Today, Bose introduced the in-ear evolution of the awesome noise-canceling headphones that have been hanging on the heads of weary travelers for years. I just listened to the QuietComfort 20 buds, and I can't believe how much tech—and powerful sound—Bose crammed into my ears.
The headphones will be available "this summer" for $300 in an Android-friendly model, as well as a version with an iOS three-button remote. What makes a set of fancy ear-buds worth that much? A lot of tech! So let's dive right in.
The headphones are designed as on-the-go counterparts to the over-ear and on-ear QuietComfort models you're probably familiar with. And at their core, the headphones are all about helping you block out the cacophony around you so you can just hear the darn music.
In a demo at press event at Grand Central in New York, Bose simulated some absurdly loud environments like airplanes, subways, and yes, a busy train station. The headphones' noise-cancelation was impressive.
The tech that makes this possible is also impressive: when calculating what noise-canceling frequencies to blast back at the oppressive outside world, the headphones use two measurements—one from a microphone outside the buds, one from a microphone inside. That data is beamed down to a little control stick that sits in-line on the headphone cable, right before the jack that plugs into your phone, computer, etc.
Of course, you don't want to be all noise-canceling al the time, so, the QC 20s have an "aware mode" that lets in sound from the outside world. It's easy to toggle from a little gray button on the headphones' remote.
Bose gloated that your music would sound good even in busy situations with aware mode switched on—that by some magic of engineering, you could hear both the real world and your music in perfect harmony. I can report that you could certainly hear both.
The QC 20s are small like buds but because of the additional electronics inside, they're bigger than what most of us are used to carrying around in our pockets.
Bose's older QuiteComfort headphones sound great, but what we love about them above all else is how comfortable they are. I'm pleased to report that Bose has repeated this success on the new in-ear models. Despite being larger and heavier than your average bud, they fit cozily in your ear, and stay put thanks to a squishy little "stability fins".
We'll be interested to know if the headphones will still be that comfortable after hours and hours of use.
What else? Oh, the sound! The headphones sound good, with that familiar, flat frequency response Bose is known for. We've hardly submitted the headphones to a rigorous test, so, we're not ready to say they're amazing just yet, but their performance is certainly promising.
Bose SoundLink Mini
Besides introducing new headphones, Bose also intoduced its own version of the now-ubiquitous, Bluetooth speaker block. The SoundLink Mini is available for pre-order at Bose.com today. It costs $200.
First of all, this little 1.5-pound, 2 x 2 x 7-inch brick of aluminum is absolutely gorgeous. It's a tad heavier than what we're used to from the competition.
That little extra heft doesn't just come from the aluminum, it's also a result of a whole lot of transducer inside. Two of them actually—one for each driver. The transducers also drive two passive radiators behind them to help flesh out the bass performance of the little monster.
And there are a few accessories, like colorful covers for $25. The charging cradle is included.
Again, we haven't had a chance to fully test the sound quality, but from what we heard, we're thinking these might be one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers this size we've listened to.
Photos by Nick Stango