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Hands-on review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

28 Jul 2020

The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (which I’ll refer to simply as the ‘700s’ in this review) are the latest flagship headphones to come from Bose, who for years have pretty much set the benchmark when it comes to premium active noise-cancelling headphones.

The 700s follow in the footsteps of the QuietComfort 35 II and are a must-have for travelling businesspeople and audiophiles alike. 

Design 

At first glance, the 700s are incredibly nice to look at. They’re made from a combination of stainless steel, soft-touch plastic and leather, which together create a soft yet sturdy finish. Design-wise, Bose has pretty much led the way for the last decade or so, and the 700s are no different.

There are very few physical buttons on the headphones, with all playback inputs done via an array of gestures and actions on the right ear cup. The three buttons are for Bluetooth pairing, your virtual assistant, and to cycle through different levels of noise cancellation. 

The Bose Music app, which can be downloaded free of charge, allows you to perform a multitude of tasks including choosing between Siri, Alexa and Bixby depending on your device.

To aid with the design, there’s also a unique way of adjusting the headphones – an almost slide-like motion compared to the traditional way. The headband is made from a single piece of stainless steel meaning that the 700s aren’t foldable unlike their predecessor (the QuietComfort 35 II) and similar headphones on the market. Instead, each ear cup twists 90 degrees to help the headphones fit neatly inside the provided hard case. The included USB-C charger and auxiliary cable have a dedicated home in the form of a magnetic compartment built into the case.

One thing that’s missing in the box this time around (which many other Bose headphones came with) is the airline splitter adapter, but it isn’t a huge deal. 

Like their predecessor though, the 700s are very flexible and feel super robust. They are a lot easier on the eye, although this might not be to everyone’s taste. Afterall, there’s a reason the QuietComfort 35 II was so popular. 

In terms of weight, the 700s are 254g – over 50g heavier than the QuietComfort 35 II and around the same weight as the excellent, award-winning Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. 

The 700s are available in three colourways – Black, Soapstone, and Luxe Silver. 

Specs/performance 

When you first put the 700s on, the ear cups feel almost like a vacuum around your ears. The fit is snug and comfortable, which is maintained until you wear them for an extended period of time. After this, there was some mild discomfort beneath the headband, which will obviously differ between users.

Once you turn the device on and the noise cancellation technology activates, the 700s really come to life thanks to the eight microphones dotted around the headphones.

Over the past decade, Bose has been the go-to brand for buyers who prioritise the quality of noise cancellation over anything else. Over the last 48 months though, companies like Sony (especially with the WH-1000XM3) and JBL have started to turn the heads of buyers, which is one of the reasons the 700s had to be so different to their predecessor in terms of their design and performance. With that being said, the 700s still feel very much Bose. 

If the bass is the main feature you’re after, these probably aren’t the headphones you want. If it’s top-end noise cancellation with added style and comfort, then they probably are.

One of the best ways to demonstrate how good the noise cancellation works is by using the 700s to make a phone call. No matter where I was, the recipient of our test calls said everything was crystal clear. Siri and Alexa both agreed.

The battery life might be an issue for some, with Bose claiming just 20 hours of listening time (10 hours less than Sony’s claim of 30 hours for the WH-1000XM3). During testing, I was able to easily get 12-14 hours of use from the 700s between charges, but the inclusion of USB-C makes battery life less of an issue. 

Another downside is the included auxiliary cable, which annoyingly uses a 2.5mm to 3.5mm configuration, meaning you pretty much have to use the cable provided if you’re a traditionalist and want to plug your headphones directly into your device (or you’re trying to conserve battery). 

Verdict

Bose might not be the clear-cut choice they used to be when it comes to active noise-cancelling headphones, but the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is a solid choice for someone looking for a top-class pair of over-ear headphones to last them for a few years. 

One thing I’ve failed to mention until now is the price of the 700s - they come in at a whopping $699. Yes, for that price you’re getting the premium-feel of a Bose product, but the Sony WH-1000XM3 is slightly more compact and considerably cheaper, despite winning multiple product awards since their release. With that being said, Bose products carry a certain panache that other manufacturers fail to emulate. 

What you do get for the price, though, is unparalleled build quality for this price point, as well as superior noise cancellation and call making ability. It’s up to you, the buyer, to decide whether this is worth the added investment or not.