Sometimes, it’s very hard to tell which product you should buy from the same company. An older model might be priced better, but a new model should be updated and more effective. But is this always the case? Is newer always better? Classic car lovers and wine enthusiasts will tell you otherwise.
In this review, I’ll be looking at two different, yet very similar, Bose headphone models. It’s a Bose QuietComfort 35 II vs Bose QuietComfort 45 battle royale to see which Bose headphone model is the best. The differences between these headphones are subtle, so we need to dive deep into the details to help you decide which is a better purchase.
Model Introduction: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II was released in 2017 as an upgrade to the original QuietComfort 35. These are true wireless, noise-canceling headphones that can also be optionally wired for lossless listening.
The headphones use an over-ear design. This means the ear cups should completely contain your ears and fit onto your skull. In turn, this creates a good amount of passive noise isolation. The active noise-cancellation on board is used to block out even more ambient sounds and provide you with a quiet, comfortable listening experience.
Model Introduction: Bose QuietComfort 45
In 2021, Bose updated the QC 35 II model to the QuietComfort 45. No doubt, we’ll see a “II” with this model in the next few years as well. Although, in four years, Bose didn’t make too many obvious changes from the 35 IIs to the 45s.
They look very similar and feel about the same on your head. The QC 45s are still true wireless headphones, though they can also be wired when desired. Naturally, they also have ANC on board for quiet listening or ambient mode when necessary.
That’s the short and sweet introduction to each of these Bose headphone models. Now, let’s go through the features and see where each of them shines.
Surprisingly, you pay about the same price for these two different models of headphones. The QC 35 II used to retail for $350, but now you can find them for about $300. You can even find refurbished phones for between $100-200. But, of course, buyer beware.
As for the QC 45s, they started at around $330 and are still around that price. Sometimes you can find them for $300, which means they’re the same price as the model they were meant to replace.
What does this similar pricing tell us about these two headphone models?
To my mind, this is Bose essentially admitting that there aren’t many differences between the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and QuietComfort 45 headphones. At least, they seem to think their value is roughly the same.
For the most part, I agree. There are differences, yes, but both models have their strong and weak points. Overall, these two models are very competitive with each other, which is actually a pretty weird thing for Bose to do.
Design and Comfort
At a glance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell these two models apart. They both have a sleek, minimalist look which comes from their construction of durable plastic parts and synthetic leather ear cup coverings. The QC 35 IIs are available in Black and Silver models. Bose also put out Rose Gold and Triple Midnight (deep blue) colors in limited editions. But these are a lot harder to find now.
The QC45s originally came in just Black and White Smoke. However, they added the limited edition colors Midnight Blue and Eclipse Grey (sexy names, huh?), and these are still readily available.
The headbands for both models are pretty much identical…
The ear cups swivel on both models to allow these headphones to lay flat on a table. This decreases the chances of them falling off and getting damaged. They both fold up into their included cases for protection when traveling, although they’re quite bulky.
These are hard cases measuring 8.3” x 5.9” (5.7” for the 45s) x 2.2” (21.1 x 15/14.5 x 5.6 cm). The cases are big because the headphones are bulky, but they are good quality and give you convenient accessory slots for your cables.
Like prizefighters, both pairs of headphones weigh the same at 0.52 pounds or 8.32 ounces (236g). They also both have very similar clamping force, with the 35 IIs at 0.69 lbs and the 45s at 0.70 lbs. This is essentially indistinguishable and is also a very low clamping force. That allows you to wear the headphones comfortably for long periods.
So, is there anything that distinguishes these headphones?
Well, yes, there is. The biggest difference between these two models that you can see is the ear cup coverings. Both use the faux leather material Alcantara, but the QC 45s have a smoother finish.
The material is stretched and attached in a way that produces bumps and creases around the rim in the QC 35 IIs. But, with the 45s, this covering is smooth and seamless. This is a tiny detail that makes no real difference to comfort. However, it does make the 45s look a little bit smoother.
As for durability, these are pretty robust headphones, and there’s no obvious difference between the models. They both have metal-reinforced headbands and other finishings in durable plastic that should hold up to the rigors of everyday life.
Battery and Charging
Here’s an area where Bose has made a real, measurable improvement of QuietComfort 45 over QuietComfort 35 II headphones. The newer model has an extended and superior battery life.
A full charge gives you an average listening period of nearly 22 hours, while the QC 35 IIs give just 20 hours. The 35 IIs also take slightly longer to charge to full. About two hours and 10 minutes versus two hours flat for the 45s.
