They're showing their age now, but the Bose QuietComfort 25 offer a deluxe set of noise-cancelling headphones that delivers an unparalleled audio experience that's well worth the price of admission.
Doesn't require battery for use
Color customization costs extra $100
Showing their age a little
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In the four years since the Bose QuietComfort 25 were launched, we've had the Bose QC35 II, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM3 come onto the scene – but the QC25s are still among the best noise-canceling headphones we've tested.
One of the reasons that they're still one of our favorite pairs of headphones is because they're great value. And although they may have their downsides, like the fact they're wired, they continue to outperform nearly every other noise-cancelling headphone in the areas that truly matter.
That said, these are great headphones that can keep outside noise at bay while you enjoy the audio of your 3.5mm jack-equipped mobile device in peace.
The arrival of the QuietComfort 25 headphones coincided with Bose's 50th birthday and with that, a look in the mirror revealed that their line of products needed to be spruced up, made more accessible and stylish for a new generation. Packed into a leather zip-up carrying case, the headphones lay in a sporty pose, already riffing off of this new injection of style. Similar in overall looks to the QC15 headphones from years ago, the design of the QC25 offers many subtle improvements upon its predecessor.
Moving away from the leathery, executive-style of the QC15, Bose has refreshed the headband materials with a cotton and felt combo that's less prone to becoming warm and dampened from continuous use. The new materials look cool, but do nothing to reduce the "headphone hair" you'll inevitably get if you use these for more than a half hour.
The headphone cups have received an overhaul. Sealed with automotive-grade paint, the signature ovular over-the-ear cups have done away with the roundness found on the QC15 and incorporated some sharp looks in place. On my review unit, accents of black, charcoal and blue create a nice palette of plastics.
A nice design touch fixed what I hate about most headphones, that I commonly find it to be too hard to tell which ear goes where. With the QC25, a big "L" and "R" are etched into the sporty speaker mesh's design.
Each headphone houses unique features, making it easy to distinguish which ear it should be on after some practice. The left cup has an auxiliary port, the point of contact for the included three-foot 3.5mm cable with inline controls. When you want to pause a song, adjust volume or ask Siri a question, it's on your left. The right cup houses the noise-cancellation switch, so if you're annoyed by the outside world, your controls are on the right.
For an extra $100, a fourth of the unit's total price, you can customize the color appearance of the QC25 headphones. I found the stock options to be appealing enough for my taste, and there's no denying how cool you can make the custom headphones look, but that price seems like a spanking.
In the past, using the Bose QuietComfort 15 meant that noise-cancellation was required to be powered on or else you wouldn't hear anything. It was a bummer shelling out the cash and being stuck with this "all-or-nothing" conundrum. Thankfully, Bose has addressed this flaw by allowing the QC25's to be used without noise-cancellation, battery-free.
With a AAA battery in, I found the noise-cancellation to be extremely effective at zapping out ambient noises and it kept me distraction-free for longer than I knew was possible. It's possible to use the noise-cancellation feature for up to 35 hours per battery, but I was able to squeeze more time out of mine.
The sound engineered in the Bose QuietComfort 25 is exemplary. The lows, mids and highs come through clear as day, never stepping over each other. Music of all sorts sounds predictably incredible. With the noise-cancellation, I'd liken it virtual reality for you ears. I've never felt further immersed and concentrated than when I let the QC25 engulf my ears. I played some games on my PC and the results were fabulous and memorable. Near the tail-end of Batman: Arkham City, the QC25 drew me further into a particularly trippy sequence.
With noise-cancellation off, these headphones still pump out a totally respectable sound with all of the highlights I mentioned earlier. There are times when noise-cancellation makes me a little too focused and once I switch it off, I feel like I stepped out of cryo-sleep, so it's great to have the option to listen to music with noise-cancellation switched off.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 is a cohesive unit that balances design, features and sound profile delicately, and excels at it all.
While $300 is certainly a chunk of change, the QC25 represents a good value based on its stunning build quality, feature set and vibrant sound. You're getting a finely-tuned set of headphones that provide over 35 hours of very good noise-cancelling performance with one AAA battery.
The ability to customize the QC25, while awesome, costs a fourth of the total price.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 bring out nothing but the best in my media. They are a unique piece of technology in that they not only deliver a mind-blowing first impression, but offer it during each and every use, again and again. If you're serious about sound and want to hear your favorite movies, music and games in a new immersive way, or if you just want the best set of noise-cancelling headphones you can get for $300, the QC25 is for you.
Originally reviewed in October 2014
Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.