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1,363 of 1,414 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REVOLUTIONARY, NOT EVOLUTIONARY: THE BEST BOSE YET
NOTE: See the second post in the comments section for my updates to this review.

I don't use the word "revolutionary" casually. Truth is, a product rarely qualifies for that accolade. But knowing as much as I do about noise-cancelling technology, I would not have believed that what Bose has accomplished with the QC20 series was even possible. In fact, I'd say...
Published 17 months ago by Charles Nordlander

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232 of 271 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost...
I have a pair of Shure SE535-V Triple High-Definition MicroDriver Earphone with Detachable Cable - Metallic Bronze that I will own forever. However I travel a lot for work, which resulted in the purchase of a Bose® QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones. (best at noise canceling, hands down.) I've always thought that if they could somehow combine the sound...
Published 17 months ago by jchan


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1,363 of 1,414 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REVOLUTIONARY, NOT EVOLUTIONARY: THE BEST BOSE YET, August 19, 2013
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
NOTE: See the second post in the comments section for my updates to this review.

I don't use the word "revolutionary" casually. Truth is, a product rarely qualifies for that accolade. But knowing as much as I do about noise-cancelling technology, I would not have believed that what Bose has accomplished with the QC20 series was even possible. In fact, I'd say they've created the best all-around earphone or headphone on the market today for everyday use with portable music players. Note that I said "best all-around" which is not to say it's "best" in every category. If audiophile sound quality is your top priority, then look elsewhere, as both my Etymotic 4PT and Shure 530 series earphones sound better than the QC20s. However, those better-sounding 'phones have other drawbacks in actual use (more on that later), and they now sit in a drawer while the QC20s go with me everywhere. Bottom line: if you're looking for the best noise-cancelling on the market today, bar none, combined with very good sound, the ultimate in comfort and convenience, all in a very small, lightweight package, the QC20 is for you. This review will focus on a comparison of the QC20 with the QC15, as well as with the Etymotic 4PT and the Shure ES530, all of which I currently own and have used for some time. And please be sure to check out the "Design Flaw" section at the end of this review before deciding if the QC20 is for you.

Noise-cancelling: The QC20 is signifcantly better than my QC15. Look, I've used Bose QC headphones for years, but the QC20 actually made me gasp the first time I turned on its noise-cancelling circuit. I can only describe the effect as eerily silent, which seems impossible with an earphone that only lies against the opening of your ear, but doesn't go into the canal or encircle your ears like headphones. (By comparision, I never thought the noise cancelling on the QC3 was all that good.) In addition to achieving great noise-cancelling in an "ear bud" type design, Bose has also made real strides is quieting the sounds of speech, which--along with crying babies--have always largely evaded the capabilities of noise-cancelling systems. The QC20 is by no means perfect in silencing speech (or crying babies) but it's a clear step forward. My QC15s are going up for sale today.

Sound Quality: The sound of the QC20 is incrementally better than the QC15, but still lags behind the better in-ear 'phones like my Ety 4PT and Shure ES530. To my ears (Your Ears May Vary), the QC20 sound a bit veiled by comparison, and while the bass is certainly there, its quality and tightness just isn't as good. But let's put this in context: I"m talking about A/A+ sound for the Ety and Shure vs. B/B+ sound for the QC20. Plus, there are the drawbacks to the in-ear canal earphones: they silence outside sounds almost completely, which I find dangerous when walking the streets of NYC... and there's the incovenience of having to remove an earphone from the canal everytime you want to hear what someone is saying to you. The QC20 has an "aware" mode that allows in outside sound at the touch of a button. Also, with the Ety 4PT, I hear the microphonic thumping sound of the cable hitting my body when I walk--not as bad as earlier generations of the Ety cable, but still there. Finally, neither of these in-ear 'phones are comfortable for long-term wear, such as a cross-country flight. Again, Your Ears May Vary, but I have to remove them after a couple of hours.

Comfort: My QC15 headphones are certainly comfortable, but the soft silicone of the QC20 ear tips rest so comfortably against your ear openings that you simply forget you're wearing them at all. Most importantly, the Bose StayHear design of the tips keeps them in place, which is a huge deal for me. I have never been able to wear any ear bud design (and I think I've tried them all) because they fall out too easily. The Bose remain secure, but without force that would cause discomfort. The QC20s come with medium tips installed, but also include small and large sizes in the box.

Size/Weight: This is where the QC20 really trounces the QC15. The earphones store in a soft pouch that measures just 2.75 x 5 inches and they weigh next to nothing. As nice as the storage case is for the QC15, it just looks huge by comparison. I was concerned that the "battery/control bar" at the plug end of the QC20 might have size and weight that would make it clunky in use, but it's small, very thin, and almost as feather-weight as just the cable itself. The bar measures just 1"W x 3.5"L x 1/4"D. Weight is only 3/4 of an ounce, including the end cable and plug. That end cable is just long enough to allow for easy folding of the bar against the back of your phone or music player and easy insertion into your pocket.

Convenience: Minimal size/weight make the QC20 a "take everywhere" earphone. Includes a super lightweight lithium battery that runs for 16 hours on just a 2-hour charge from USB. (Bose includes the required USB to micro-USB charging cable.) The earphones will continue to function with a dead battery, but without noise-cancelling and with somewhat degraded sound quality... still, better than nothing. The integrated microphone makes it a perfect headset for use with iPhone and other cellular phones. (Note that you must order the QC20i for use with Apple products.) The microphone also includes an "Aware Mode" switch that allows in some outside noise, like traffic sounds--convenient AND an essential safety feature if wearing these in a city environment.

Design Flaw: The silicone eartips do not simply slide on and off the earphones. There are two slots cut into the silicone that fit over two small plastic tabs on the earphones and hold the eartips firmly in place. When trying to change the medium eartips to the small ones, I broke one of those tabs, and this was after reading the instructions, and following them as closely as I could. Bose provided an immediate exchange for me, so no problem there, but if you buy the QC20 and need to change the eartip size, I'd recommend getting on the phone with Bose customer service, which is superb, and let them guide you.

