There are SO many options when it comes to over-ear headphones.
But many Apple Users just default to the Airpod Max headphones and skip any other brands, even though they could be missing out in a very big way.
Today, I'm reviewing the brand new Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra headphones which I’ve been using for the last month or so.
I’m going to run you through 4 key areas, which will help YOU answer the question of which ones should you buy. The areas I will be focusing on are Sound Quality, Transparency, and Features.
I found the Bose to a little flatter compared to the Airpod Max when it came to sound quality. The sound from the Airpod Max is richer, there’s more clarity. And I did even try to tweak this with the Bose EQ inside the Bose App, but I couldn’t get it to where it sounded as clear as the Airpod Max’s. Especially when I played Linkin Park where everything’s loud, but you can still hear separation in the instruments.
Both of them had some really nice bottom ends, though you can tune them further if you wish.
Apple has some stock EQ presets you can choose from. I tend to leave mine set to either Off or Rock. I personally like feeling the kick drum.
And the Bose has a 3 stage EQ which you can tweak to your own preference.
So for this part, the Sound Quality part of the video - I’m actually going to give this one, by a very thin margin, to the Airpod Max’s.
But it’s not all about the sound quality of the headphones. Sometimes you’re also going to want to use the built-in mics and speak to someone.
As someone who has travelled a lot recently, including a few long-haul flights, I’ve been able to properly test these headphones for their noise cancellation.
Because one of the best ways I’ve found to use these headphones, is to help you sleep whilst on a flight, by blocking out as much of the background noise as possible.
On our recent flights to the US and back again, our kids even wore a pair of these headphones to help them get to sleep. And both the Airpod Max AND the Bose headphones did a great job of that, I don’t think you’d be disappointed with either.
The only problem with traveling with literally three pairs of headphones though, is the amount of space they took up in my bag.
No joke, traveling as a family, I had headphones, iPads, laptops, chargers - my bag was the heaviest!
So an alternative would definitely be to swap over-ear headphones for in-ear headphones. Like the Panasonic Technics AZ80’s.
And after some quick research, I realised that these earbuds aren’t something you should dismiss. Every review comments on how good the audio quality is from these earbuds with what they’re calling their ‘Signature Technics Clear Sound’.
They also include three-way audio, to connect 3 devices at the same time, so that’s any combination of Laptop, Phone, tablet, Watch or TV…support for LDAC and high-resolution audio.
The design is shaped to fit into the groove in your ear AND you get a choice of 7 different sized eartips which is far better than the 3 you get with other earbuds.
There’s a solid 7 hours battery life with active noise cancellation enabled, Qi wireless charging, an App to customise features.
And they have their trademarked JustMyVoice technology, which uses 8 separate mics plus advanced wind noise reduction to minimise any background noise and enhance your call quality.
But now, let’s talk about transparency with these 2 sets of headphones…
The one thing I immediately noticed is that with the Bose, there is this high-pitched white noise sound that you get, which you can hear if you’re in a quiet room.
It’s not really a problem when there’s other things happening around you, but it’s quite off-putting when it’s quiet.
I would say that the Airpod Pro Max’s feel a little more natural and less processed than the real world. It feels more like I’m just not wearing any headphones at all.
Whereas the Bose, still sound good. You can of course clearly hear everything, but it sounds more processed than the Airpods. I think that’s something the Airpods have always had going for them, as their transparency has always been very, very good.
So both of these headphones are sounding very similar so far.
But here is where some differences start to show, in terms of their features.
For Battery life, the Bose have up to 18 hours with ANC enabled, and the Airpod Max has up to 20 hours.
BUT. The Airpod Max have two fatal flaws.
Firstly, they are STILL using Lightning. So when you want to charge them, you have to go find a lightning cable. Which is stupid considering basically all other Apple products have now finally transitioned to USB C…
And secondly, there's also a stupid purse type thing. Most of the time when I’m listening and I need to grab some lunch, or answer the phone, or answer the door to the Amazon man, I’m not going to care to carefully place these headphones back into their case.
And you need the case. Because if you don’t, then these headphones do NOT switch off, and their battery will drain.
So even though the Max have a ‘better battery life’. It doesn’t really matter if they’re going to drain all that battery life once you put them down.
Then we have some features which are unique to the Bose, and these features COULD be the reason why you buy the Bose over the Airpod Max’s.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones support Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive Codec and Snapdragon Sound. And these features unlock lossless, so higher quality, low latency audio over bluetooth.
I made a video about this recently, but however stupid this sounds… If you use Apple Music on an Android phone that supports these features, you will be able to listen to your music in MUCH higher quality than with a pair of Airpod Max and an iPhone.
Those features are exclusive to those phones which support it. And unsurprisingly, iPhone, doesn’t support it.
And you just outright can’t listen to lossless audio on a set of Apple Headphones - until the Vision Pro comes out next year that is…
The Bose also have a shortcut button which you can use to hear the battery level, change the immersive audio settings, access your voice assistant or control Spotify.
You can also connect to 2 devices at once on the Bose with the Multi-point connection feature. I love this because you can hear audio from 2 sources at the same time. And the Bose have Google Fast Pair which helps with Pairing on an Android device.
With the Airpod Max, it will automatically switch between devices - iPad, iPhone, Mac - all the things. BUT, it doesn’t always work the way you expect it to. So I always know that I might have to head into the bluetooth settings and mess around with them. Which isn’t great if someone’s calling you and you’re trying to pick up.
And then we have Immersive Audio which is Bose’s technology that will take a track and will separate individual instruments and position them around you.
But in my testing - it makes tracks sound like they’ve just been made in a big room with more reverb.
I’m really not a fan. When artists mix their music, they really spend a long time balancing everything and making it sound good.
So I’m not a fan of some technology taking over and going oh hey, actually I’m going to add more reverb to the vocals to make them sound bigger. And the drums I’m going to move over here. Guitars over there. It just doesn’t sit right, and to me, it just doesn’t sound right either. So I end up switching this off.
What I am a fan of, for both pairs of headphones are watching Dolby Atmos content, or listening to music that has been made for Dolby Atmos and Spacial Audio.
This content can sound incredible. Particularly the Airpod Max when you pair them with an Apple TV where you can watch a movie wearing these headphones, and it sounds like you have a full home theatre system, including head tracking so as you turn your head, the virtual speakers stay in their position.
It’s REALLY good.
So broadly speaking, both of these headphones provide the same sound quality and noise cancellation.
But when you dig into their features. Support for lossless audio, USB-C, and a battery that doesn’t drain unless you carry the silly Apple purse around with you - the Bose do look like the better headphones.
Thanks for reading - see you in the next one!
Grab yourself a pair of the Technics AZ80 Earbuds here! https://geni.us/TECHNICS-EARBUDS