For something that has a bizarrely bland moniker, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is an exciting release for a company that has gotten a run for its money in the last few years. With competing manufacturers like Sony, Sennheiser, Beats and even Apple giving this once household name some stiff competition in the best noise-cancelling headphone race – Bose hasn’t quite managed to hold on to its title and crown as tightly as it once did.
But, this over-ear noise cancelling pair might have just single-handedly propelled Bose back into the best travel headphone game, touting an appealingly well-balanced sound, terrific soundstage and outstanding ANC in a design that’s equal parts elegant, modern and comfortable.
Not that the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is perfect, but a series of price drops over time have pushed the balance more and more in its favour – at current prices, it's arguably the best Bose headphones for over-ear noise cancellation, pound for pound.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review: Price And Release Date
As far as noise-cancelling headphones go, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which officially hit the shelves in June 2019, is about on par with everything else at $379 / £349 / AU$599. On the other hand, the Sony WH-1000XM4, which is probably its most direct rival, was only slightly cheaper upon its release at $349 / £349 / AU$549. Meanwhile, other rivals like the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless are also in the same price range.
Still, it’s probably not what most folks would consider affordable, especially with options like the Beats Solo Pro and Razer Opus offering lower prices of entry and can now be found at less than $200/£200 at the biggest online retailers. That’s not considering all the bargain-basement brands touting their audio wares on Amazon like Anker’s Soundcore.
You’ll pay even more if you also want the charging case, which can come bundled with the headphones for $419 and £399 in the US and the UK, respectively. That’s a $40/£50 difference to get 40 additional hours of playtime per full charge of the case, which isn’t bad. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it sits in that higher mid-range aisle that most budget-minded consumers might not want to venture in.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review: Design And Features
Though let’s be honest: the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700’s design alone might convince anyone to do so. The manufacturer has finally decided to give its headphones line a nice overhaul for a fresher, smarter look, and I, for one, am a fan.
It all starts with that sleek steel headband with a silicone top, a plush silicone-covered foam underside, and a smooth, silky finish. It tapers into these cylindrical ends at the ear cups that position them at a 15-degree angle, which Bose says mirrors “the anatomy of the human head and ears.” For a better fit, you can slide both ear cups up and down these cylindrical ends for necessary adjustments.
The ear cups themselves are finely designed, with outer shells made of similar material as the hard part of the headband and a finish coated with a special anti-stick material to reduce fingerprint tracks. Meanwhile, the ear cushions opposite are made of protein leather-covered soft foam to minimise outer ear fatigue.
The Bose NC 700 is designed in a way where there’s enough space between the drivers and your ear. It’s a good thing when you’re wearing it during a sweaty workout, although it also adds to that feeling of being at a large concert instead of a more intimate performance when listening to media. But, more on that later.
One of the many amazing things about its whole design is that these headphones do a great job staying in place without ever clamping down on your head. Perhaps it has a lot to do with that 15-degrees of tilt; maybe it’s just the way those ear cushions hug your ears – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that these will stay on your head whether you’re passed out on an aeroplane or running at a park.
Its touch controls are just as incredible and seamless. I’ve never really been one for using built-in headphone controls to manage my current playlist. I’ve simply found it better to change tracks or pause/play from my phone or smartwatch.
That isn’t the case with these headphones. Instead, all the controls are accessible on the anterior right ear cup and easy to remember: double-tap for pause/play, swipe up/down for volume, swipe back/forward for previous or next tracks, and tap and hold for battery level. The tap and hold function can also be assigned to either enable/disable wake word or resume Spotify, but you’ll have to do so on the app. Touch controls for phone calls are just as easy: double-tap to answer or end a call, tap and hold to decline one.
Thanks to these touch controls, there are very few buttons here. There are only three, two on the right ear cup, one on the left, all low-profile. The right ones are the on/off/Bluetooth and smart assistant buttons, while the left one is for cycling through three noise cancellation presets that you set up on the app.
These buttons are terrific to use as well. I especially love that you do not need to hold down the on/off button, unlike other headphones. You simply press once to turn it on and press again to turn it off. To connect it to a device via Bluetooth, just hold it down until the light starts blinking blue.
Speaking of Bluetooth, it’s got Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity that no-fuss linking, boasts a range of 33 feet or about 10 metres, and dual connectivity, which means that you can connect up to two devices simultaneously. But, unfortunately, it does need a little guidance in figuring out from which device to play. For example, if you have one connected device already playing music, you’d have to pause that before the headphones can start playing from the second connected device.