One final tip: if you buy directly from Bose, either online or at one of their stores. you get a 30-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee they don't offer if you buy elsewhere. Use the 'phones all you want and, if you're not satisfied after a month, just return them for a full refund. Since new models of Bose products are never discounted anywhere, that risk-free trial is a big advantage to buying direct. Just be prepared for the fact that you will NOT be sending these earphones back! ;-)

Bottom line: overall, the QC20s are five star earphones with an asterisk due to the plastic tab design. Thanks for taking the time to read my review and I hope you find it helpful in making a buying decision. Again, if you look at the second post in the comments section, you will find my updates to this original review.
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465 of 511 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Technology, Still Imperfect, August 1, 2013
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
These headphones are pricey, so you expect them to be amazing. And they are. The effect of cancelling out the drone of an airplane engine or central air unit is, to me, well worth the price.

As for sound quality, there are two caveats. I'm not an audiophile in the strict sense, but the reproduction of the highs and lows is superb while the mids may be just the tiniest bit overshadowed. I love the sound... when they noise cancellation is ON, or when it is in AWARE mode (more on that later). However, when the noise cancellation is OFF, or the unit is unpowered, the lows tend to be muddy and exaggerated. Quality definitely suffers when they noise cancellation is turned off. They're still fairly good, just not the crisp sound you get when they're on.

The other caveat is that, when noise cancellation is on, there is an audible hiss. That's the white noise that blocks out the ambient sound of the world. You'll love going from a noisy plane or train to just this quiet hiss, but sometimes the hiss the actually louder than my environment. In that case, I'd choose to turn noise cancellation off but that leaves the muddy, overpowered lows. So that's the dilemma: when it's quiet you have to choose between a white hiss and muddy lows. When it's loud, these are amazing headphones. When it's quiet... they're just really good.

As for "Aware" mode, it's kind of odd. I found that the full noise cancellation was actually more capable at drowning out voices than I was expecting (namely my two-year-old daughter whose voice is fairly sing-song and high-pitched). Aware mode allowed me to hear her, but her voice was mechanical and artificial sounding. The noise that "aware" mode allows through is sufficient to keep you aware of your surroundings, but the sound it does allow through is strange and unfamiliar. Still, "aware" mode is a better choice than turning noise cancellation off because the muddy lows are not present.

For what it's worth, I'm quite happy so far with these headphones. I've only had them for three days (Best Buy stocked them early by mistake), so if my opinion changes I will be back to edit this post.
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553 of 609 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comparing QC20i vs MIE2i vs SIE2i vs QC15, August 6, 2013
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
Taking the Bose MIE2i, the most comfortable and best sounding earbuds for extended use (8+ hours daily in my experience), and adapting noise cancellation to them has left me so impressed with the QC20i earbuds that the high price tag actually seems pretty fair IF having noise cancellation built into an earbud is an absolute necessity for you. However, there are some drawbacks to the QC20i earbuds, which, after several months of ownership, have left me reaching for my MIE2i earbuds more often than the QC20i set, with the rare exception being when the environment absolutely REQUIRES noise cancellation (skip to the end and read my 09/06/2013 edit for a summary of the QC20i vs MIE2i earbuds, or skip ahead to paragraph 7 for details regarding sound isolation and comfort of the newly redesigned tips on the QC20 earbuds).

I do have some insight in regard to the characteristics of the QC20i earbuds that hasn't been mentioned in other reviews yet, but first I'll touch on what everybody keeps bringing up. When comparing the sound output with the battery (i.e., noise cancelling) on and off, there is initially a difference in the color/tone that your ears will pick up. In short, these QC20i earbuds sound brighter (more high-end frequencies) with noise cancelling enabled and perhaps less bright, or for lack of a better term, "muddier" (more low/mid frequencies) with noise cancelling completely disabled (not talking about AWARE mode here at all). HOWEVER, it should be noted that your ears adapt extraordinarily fast to noise cancelling being enabled/disabled, and the intricate nuances of any genre of music are highlighted by the outstanding technology built into these Bose earbuds. What I'm saying is that the soundscape from low to high range is represented in a very clean and pleasurable way whether noise cancelling is on or off, but the initial difference in tonality when turning noise cancelling on or off could come across as off-putting or strange for a few seconds until your ears adjust and get lost in the music.

If compensating for the characteristics of these earbuds is something you might be interested in, I've found that the app for iPhone called "EQu" is quite effective and easy to use if you're nitpicky and prefer to balance out a hint of too much "brightness/muddiness" with a little EQ. With this app, you have much finer control than the built-in EQ settings for your iPod/iPhone, and you can access your iPhone music library directly from the app. I've been playing with EQu for a couple of days and find that you can subtly add a little brightness to an EQ and then save that as a preset, which you can then use when the sound cancelling on your QC20 earbuds is totally off. Or, I also have another preset that minutely decreases the higher frequencies (roughly 1kHz to 16kHz) to compensate for when sound cancelling is enabled. To sum up this whole EQ business, I find that while it's fun and interesting to adjust the EQ to enhance these earbuds, it's really not all that necessary. Your ears will adapt to the slight difference in tonality with sound cancelling on/off and you'll just appreciate the full frequency spectrum of the music playing within a minute of listening. For the bass junkies out there, these earbuds offer a very clear and full sense of low end/bass without being pushy. The built-in lows and highs of these earbuds are just very pleasant overall and can adapt to any style of music you choose to listen to. I found that to also be true of the MIE2i earbuds that I have owned for years (that do not have noise cancelling at all). So, these do have "bass," but it's not overpowering. It's just.. there where you need it.

When I first tried the QC20 earbuds on in the store with a LOT of background noise, my jaw hit the floor. I've been using the QC2 and QC15 totally-over-the-ear headphones for a long time and thought I was accustomed to the degree of noise cancelling that Bose was able to achieve, but something about this technology being in an EARBUD completely took me by surprise.

Now, what I've been building up to here and the point I want drive home is that these excel in the cancellation of low-roar type sounds like you'd find in an airplane, riding in a car, or even ambient city background noises. The level of cancellation of "low-roar" type sounds such as these is quite astounding. Furthermore, an impressive amount of other high-pitched sounds like the human voice are also filtered out to an extent, although I wouldn't by any means consider this their forte. So, with all of this in mind, the fact that these work wonders on cancelling most types of annoying sounds around you does not translate into an EVEN QUIETER silence. What I mean is that these are not "silence enhancing" earbuds that make quiet places even quieter, as I naively thought might be the case. Nope. These do a great job cancelling outside noises and quieting outside noises for you to focus on music/spoken word in your earbuds, but they DO NOT make quiet rooms even quieter or make music sound better in quiet rooms. I've found that in these situations, I typically just leave noise cancelling off and enjoy music that way, which has the added benefit of prolonging the battery life anyway.

So overall, in many respects these QC20i earbuds are an excellent upgrade to an already high-end earbud (the MIE2i). However, after owning them for a month, I find myself frequently grabbing my MIE2i earbuds unless I really NEED noise cancellation. Some notable drawbacks of the QC20i earbuds such as the battery/controller unit getting in the way, the thicker/bulkier cord, the redesigned and slightly less comfortable earbud tip, and the different placement of the mic/button controls aren't TERRIBLY bothersome and are worth putting up with for the outstanding noise cancellation they provide, but when it comes down it, the MIE2i earbuds win out as a more effective practical earbud for daily use. If you're new to Bose earbuds and aren't sure whether the MIE2 or QC20 is for you, I would recommend spending the extra cash on the QC20 earbuds ONLY if noise cancelling is of extreme importance to you. The classic MIE2i earbuds are simply easier to wear and provide great sound quality for use in any environment. I've owned the MIE2i earbuds for years and have now owned the QC20i earbuds for a number of months. As irreplaceable as the QC20i earbuds are when it comes to blocking out unwanted sound, I find myself using my classic MIE2i earbuds for most all situations because of the reasons listed above. They're just fundamentally EASIER to deal with in every way.

With regard to the rubber earbud tip, the rubber tips of the QC20 are slightly updated and different than the MIE2 and SIE2, although they still follow the general rule of thumb with all Bose earbuds in that they rest in the bowl of your ear for the most part and don't get stuffed deep into your ear canal like other earbuds. I find myself liking the QC20 earbud tip overall because it's *fairly* comfortable and has a very good seal between your eardrum and the outside world, but I also really like the old fashioned style Bose earbud tip that doesn't have a little winglet (you can still find these online or order them from Bose). This old style (and this also applies to the newer StayHear tips with the little winglet for the IE2/MIE2/SIE2) applies noticeably less pressure on the inside of the ear. This results in some more ambient noise from the outside world, but it's also MUCH easier to forget they're in your ears after several hours because this design/shape creates less of a tight seal from the outside world than the QC20 tips. They're also better for using the built-in mic on the headset because the QC20 tips block out so much sound that it sounds funny to hear the person on the other end of the phone perfectly clear and then your own voice in your head REALLY muffled (put the palm of each hand over both ears simultaneously and begin talking aloud to simulate this). I wasn't expecting this to be an issue until I made my first phone call and it turned out to be very distracting to me (taking one earbud out remedies this somewhat). However, call quality using the QC20 earbuds is very clear and the person on the other end seemed to hear me without a problem. This muffled sound in your head during phone calls isn't an issue at all with the older style MIE2i/SIE2 tips because they don't create the same tight seal that the QC20 earbud tips do. I actually still use this old version of earbud tip on my MIE2i earbuds when I don't need sound cancelling and prefer a relaxed, comfortable fit for many hours without a break. The QC20 tip provides more isolation from outside noises, but a side effect of this is a feeling of minimal discomfort/pressure over extended use of 1+ hours. With my old fashioned (non-StayHear) tips without the winglet (and probably even the newer StayHear tips w/ the winglet that come on the IE2/MIE2/SIE2 earbuds), I can and have worn these for 8-12 hours a day on most days of the week without any ear canal fatigue or pressure whatsoever. I wouldn't recommend attempting this with the QC20 tips. You probably won't make it that long without taking them out every once in a while for a short break, which has been working for me. I let my ears rest with the QC20 tips out of my ears for about 5-10 minutes, and then I can put them back in and make it another hour or so without feeling discomfort/pressure in the ears. Luckily, all earbud tips made for Bose earbuds can be interchanged with any and all different Bose earbuds, so you have some options when it comes to size and style, although like I said, all of them do, more or less, rest in the bowl of your ear as opposed to relying on getting shoved deep in there to stay put. Even the less comfortable QC20 earbuds can be pulled out of your ear a tad bit if you want to relieve some pressure, and then pushed in a little farther when you want to focus on music. So to wrap this up, for less noise isolation and vastly more comfort, go with the IE2/MIE2/SIE2 earbud tip (and I prefer the really old style w/o the winglet personally). For less comfort over extended use but considerable more noise isolation, go with the QC20 style earbud tip. I'm tempted to knock off a star because a set of earbuds should honestly be comfortable for any duration, be it 1 hour or 12 hours, but because the tips are interchangeable and this issue can be remedied cheaply and easily with a purchase of the older style tips, not to mention the QC20 earbuds are really intended to be noise cancelling earbuds that keep outside sounds to a minimum, I feel it apt to let this gripe slide and keep this rated as a 5-star product.

I'd like to point out quickly that the QC15 over-the-entire-ear headphones are great in general but have the tendency to make your ears/head really hot after any kind of extended use. They're pretty dang comfy, but after a while you still want to "get these dang headphones off of me!" With the MIE2i earbuds, I think I've made it clear that I could wear these for a year straight and still be in complete ear comfort bliss. So if the debate is between choosing one of two Bose *noise cancelling* products, the QC15 headphones or QC20 earbuds, as much as I LOVE the compactness of earbuds, I would have to lean toward recommending the QC15 headphones in lieu of the QC20 earbuds for anyone who needs really extended-use noise cancellation. If, however, you buy a set of old style Bose earbud tips to put on your QC20 earbuds when you don't need sound isolation and strong noise cancelling, then I reassign the winner of this competition to the QC20 earbuds because I highly prefer earbuds to headphones 99% of the time due to the fact that earbuds are just much easier to be mobile with and look much less conspicuous when walking around with them in, but for ALL DAY use, the QC20 earbud tips just aren't going to be as comfortable as the QC15 headphones.

When it comes to the Bose SIE2/SIE2i sport earbuds, as much of a Bose enthusiast as I am, I have to say that I didn't really care for them and returned them. The cord is very short and intended to be used only with the included armband. Sure, there's an included extension cord, but using that all the time is annoying. I would advise everyone to steer clear of those and just get the IE2/MIE2i earbuds if you're in the market for a non noise cancelling earbud with or without phone controls, whether you're going to be active or not. The MIE2i earbuds with the mic still hold up pretty well to some moisture and have a better location for the mic/button controls than the SIE2, along with the normal length cord. The QC20 earbuds, however, I wouldn't use for any kind of prolonged exercise that is more vigorous than mowing the lawn because there's just too much tech in them, which I assume wouldn't hold up well to excessive moisture. The IE2, with no mic or button controls, would be the ideal workout earbud in my opinion because there isn't a place for moisture to leak in and cause problems, you still get excellent comfort/sound quality, they'll stay put in your ear during activity, and the cord is a normal length - not to mention they're the cheapest Bose earbud on the market.

Another thing worth mentioning is the outstanding warranty offered on all Bose products. I have worn out my MIE2i earbuds several times because I had used them literally all-day, every day, in addition to working out and exposing them to sweat/moisture frequently. As a result of this, one of the control buttons stopped working. This happened more than one time to me a little before the 1-year warranty expired, so I was given the option of replacing them for free through the mail and just paying $8 shipping or going down to a Bose store and swapping them out for a new pair for free. This was a very easy process every time. I'm glad they wore out within the year (if they were going to at all)! If your earbuds/headphones happen to wear out or break AFTER the 1-year warranty, you can still bring those in or send them to Bose and pay half-price for a new replacement pair, which is better than nothing. I can hear all the naysayers out there thinking a set of earbuds should last forever under any circumstance (I mean, especially for this high price, right??!), but with heavy use every single day and with frequent exposure of the mic/control buttons to sweat/moisture/tension, it's unrealistic to think the buttons won't eventually malfunction, or for the cord to show some wear at its connecting points to the 3.5 mm jack and the earbuds themselves. The MIE2i earbuds can take A LOT of abuse and will serve you well for a lifetime if used for regular mild activities that do not include working out, but keep in mind they aren't completely "indestructible." If really used to the max for working out on a regular basis, there's a fair chance that they will eventually defect at some point and not last forever. However, I find the level of durability of the MIE2i earbuds more than acceptable for everyday use and they are officially my favorite multipurpose earbuds of all time (I've owned them for about 4-5 years). The QC20i earbuds are great too and overall do seem highly durable with their somewhat thicker gauge cord that feels very sturdy, although they have been handled with relative care since the day I brought them home, and I obviously will never work out in them. I expect the QC20i earbuds to last a very long time because the build quality really feels quite solid.

To conclude: as much as I like the QC20i earbuds, they aren't quite as "multipurpose" as I would like with the battery control unit always being ever so slightly in the way, the thicker gauge cord giving them a hard to describe "heavier" or "bulkier" feel, and the earbud tips not being entirely comfortable for all-day use. The MIE2i earbuds will remain as my "go-to" earbud for most purposes, but the QC20i is an absolute godsend for blocking outside noises. I've spent some time wearing the QC20i earbuds with noise cancelling enabled while riding in the car and I was in absolute relaxation HEAVEN. You have to try it firsthand to know what I mean. Also, even simple things like listening to a podcast while you flush the toilet and wash your hands proves no match for the sound isolation and noise cancellation of the QC20i earbuds, which allow me to hear spoken word through all of that nonsense going on, whereas spoken word is totally lost in my MIE2i earbuds when I give the toilet a flush and then wash my hands. This may seem like a strange example, but when you spend a great deal of time listening to spoken word through earbuds and find yourself visiting the loo often, it's wonderful to have spoken word entertainment like a podcast or audiobook be uninterrupted by these day-to-day background noises.

EDIT (08/20/2013): I'm impressed with the QC20i battery life. After two weeks of ownership, I'm still riding the initial 2-hour full charge that is recommended upon first opening the package. Noise cancelling has been getting enabled roughly 30 minutes to an hour each day. The light on the control unit hasn't even started blinking to indicate it needs to be recharged soon. Nice.

EDIT (08/21/2013): The light finally started blinking tonight, indicating 3 hours or less of battery life left. Time to recharge.

EDIT (09/06/2013): My summarized thoughts on the QC20i vs MIE2i earbuds after one month of use (copied from paragraph 6): In many respects, these QC20i earbuds are an excellent upgrade to an already high-end earbud (the MIE2i). However, after owning them for a month, I find myself frequently grabbing my MIE2i earbuds unless I really NEED noise cancellation. Some notable drawbacks of the QC20i earbuds such as the battery/controller unit getting in the way, the thicker/bulkier cord, the redesigned and slightly less comfortable earbud tip, and the different placement of the mic/button controls aren't TERRIBLY bothersome and are worth putting up with for the outstanding noise cancellation they provide, but when it comes down it, the MIE2i earbuds win out as a more effective practical earbud for daily use. If you're new to Bose earbuds and aren't sure whether the MIE2 or QC20 is for you, I would recommend spending the extra cash on the QC20 earbuds ONLY if noise cancelling is of extreme importance to you. The classic MIE2i earbuds are simply easier to wear and provide great sound quality for use in any environment. I've owned the MIE2i earbuds for years and have now owned the QC20i earbuds for over a month. As irreplaceable as the QC20i earbuds are when it comes to blocking out unwanted sound, I find myself using my classic MIE2i earbuds for most all situations because of the reasons listed above. They're just fundamentally EASIER to deal with in every way.
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105 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best headphones... the perfect headphones for air travel. Now, with Bluetooth... sort of, December 14, 2013
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
Length:: 1:30 Mins

The sound is immersive. I find that outside noises disappear, what is being played is rendered clearly, cleanly, and with a good deal of resonance. The headset fit is ideal; I can be wearing the earbuds for hours at a time and not notice them at all. On long flights, in particular, I find myself becoming lost in what I am listening to/watching and the time passes all but unnoticed.

