Hands on: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

A potential rival for Sony’s WH-1000XM3s

What is a hands on review?
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Image credit: Future

Early Verdict

Although it’s too early to say definitively, these advanced headphones from Bose could eclipse its QuietComfort range, and perhaps even take the top spot of best noise-canceling headphones from Sony.

For

  • Sleek, attractive design
  • Advanced noise-canceling tech
  • Balanced sound

Against

  • Pricey
  • Light build can feel cheap

Bose is one of the go-to brands for the best noise-canceling headphones, with the enormously popular QuietComfort range setting the standard for noise cancelation technology since the release of the Bose QC25s way back in 2014. 

Despite the popularity of the range, Bose is shaking things up by releasing a totally new wireless noise-canceling headphones model, with a focus on sleek design and “breakthrough” audio tech: the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. 

We briefly heard the new cans in action at a demonstration; while we’re carrying out our full testing process, read on for our initial thoughts on Bose’s latest headphones.

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Price and availability

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are available to buy in the US for $399, and will be launched in the UK on July 11 for £349.95. This works out at around AU$575 based on current conversion rates, however, we are still waiting for official confirmation of Australian pricing and availability. 

That price makes the new over-ear headphones around $50 / £20 more expensive than their predecessors, the highly-rated Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, which combined noise-cancelation technology with built-in voice assistance from Google Assistant

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

Design

So, what do you get in return for that additional $50? Well, one of the most striking differences between the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the QC 35 IIs, is the design. 

Gone are the pleated earcups, visible hinges, and bulky hardware; Bose has taken a completely different design approach with these wireless headphones, and overall, the one-piece aesthetic looks very sleek indeed.

The headphones, which come in black and silver, are crafted around a stainless steel headband. Seamlessly transitioning from a flat to a cylindrical shape, the headphones can be adjusted by simply sliding the earcups up and down the headband, which avoids breaking the smooth lines of the design with clunky sliders. 

The earcups have also been streamlined; eschewing the pleated fabric used in the QuietComfort range further heightens that seamless transition from headband to earcup. 

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

When we tried the headphones on for size, we were impressed by how lightweight they felt – although we only tested them briefly, we can imagine them feeling comfortable for long listening sessions. 

For some, that lightweight feel will be a welcome feature for tired heads, but it does mean that the headphones feel a little cheaper than their sturdier contemporaries like the Sony WH-1000XM3s. 

On the outside of the earcups there are a few preset buttons (more on those later); however, the majority of the Headphones 700’s functionality can be controlled using the touch-sensitive outer housing. 

When we tested these touch controls, we found them to be really intuitive; simply swipe your finger up and down to control the volume, side to side to skip tracks, and tap twice to play and pause your music. 

Unlike the headphones in the QuietComfort range, the Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 don’t collapse inwardly for safe storage; however, they do fold flat, and come with a slick carrying case, so they should be suitable for use while commuting or stowing away in your backpack.  

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

Noise-cancelation

Traditionally, noise-canceling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight). 

This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music. 

Bose says that this can be achieved thanks to an eight-microphone system; six of which enable traditional noise cancelation so you can hear your music uninterrupted. 

Two of these microphones are paired with two separate mics, which work together to isolate your voice and reject environmental noise during phone calls. This means that your voice sounds clearer to the person on the end of the line, with less background noise getting in the way of your conversation. 

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

We saw this feature in action during a demonstration, during which a Bose representative spoke to us via video chat while walking through a busy London cocktail bar.

As they switched between their phone’s inbuilt microphones and those built-in to the Headphones 700, the difference in call quality was undeniable – their voice was boosted and isolated, while the hustle and bustle of the bar was reduced to mere murmurs in the background. 

That isolation should also help with using voice assistants; the headphones come with Alexa built in, which means you can simply say ‘Alexa’ to summon Amazon’s virtual assistant. 

Google Assistant and Siri can also be summoned by pressing a dedicated button on the earcup, after which you can use your voice to give commands. 

There are 11 noise cancelation settings (the QC35 II’s have three by comparison), which can be controlled via the Bose app; three of which can be selected as presets and toggled through using the physical button on the earcup. 

We tried toggling between 0 (very light noise cancelation), 5, and 10 (full noise cancelation), while a sound clip of a busy New York street was blasted through a speaker system. Using the headphones at 10, the highest setting, the noise was dampened considerably.

If you’re sensitive to the sensation of pressure noise-cancelation can put on the ears, you may prefer these headphones to their predecessors; they promise to be suction-like, even at the highest setting. 

Full transparency, which is known by Bose as ‘Conversation Mode’, turns noise cancelation off completely and allows sound to pass through the earcups pretty much interrupted, which means you can have natural conversations without removing your headphones. 

Bose Noise Cancelling headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

Sound performance

Bose says that the sound quality of the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is similar to that of the QuietComfort 35 IIs, which impressed us with their balanced soundstage.When we carry out our full review, we’ll be sure to compare the two models, but we did have a chance to listen to the new cans during our demonstration. 

Eminem’s Not Alike ft. Royce Da 5’9” sounded fantastic, with powerful bass notes, clear, smooth piano, and sharp, punchy hi-hats underpinning the impactful vocals. 

We also heard Manu Delago’s Mesmer Mesmerizing, which showed off the headphone’s impartial mix, in which the warm bass frequencies never overpowered the resonant vibraphone melodies.

It’s too early to make a judgement on the sound quality of these headphones from such a brief listening session, but we liked what we’ve heard so far.

Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Image credit: Future

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

Overall, we were very impressed by the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, based on the brief time we spent using them.

We loved the upgraded design, and the sleek aesthetic means they look more fashionable than functional in comparison to their predecessors – although that lightweight build could feel a bit flimsy compared to high-end headphones. 

The noise cancelation technology appeared to work really well, and the prospect of clearer phone calls will be appealing to anyone who has struggled to make themselves heard in noisy environments. 

We need to spend more time with the headphones to make a true assessment of the sound quality on offer here, but the tracks we did hear sounded well-balanced, rich, and detailed.

Whether Bose’s latest noise-canceling cans could take the top-spot on our round up of the best noise-cancelling headphones from the Sony WH-1000XM3s remains to be seen, but it could be a very close call.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.