While they don’t look all that different on first inspection, the newly launched Ultra model has been given a refresh both in terms of design and audio performance (as well as a bit of a price increase, natch.)
Bose’s QC Ultra Earbuds are available in Black and White Smoke colourways from early October, priced at $299/£299.95/AU$449.95 - that’s £20 more than the QC Earbuds 2 currently cost for the Brits.
Nevertheless, I had a closer look at the new earbuds at Bose’s launch event in New York (alongside the also-announced QC Ultra Headphones, if you're an over-ear fan). Here are three reasons why you’ve got to try them for yourself…
1. A groundbreaking new audio experience
The main reason why anyone should invest in a pair of the QC Ultra Earbuds is the earphones’ brand-new Immersive Audio tech. This is Bose’s latest innovation and it’s a tech we’ve never seen in any of the brand’s headphones before - apart from the also-new over-ear Ultra equivalent, of course.
The innovation is essentially an integrated spatial audio tech, which works to deliver an expansive, multi-dimensional soundstage. What this means, in reality, is that the sound you’re listening to while wearing the headphones feels like it's all around you as opposed to just being pumped into both ears. This makes it feel more realistic in that music, for instance, sounds like it could be playing live in the room you’re in. It works incredibly well and really does make you feel more immersed in whatever you’re listening to.
Bose sums it up well when it says the tech stops music from sounding “collapsed into your head, between your ears”, which can often happen in some of the best earphones. And I wholeheartedly agree. It’s an impressive bit of kit while also being subtle enough in that it doesn’t change the sound of your favourite music. It simply enhances it.
Cleverly, Bose's Immersive Audio also brings a choice of two listening modes to choose from, which you can switch between in the connected mobile app. The first is ‘Still’, a fixed sound profile where the soundstage remains stationary as you listen; and the second is ‘Motion’, which dynamically adjusts with your movements, keeping the sound right in front of you as you turn you pivot your head. This mode is better suited for when you’re on the go.
These customisable features - and Bose's Immersive Audio in general - work incredibly well and, in my opinion, are a testament to the company’s dedication to audio innovation. If received well, which I believe it will, this audio tech could prove to be a game-changer in the world of earphones.
2. Given a mini makeover
The Ultra Earbuds are almost identical in shape and size to their predecessor apart from a new metallic finish, which makes them look more sleek and premium. They definitely look more luxe when in the ears, that’s for sure. My “White Smoke” model has a lovely smooth matte finish on it, which gives it a high-end feel and best of all, there are no smudge marks left from fingerprints (unlike the over-ear QC Ultra Headphones).
Elsewhere, the Ultra 'buds have been given new stability bands, which now feature an improved interlocking fit to prevent them from peeling off and getting lost. This, I’ll admit, was something I experienced regularly during my time using the QC Earbuds 2, so the update is very much a welcome one.
Meanwhile, the QC Ultra Earbuds deliver the same responsive touch controls and IPX4 rating as seen in their older sibling, meaning they’re resistant to water splashes and the odd sweaty lug (although be warned they’re not marketed as sports phones so might not stay in your ears when you’re really going for it).
3. Way better call quality
Another big update that Bose has bestowed upon the stylish QC Ultra Earbuds is the integration of improved far-end call quality.
This has been made possible thanks to some new dynamic mic mixing and adaptive noise filters. These two technologies work in tandem to figure out which of the buds' microphones is experiencing the least noise and - in real-time - will strip out any background chatter.
The result? A much clearer call quality overall, where those on the other side can also hear you clearly - even when you’re not holding a phone to your mouth. In my tests, this tech seems to work well - and is a definite improvement over calls experienced on the QC Earbuds 2.