Looking for a pair of headphones to boost your productivity? The Bose QC35 will help you get things done.
As a programmer, I spent long hours in front of the computer. I found that wearing headphones helps me focus better. My standard mode for music listening is the standard Apple issued EarPods. I thought that was good enough. Until I got my BOSE QuietComfort 35 (QC35).
Prior to the purchase, I have seen other colleagues wearing the QC25, the wired version of QC35. With the headphones on, they seem to go into a zen-like mode, unperturbed by the environment. I never really thought of getting one because
- It’s too expensive (My most expensive headphone purchase were a SONY, which cost around $150)
- Wearing headphones seems too conspicuous (I know I’m weird)
- Music is just a way for me to drown out background noises. I wasn’t sure if having a better music listening experience will increase my productivity.
Fast-forward to July 2016, I was in Tokyo, enjoying my sabbatical when I chanced upon a small BOSE outlet store, situated at the corner of a swanky mall.
My friend, Ben – a fellow engineer and one who has a penchant for expensive headphone, decided to try out the cans on display. I picked up the one that was closest to me and put it over my ears. As you may guess, it was the BOSE QC35.
I flipped the switch on and the active noise cancellation (ANC) kicked in. The world suddenly quietens down. I could see the salesman involuntarily putting on a mime show in front of me.
I proceed to play some music. I thought my EarPods were good but this is another level of enjoyment. The music felt different. Due to the closed-back design and the excellent ANC, I was hearing the music right in my head.
The music felt so personal. It was as if the singer was right in front of me. The clarity of the instruments in the background was distinct from the vocals. I was blown away.
I quickly did some basic price check on amazon and found that the shop was selling it 50 dollars cheaper. Ben and I looked at each other and we knew this was a #shutupandtakemymoney moment. Without further hesitation, we bought one each.
Cliche Air flight Test
On my flight back, I decided to try on my expensive QC35. The founder of BOSE was motivated to invent ANC after a particular noisy air flight experience. It seems like a fair opportunity to see what it can do.
I was blissfully listening to my music until I had to remove my headphones to answer nature’s call. The moment the earcups were off, a barrage of noise infiltrated my ears – the sound of babies crying, drone of the airplane engine, the constant chatter and giggling of the passenger around me.
I felt like I entered another world.
Even till this day, I still get pleasantly surprised by the amount of noise isolation QC35 does for me.
What works great for me?
1. Peaceful bliss
As a programmer who cannot focus well in a noisy environment, I found the peaceful bliss that QC35 provides vital to my productivity.
Too much distraction around you? Put on the QC35 and get things done.
2. Remarkable battery life
Given the amount of work it has to do, the battery life performs remarkably. It is able to give me 15 – 20 hours of continuous playback.
The charging time was quick too. It takes around 30 mins to get a full charge. So a quick charge in the morning can last me around 3 – 4 days of usage.
3. To go wireless or wired, it’s your choice
Despite the main sell of QC35 being wireless, you can still play your music passively on audio cable when the battery runs flat.
I rarely use my QC35 on wire mode because the battery life is generally strong and the charging time is quick. But, this still comes as a convenience to me. I can enjoy great length of usage without breaking my music listening momentum.
4. Zero Sound Leakage
When you are sitting in close proximity with your colleagues, the last thing you want to do is to be blasting your music inconsiderably.
I listen to my music at 3/4 of the max volume and there are barely any sound leakages.
I am not kidding when I say the QC35 is comfortable. It stays on my head for hours when I work. Even when I’m wearing my spectacle, the gentle clamping force and cushy earpads put little or no pressure on my frames.
It helps that the QC35 is lightweight too. Weighing at 8.3 oz or 235 grams, it’s mostly built with “glass-filled nylon” or plastic. Only a small portion is built with metal.
6. Top-notch Sound Quality
Last but not least, the sound quality of the QC35 is what wows me the most. It’s hard not to be immersed in your music when you put the QC35 on.
It has a wide soundstage and excellent imaging. You basically hear everything in the song – from the striking of the cymbal to the low rumble of the bass.
Vocals were crisp and distinct without being muddied by the bass. The bass response is controlled and tight.
Personally, I will prefer a punchier bass for my EDM collections. But otherwise, the QC35 performs remarkably for my ballads, pop, and rock playlist.
I credit the superb sound quality to the active DSP chips that come with QC35. I talk more about this in the bottom section.
What didn’t work so well for me?
1. Unable to switch off ANC in Bluetooth mode
Strangely, the ANC on QC35 is permanently activated during the bluetooth mode. There is no way to switch it off except when it is on the wired connection.
This is a minor inconvenience to me during the conference call. I have to lift an earcup up so that I can hear myself speaking, else I will be shouting at the mic without realizing it myself.
Sometimes the project manager might come over for an ad-hoc discussion. But because there is no way to switch off the ANC, I will have to take off the headphone. Doing this a few times a day is not fun.
2. Buggy Bluetooth connection
It rarely happens but it does. It occurs when the headphones are trying to connect to the source device. You will hear a mixture of crackling noise and music for around 10 seconds before it normalizes.
Once again, I have to emphasize this rarely happens. I am theorizing either a weak battery might have caused this or this could be a common Bluetooth problem.
What makes QC35 sounds so good?
As I was getting more interested in the world of audiophiles, I did more research into what makes QC35 great. Bose is always known for their patented ANC technology so there are no surprises there.
The thing that intrigues me was QC35’s advanced digital signal processing (DSP) chips. It helps with the noise cancellation and also does active sound equalization (EQ).
It digitally enhances each song to the optimal level that the algorithm deems fit. The result is an extremely pleasing acoustic experience.
You can hear the difference when you switch off the DSP in wired mode.
The active EQ can be a double-edged sword. If you are a purist who is looking for “natural” sound instead of an “artificially-created” sound, you will have to connect your headphones on wired mode permanently. In this case, your money should be better spent elsewhere.
As for me, I’m on the side of the camp that prefers it. The Bose QC35 will be hanging around my work desk for a long while.