The quick charge for the QC 45s is also better…
You can get three hours’ worth of playback from a 15-minute quick charge with the QC 45. With the QC 35 II, you only get 2.5 hours from the same 15-minute quick charge. So, overall, the QC 45 headphones give you slightly extended battery life and faster charging.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II vs Bose QuietComfort 45 – Sound
Now we’re getting into the meat of it. You would hope that Bose, a company known for speakers with lush sound, would be constantly tweaking their headphones to make them sound better. After all, why make improvements to headphones if not to their sound quality? So, it’s going to be a bit of a disappointment to find out that the older model, the QuietComfort 35 II, sounds better.
Why is that?
Quite simply, the accuracy of the dynamic transducers reproducing the sound of your audio. The QC 35 II has a pretty flat response curve, meaning that it reproduces the audio input quite accurately.
While there is a small (2 dB) boost in the bass, this adds a nice little rumble without being overpowering or distorting. There’s also a small (-2.27 dB) dip in the treble, which helps to remove harshness from very high sounds. Accuracy in the bass, mid-range, and treble is better in the QC 35 II.
On the other hand…
The QC 45 headphones have poorer accuracy. The frequency curve is flatter here, with only a tiny (0.87 dB) bass boost and a minuscule (0.57 dB) treble boost in the factory set EQ. However, accuracy is just not as good. You can hear less detail in the bass, though the mid-range is quite similar. Yet, the treble is where these headphones really suffer.
There is a lot less detail here than in the QC IIs. Not only that, but the stereo imaging is off. You’ll find the left and right phones hitting different levels in the high-mid and treble ranges. This leads to a feeling of unbalanced sound.
As we’ll see below, though, Bose has made an effort to fix these issues. They’ve done so by providing users with the ability to adjust their EQ through the companion app.
Both of these models have truly excellent active noise-cancellation. Both are super-effective at blocking out low-pitched rumbles, office chatter, or constant high-pitched noise. Also, they both do a great job with sudden and unique sounds, catching them and blocking them out ultra-effectively.
Still, there has to be a winner. And the surprise is that with the ANC on Quiet Mode, the QC 35 II headphones do a better job of blocking out noise than the QC 45s. The QC 35 IIs can drop background noise by as much as -27 dB, while the QC 45s block -23.5 dB. Since a 3 dB change sounds like double the sound volume to the human ear, this is no small difference.
The other side of sound isolation is keeping your audio in your ears…
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that either of these headphone models does very well. This is a surprise because just putting them on your ears (ANC not turned on) gives you a pretty decent amount of passive noise isolation.
However, the QC 35 IIs leak about 42.4 dB at a 1-foot distance and the Qc 45s are slightly worse, leaking 43.5 dB. This means that people nearby you will be able to hear some of what you’re listening to if you have your volume turned up loud.
A small difference in the design shows you that the microphone has been updated from the QC 35 II to the 45. While the older version had a single microphone on each earphone, the newer model has two arrays of dots on each, for a total of four mics.
On both models, the mics pick up your voice but also intentionally pick up environmental noises around you. They do this to then filter these noises out of the mix and leave a clear voice for your caller to hear.
How well do they work?
It’s a bit of a toss-up. The QC 45 has a much better recording quality, at least in a quiet environment. Your voice sounds clearer and far more natural than through the QC 35 IIs. However, the QC 35 IIs have far superior noise handling and can block out background sound way better than the QC 45s.
So, if calls are important to your everyday usage of these headphones, you have to decide whether you normally take them in loud or quiet locations and choose accordingly.
Aside from battery power and charging, another area where the Bose QuietComfort 45 outperforms Bose QuietComfort 35 II is in connections.
First, the QC 45s have a more modern and up-to-date version of Bluetooth. They use Bluetooth 5.1 versus the older Bluetooth 4.2 on the QC 35 IIs. This improved version of Bluetooth gives them a way better range, 272 feet vs. 122 feet (line-of-sight). The connection is also more stable and reliable. That said, the latency on both headphones is quite similar, at least for iOS and Android devices.
At the same time, however, the QC 35 IIs offer NFC (near-field communication) pairing. This allows them to pair very quickly with your supported devices. If you’re moving data, NFC is also up to 10x faster than Bluetooth. But, for music and other audio, this doesn’t make any noticeable difference. It’s just the speed of creating a connection that’s improved using NFC.
Going wired or wireless…
Both headphones come with TRS cables that you can use if you don’t want to waste battery power going wireless. The cable in both cases is 2.5mm to a standard 3.5mm jack which allows you to plug into a phone or computer if needed. However, the mics don’t work on either headphone when wired, which is a weird catch.
