Bose has maintained a very similar design to the 1st generation of the QuietComfort 35 II. The headband portion has a soft underside that feels very comfortable resting on the top of my head. The band is also foldable which makes the QuietComfort 35 II easy to transport, although the included case is somewhat larger than many of the other over-the-ear headphones I’ve tested. The earcups are also very soft and comfortable around your ear, which is very important as you’ll likely be wearing these for long periods on an airplane or train. I still sometimes get the “ear sweats” and need to take a break from the headphones after wearing them for an hour or so to give my ears a chance to breath, but this is normal for me with any pair of headphones. The headphones are large and seem a bit bulky, but the sound quality makes up for it.
With “Bose” on the label, you can safely assume sound quality is stellar. And it is with the Quiet Comfort 35 IIs. Bass has plenty of punch and the mids and highs are crips and clear. When the noise cancellation is active, you will hear a gentle white noise “hum” in the background as the unit counteracts the outside noises. It’s not very noticeable while listening to music, but you can tell it is there when listening to a podcast or talk show.
One of the main reasons to pick up these Bose headphones is for their noise cancellation technology. Once you activate the noise cancellation feature, the sounds around you seem to disappear. And I’m not just talking about that fact that these cover your ears. Bose’s noise cancellation technology actively sends opposing sound to counteract the noise around you. Why’s this important? You can set the QC 35 IIs to a lower volume and still hear your music just fine, even in noisy environments. Normally, you would need to crank up the music to drown out your surroundings. So you can spare your ear drums and relax even if there’s a crying baby next to you. Now, if someone’s running a jackhammer next to you, it won’t completely eliminate the sound. But it does a great job of getting rid of the loud hum of an airplane or the clickity-clack of a train. There are two levels of noise cancellation: high and low. The feature can also be turned off completely. The “low” setting comes in handy when you still need to hear something going on outside, such as an airport announcement. Although, if it’s something important, you’ll probably want to turn off the noise cancelling feature completely. The noise cancellation feature can be controlled via Bose’s Connect app or you can assign the function to the “Action” button.
Bose touts that the QuietComfort 35 IIs have Google Assistant built-in and can be accessed by pressing a new “Action” button on the left earcup. I assumed the headphones would just kind of “tether” my phone’s internet connection when using Google Assistant. However, the app for these headphones prompted me to install the full Google Assistant app on my iPhone in order to use the feature. I wouldn’t say that Google Assistant is “built-in” if the headphones are depending on my phone to actually run the Google Assistant feature. Which prompts another question: don’t most headphones already allow you to call up the voice assistant, be it Siri or Google Assistant? Indeed, you can hold the multifunction (middle) button on the QC 35s for one second and Siri will activate on your iPhone (or Google Assistant for Android). So what’s unique about Bose’s “Google Assistant built-in” offering? On Android, the voice interface is a little more verbose and will tell you who the text message is from instead of just playing the normal “ding” notification. For me, I reassigned the “Action” button to control the noise-cancellation feature instead, but heavy users of Google services may find the Google Assistant feature to be worthwhile. Aside from the Google Assistant feature, the Bose Connect app is very handy and walks you through the setup process and gives you a quick overview on using the QuietComfort 35 IIs. The app can also assist you in connecting additional Bluetooth devices, configuring the Action button, setting the noise cancellation and upgrade the firmware, which I needed to do upon receiving the headphones. The three buttons on the right ear cup allow you to control your music without getting out your phone. The middle button will play and pause your music (or answer an incoming phone call). Double-tapping the middle button skips forward to the next track while triple-tapping the middle button rewinds. Pressing the + and – buttons will increase and decrease the volume respectively.
Battery life is impressive and can last up to 20 hours in wireless Bluetooth mode or 40 hours when using the included audio cable. Charging the unit only takes two hours and can be recharged with a standard Micro USB cable. Upon powering on the QC 35 IIs, an automated voice will announce the current charge level. If the battery needs recharged while in use, you’ll hear, “Battery low, please charge now.” There is also a battery LED indicator on the right ear cup. Green indicates a medium to full charge, while a solid amber LED indicates that the charge is getting low. When it blinks red, it’s time to charge. If you’re using an iPhone, the battery level will also show on the status bar of your phone.