QuietComfort 45 (full review coming soon). It is also not the least expensive because it retails for $50 more than the Bose QC45 and has been on the market for over 3 years.

3 years. What does that tell us about an older flagship model that is the most commonly seen travel headphone in N. America?

The uncomfortable truth for some is that the Bose NC 700 Headphones were the best ANC headphones available in 2019 when they first arrived in the market and before Sony, Sennheiser, and Apple could develop a foothold for themselves and use their own ANC technology to play catch-up.

Word of mouth became a strong selling tool for Bose and while they certainly don’t have Apple’s marketing acumen or creativity — they do share a similarly loyal customer base who will only buy Bose because the products last and deliver sound quality that is good enough for most people.

Audiophiles put enormous value on how something sounds and that’s why most of us became interested in the hobby. If you think Bose represents a dramatic step down like Beats in comparison to other high-end headphones in the same price categories — you really need to stop reading forums and try more products before beating your chest.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Fold Flat Bottom

It would be easy to argue that other models have surpassed the Bose NC 700; the company is the first to admit that the QC45s are better headphones but I have some theories in regard to why you still see so many people using older pairs of the 700s or why consumers continue to buy them in huge numbers.

Early adopters of the Bose NC 700 spent almost $400 on them at launch and are still using them because they serve their intended purpose rather well and these types of customers don’t replace headphones until their existing model breaks. These are not people with 20 pairs of headphones like many of us in the Head-Fi space who need to have one of every type of headphone and IEM.

The build quality of the Bose 700 is good enough that they last and that is super important to people who also carry them on planes inside of a case and likely take care of them. Why replace something that is not broken.

Bose headphones probably don’t tick off too many design boxes for those of us who have become accustomed to using $3,000 planar headphones from Meze Audio or custom IEMs from Noble, Audeze, and Ultimate Ears, but the look and feel of the Bose 700 is somewhat unique.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sony WH-1000XM5 models certainly offer a next generation ANC solution but upon closer inspection look like boxy, plastic toys next to the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Hinge

The design of the NC 700s with its unique headband that passes through the cup and acts as the height adjustment is considerably more graceful than the more conventional adjustments hidden in the headbands of the QuietComfort 45 or Sony models and the more sculpted cups make the other models look rather industrial by comparison.

Sound

There is no question that Sennheiser and Sony offer excellent ANC wireless headphones that deliver sonically, but my recent testing of all 3 models has revealed something that I did not expect.

The Bose NC 700 is a surprisingly strong performer and a more organic sounding headphone with far less fatigue from longer listening sessions than many that I have tried in this price range — and we have tried dozens of headphones in the category over the past 12 months.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Interior Earcups

There isn’t a veil over the music when ANC is engaged and that is a huge thing in my book and probably explains why most Bose NC 700 owners don’t feel like they are missing out.

The low end isn’t cavernous but it is well defined with good speed and texture. You are not buying these because you want to go deaf listening to GWAR on your next flight to Grandma in S. Florida.

The midrange is transparent with just enough presence and detail to keep one engaged and there is enough top end energy and detail that you don’t feel claustrophobic listening to them with ANC engaged at 30,000 feet.

Raise your hand if you have ever been concerned about mixing, mastering, or critical listening while flying; the Bose 700 doesn’t need to be a reference quality headphone in this scenario — it just needs to be good enough to enjoy music or your movie and it succeeds at that in very big way.

Adjust ANC App for Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Side
EQ App for Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose Update Notifications

The ANC works better than almost anything else on the market and we were quite surprised by how well it did with multiple genres of music.

One of the things I really like about the Bose NC 700 is it doesn’t need a lot of EQ to be a pleasant listen. Bass is present but not overpowering, vocals cut through the instrumentation well, and the treble is polite enough. 

I appreciate a bit of extra treble energy but at the same time that can quickly become fatiguing. The EQ options in the Bose app are minimalistic and each over-emphasizes some portion of the signature, so for me the best option is to go with the default signature or use an external EQ to tweak the sound.   

On the flip side, the touch controls on the 700 work flawlessly and make sense with easy gestures to control common commands so the app may be needed only for firmware updates once you get the hang of the controls.  

This alone moves the Bose NC 700 to near the head of the class in my mind as I am forever fiddling with headphones learning the controls. These are intuitive, simple, and they work as advertised with no drama.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Side

Audiophiles like drama. It makes them feel validated.

The battery performance is quite good; I managed to get 20 hours of playtime from one charge and that number didn’t decrease that much with ANC engaged.

Conclusion

There are plenty of audiophiles who will dismiss this review because of the brand and only be interested in the latest and greatest; we have reviews of the Sony WH-1000XM5, B&W PX7S2, Master & Dynamic MW75, and Mark Levinson No. 5909 coming over the next few weeks. The Levinson is for those with very deep pockets but certainly an interesting effort from them. They represent a state-of-the-art approach to wireless headphones and you can read my review this week.

The Bose NC 700 are for those looking for a durable pair of travel headphones or bedroom headphones that deliver excellent ANC and sound quality. This is not a headphone that is disappearing soon from the lineup because it delivers on every promise; durability, affordability, battery life, comfort, and decent sound quality.

