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on August 23, 2011
Bose QC25 vs. Bose QC15 vs. Beats Studio (by Dre.) vs. Sennheiser PXC 450 vs. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b

Disclosure: I have tried all these on an airplane. I am not an audiophile. Noise Cancelation is the most important attribute to me.

The Carrying Case: All four are quite durable and stiff.
1.) Bose QC25- Very small, compact, and just big enough. Does not really have room for anything else. Could fit in a briefcase.
2.) Bose- QC15- This case is bigger than the QC25 (Which could be a good thing. Doesn't feel much bigger, and still has room for ipod, Gameboy, batteries, whatever).
3.) Sennheiser- Square shape, low profile, however not a lot of room for anything else in case.
4.) Audio Technica- Nice big case if you want to carry extra stuff (Nintendo DS, ipod, etc).
5.) Beat case is very elegant and hip, but very wide and skinny. Maybe room for an ipod and that's about it. Caribbeaner Clasp.

Build Quality:
1.) Sennheiser- you can tell this is built VERY well. Strong plastics, good components, thick cord. Top notch. You feel like you are getting something really high quality.
2.) Beats appears to be extremely well made. Heavy duty industrial plastics, metal fasteners. High end box, thick cord, great packaging, solid construction. Only concern of mine is that the battery compartment seems a little fragile.
3.) Bose25 is a step up here from the 15. Detachable cord. A little more substantial feeling. Touches of aluminum on the headphones, and some nicer quality padding. While not as substantial at the Sennheiser, they do feel more luxurious and a little more solidly built than the QC15.
4.) Audio Technica- Nice solid construction, appears durable. Mostly heavy duty plastic.
5.) Bose15- If this had a Sanyo logo on the side, I would not have flinched. How can something $300 be so incredibly cheaply made.

Size:
1.) Bose25- A step up from the Bose15. A little more sleek. Not as dorky looking. Fold flat.
2.) Beats- These are a little bigger than the others, but that are also meant to stand out and be seen. Probably the hippest looking, but a little bold for business users.
3.) Bose15- as far as over the ears go, these are pretty small.
4.) Audio-Technica- mid-sized.
5.) Sennheiser- These are big. No question, but they store flat.

Comfort:
1.) Sennheiser- Very comfortable, will fit almost any size ears. Keep on for hours.
2.) Bose25- A stepup here. More comfortable than QC15, more flex, better padding. Less hot. Could be tight around some larger ears. Can press a little tight after some time, so test them. After a few hours, my ears hurt from the pressing, but some adjustments can be made.
3.) Beats seemed to be a little tight on my head and I didn't see a way to make them less "compressy." I don't think I (personally) would like to wear these all day. Too pinchy for my head. The earphone part is also a little small for me. These became hot and uncomfortable after time for me.
4.) Bose15- Also comfortable. I did not experience "highs" discomfort.
5.) Audio-Technica- Perfectly satisfactory. Larger opening than previous AT model. Gets warm and tight on head on long flights.

Sound:
Disclaimer. This is a tough category, as they all had very different sounds and need to be used personally. The Sennheisers helped me hear parts of songs I had never heard before, but so did the Beats (baselines were much stronger).

1.) Sennheiser- I actually wore these at home too, simply to hear parts of songs I had never heard before. Astounding. My 10yr old music collection sounded totally NEW.
2.) Bose25- A step up from the QC15. Music more evenly balanced. Bass is hard hitting, but not as annoying as in the QC15. Some break-in is required. A more 3D sound than QC15. The QC25 closes the Sennheiser gap much more than the QC15. Be aware, some mp3s might feel a little flat.
2.) I put the Bose25 and Beats in the same category. The Bose seemed more evenly balanced. The Beats sounded great, but were EXTREMELY bass heavy. You will hear complexity of base lines that you never noticed. Drums tracks will sound like drums, bass guitar will be noticed for the first time on songs, but the highs are VERY weak. Pop music will sound very muted, rap and hip hop will pop and you'll feel like you have a Kicker Bass speaker in your car. I can't compare Beats to the others. It's a totally different sound which you will either love or hate.
3.) Audio-Technica- Well balanced, good sound.
4.) Bose15- Great clear sound, but very heavy on the bass. I listen to a lot of rap and pop, so it was mildly annoying. I ultimately had to turn my treble settings up on my ipod to balance the sound.