Finally, it utilises USB-C charging and naturally comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable. Much like most headphones, it also offers the 3.5mm analogue option for those who adore old-school sound quality, alongside the 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable for that purpose.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review: Performance
If you prefer a brighter or darker sound, you might find the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700’s sound quality to lack character. These are fairly neutral-sounding headphones, which isn’t going to be for some casual users, especially those who are used to a bit of oomph or a whole lot of pop in whatever they’re listening to.
However, neutral-sounding headphones are generally preferred by audiophiles, as well as audio engineers and music-lovers with discerning and varied tastes. And, while this pair is not exactly quite at that audiophile-level, it certainly attempts (and succeeds) to give a taste of that to mainstream users.
The result is an impressively neutral and well-balanced sound. Bose does a great job with the mid-range frequency here. It’s not too emphasized to sound muddy yet not too quiet to sound hollow and cheap. The mids are, therefore, controlled but present, a wise decision as this is where most of the audio information lies.
Meanwhile, the bass sounds good and controlled yet not overpowering and the highs are very slightly rolled off. Bassheads and rock’n’roll fans will want to EQ. But, still, everything sounds good all around, nothing sounds anemic, muffled or losing detail. In fact, the sound quality is a bit reminiscent of the legendary Sennheiser HD600, which boasts a similar neutral sound, only with a bit more detail.
The soundstage is very good as well. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 feels wide, particularly with movies and shows. Its sound imaging is even better. All the different elements have more space to be heard here, so they’re not competing with each other. As a result, you can hear not just every single element, but also every nuance they come with.
In Queen’s Under Pressure, on which there are all these different elements – a guitar on each side, a piano, a bass and drums in the middle, and Freddie Mercury and Bowie doing their thing – nothing gets in the way of anything. Each element has its own space, making it easy for listeners to focus on a particular thing.
In the song Lost In The Dream by The War on Drugs, I can feel and hear the full range of motion of the tremolo on the guitar. Because the driver is further away from the listener’s ears, the sound has more space to resonate as it gets to your ear.
The only thing is that because of that space between my ears and the drivers, I’m not getting that wall of sound and that in-your-face kind of immersion. Instead, it feels like a more laid-back experience, much like how it feels to be at a sit-down performance. This is especially true, I’ve noticed, with rock songs.
The controllable noise cancelling feature is a boon to everyone. There are 11 settings on hand, as well as the conversation (full transparency) mode, with the lowest being off and the highest being full noise cancellation, which does a great job of blocking outside noise. There’s still a tiny bit of sound leakage, but it will do the job on a plane or airport if you have audio playing at a healthy volume.
As for the mics, there are six for noise cancellation and four more that ensure you’re coming through loud and clear (there are eight total, with two that are being shared by these two functions). Phone calls are easy with these headphones. Rest assured you’ll come through clear and crisp.
Finally, the battery life. Sadly, while competitors boast up to 30 or 40 hours of playtime, you’re only getting 20 hours here at full charge. This is definitely among these headphones’ (very few) weaknesses.
The good news is that it does deliver on that 20-hour promise. Plus, it comes with fast charging capabilities so a 15-minute charge time should give you 3.5 hours of playback. If that still isn’t enough, you can always spring for the charging case.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review: Verdict
Forget everything you think you want from your headphones. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is going to be an upgrade from whatever consumer-end one you’re relying on right now. It may not have that booming bass or very bright sound that you’re used to or look for, but give it a chance and you’ll realise that it’s a much better prospect.
Coming from someone who loves brighter-sounding headphones, I respect what Bose is doing here – making me appreciate the value of a well-balanced audio sound. Even if it’s not exactly the most exciting thing at first, it will deliver many of the nuances you’ll miss in other mainstream headphones, from terrific sound imaging that accurately positions all the elements where they’re supposed to sit down to the smaller details like the crests and troughs of the tremolo effect.
Couple that with its incredibly seamless controls and elegant design, and you’ve got a pair of headphones that may not be quite at that audiophile-level, but brings mainstream consumers to the fringes of it.
Do I recommend the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700? A thousand times yes.
- Best noise-cancelling headphones: block out the world
- Best headphones for travel: noise-cancelling headphones ideal for the plane, train or automobile
- Best noise-cancelling earbuds: small, light and portable
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review: Also Consider
The Sony WH-1000XM4, which has long been a crowd favourite, offers its vibrant, detailed sound and impressive noise-cancelling performance for a bit less than the Bose NC 700. They can be a bit trebly, however.
If you’re done with the over-ear design and are looking for something more portable, consider a pair of earbuds. The Bose QuietComfort Buds also delivers a well-balanced sound, great transparency mode, and effortless Bluetooth pairing. They are currently included in our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide.