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Comparison of QC3 and QC15
on May 2, 2013
Alright, so after having the opportunity to own both Quiet comfort 3 and 15 headphones, I thought I'd give my opinion on each to help those deciding between the two.
Size: The QC3s are an entire size smaller than the QC15s. QC3 wins in terms of portability, but both headphones come with a carrying case and I don't think the QC15s are more of a burden to carry around. The smaller QC3 is an on ear design compared to the QC15 which is an over the ear design.
Battery: QC3 comes with one rechargeable battery that lasts maybe 25 hours or so. I recommend buying another battery from amazon or ebay so that you can have one to use when the other battery dies. QC15 runs on AAA batteries and should last for 35 hours. I recommend buying eneloop rechargeable batteries and a charger so you're not buying batteries every two weeks. Buying an additional battery for the QC3 can be relatively cheap if you get an off-brand battery or buy it used (~$10-$20). 4 eneloop batteries and a charger to use with the QC15 is around $20.
Design: Major design difference is that the QC3 is on ear and the QC15 is over the ear. Both are very comfortable, but I personally thought the QC3 felt better on my head, maybe because it's lighter. The audio cable is also designed differently on both. QC15 has a volume control switch on the cable that you can change to high or low. This part goes inside the earpiece, so you'd have to remove the cable to adjust it. QC15 and QC3 also come with a cable that has a remote and microphone that you can use to take phone calls.
Noise Cancellation: I'll probably be in a minority when I say this, but I didn't notice a difference in noise cancellation between the two headphones. QC15 allegedly has the best noise cancellation, but it didn't block out the sound of people talking or even birds chirping outside without music playing. QC15 is supposedly great at blocking out airplane engine noise, so maybe you'll get the most benefit from these if you're a frequent flier. Both these headphones are great at reducing sound, but you'll still be able to hear outside noise. Also, the QC15 gave me a major headache within ten minutes of usage due to the noise cancellation technology. You may want to consider trying these out before you buy because the noise cancellation in the QC15 can cause dizziness and headaches in some people. I didn't encounter this problem with the QC3 though.
Sound Quality: This was the deciding factor for me in choosing which headphones to keep. The QC3 sounds so, so, so much better. I'm not an audiophile, but the difference between the two was night and day to me. I have a pair of Sennheiser HD202 headphones that cost me $20 and sound better than the QC15. If you have never owned high end headphones before, you might be satisfied with the QC15, but it's seriously lacking in bass and treble. I thought I was listening to a $10 pair of headphones and not a $300 pair. On ear headphones do tend to sound better because the speakers are closer to your ear, but over the ear headphones shouldn't be so lacking in sound quality if you're paying $300 for them.
Pricing: Would I personally pay $300 for the QC15 or $350 for the QC3? Absolutely not. I had the opportunity to own either set at a discount (~$120) which is the only reason I currently own the QC3. I'd pay $150 max for the QC3 and I wouldn't buy the QC15 at all. I'm not the kind of person who wants to spend a whole lot on headphones, so this is just a reflection of how much I would pay and not how much I think they're actually worth. I honestly haven't tried any other brand of high end headphones, so I can't objectively say if the retail price fits the quality on the QC3.
Bottom line: QC3 is the better set in my books due to the QC15s so-so audio quality. The only reason the QC15 is $300 is because of the noise cancellation. I bet the QC15 wouldn't even sell for $30 if it didn't have noise cancellation. Bose may tell you that the QC15 are the best headphones they have to offer, but I found the QC3 to be superior. I can't recommend the QC15, but I think the QC3 are the best sounding headphones I've owned and they do a decent job at reducing noise. I highly recommend trying out several pairs of headphones that are comparably priced before settling on Bose though. $300 isn't really chump change (for the average person anyway), so you want to make sure you get the best for your money.