Features:
1.) Beats- Great packaging. Two cords with different connectors. Nice Case. Cloth. They do a good job of making you think you bought a nice product (and it is). Only concern is the headphones don't work without batteries. The headphone creates a pseudo noise cancellation.
2.) Bose25- Nice new case. Removeable cord (so it won't rip out if you jerk it accidently). Passive headphone (if battery dies, headphone still works - albeit without noise cancelation). Choice of white color.
3.) Sennheiser- nice cord, push to talk button (temporarily mutes NC and sound which is great for interruptions on airplanes).
4.) Bose/Audio Technica- just the basics. Bose simply an on/off switch.

Price:
1.) Audio Technica- $125 depending on how you shop.
2.) Beats Studio- $175-$200
3.) Bose QC15- $200-$250
4.) Bose QC25- $300 (hard to find discounted)
5.) Sennheiser- $200 to $400 (how are these going up in price- 5 yrs later)

Noise Cancelation:
1.) Bose- No question here, far surpassed the other two. Best Noise Cancelation. I did not notice a significant change in QC15- to QC25 on planes, however did notice a little difference in office.
2.) Audio-Technica- Good Noise Cancelation.
3.) Sennheiser- Not sure what happened here. Incredible sound, less than satisfactory noise cancelation.
4.) I don't think the Beats are official noise cancellation, but the headphone part is great at isolating outdoor noise, and they are very tight on the head. When you put them on without music, they offer decent noise cancellation.

Summary:

Please understand, noise cancellation will not drown out a crying baby, slamming doors, or people talking. They will help out with repetitive noises like airplanes, air-conditioners or soft noises. If you don't listen to music, these might isolate sounds even more and be counter-productive.

The QC25 are a nice step up from the QC15. I do not feel they are overwhelmingly better or worth an upgrade if you were happy with QC15 (but some people like the latest and greatest). If I were buying new and the price difference was only $50, go for the QC25, if you have QC15 and you like them, it's not a huge jump (or buy them and return if you don't like). The QC25 sound a little better, are better built, and a little more convenient. But not sure they are 5 years of R&D better. If the difference in price is >$100, QC15 looks more attractive.

Audio Technica and Sennheiser don't seem to have any new offerings either, so this segment has been kind of stagnant. I will say that Bose seems to have listened and addressed most of the complaints of the QC15. They've improved the size, sound, build quality, and maintained their quality Noise Cancelation.

The Sennheiser Noise Cancellation is a real disappointment. Great headphone, horrible noise cancelation headphone. The Audio Technica is a great entry price point-value item.

The Beats are kind of their own product with their own demographic. Like the Sennheisers, they made me hear parts of songs I had never heard before, but on the bass side. If you like heavy, heavy bass, go for the beats.

Final assessment:

Audio-Technica- best balance of value for money
Sennheiser- Best sound and comfort
Bose- By far Best Noise Cancelation.
Beats- Best for bass. More of a hip hop bass then the Bose though.

I use these for airplane travel only, so I ended up keeping the Bose.
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on April 3, 2016
 This build consists of light weight plastic and metal with some pleather. This is to help with portability and to give them a light seamless feel when you’re wearing them.

These headphones don’t fold in like my Audio Technicians but, will swivel 90 degrees and fit into the case made for them. This leaves for a larger footprint.

The cable from your headphones to your audio source is proprietary and while sometimes the word proprietary is frowned upon, you’ll be happy to know you can actually replace the cable just as easy headband and ear cups. Links for those replacements are down below.
There is a switch on the cable that controls the loudness of volume. It has nothing to do with noise cancellation at all. He plugs into headphones and will lock into place. NOTE: When removing the cable from the headset DO NOT pull on the cable itself you will shorten the life of that cable or possibly ruin it if you do it too many times. The notch here is where you’ll remove the cable. ALWAYS REMOVE THE CABLE BY THE NOTCH NOT THE CABLE ITSELF.