Here is why I like these so much, especially for air travel:

- Noise filtering is remarkably good. I flip the switch and engine noise disappears. Loud and annoying conversations from nearby passengers fade into whispers. (Same goes for any conversations that aren't annoying.)

- They are extremely comfortable - My ears don't take well to ear buds and these are the best fitting headsets I've used. That includes several expensive custom fitted pairs. I can wear these for hours without knowing they are even there. They even stay securely in my ears when I'm moving around and not just sitting in an airline seat.

- They don't take up a lot of room - When not in use the headphones winds into a small bundle that fits into my pocket. The cable is durable and tangle free so unwinding is a snap. This is great if you like to travel light.

- The battery lasts close to forever. For me that always seems much longer than the 16 hours advertised by Bose. Perhaps more important than long battery life is a warning well in advance of the thing going empty. You get a three hour notice, by way of a flashing light, before the battery runs out. (Don't you hate those headsets that give you a battery low indication and then shutdown a couple minutes later?)

- Controls are simple and well thought out - Along with the standard volume and call buttons there is even one that disables noise cancellation, actually making the earpiece into a bit of an amplifier to assist in hearing what is going on around you. That makes hearing, for example, pilot announcements even easier than if you remove the headset altogether.

- "Aware Mode" at the press of a button will actually amplify mid-range external sounds... things like people talking. Just having the mid range amplified may sound "weird" at first but the end result is to make what people are saying easy to understand without having to remove them. (The ear buds, not the people.) Thing is, even if you turn off the active noise cancellation these ear buds still do an outstanding job of blocking all outside noise. So outstanding, in fact, that if someone is trying to talk to you they might be difficult to understand. Flip on Aware Mode and it becomes easy. In fact, under some conditions with a lot of background noise even easier than without the ear buds.

- There are several options for maintaining power on long flights - Firstly, power lasts a very long time and there is a warning light that lets you know when there is "only" several hours of battery life left. Secondly, even though I've never had to resort to it, I can always recharge the headset mid-flight with the same battery pack I carry in case I need to do the same for my tablet. It usually a RAVPower Element 10400mAh External Battery Pack or something similar. Worst case is the headset will still work as a (very nice) normal headset even if its battery is dead.

- The iPhone capabilities work great - Once the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign (after landing) and it's OK to use my cell phone I can start making calls without removing the headset. The added benefit is I can hear the person I'm called with the same noise canceling benefits as I had when I was listening to music a few minutes earlier.

Bottom line: If you use headphones when you fly there is no reason to use anything but these. (same goes for headphone in other situations.) These may be a bit more expensive than most but they will pay for themselves in added enjoyment after the first few flights. Speaking as someone who has a lot of headsets... you can have a lot of headsets but can only wear one at a time and none are likely to be as effective as this one.

One final note, I also take along a SanDisk Connect 64 GB Wireless Media Drive. I can load it with over 60 hours of video entertainment and an effectively unlimited amount of music to keep my mind off the fact that I just paid an additional $50 to sit in an exit row.

And if you're still not sure, consider buying directly from the manufacturer (sorry, Amazon). They offer a 30-day full refund policy that will give you a chance to try them out without having to fully commit right away. Fair warning though, if you "fall for" this opportunity, say just before a long flight, with every intention of returning them afterwards, you will wind up keeping them. They are *that* good. Don't ask me how I know this, just take my word for it.

Now, about the Bluetooth... I'm using a third party adapter, the Outdoor Tech Adapt - Bluetooth Adapter and it works flawlessly. The headset still does a great job of keeping the background noise away. The only difference is that I have to use the buttons on the adapter instead of on the Bose cable to control music functions. I've tried other adapters that also work but none as well as this one.

Please feel free to let Amazon and me know whether this was helpful to you or not, since it helps me improve my reviews.
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slice bread you have found your match!!!!, August 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
MY WIFE NO LONGER SNORES!!!! Well, at least I can't tell anymore. These earphones are amazing to me. I have the other BOSE over the ear headphones but these are less bulkier and more versatile. I was mowing the lawn one day when UPS showed up at my house, excited and nervous I hurried to meet the delivery guy before he rang the door bell. I Did not want my wife to know what I had purchased for $300. As soon as I signed for the package I put them on and continued mowing my lawn. At first I really didn't notice much of a difference other then the comfort. The John Deere sounded just as loud. Oops, I forgot to turn on the noise canceling button. However, when I hit that button let me tell you!!! The birds stopped chirping and the mower sounded like an electric shaver but quieter. My music sounded so clear that I had to turn it down. Ok, ok your probably thinking "this guy is over the top." We'll put them to the test. If you don't like them return them. You probably shop on AMAZON because we all know that they have a great return policy. They are expensive ,don't get me wrong, but the technology is worth it. You heard the old saying "put the puppy in her hands and its all over." Same goes for these , if you TRY you'll BUY. One more thing. You can even sleep with these and not hear your mate snore. They are small enough so that you can still sleep on your side, unlike the bigger headphones. It's crazy but true that as soon as i turn on the noise canceling button I can't hear my wife snore. No more couch for me WOW!!! Plus no burning batteries while you sleep like the other noise canceling headphones. USB charger baby!! ..................Now how do I convince my wife that I've had these forever. Errrrrrrrr
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232 of 271 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost..., August 13, 2013
By 
jchan (Los Angeles) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
I have a pair of Shure SE535-V Triple High-Definition MicroDriver Earphone with Detachable Cable - Metallic Bronze that I will own forever. However I travel a lot for work, which resulted in the purchase of a Bose® QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones. (best at noise canceling, hands down.) I've always thought that if they could somehow combine the sound quality of the Shure's with the noise canceling of the BOSE...that would be the ULTIMATE earphone.

Then I saw the QuietComfort 20i. I got excited

It came in the mail.

