About two years ago, Bose released the QuietComfort 45 headphones and they’ve been hard to beat ever since. In fact, they’re the best noise-cancelling headphones for travel and that’s something I stand by because I’ve been using them on my trips for a long time now.
They're not the only popular pair Bose has available right now, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 launched in 2019 and here at T3, we loved them so much that they picked up 5 stars in the T3 review.
But truth be told, both are starting to get on a bit and they’re definitely due an upgrade. Add to that the fact that Sony has just unveiled the new Sony WH-1000XM5 - it’s about time Bose released the next model if they want to keep up with the competition.
Recently the rumour mill has been spinning about a refreshed set that could soon be making an appearance: the Bose QuietComfort Ultra. There are no guarantees but we could see them launch sometime in September or October 2023. What they’ll be like, we can’t be sure, but there have been a few leaks and it seems as though they're going to be a mix of the Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Whatever happens, there are a few things I will personally be hoping for which would make them my *new* number one choice for travel.
1. A few design tweaks
When it comes to the look and feel, I’ll be the first to tell you that the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones aren’t the most interesting to look at but they’re completely fit for purpose. The sturdy plastic design looks premium and lasts a long time but it’s hardly as good-looking as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. It'd be great to see a balanced mashup of the two sets when it comes to design.
I'd love for the new headphones to fold up more and be lighter than the 45s. Currently, they do fold up and they come with a travel case but the whole thing is quite bulky which means they aren't very well suited to shorter trips with just hand luggage. You don’t want your travel headphones to be a nuisance to carry around so the smaller the better in that department!
2. Touch controls
The QuietComfort series has previously opted for physical buttons to control the headphones, but the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 had touch controls.
I personally would prefer touch controls because the headphones won’t move about when you skip songs or adjust the volume, and I think they’re a lot easier to use because you won’t need to fiddle around trying to find the button or switch in the first place.
3. More battery life, faster charging
I'm really hoping that the new Ultra headphones will take things up a notch when it comes to battery life. As things stand the Bose QuietComfort 45 last about 24 hours with ANC, while the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 only last about 20 hours. That's fine, but it’s a long way off some headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless which boast a jaw-dropping 60 hours with the ANC turned on.
If Bose could up the battery power, it would make a huge difference - charging your headphones all the time when you’re away is far from ideal especially if you, like me, are prone to forgetting.
Another upgrade that would help me out a lot when I’m travelling is faster charging. If I forget to plug them in overnight, it’d be great to get a full charge in an hour or so, as well as enough juice for the whole day in 15 minutes.
4. An improved transparency mode
A transparency mode has become something I can't live without because it means you can hear what’s going on around you without having to pause the music, like announcements on the train or plane.
As I mentioned in the review, the QuietComfort 45s do have an Aware mode but it could have been better. Some headphones give you control over how much outside noise you want to let in, but those didn’t so I’d love to see that in the Ultra model.
I’m hoping Bose will actually add their ActiveSense feature to the Aware mode which is currently only used in their QuietComfort Earbuds II. According to Bose, it "allows the earbuds to automatically turn on noise cancellation when sudden or loud noises occur near you, so you can maintain awareness without intermittent noise interrupting your audio." That would take things to a new level.
5. aptX support
Granted this one is more about the general audio experience than travel but I'd love to see aptX HD codec support from the next installment of QuietComfort over-ear headphones. Surprisingly, neither the Bose QuietComfort 45 nor the Bose 700 featured it.
Compressing and decompressing the music before sending it to your devices, aptX squeezes audio files down to SBC size without losing any of the original frequency range. So long story short, aptX enhances the quality of sound over a wireless Bluetooth connection. I’d expect to see it in all new pairs of premium headphones, including the Bose QuietComfort Ultra.