Bose QuietComfort 45 vs QC 35 II: are the newer Bose headphones worth the extra?

Should you choose Bose's newest active noise-cancelling headphones, or is the cheaper earlier version better value? We explain all the differences

Bose QC45 on left vs QC35 II on right
(Image credit: Future)

Bose's QuietComfort headphones have been a big deal every since their launch. For those looking to mute the world with superior active noise-cancelling, the best Bose headphones have been on hand for years now to make plane and train noise disappear. 

In fact, if you’ve been on a flight or train since their release in 2016, chances are you’ll have seen at least one pair of the now iconic Bose QuietComfort 35s (or updated QC35 II) defending a set of ears from that hum that doesn’t seem too loud until you actually attempt to sleep. And it’s not just the ANC that’s a selling point – they're comfortable, light and sound great.

But a lot can change in a few years. As you can see in our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones, the world is full of excellent noise-cancelling options. But Bose is back. The Bose QuietComfort 45 were released in September 2021 to try to reclaim that silence crown and thankfully, the result is another set of knockout cans. 

But what are the differences between the new Bose QC45 and the Bose QC35 II? Do you need to go for the 2021 model or can you stick with the tried and tested icon, which is now much cheaper? Let’s break down the key differences to find out which pair is right for you. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 worn around the neck of a man

The Bose QuietComfort 45 in black.

(Image credit: Bose)

 Bose QC45 vs Bose QC35 II: Price 

First off, let’s talk price. You will find that, officially, there’s not a massive difference in outlay between the Bose QC45 and Bose QC35 II. Bose's recommended price for the QC35 II remains £299.95 in the UK and $299 in the US. The Bose QC45 start at £319 in the UK, $329 in the US, and $499 in Australia. 

However, you should not be paying the official price for the QC35 II. You will find it regularly discounted by at least £100/$100 – that's the real price, in many ways. If you look for it and find that there isn't any good discount, it's worth holding off a bit, if that's the model you want. The QC45 has had few discounts since it's so new, but you can find the current lowest price on both models here.

Both pairs are available in both stylish black and silver, there’s no difference in price between the colourways, and both come with a case too for easy portability. If you’re looking for the very best prices, don’t miss our Bose discount codes.  

In terms of the competition, these price points are obviously at the more luxurious end of the ANC spectrum, but the official prices of Bose's offerings are still a little less than the Sony WH-1000XM4's official price. Sony’s noise cancellers are priced at £349 in the UK, $349 in the US, and $499 in Australia. Again though, these are regularly reduced throughout the year. 

Bose QC35 II in silver on white background

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II in silver – as you can tell compared to the image above, there's very little difference in the design between the two models.

(Image credit: Bose)

Bose QC45 vs Bose QC35 II: Design and battery life 

The Bose QC45 don’t exactly reinvent the active noise-cancelling wheel when it comes to design, but they really don’t have to. Both the QC35 II and QC45 have an elegant minimalist design with a slick headband and the Bose logo on each earcup. 

The biggest difference between the two in terms of looks is the texture of the cosy ear padding. On the QC35 II there’s a pleated look to the cups but on the QC45 the effect is much more akin to the latest Sony designs with the synthetic leather being entirely smooth. As we noted in our Bose QuietComfort 45 review, this is great for long wear and “the ear cups sit around your ears giving them plenty of room to breathe so they don’t get pressed up against your head.”

The other big physical difference here is the charging port. The Bose QC45 now uses USB-C, while the QC35 2 uses micro-USB. It might seem a small thing but in a world where even Apple is now embracing the joys of USB-C, it’s nice to only need one wire for pretty much everything.

The battery life has had a significant upgrade too. While there’s a cable for wired mode on both the QC45 and QC35 II if you forget to charge, the battery for the QC45 now has up to 24 hours of juice inside. And thanks to USB-C, quick charging is now an option with 3 hours of playtime with only 15 minutes of charge. 

The QC 35 II still have around 20 hours of music time but you won’t get the speedy charging of the new version.  

Bose QC45 headphones worn by a woman.

The Bose QC45 are comfortable and light for long periods of wear.

(Image credit: Bose)

Bose QC45 vs Bose QC35 2: Features and sound quality  

But how do they actually sound? Well the good news is that regardless of whether you choose the Bose QC45 or QC35 II, you’ll escape into a rich and well-balanced soundscape but, of course, the QC45 has some upgraded audio features. New for the QC45 is what Bose calls Aware Mode, which is a little like the transparency mode that you’ll find on other ANC headphones.

This means that it brings you a little more of the world into your ears through the noise-cancellation, so you can stay safe and hear your surroundings while till cutting down a lot of the noise. Bose has also added what’s known as TriPort Architecture to the earcups for improved audio depth, an extra microphone for better call quality, and a volume-optimised Active EQ. 

And the result is worth the investment. As we say in our QC45 review “The Bose QuietComfort 45 sound fantastic, you get plenty of detail from these cans.” While there are headphones with better clarity out there, the QC45s “aren’t overwhelming in any one area, they’re not overly bass-heavy nor are they too focused on the high-end. What they do offer is a clean, balanced sound which you can listen to for hours without feeling fatigued. In terms of tuning for the masses, these will suit the most types of listeners and music.”

The QC35 II remain good headphones for sound, no question, but it shouldn't be much of a surprise that newer headphones have beaten them for audio prowess as well as the effectiveness of the noise cancellation.

Bose QuietComfort 45 in black and silver

The Bose QC45 in two finishes.

(Image credit: Bose)

Bose QC45 vs Bose QC35 II: Verdict 

If both are sitting at their official price (or close to it), we'd definitely recommend the Bose QC45 over the Bose QC35 II. The extra battery life and USB-C compatibility alone give the newer headphones the edge, and that’s before you factor in the two ANC modes now included and the improved audio. 

However, if you’ve found a great price for the Bose QC 35 II headphones and would really appreciate the saving, then you’ll still bag a brilliant set of active noise cancelling cans with great audio that are ideal for travel. Just be aware that the newer model has definitely made some slick improvements. 

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.