ULTIMATE earphone. This is not it.

Bose does a lot of things right in the QC20i. The ear buds have a solid construction and good button feedback on the remote. The rechargeable battery is small and sleek. (Though I would have preferred replaceable AAA batteries, I understand the form factor they were going for). Battery life is more than acceptable for international flights and multi-day usage.

The noise canceling ability is probably 70-80% of what the QuietComfort15 can do. (Mainly because the QuietComfort15 has ear cups which provide some passive isolation to sound). The overall sound quality of the QC20i is very similar to that of the QC15. It is important to note that there is a significant difference in sound quality with the unit is powered on (noise canceling enabled) and when the unit is running in bypass (noise canceling disabled). When enabled, the sound is comparable to other bose headphones. When off, the sound is flat, thin and empty. This has to do with how much power the unit can draw when it is turned on (drawing from the battery pack) vs turned off (drawing from headphone jack).

The ear buds stay attached to the ear phone through a little plastic hook tab. This plastic hook seems flimsy and felt like it was going to snap off every time I changed ear buds. Granted once you find your size, you won't be changing the ear buds that often...but still...for $300, design it better. The QC20i uses a new StayHear+ tip. As with all tips, fit is extremely important for good sound. Unfortunately these StayHear+ tips are made with flimsy silicon. I tried the small/medium/large...none of them fit right and they don't exactly "stay here" after a couple shakes of the head. Also because they are made with the silicon, they provide essentially no passive sound isolation. The ability to use an aftermarket foam tip (such as one from compy or shure) would have made this a winner for me. But instead, BOSE in their infinite wisdom decided to use their proprietary ear tip. So close...
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119 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!, September 22, 2013
By 
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Length:: 9:51 Mins

Watch the video, I did the unboxing and then a recap of my review below. In the video, I can show more than explain some of the aspects of this device.

I've owned the BOSE IE2 headphones pretty much since they came out (what, 4 years or so?). And I've loved them. By far, they are the most comfortable pair of in-ear headphones I've ever and have yet to own--and believe me, I've tested a LOT of headphones.

Recently, I lost my last pair. When these came out, I was hoping to that these might replace my IE2's. Well, they do for some things, but not all things. For endurance workouts, I'm going to have to find something else, which I'll explain later.

The thing I loved about my IE2's was the comfort level. These have nearly the same design, but the part that goes into your ear is a little bit wider to help isolate the noise. There is a little bit of pressure on the inside of my ears, but I can still wear these for HOURS before I need to pull them out. Not as many hours as the IE2's, but these are still impressively comfortable.

Sound quality is amazing, and just on par with the IE2. And that is without turning on the noise canceling features. When I do turn them on, I can sum up the experience with this: WOW!

New to this headset is the little brick at the bottom of the cord. This is what controls the noise canceling, so the IE2's obviously don't have this. With other noise canceling devices, these are usually closer to the ears themselves. Usually, these are pulling on my ears, making them very uncomfortable. DEAL KILLER. But I don't have this problem with this one. It has a rechargeable battery, instead of replacing it with some AAA's that add weight and bulk. BRAVO, BOSE!! It makes this very light and doesn't add too much unneeded weight.

I'm concerned about this brick bouncing around if I take it running for extended distances (I may not look it, but I run marathons). So, I'm probably going to pass on these for being my go-to gym and marathon headphones, unfortunately. BOSE has come out with an athletic version of the IE2, I will probably go that route.

Also, compared to the IE2, this cord is THICK and stiff! I was a little surprised to see this when I opened it up and I got a little concerned, but they haven't bothered me. In fact, the thickness makes it so it doesn't hop in my pocket and tie itself into knots, like most headphones. In the end, I like and appreciate the extra stiffness and thickness.

Now, for my review of the noise canceling. In a word: AMAZING!! This blocks out a TON of noise. I can mow my lawn with these in and I can barely hear the mower. In a car, forget it, you cannot tell me whether the car is on or off if you have these running. I've owned a few noise canceling devices and this blows them all away. Seriously, when I turn these on, I tune out the real world, and sometimes I need that.

So, my hats off to another fantastic BOSE product. It isn't just the device, but the company itself. My BOSE equipment has not always worked flawlessly (I'm pretty rough on them and use them all the time), but whenever I've called customer support I've always been taken care of. I'll stand behind a company who isn't afraid to stand behind their product line.

$300 is a bit pricey, but I consider these worth it. I love them!!
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130 of 157 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars O.K Noise Canceling But Major Flaw, December 24, 2013
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
These headphones are great in canceling certain types of noises that don't vary much in frequency - Like the drone of an airplane or refrigerator. They do not cut out human voices or other transient noises. The major flaw in these headphones is that the battery cannot be replaced - Once the battery dies you have to throw them away. Tired contacting Bose and they do not have a solution for this saying if it is within year you will get a replacement and of course the battery will not drain within a year. 300 Dollars is a lot of money to just throw away after the battery dies. Either Bose should extend the warranty or come up with a replacement option for the batteries.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good noise cancellation that also happens to also do a good job with music, August 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Electronics)
I've been waffling back and forth between 4 and 5 stars for days now. I don't feel this is a perfect product, which had me leaning toward 4 stars. But, at the same time, Amazon.com defines 4 stars as "I like it" and 5 stars as "I love it." And, by these definitions, I finally opted for giving this 5 stars. Because I do love these headphones. They aren't perfect. They are more of a work in progress. But every time I put them on, they delight me, they make me smile, they make me think "Wow, I actually own these things! Me! How luxurious!"

Okay, so let's get two things settled right off the bat. First, these are noise cancelling headphones first, and good sounding headphones second. They excel at the task of noise cancelling and manage to sound great doing so. But they are not audiophile headphones. They are meant to be used in environments where you want to create your own space, your own sanctuary. Airplanes, noisy public transit, that sort of thing. If the primary environment that you are looking for headphones to use in is a quiet office space or home, there are certainly much cheaper options that sound excellent. Plenty of headphones do a fantastic job of isolating you off from a good deal of environmental noise passively, so if your environment isn't loud, you can do just fine without the active noise cancelling feature.

