The best active noise canceling phone on the market

A Review On: Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Rated # 3 in Noise-Canceling
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Audio Quality
Noise Cacellation
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Price paid: $299.99
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Pros: Superior active noise canceling ability, light and comfortable

Cons: filmsy cable, only play music with noise canceling on.

Why I ever considered buying this? My office is now noisier than before, so I don’t want to crank up the volume too much with my closed phones. My office phone is now AKG K271s. While I like its balanced sound, the overall comfort is not ideal.


I demoed the QC15 at Bestbuy. The noise canceling is better than others (tip: just wait till the demo music stop), and most importantly, it is very comfortable. So, I wonder if Bose QC15 can serve in my office setting. If this plan didn’t work out, I can still use QC15 for my long cross pacific flight.


First, some quick facts:

QC15 does not play music without noise canceling. It only came with 3.5mm plug. The cord is thin and long, you better be careful with the cord.


NC and comfort:

The noise canceling is amazing in the demo setting. It is not perfect anyway. I use different noises in my place for simulation. You can still feel the active air purifier running on HI setting, hear the speaking from radio clock close to you, and hear the lawn mower and chain saw running outside the apartment.


Is this a big let down? Well, open-back phones are simply useless in this kind of environment while my closed-back phones cannot block those noises out effectively for really enjoy the music. In this setting, QC15 does its job to minimize the noise enough for you to enjoy the music. In fact, it is more efficient than my old in-flight music listening solution: Peltor H10A Professional Noise Canceling Earmuff which I found is better than the old Bose NC phones I demoed before. What actually surprises me is its efficiency in a moderate noisy environment like running air conditioning. You literally feel total tranquility. This leads to an easily enjoyable listening even compare to other closed-back phones. (You can mentally block out the noise by turn-up the volume, but you don’t have to with QC15 in such an environment. This is a big plus.)


It is very comfortable on the head. This stands out from my two other closed-back phones: Sennheiser HD-25-1-II and AKG K271s.



So now, the key question is: how does it sound? How does it compare to the other closed-back phones I own?


The answer actually depends on the common issue of noise canceling phones: the slight pressure you can feel when NC is on.


You can always feel the pressure. Sometimes I feel OK with it, and sometimes I feel a little bit irritated by that in a quiet room. I listen to classical and especially orchestral works. If all of sudden I’m irritated by the pressure, I will have trouble finish a movement in a seriously listening mood. What happen is that the NC lets you hear the quietness of quiet part, but you will still feel the pressure in your ears. You will appreciate this under a noisy circumstance, but you will feel a little bit awkward in a quiet room. This issue is not really related to what music I’m listening to, but more like randomly depends on my where attention goes.


On the other hand, when I feel OK about the pressure issue, the sound is a good back roll seat sound in a large concert hall. It is not as detail as HD-25-1-II, and not as balanced as K271s. But QC15 has its niche to me. As for large scale orchestral work, HD-25-1-II suffers from its overall small sound stage. The sounds are clear and beautiful, but you can feel that the concert hall is smaller than it should be. QC15, just like K271s, gives you a proper back roll seat feeling. So at least you know where you are in a more realistic concert hall. However, QC15 is not as balanced as K271s in large orchestral works. It has a little bit too much mid-bass (designed for coping the air plane noise escape from NC). While the sound of K271s is recess in a more balanced way, the sound of QC15 sometimes is not equally back-roll seated. In the non-classical recordings, QC15 offers a little more fun than K271s does.


Overall, compare to the other two closed-back phones I have, QC15 is sitting in the middle. For serious listening of small scale recording, I would lean to HD-25-1-II. As for large scale recordings, I would lean to K271s. QC15 sits in the middle while it can be the second choice in either case given that I’m not irritated by the pressure.

Concluding remarks:


It is a good choice as a secondary phone. Nowadays I rely on GS-1000 as for most serious listening. As for main gear, I would prefer some specialists if it cannot deliver the overall satisfaction like GS-1000 can. The lack of overall balance and the occasionally pressure issue makes QC15 not a good choice as a main gear for serious listening.


However, for me, listening music in the office is more for relaxation. The lay back sound of Bose is not a bad thing for that purpose. The noise canceling works like a charm in moderate noisy environment. Actually, it works so well you don’t even feel the noise is there. Along with QC15’s superior comfort level on the head, the listening experience is actually difficult to beat by my other two closed-back phones. Am I going to ditch my K271s as the office phones? Probably not. But I do project myself putting up Bose QC15 more often than K271s in my office.


Testing setup:
Portable: Cowon D2
Office: Aune mini USB DAC/AMP MK2 with its 3.5mm-6.3mm adapter.
Home: Grace m902 with Grado 3.5mm-6.3mm adapter.



Previous review focus most on the music quality, now I have some updates after my cross pacific flights....


QC15 delivers!

The noise canceling really works as it is designed for.

The engine noise is reduce to a slightly strong blow from someone next you, not annoying anymore.

In terms of volume reduction, I have to admit that it is not as good as ear muffs plus ear plug.

But QC15 is way more comfortable.

With ear muffs and ear plugs, I need to take off ear muffs every couple hours otherwise my skin around ears would be irritated.

On the contrary, I simply wear QC15 almost all the way (4hrs + 13hrs + 3hrs including toilet time!).

The battery life is as promised (40hrs), one spare in the carrying case should be enough for most people.


Overall, I have to say Bose really delivers "Quiet" and "Comfort" with this QC15.  If you're a frequent flyer, I would say as for the noise canceling it worth every penny even without playing the music.


hey, just a quick question... thinking of buying this qc15 but wondering if it will serve the purpose i need it for.
ok, i'm sometimes pretty 'bad' with noise : people with blaring headsets you can even hear when sitting on the other end of the bus... sometimes the neighbour who has the news or a movie on a bit louder... for those rare moments when i wanna block these sounds out, will the qc15 deliver ?
just not sure when i read comments like : "You can still feel the active air purifier running on HI setting, hear the speaking from radio clock close to you, and hear the lawn mower and chain saw running outside the apartment " or "In terms of volume reduction, I have to admit that it is not as good as ear muffs plus ear plug". "
thx in advance for any feedback....
My earmuff itself claims 30db reduction, so earmuff + earplug should give you 30db+ reduction.
QC15 is not as good as 30db, but it is way more comfortable.
My tests are actually very demanding, e.g. the lawn mower is running outside my apartment with window opening.
You should not expect the noise canceling can mute that completely.
In you case, QC15 is more than enough.
My friend use it for similar purpose and he prefers QC15 over uncomfortable earmuff.