They are easy to use, and I rather enjoyed my time with them.

At the risk of losing my audiophile credentials, these are the ANC wireless headphones I will be taking on my next flight and that’s a rather strong endorsement considering the two dozen ANC wireless headphones sitting on my desk right now from some of the biggest brands in the category.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. ORT

    August 28, 2022 at 10:43 am

    Bose. “No highs, no lows, it must be Bose”. So goes the wisdom of (my most excellent term for the buffoons of Audio!) frAudiophiles who seem Hades-bent upon hating the company that brought us the wonderful 901 speaker system. I own a pair of them and while they have not been hooked up in quite some time, they are there, waiting for when I want to experience what for my wife and my self, were the finest speakers available at the time (mid ’80s).

    frAudiophiles like nothing better than to belittle success and Bose is successful. Okay, I was wrong, as frAudiophiles like only one thing more and that being to indoctrinate unsuspecting people, new audio customers if you will, into their hand wringing, idiotic fixation on that which cannot be heard nor proven but all the same feeds the largest part of their being: Their soul-sucking egos. They HATE Bose. They HATE affordability. They HATE people that choose to listen to the music instead of concentrating on the equipment. They HATE fun. frAudiophiles are the bane of, well…Audio.

    They’re not merely assholes, they are whole asses. And again, they HATE Bose. Well, these pusillanimous creatures can take an airborne intercourse because I am a Bose enthusiast and I agree with the author of this excellent piece on the 700s, Sir Minion of Jennings. I own QC45s and Soundwear Companions and a pair of their excellent Tenor Sunglasses.

    I have also given to friends and relatives, Bose QC45s, QC35IIs, Soundwear Companions and Tenor Sunglasses. I do not buy nor give junque. I have personally bought and compared ANC ‘phones from Sony, Sennheiser, Sullcandy and off-brand from a ChiFi whose company name I cannot recall at the moment and…Bose.

    I kept the Q45s and returned the rest. The ONLY reason, and it is at once both reasonable and personal, I did not buy the Bose 700s is my experience with other ‘phones with touch controls.

    I despise touch controls. From a purely tactile point of view, they are crappola compared to the buttons on the QC45s. And that is a personal observation. I hated them on the Sony XM4s I bought as well as the Sennheiser PCX 550-IIs I also bought and tried out and returned. Nothing worked better overall than the QC45s, especially with regard to holding on to a BlueToof signal. Yes, the Sennheiser Momentum 3s (buttons!) seemed (a highly subjective subject!) to reproduce music better to my plebeian ears (and I now have a new pair of the 3s but they are still no match for staying connected like the QC45s!). The touch controls on the XM4s and PCX 550-IIs were AWFUL!! Hence, I have not (yet) bought a pair of the Bose 700s but when I do decide to give then a review, I shall buy them in “Sandstone”, cuz I like that colour combination better than black or silver.

    I am not wasting my time with the new Sony XM5s nor the Sennheiser Momentum 4s as they do NOT interest me in the least. As I said, I now own a new pair of Momentum 3s and those are fine…Just reeeeeeeeeally fine.

    frAudiophiles disgust me. They are the Pharisees and Sadducees of the Audio world. Screw ’em! I despise their snobbery and hatred of happiness. They strain at a digital bit and swallow their stupid “Holy Rote” bullsheit and want you to do so as well. I recently cancelled my sub to TAS because of the return of the snob known as Michael Fremer. What a Maroon! No thank you. He’s a typist. A lousy, worthless TYPIST. A kvetch of the first order. Dude’s a turd.

    Ecoustic has writers. ENTHUSIAST(ic) writers! There are more out there such as Ken Kessler and I have no problem endorsing talent such as his or that which is found here and elsewhere. Just reading Sir Minion of Jennings words on the Bose 700s causes a wave of anticipation at buying and trying out those ‘phones but for the moment I have 17 pair of headphones of which 6 are wireless and of those 4 are ANC. And then I recoil as I recall how I care not for “touch” controls…

    So let it be written. So let it be FUN!

    ORT

  2. ORT

    August 28, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    One more thing. Fremer is the worst type of typist. He is what I have termed a worthless “wordpecker”.

    The kiddies will have to think about that one.

    ORt

    • Ian White

      August 28, 2022 at 12:03 pm

      ORT,

      I’m cleaning up my cereal. That is now all over my keyboard from laughing.

      IW

      • ORT

        August 29, 2022 at 12:50 am

        Ian, sorry about that, my friend! 🙂

        If you see or speak with Mr. Jennings, please let him know I very much enjoyed his writing here. I may yet give the 700s a try. In sandstone of course.

        *SHUDDER*…But touch controls??! I will have to think hard on this. They are very nice looking tho’…Shallow Hal needs some Bose.

        ORT

  3. Lee Kibbler

    September 3, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    I agree about the Bose headphones being great traveling companions. I still have a pair of QC35II’s that work perfectly. But I must say one that you possibly haven’t tried provide what I think is inarguably the best ANC are the Apple AirPod Max. They are a big jump up from both the Bose and the Sony’s

  4. MancGuy22

    September 3, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    I got a pair of these free when I pre-ordered my Pixel 6

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