Second, these are Bose headphones. Which means you are going to find forums full of self-professed audiophiles who will tell you they are garbage, they are a marketing gimmick, they are overpriced and only a fool would buy them. And then there will be a lot of people who will tell you that everything Bose makes is gold. I think of it a lot like the iPhone versus Android debate. Ultimately, those of us who aren't interested in brand allegiance and just want the product that does what we want it to do for our usage model have the task of wading through all the irrelevant brand proselytizing to find actually useful information. So, all of this is to say, if you hate Bose as a matter of principle, don't buy these. And if you love Bose as a matter of principle, you're going to buy these regardless of the reviews. For everyone else, what follows is a report of my experience with these headphones.

My usage model for headphones has changed over the years. Back in college, when I lived in a dingy, poorly insulated apartment with 3 other people and their various significant others, headphones were a constant must for anything audio related. That was my "big can" era. I primarily used my headphones at home, so I invested in good cans (a pair of Sennheisers). I only had a 10 minute walk to campus and work, so inexpensive, lightweight earbuds were fine for out and about, when I didn't want to lug around a heavy set of full cans. But now I'm out of college, I live on my own in a "grownup" apartment, and my building actually spent money so as to provide excellent sound insulation between units. As such, at home, I never need headphones. I can watch an action flick at 3am with regular speakers and my neighbors don't hear a thing. What I have now is much more commuting. Loud subways, busy downtown streets, and much more flying. And honestly, commuting gets exhausting. I had been using a pair of Klipsch Image S4 noise isolating headphones for the commuting (which are excellent value headphones in my humblest of opinions), but there was still lots of background noise that would bleed through and I would arrive at my destination exhausted from the commute. This led me to start looking into active noise cancelling headphones. But the market didn't have anything for me. The Bose QuietComfort 15s (which many would argue are the gold standard for active noise cancelling consumer headphones) were always fun to try on, but I didn't want huge cans on the subway. And earbud options were just lackluster. Then Bose released these QuietComfort 20 phones. I was intrigued, so I figured I'd check them out.

When I first tried these headphones on, I was absolutely stunned. I hadn't plugged them into a music player yet, I just wanted to see how they did at taking care of background noise with the active noise cancellation engaged. I tried them on in an office environment with a loud AC unit, a fan, an air purifier, and a fridge. Everything just faded to become a barely audible, gentle breeze in the background. Wow. I was expecting them to work, but I guess I wasn't expecting them to work as well as they do. I then put on some music. I started with Dave Brubeck's "Take 5." It sounded fantastic. Wide stereo space, good definition for all the instruments, lots of space and resonance for the drums (I actually held my breath during Joe Morello's 5/4 drum solo, I felt like I was right there in the room with him). I then moved to "Rope" by the Foo Fighters and leaned into the crunch of good, solid rock. Next up, "Giorgio by Moroder) off of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Solid bass response, great balance, made me want to dance. I could go on, but, needless to say, I was happy with how everything sounded. I find the sound far fuller, warmer, and wider than my old Klipsch Image S4s and my Sennheiser cans. And what I really love is, on the subway, on noisy city streets, on airplanes, these phones push all the noise to the far background. They create a space that is mine. There are days where I've just turned them on with no music, just to give me my own bubble in a busy, hectic world. And they do so with great comfort. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Okay, so what could be better about these headphones? Like I said, they aren't perfect. To me, the elephant in the room is the external battery bar. It is very lightweight. But it is still in the way. I plug these into my phone in my pocket. But then I don't know what to do with the battery pack. It really has to go in the pocket with my phone. That's a bit cramped though. And, while the bar is covered in very soft, gentle rubber, I do worry about whether it should be rubbing up against my phone in my pocket (maybe I'm just being neurotic though). Now, this is the limit of current technology. These are earbuds, so there wasn't room for Bose to stick a big enough battery into the earpieces like they do on the QC 15s. So I can't fault Bose for this. But their marketing material clearly tries to NOT focus on how the battery pack works. And I know why they do this. It is a bit of a nuisance. Not a deal breaker, but still, a nuisance.

What is perhaps more of a potential issue is durability. The cable is of decent thickness. But with how it has to sit in a pocket next to a phone, I'm worried about the cord getting crimped in the places where it goes into the battery pack. It doesn't appear that this cord is replaceable, so that could lead to expensive repairs if things break. And Bose only provides a 1 year warranty. Which was a bit of a tough sell for me on a $299 pair of phones. I'm gentle with my technology and don't have a history of wearing technology out, so I'm hoping these phones will last too. But I do want to note my concern.

One last thing for the "cons" side of the product: it's a small issue, but the cord is short. I am around 5'10" and the cord is long enough to go from the pocket in my pants to my ears just fine, but there isn't much more length than that. It would have been nice if Bose had added maybe an extra 12 inches or so to offer some more freedom.

Finally, I've seen in other reviews that people have complained of hearing loud pops when doors slam, and of generally hearing a hiss. I have tried to recreate the popping with my headphones but have been unable to do so. I've slammed doors, windows, cabinets, banged on tables, run coffee grinders, and dropped pots on the floor (this last one was accidentally), and I have yet to get a loud pop in my headphones following these events. I wonder if the reviewers who posted about this issue might have had a bad pair of phones. As for the hiss, I don't hear a hiss, so much as I hear something that sounds like very faint, distant radio static. I don't notice it at all if music is playing. And, if there is no music, the faint background sound is still far quieter than the sound of the environment without the phones on, assuming there is noise in the environment. But if the environment is totally quiet, then active noise cancellation really isn't warranted anyway. I should note, I don't experience any pressure on my eardrum when using these phones, versus when I've tried on other noise cancelling headphones (such as the Bose QC15s), I have definitely felt the pressure.

