Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Review
Pros: Excellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comforatble
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 provides great sound quality, superior noise cancelling technology, and all-day comfort. There's not much more you could ask for from a set of headphones.
We felt like listening to music on the Noise Cancelling 700 (with its titular technology turned on) gave it a whole new life. Even when hearing our favorite songs that have run through our playlists hundreds of times, they suddenly felt a bit brighter and more evocative. This is largely thanks to the near perfect balance of deep, precise bass and well-defined, crisp upper ranges that meld together to create a completely engulfing sound, which in turn makes you feel more present in the music. We found heavier numbers to feel more punchy and invigorating, and slower pieces to feel more articulate and nuanced. If you're a podcast nerd like us, you'll enjoy the sensation of closing your eyes and feeling like you're in the studio right next to Jad Abumrad. Essentially, if you're an audiophile that wants headphones that can please even your discriminating standards, these certainly get our recommendation.
The Bose 700 actually leverages its noise cancelling technology into its phones calls as well, soaking up your voice but cancelling all other ambient noise. It even plays your own voice back into the headphones so you can hear yourself talk. While this feature doesn't work quite as well as the standard noise cancelling (both caller and callee were often able to hear some of the background din during a call) it makes talking on the phone feel much more natural than it does with many other active noise cancelling headphones. Other models often had us popping one ear cup off when making phone calls because it felt so odd to not really be able to hear your own voice when speaking.
Bose's engineers outdid themselves with the 700, creating noise cancelling technology that offers a near silence in which to enjoy your music, yet with virtually none of the odd side effects.
The Bose 700 passed our baseline test, sitting next to a fan emitting 70 dB of noise, with flying colors, completely eliminating all of the fan noise. It continued to shine when we took it out into the real world. Even in a bustling cafe we were barely able to hear any of the din with no music playing. Once the music was turned on, even at a low volume, we generally had no awareness of the surrounding cacophony. The same went for train stations and long flights, where we were treated to fantastic music almost completely unencumbered by the shackles of noise pollution. Even when we didn't have music playing we weren't able to hear the people sitting next to us talking.
What might be even more impressive than the 700's noise cancelling ability is the fact that it achieves such isolation without creating an odd sensation in your eardrums. Many people report feeling a pressure or a vacuum in their ears (which are two sides of the same coin) when using headphones with active noise cancellation. Even the best models we've tested are only able to minimize that feeling, but the Bose 700 manages to all but eliminate it.
In general, and particularly for those with large ears, Bose has been the field-leader in headphone comfort for a number of years, and the 700 is no exception.
Despite a complete aesthetic redesign, the 700 maintains the signature ergonomic earcup shape of its predecessors, and still uses Bose's proprietary padding and faux leather. This results in ear cups that accommodate even large ears without creating any hotspots, and a soft, pillowy feeling as the cups rest onto your head. The band applies just the right amount of pressure to make the headphones feel secure but not restrictive, and has just the right amount of padding to prevent any discomfort on the top of your head.
The only comfort complaint we got about these headphones was that they are a tad heavier than many other models. At 9.2 ounces they are on the heavy side of average, but even those that noticed the extra weight didn't feel it kept the headphones from being comfortable when worn for long periods of time.
We've generally been a bit wary of touch controls on headphones, but the 700 manages to apply the technology with aplomb, making these headphones quite user friendly.
The right ear cup of the 700 serves as a touchpad, allowing you to control most basic functions. Swiping up and down to adjust volume and forward and back to skip tracks feels very intuitive, and the pad feels responsive, particularly when making subtle volume adjustments. Double tapping to play and pause is a bit less intuitive, but works well once you realize you need to tap twice instead of just once. Since Bose released these headphones in the summer we'll have to wait a bit before we can ascertain the touchpad's cold weather performance.
Seperate from the touchpad, there are two buttons on the outside of the right earcup and one on the left earcup. The button on the left earcup lets you cycle through three different noise cancellation presets. The default presets are off, 50%, and 100%, but with the Bose Music app you can select any one of 11 noise cancellation levels for those presets. Holding the button for a second pauses your music, turns off noise cancelling, and turns on conversation mode, which allows you to hear everything around you. You can then press the button again, or touch the touchpad, to get straight back into your music. The buttonson the right cup let you summon a virtual assistant (the 700 is compatible with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant) and turn the headphones on and off. Speaking of on and off, there is also an auto-off mode that can turn the headphones off autonomously if they haven't moved for more than 10 minutes (yup, there's an accelerometer in there).
As far as top-shelf headphones go, the Bose 700 is quite well designed for travel. While the high-qaulity carrying case that the phones come with is a bit bigger than those of many competitors, Bose has opted for a wider and flatter shape. We've found this shape often fits better in a laptop bag than the smaller but boxier designs of other models. It also let Bose do away with the hinges on the headphones, resulting in a much sleeker look. The 700 can last 20 hours on a single charge, plenty for a long plane ride, and the quick charging USB-C port can net you 2 hours of playback from just 15 minutes of chargin. Y can usually get a full charge in less than 3 hours.
What is Bose AR?
Bose developed an augmented reality audio program when they first started to put speakers into sunglasses, and the 700 is the first pair of headphones to be privy to the technology. The headphones rely on the computing power of your smartphone to do things like warn you if your train is going to be late, let you know what Yelp thinks of the restaurants you walk by, and suggest a soundtrack for your particular location based on what other people have listened to there. Bose has also released some other features of varying usefulness that show the capabilities of the technology. For instance, the headphones can hear a song playing where you are, and then play the same song, synced up to the timing of the live version near you, so you can hear it better (like we said, probably not something most people would use, but dang if that's impressive). The system is open to independent developers, so there's no telling how it might be used in the future, but we're hoping for geographically-aware audio tours of museums narrated by Morgan Freeman.
As we've said before, these cans aren't cheap. However, considering their pedigree, they aren't absurdly expensive either. The list price is what you'd expect for a pair of top-tier noise cancelling headphones, and if you're willing to pay a premium for great performance we think they are a fair kickback.
For those that demand the highest quality audio possible, or that need as much of the outside world blocked out as possible so they can concentrate, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 definitely fit the bill.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell