Yesterday, Bose introduced its next-generation QuietComfort Earbuds II ($299.00) noise-canceling earbuds. The buds use Bose's new CustomTune technology, which creates a personalized noise-canceling profile for better noise-canceling. I had a chance to try these out at the Bose demo event and found the noise-canceling to be noticeably better than the dozens of other noise-canceling buds I've tested, including Bose models.
The way you experience sound is highly dependent on the acoustic qualities of your environment. The more accurately you can model the environment, the better the sound quality, and that applies to noise-canceling as well. Today's noise-canceling headphones use a generic model of an ear canal, a one-size-fits-most approach. This approach generally works well, but it’s not as good as noise-canceling based on the shape of your ear canal, which is what Bose's new CustomTune Technology does.
The CustomTune process starts when you insert a QuietComfort Earbuds II. First, you’ll hear a brief tone, which the bud uses to map your ear canal. Then, the bud uses your ear canal data to generate your personalized noise-canceling profile. The whole thing happens so quickly that you won’t even notice. Bose Chief Engineer, Dan Gauger, notes that your ear canal doesn’t change much between wearing, though there could be slight differences due to wax buildup. More importantly, you could lend your earbuds to someone, and they would have an optimized noise-canceling experience based on their ear canal.
The QuietComfort Earbuds II have three external mics that are used to adjust the noise-canceling as sound fluctuates around you. During the demo, I could hear the person giving the demo talking when I first inserted the buds, but after a few seconds, I couldn’t hear him at all. I’ve used dozens of noise-canceling earbuds on trains with people talking and could always at least faintly hear them. The QuietComfort Earbuds II’s ability to block sound in the mid-range – the voice frequencies – is impressive.
In Aware mode, the buds provide an exact replica of the ambient sound coming through your earbuds – with or without other sound mixed in. Aware mode uses your personalized noise-canceling profile to mix sound, so when you adjust the amount of sound you're letting through in Aware mode, you're essentially turning up or down the volume of the outside world. In the Aware mode demo, I found the external noises, including voices, to sound natural. When I turned off the music and listened to the demonstrator speak, and then took the earbuds out, his voice sounded the same. When testing other noise-canceling earbuds, I often find external sounds are overamplified and sharp. I can’t wait to test these new Bose ones in real-world conditions.
Aside from their innovative CustomTone noise-canceling technology, the QuietComfort Earbuds II improve upon their predecessor in other ways. The buds now come with separate ear tips (three sizes) and stability bands (also three sizes) for a more custom fit. Gauger notes that to get in-ear headphones to fit properly, you shouldn’t shove the eartip into your ear; wiggle it into position. Once you’ve found a comfortable fit, the new Fit Test in the Bose Music app can confirm you’ve achieved a proper seal for the best sound.
The QuietComfort Earbuds II are also 40 percent smaller than the previous generation and weigh a quarter of an ounce. The earbuds have Bluetooth 5.3, but sadly, there is no multipoint for holding connections to two devices. The IPX4 water-resistance rating makes them suitable for working out. Battery life is an acceptable six hours, with an additional 18 hours provided by the case. Twenty minutes of charging delivers two hours of playtime.
You can preorder the QuietComfort Earbuds II for $299.00 on Bose.com, with availability on September 15. You can purchase them now in Triple Black or wait for the Soapstone version, which is expected to ship later this year.
[Image credit: Bose, Techlicious]
For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.