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Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphone Review

The Bose QuietComfort 25 is Bose' best noise cancelling headphone to date. QuietComfort 25 headphones are re-engineered to sound better, be more comfortable and easier to take with you. Put them on, and suddenly everything changes. Your music is deep, powerful and balanced, and so quiet that every note sounds clearer. Even air travel becomes enjoyable, as engine roar gently fades away. No matter how noisy the world is, it’s just you and your music—or simply peace and quiet.
Four things really mattered to me when I upgraded to the QuietComfort 25: sound quality, noise cancelling, comfort, and the portability. So I'll skip aesthetics and the other features that you can easily read about. And I'll tackle each of those four critical points in this review, naming a winner in each category.

Sound Quality Winner: QuietComfort 25
You do need to "burn-in" your Bose headphones. Play music through them for about 100 hours and you'll hear a difference—they'll sound much better than they did straight out of the box. After burn-in, indeed, the QuietComfort 25 has a slightly superior sound to its predecessor. Also, the over-ear headphones have the easy sound-quality advantage on the QuietComfort 20 earbuds because you get a wider sound stage and harder-hitting bass.

Noise Cancelling Winner: QuietComfort 15/QuietComfort 20/QuietComfort 25 (3-way tie)
There's marketing hype about how the QuietComfort 25 noise cancelling is superior. Honestly, I can't really tell. I could tell the difference between the QuietComfort 20 and QuietComfort 15 because the "StayHear tips" blocked the sound in a different way. But in every-day use, the QuietComfort 25 noise cancelling is really about the same as that in the QuietComfort 15—which is to say that it is excellent and industry-leading. Even at low volumes, you can block out most ambient noise and idle chatter: "quiet" indeed.

Comfort: QuietComfort 15/QuietComfort 20/QuietComfort 25 (3-way tie)
The QuietComfort 25s are just as comfortable as the QuietComfort 15s: VERY comfortable. This is due to the light weight and light pressure on the ear cups. This is extra beneficial to people with wider skulls. They make Beats Studio/Pro headphones feel like strapping two conch shells to your skull. As a side note, the earbuds in the QuietComfort 20 are also the most comfortable in-ear pieces that I have used—much more comfortable than they look. All three options live up to the "comfort" portion of their name.

Case/Portability Winner: QC20
The in-ear design of the QuietComfort 20s makes it the easy winner. You can stuff them into their card-case sized pouch very easily and you can wear them in the office without looking too anti-social—not so, with the over-ear designs. The more-compact case for the QC25 is an upgrade, and folding the headphones is easy. In terms of storage, they did away with the card slot from the QC15 (seriously, that was a waste of space), and dropped the interior zippered pouch as well. In its place, there is a slot to store a single spare battery. I only ever stored one spare AAA battery in there anyway, so the QuietComfort 25 case storage is sufficient for me. The back also features an elastic compartment like the QuietComfort 15 case—never used it.

Other considerations:
Hi/Low switch: I honestly have not found the absence of this switch to be a problem. I checked my QuietComfort 15, and saw that I had set it to "Hi." I hadn't changed it since I bought it and have never had any problems with getting a range of volumes. Similarly, the QuietComfort 25 work fine for me too.

Ability to listen without battery: They introduced this feature in the QuietComfort 20. Unless you're desperate, you do NOT want to use the headphones without the active preamp because without active equalization, these sound worse than $2 headphones. Nice-to-have feature, but just be sure to pack a spare battery.

Long-term foam pad wear: About 2 years into my QuietComfort 15s, I needed to replace the ear cushions because the leatherette was starting to disintegrate. I suspect the same thing may happen to these QuietComfort 25s. Expect to spend $15 to $30 on this maintenance depending on whether you go OEM or aftermarket.

No aware mode: The QC20 headphones had "aware mode" which was supposed to let you listen to your surroundings. This feature worked, but after a while, I stopped using it and just popped an earbud out as necessary. It isn't particularly missed on the QC25.

Batteries: The fact that they use a single AAA battery is perfect. Eneloops are your best friend. I am grateful that this doesn't have a proprietary battery like the QuietComfort 20.

Overall Winner: QuietComfort 25
The QuietComfort 25 represents the best Bose noise cancelling headphones to date. If you are considering upgrading from the QuietComfort 15, the improvements are incremental and I would think twice about parting with $300. If you're looking to supplement a set of QuietComfort 20 earbuds, this is a great buy. If you have no Bose noise cancelling headphones, this is THE clear choice.