So, the final question. Are these worth $299? Well... that depends on your budget I suppose. But there was one reviewer who made the point that, if you're a daily commuter, how much is it worth to you to be able to create your own sense of space and peace? If you commute a lot (I figure I spend over 330 hours per year on noisy public transit, not including flying), and start thinking of the "per commute" price of these phones, they might start sounding a lot more affordable. I guess ultimately their worth is a function of your budget, how much time you spend in noisy public locations where it is socially acceptable to not be engaged, and how exhausting you find these situations. For me, $300 for headphones is definitely spendy. But I have no regrets. I consider this money well spent.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly better NoiseCancel than the QC-15 but…, September 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When I first saw this I was excited, because the QC-15s have a few cons (Bulkier, doesn't work without battery). So this was like the best of passive noise canceling (like my -now stolen- etymotic) plus Bose's active noise canceling tech, which, at least on the QC-15 is superb.

I am an Android user (and have a series of iOS + Apple products like this very Macbook Air). I develop software so I need iPhones, iPads and Androids.

When I got my QC-15, I remember going to an App Store with my MBAir to try whether the mic would work when connected in the computer. It did, so it was awesome, because I could use it to Skype with people without using the integrated mic in the computer while wearing the awesome headphones.

I later gave my QC-15 to a very good friend who couldn't afford them and decided I was eventually going to buy new ones.

I finally got these new QC20. As an Android user, I picked the Android version. That was my first mistake.

I'll summarize the pros/cons:

Good Things:
- They are light and very portable. The battery doesn't really bother much (but it has a few caveats).
- Moderately easy to fit and less tiring (for me) than the full in-ear-canal (Etymotic stuff). I flew 16 hours straight and they didn't really cause a major problem (tho I could feel them by the end).
- Easy to sleep with these on a plane while tilting your head. Still some vibrations can be heard, but with the others is really hard for obvious reasons.
- The USB charging is nice (Boeing 767-400 have USBs on every seat so you can watch the TV while not draining your battery).
- The new "Aware Mode" is also a nice thing, but on a plane it will not necessarily be loud enough to hear a person talking to you. You have to turn it on-off when you want to use it, because when that is on, the cancelled noise is nowhere near as good as when it's off.
- The sound is good, but these are not top of the end headphones. The idea is for sound to be acceptable in noisy environments. It's certainly not the best sound you can get, but it will be probably the best isolation in certain environments. And the combination of both is extremely decent.
- You can use them even when turned off as regular headphones.
- The cable is nice and doesn't create the annoying sound (known to Etymotics and such) when hit by objects or your own body.

Now the Bad things:
- With the 3 sizes (S-M-L) ear tips, you might not find an appropriate one for your ear size. Mines (I was using Med) would slowly pop out after a few hours. Not a big deal, but I wish Bose would offer more choices (Like Etymotic does).
- The battery is not heavy, but heavy enough to cause disconnects if it hangs from a loose plug (like on a plane where the plug is abused a few times a day).
- The position of the battery in the "cable" is a win-loss situation. Sometimes you feel like it's great and sometimes you wished it where somewhere else.
- The Amount of cable after the battery could use a few more inches (it's really really short) so you have to basically "stick" the battery with your phone and every time you hold your phone, you have to hold the battery or it bother you all the time
- The Android/Windows version only comes with 1 button (plus the button to activate aware mode). The button serves as a play/pause on any app that is registered to operate with media buttons (most should anyway). But it has no volume controls (lame). The iOS version of these controls in the QC15 work on Android (the volume doesn't but the play pause does, so you get the same functionality). On the plus side, the QC15 buttons (for iOS) work with a Macbook so you get a Mic, mute, volume keys and this is why I'm returning my QC20. I use a Macbook Air and I need the headphones + mic for Google Hangouts or Skype. It doesn't work for some reason. The MIC works on my Nexus 4 tho (but no mute which would have been great).
- Since the buttons are not interchangeable (like in the QC-15), you're stuck with what you got. I'd get the iOS -EVEN- if you have an Android device (don't know about Windows).
- The tips (rubber?) are very weird and fit ok, but they are "fragile" (I almost broke one trying to remove it) DON'T PULL. Read instructions.
- For obvious reasons, you can't detach the cables and use the noise cancel feature alone (like in the QC-15)

Conclusion:
These are great headphones if you travel a lot (especially on short trips where you don't carry a lot of stuff and you have limited space in your bag). They win the size war vs. the QC-15.
I've compared the noise cancellation inside a 737-900 mid-flight side by side. I asked a fellow passenger for their QC-15 and tried one after the other for a couple of times. The sound isolation is pretty much the same, I'd say the QC20 have a little but more mugginess to voices because they are somewhat in-ear and provide more passive isolation. But the "real" engine noise was cancelled by both in a very similar way. If anything, the QC20 wins by a small margin.
The sound quality is hard to compare (especially in a plane!) but with the QC-15 I had to turn my volume all the way up. With the QC20 it was 3/4 (for the same volume experience). I don't know if this was because of the battery or what.
All in all, these are expensive headphones that I can only recommend if you travel a lot and don't want to carry extra batteries or don't want to deal with the "big" QC-15.
The battery is not replaceable so I guess that could be a factor. It lasted through two flights: 8 + 4 hours with no problem whatsoever, but then again, Bose claims 16 hours.

So… which one do you get?

It really depends. If you're looking for portability, you won't look back, the whole thing is really light for what it does!
If you hate in-ear stuff, go QC-15.
If you want sound quality, get an AudioTechnica or similar :)
If you don't mind carrying AAA batteries around and want to use the noise canceling feature without carrying a cable and stuff, the QC-15 can do it.
If you need Macbook (Air/Pro) microphone compat, get the iOS version (even if you have an Android phone). Note: I haven't tested the QC20 iOS version, but I did have the QC15 iOS version and it works on both android (as a mic+play/pause) and on Mac (as Volume+mic+play/pause). The volume controls won't work on Android and that's why the presumably sell two versions, so you don't get controls that don't work… I assume the QC20 will have a similar behavior. But you should dbl-check.

I will be personally getting the QC15 again instead of these (which I am returning as we speak).

What would I like to see improved?

More ear tips
Ability to detach the whole battery thing and use them as regular earphones.
Volume buttons for Android (that also work on Macbooks!)
Battery should be replaceable, otherwise you're going to have to throw the whole thing away in a few years.
Better price, 200 dollars would be better.
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