Bose QuietControl 30 (QC30) Wireless In Ear Buds Review
The latest development from Bose, the QuietControl 30 wireless in ear buds feature a breakthrough in being the first Bose product to use 2nd generation active noise cancellation – but are they good enough to beat the best in ears?
Getting the basics out of the way first, the QuietControl 30 are neckband design wireless in ear buds (love it or hate it), featuring adjustable 2nd generation active noise cancellation (which we will go into later), bluetooth connected with NFC for easy pairing, 10 hour claimed battery life (with a 3 hour charge time from empty). As per all the other Bose headphones we have seen, there is no aptX support on the QC30 (we think that is due to the strong links that Bose have with Apple, whose products don’t support aptX either).
The QuietControl 30 comes complete with hard carry case for safe transport, 3 sets of soft silicone ear tips so you can tailor the fit to your own ears, and a micro USB cable for charging. There is no standard 3.5mm audio cable included, as you cannot use the QuietControl 30 in ears with a wire – so no backup plan for if you run the battery flat (take note – keep the battery charged!).
Looking at the design, the QuietControl 30 is a typical Bose product, all shades of grey plastic with a few nice but understated design touches. The neckband construction is a kind of rubbery soft touch plastic, which although a bit bulkier & less stylish than the similar model from Sennheiser (the Momentum In Ear Wireless) follows the same vein by housing all the electronics & extended runtime battery pack, keeping the weight out of the earbuds themselves which boosts comfort & is always nice to see.
Only the power button is located on the neckband though, leaving a dongle in line with the right earbud to control play/pause & volume as normal, but with extra ANC buttons located on the side of the dongle. It sounds confusing, but the layout works pretty well & you soon get used to it.
The QuietControl 30 ear buds have a ‘wing tip’ structure to help keep the buds in place securely, and whilst we didn’t seem to get the tightest fit from the QC30’s, we never felt like they were going to fall out & they were pretty comfortable in use. With the 3x pairs of soft tips included in the pack it was pretty easy to get a nice fit, although the level of passive noise isolation seemed a bit less than we have noted with other ear buds – I guess that’s not a big deal as the party trick of the QuietComfort 30 is the active noise cancellation anyway!
We like that each time the QC30 is powered on, they voice prompt you with the battery level (a feature that should be standard on every model – but is lacking in some of the Bose’s competitors). Battery level is of course also available in the app which you can download for iPhone / Android, but the quick spoken reminder is always handy. The neckband design gives the QuietComfort 30’s class leading battery life for in ear buds at 10 hours (equaled only by the Sennheiser Momentum in ears we saw recently), but the charge rate is on the slow side – taking 3 hours to fill up from empty.
Bose QuietControl 30 In Ear Wireless – Sound quality & Performance
Let’s look at the revolutionary active noise cancellation first – the shift of name from the more familiar ‘QuietComfort’ to ‘QuietControl’ is all about the new variable ANC built into the QuietControl 30. Bose has caught on to the advances being made in noise cancellation in the last 6 months, and knows that just having a ‘nuke all ambient sound’ on/off is not going to cut it anymore, so has introduced the QC30 as the first in ear headphones to give you control over how much active noise reduction you want.
Bose say you can have the noise cancellation set at fully on to fully off plus ‘anywhere in between’ – it’s not quite as good as that in reality, but you do get a total of 12 steps to choose from, all controlled from the dongle hanging off the right earbud.
Every time you switch on the QuietControl 30, the ANC is set at MAX level (shame it doesn’t remember where you last had the ANC set), which gives a very strong reduction in the ambient noise when coupled with the natural isolation that the in ear design affords. It’s not as strong as the effect on the full size Bose QuietComfort 35 cans, which is probably for the best as this felt a little unnatural to our ears.
A few clicks down from max level lets you hear some of the surrounding noises when traveling, very handy for listening out for announcements etc. We found that a couple of steps down from maximum was our preferred setting on the QC30, as it gives a decent level of noise reduction without any ‘pressure’ or unwanted effects on the music stream we were listening too.
The active noise cancellation is super impressive, and the ability to tweak the levels is a huge advance – if Bose reel out this feature to their new range of full sized headphones next year it will be massively applauded.
It’s not so rosy for the sound profile unfortunately, with the QuietControl 30 in ear wireless turning in another ‘typical Bose’ performance. After such an amazing technological advance with the ANC, the sound signature left us feeling a little short changed – even more so than with the full size headphones from Bose.
Low frequency performance is well controlled with nice tight bass notes, but they don’t quite hit you in the chest with authority like we have seen on the better sonically performing in ears. Mid range delivery seems fine, but at the high end there is a lack of sonic sparkle which left us disappointed. Cymbals & female vocal notes lacked that hard edged clarity that makes the leaders stand out from the rest of the field.
On busier tracks, the bass notes that seemed so well controlled can bleed over the mids & muddy the delivery up a little – but when listening to a simpler composition (think piano / guitar acoustic tracks) the QuietControl 30 seemed to respond better & turned in a pretty good performance sonically.
- Feature Set 90%
- Build Quality 86%
- Sound Quality 78%
- Value for Money 75%
- Overall Rating 82%
Bose QuietControl 30 In Ear Wireless – Final Thoughts
Class leading battery life, the Bose name & the Bose standard design, and amazing performance from the active noise cancellation – if that is enough for you then stop reading now – you will love the Bose QuietControl 30 in ear wireless.
But if the audio quality is top of your list, the Bose QC30 only turned in a ‘just better than average’ performance. They are just not as strong sonically as some of the other high end in ears that we have seen recently – I would keep looking.
Price at time of review: UK £259 / US $299