When we're talking about the best wireless earbuds, there are a wealth of factors which come into play. For some, it might just be about getting the best sound for a good price. Others may have a particular feature which is crucial, even at the expense of other areas.
But when we're just talking about the very best – the cream of the crop, the top 1% – you need a pair of headphones which offer everything. They have to sound great as standard, should have decent noise cancelling credentials and will often have a good app with some powerful sound sculpting capabilities.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds: Price & Release Date
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds were unveiled on the 14th of September 2023. They come in two finishes – Black and White Smoke. Users will pay £/$299 for the earbuds.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Specs
So, what do you get for that money. Well, on paper at least, there's a lot to love here. You'll find a lot of similarities to the Bose QuietComfort II earbuds which these follow on from.
Those were a favourite here at T3 Towers, with particular praise being lavished on their noise cancelling properties. The same blueprint is certainly on offer here, but there are a host of little upgrades which should make them a firm favourite among audiophiles.
For starters, these new Ultra Earbuds units are Snapdragon Sound certified, as well as making use of Qualcomm aptX and Google Fast Pair. Arguably the biggest change, though, is the introduction of Bose Immersive Audio. That aims to create a wider soundscape than the earbuds can physically offer. The aim is to create an experience which sounds like you have a pair of quality stereo speakers in front of you.
Elsewhere, you'll find more of the same fantastic noise cancellation technology on board. The Ultra Earbuds's utilise a hybrid passive and active noise cancelling design, with four microphones per earbud acting to pick up and remove unwanted noise.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Design
Okay, let's talk design. The case is a pebble-shaped plastic unit, which is gently curved on all edges and asymmetrically curved on the base. That means you can't stand it up on its end, though it will lie flat on its back.
The case has a lovely soft touch feel to it. It's a little more premium than it probably deserves to be overall. The plastic isn't exactly the classiest design on the market, but the softer feel redeems it somewhat.
Then there are the buds. Look, I'm not a fan of the look of these. You might love them, and hey, more power to you if that's the case. Personally, I think these look like a Stormtrooper's ear canal.
The buds themselves are slightly unique, taking the fairly standard bud shape and adding a retaining band for a tighter fit in the ear. In fairness to Bose, all of the unusual looking stuff does get hidden in your ear when in use.
That's really good, because the part that is on show looks really classy. The Bose logo is emblazoned on each bud, which sits nicely in the ear. You won't look out of place with these – just don't let anyone catch a glimpse of what's going on internally.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Performance
Let's start in the most important place – sound quality. Because let's face it, that's where it counts. A pair of earbuds could be peppered with all of the best specs and buzzwords, but if they sound naff then they aren't going to be much use to you.
Fortunately, that isn't the case for these. The audio is on par with the best sounding headphones I've ever used – the Devialet Gemini II earbuds – which is high praise indeed. In general use, the audio is astounding, with a lot of width and fidelity.
The Bose Immersive Audio works superbly here. You'll find a soundscape which feels much larger than the space between your ears, with panned audio defined and separated. I've worked in a number of recording studios over the years, and I can tell you that the way these earbuds reproduce audio is incredibly close to how the engineer intended.
Then there's the bass response. When I used the Devialet units, I was impressed with the way the bass hit you in the chest. It's a phenomenon which is synonymous with live music events, and isn't really attributed to using earbuds. That same experience can be had with the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.
Look, it's hard to classify things like audio quality. But, I will say this – I'm lucky enough to test an awful lot of earbuds as part of this job, and these are without doubt in my top three.
It's also worth talking about how comfortable these are to wear. Rotate them into place in your ear canal and they sit perfectly, without causing any fatigue. I've gone through five or six hour sessions with these and was not disappointed with any pain at the end.
One thing to be aware of, though, is getting them out of your ears. The unusual earbud shape means that they can be a bit painful if you just yank them out – much better to rotate them out instead.
Then, there's the noise cancellation, which is frankly astounding. Most noise cancellation systems – even the really good ones – get tripped up in certain situations. These don't.
I've used them on flights with crying children around, I've used them in a bustling office and I've even used them outside on the street – these earbuds kill all forms of noise. In fact, they're so good that when I've been using them at T3 Towers, my esteemed colleagues have been waving at me like lunatics trying to gain my attention.
If you're a long time reader of these reviews, you may well know that noise cancellation isn't the be all and end all to me. I'm as much a fan of transparency modes as I am of the full block-out-the-world ANC modes.
The transparency mode on these earbuds – dubbed the Aware mode – is just absurdly good. It's like someone has taken the back panel off of the earbud, and all of the sound which was being blocked is passing through. In the ultimate litmus test, I'd be more than comfortable using these while crossing the street.
Last, but by no means least, we have the battery life. That's rated at six hours per charge for the buds, with a further three charges in the case for a total of 24 hours use on offer.
In my experience, that was pretty much entirely accurate. It took me about two weeks of using them a couple of hours most days to get the battery depleted, which equates to roughly the right amount of hours. Basically, don't panic. Unless you're using them all day, every day, you aren't going to spend your life tethered to a charger.
Of course, if you do, it's not a dreadful experience. A full charge took two hours for me, which is just about passable. Sure there are quicker out there, and shaving half an hour off of that time would have been nice, but it's certainly not the be all and end all.
Bose claim that a 20 minute charge will offer two hours of use, too. That's perfect for those quick top ups when you just need to get through the next meeting or train journey before you can give them a proper refill.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Verdict
We began this by talking about how the best of the best wireless earbuds need to have strong standing in every area. You need great audio quality, top noise cancellation, a great app and a snazzy design.
By and large, these Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds hit every one of those points. Okay, I might have the odd gripe with the design, but that's minor. Where it counts, these deliver – and they deliver in spades! For most people, these will represent the best option overall.
If your number one quest is for sonic quality – and you're willing to make some sacrifices in other areas to compensate – the Devialet Gemini II are well worth your time. They are some of the best sounding earbuds you can buy – though you'll pay for the privilege.
If you're after something equally well rounded, try the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds. Those are pretty much the yardstick for the industry, and offer a really sumptuous experience – complete with the softest earbuds!
Lastly, if you're looking to save a little cash, but don't want to skimp too hard on quality, give the Nothing Ear (2) a try. They're some of my favourites right now, offering supreme bang for the buck and punching way above their weight. Oh, they look killer, too!