Bose QuietComfort 3 Headphones

While we’re talking about Christmas (I am milking every character out of that Hallmark Ornament Premiere post), I thought I would provide a little feedback and perhaps a short product review. Last year Trina asked what I would like as a gift and I immediately blurted out Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones in my best Ralphie voice from the movie Christmas Story. I was half waiting for Trina to retort with “You’ll shoot your eye out!” but she refrained. I currently own a set of Sony MDR-NC20 noise-cancelling headphones but I was really interested in trying out the Bose. I had purchased the MDR-NC20 when they first were released. I was very skeptical of the whole notion of noise cancellation but after making several cross-country flights with the Sony headphones I was sold. They were by far the best travelling gadget I owned. Why then was I looking to change if I was so enamored with my current Sony headphones?

I had an opportunity to look at the Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones while on a business trip. I loved their light weight and good construction. With the Sony I had had an issue with the cords coming from each ear cup. They had a tendency to get wrapped boseqc3.pngaround things and the thinness of the wires they had come undone. Bose had resolved that issue by having only a single wire coming out of the left ear. The right ear cup is wired through a hidden channel in the over the head band. This means you have only one wire connecting the headphones to its audio source. The wire is further protected by connecting to the headphones via a jack rather than being hardwired. This has two benefits. If you happened to catch the cord on something it will come connected rather than damaging the headphones. Second, on those rare occasions where you want noise cancellation but do not want to listen to music you can detach the cord and just wear the headphones. This makes it more relaxing to minimize background noise on a plane.
The QuietComfort 3 headphones utilize a rechargeable battery that fits in the top of the right ear cup. I can get several days of constant use out of a single charge making it very power frugal. The headphones came with a charging station that can completely charge the battery in just an hour and a half. When Trina bought the headphones Bose was running a special where they included an extra battery giving me a spare that I can use while the other battery is charging. With the two batteries I can fly across county several times without worrying about recharging. The batteries are lithium ion so there is no need to worry about charging memory or shortened battery life.
The QuietComfort 3 headphones came with a carrying case which can house the headphones themselves, the battery charger, cables, adapters for using the headphones on an airplane, and even a spot for an extra battery. The ear cups turn to allow the headphones to lay flat for storage. Their travel footprint is bulkier than the Sony MDR-NC20 which folded down but I am willing to make that trade-off in exchange for better cable management and safeguarding. The case is a semi-rigid style so it can take a beating when thrown in your carry-on travel bag. The back of the case has a pocket that is large enough to fit a CD player or in my case an iPod Touch.
The noise cancellation circuitry is even better than what I experienced with the Sony MDR-NC20 headphones. Bose claims a reduction of up to 30 db. I cannot validate that specific number but I can say that it makes a substantial difference and I would totally buy that measurement. The QC 3 use an active noise cancelling circuit. I have no idea what that means. They could have told me they were magic headphones and I probably would have bought that. According to the Bose web site they use a “patented Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphone technology in Bose® QuietComfort® headphones that provides full-spectrum noise reduction for a better audio experience. Microphones in the earcups actively monitor what you hear, including unwanted outside sound. The difference between the unwanted sound and the desired sound is then electronically processed, creating a correction signal that acts to negate the unwanted noise. The speaker within each earcup is then fed the correction signal. This signal, combined with the passive noise reduction of the headset itself, dramatically reduces the outside distractions that reach your ears.” So basically little elves live in each ear cup and continuously monitor outside sounds and create an inverse wave thereby cancelling out unwanted noise. Yeah, they’re magic.
I’ve been very happy with the headphones and they are my constant companion not only when I travel but in the office too. The QC 3 headphones fit on the ear while the QC 2 fit around the ears. I thought that would mean the QC 3 would have noise seepage but that has not been the case at all. The on-ear design is less bulky and hence lighter. You pay a premium for this but lighter is always better as far as I’m concerned. The only drawback I have found is that if the QC 3 battery is dead these headphones don’t work at all. With the Sony you could continue to use the headphones but without noise cancellation; that is not the case with the Bose. I overcame this problem by getting a second battery that is always charged and ready in case the first battery fully discharges. The Sony headphones used a single AAA battery that could be replaced at any store or airport. That is not the case with the Bose as they use a proprietary lithium ion rechargeable so you do need to plan ahead before your trip to make sure you are not left with dead headphones. I would definitely recommend the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones and would be hard pressed to give them up.

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