Both headphones also support multi-point connections. This lets you keep linked up to two different Bluetooth devices at once. Therefore, you can toggle between watching a movie on a smart TV and taking calls via your phone without having to reconnect every time.
Finally, the charging cables are different…
The older QC 35 II comes with a micro-USB cable for charging. It is that trapezoid-shaped end bit that you have to plug in the right way up. The newer QC 45 uses a USB-C connector, which can be plugged in with either orientation. But, more than that shape, the USB-C is a superior cable and is what most devices are moving to, while the micro-USB may well go extinct.
USB-C is about 20x faster for data transfer, though that’s not an issue with headphones. However, they have much better power handling (up to 100W vs. just 9W for micro USB), which can also mean faster charging.
The controls for both headphone models are nearly identical. On the right ear cup, you get a power slider that also activates Bluetooth. But here is something important to remember. On both models, you have to remember to turn the headphones off. Otherwise, they can stay on and drain your battery even with no audio playing. That’s because the ANC is still working.
On the right ear cups, you get the standard play-pause button and volume up/skip ahead and volume down/skip back buttons. All are easy to use. On the left ear cup, you’ll find the “Action” button or multi-purpose button that lets you scroll through ANC modes or activate your personal assistant.
Both headphones are easy to control with these physical buttons, but can also be controlled through their respective apps. Therefore, in the controls department, at least, there’s no real advantage of Bose QC 45 headphones over Bose QC 35 II headphones.
There is a big difference in the control apps for these two headsets. Bose devices used to use the Bose Connect App, and the QC 35 II headphones are still supported there. But, the newer QC 45s are supported by the new Bose Music app. Thankfully, both of these apps are compatible with iOS and Android. So, you can use them with iPhones as well as other brands of mobile devices, like Samsung and Sony.
The Bose Connect app for the QC 35 IIs doesn’t give you too much control over these headphones. There is no EQ here, so you’re stuck with the factory settings. Although, these are pretty good for most audio.
What you can do is set a timer to have the headphones automatically turn off when not in use. You can also check your battery status and control your playback here. But the best feature is that you can control the strength of the ANC, which you can’t do with Bose Music.
On the other hand…
Bose Music, which supports the QuietComfort 45 headphones, has recently been updated with a 3-band graphic equalizer. This is a huge improvement and makes it possible to achieve a similar sound profile to the QC 35 IIs. However, there is still an issue with stereo imaging.
You can connect your headphones to other Bose products, like a speaker or soundbar that could be hooked up to another device. You can check your battery life and switch through ANC modes via the app.
And you can adjust your mic mix with a feature called “Self Voice.” This allows you to set the level of your own voice you hear while on calls. So, ultimately, these apps are different, and each has its strengths.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II vs Bose QuietComfort 45 – Head-to-Head Comparison
|QuietComfort 35 II||QuietComfort 45|
|Around $300||Around $300|
|Less battery power and slower charging||Slightly more battery power and faster charging|
|More accurate sound||Less accurate sound + uneven stereo imaging|
|Better ANC and less sound leakage||Less excellent ANC and more sound leakage|
|Worse mic sound, better noise control||Better mic sound, worse noise control|
|Bluetooth 4.2||Bluetooth 5.1|
|NFC connection supported||NFC connection not supported|
|Micro USB charging||Superior USB-C charging|
|ANC strength adjustment in app||EQ adjustment in app|
In the Market for Some Great Bose Headphones?
We can help. Take a look at our comprehensive Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review, our Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2 Review, our Bose QuietComfort 25 Review, our Bose SoundLink 2 Around-Ear Wireless Headphone Review, and our Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless Review for more high-quality items you can buy in 2023.
Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Conference Calls, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, and the Most Comfortable Headphones currently on the market.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II vs Bose QuietComfort 45: Final Decision
Yikes, it’s almost too close to call! Normally, a company comes out with a new product model, and that model is just hands-down better. But, in the case of the Bose QC 35 II vs. QC45, it’s just not that simple. Sadly, there were a lot of features on the older model that were better, while the newer model has added or improved in other areas.
That said, if I was pressed to make a choice, it would be the newer model – the QuietComfort 45. These headphones don’t have the same sound quality to start with. But that has been fixed by the new in-app EQ controls, which allow you to get a better balance.
Furthermore, the QC 45 has a better battery and faster charging, and a better Bluetooth connection. I’d also be happier getting the newer model for the same price, especially when Bose stops supporting the older model. But, hey, maybe that’s just the way I saw it.
Until next time, happy listening.