To activate the Noise cancellation simply flip the switch and you’ll see the green LED light come on. NOTE: If the green LED light is flashing that means the AAA battery needs to be replaced. Which can be found on the right earphone toward the top.

QuietComfort 15s produce a sense of pressure on the eardrum. Listeners sensitive to this effect may find it anywhere from mildly annoying to
uncomfortable. Most of the former group will tend to forget about it as soon they start playing music or movies.

The noise cancellation performs best with Low type sounds such as: air plane engines, ac units running, subway noise etc. You will be able to hear people around but, they will be muffled. Best way I can describe it to you is when you’re underwater listening to the sound above the water. MUFFLED or Dampened

Sound Quality, I always test headphones with all type of genres of music, movies, and playback for my recordings on my channel here. The sound coming from these cans are good. Bass, is well balanced with while the mids and highs will perform fine however, sound a little thin. They distort if you turn the volume above 80% or higher from my experience. Sweet spot for me was to have the volume level around 65-70%. That would sound come through clearly without distortion.

Sound leakage: Leakage is minimal if you’re putting the volume at 75% plus is when others around you they’ll be able to hear it but, not to point where they’d need ask you to turn it down. Quiet areas like libraries you may want to keep at a lower volume around 60-65% is my recommendation.

Plus Side:

No amp is required

Noise Cancelling does its job without fail

Even though the cable is preparatory you can actually replace it for cheap that you can find on Amazon for iOS specific or regular usage.1
Very comfortable of wearing these for long periods of time.

The headband\ ear cushions on the cans can be replaced and found on amazon for cheap.

Things to consider:

Not a very low bass range

When the battery dies so does your music

Expensive for a discounted product
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on April 22, 2016
Sound is excellent, but quality of material is kind of cheap, which is annoying since you're paying a lot for this toy. I had to sew the cushions on both side because the foam was getting out and now, the fake leather is getting slowly away, showing a cheap fabric below. Come on, Bose, synthetic leather, really ? And, by the way, I had to replace them after 15 days because I heard a kind of metallic sound in one of the headset. And also, one day, it just stops working randomly but came back to life after few vigorous shakes. Now, it's still working after two years, but I take a really good care of them (except the shakes, lol).
Comfort : good, in spite of the fabric which is disintegrating itself.
Conclusion : this is supposed to be a high end product for 300 dollars (yes, you read well), and things are not working the way they should. If I bought a luxurious car, I would expect to have it working flawlessly for years. Don't have enough money for luxurious cars, but I can afford a luxurious pair of headphones, and look at the result !
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on June 24, 2015
These are great headphones. I will note one thing: The noise canceling by itself does not cancel out talking. But you know what? That's not what the technology was designed for! The noise canceling technology was designed for canceling out continuous noise, such as the noise that construction workers experience during their work. It cancels out background noise phenomenally. If you turn on a little bit of brown noise or music in the background, though, it does drown out talking pretty well, though. So don't discount the noise canceling. These work very well. In fact, when they're turned off completely the design of the headphones themselves still muffle sound really well. I bought these because they have the best noise canceling on the market, but they also have very nice sound for music. I consider that a nice perk since I did not buy them to listen to music.

Just a recommendation, but if you use these very often like I do, keep spare batteries in the small pocket inside the case. You'll know the battery is dying when it starts turning on and off continuously. (No, it's not broken!) I just wind up the cord in a coil and stick in the case instead of putting it in that pocket so I can use it for that purpose. See the photo for what I mean.

Enjoy the headphones! You'll love them.
review image
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The Bose noise-cancelling headphone is rather expensive and works only slightly better than Audio-Technica (but it does indeed work better). I have been a proud (and a sad) owner of five (yes, five...!) Audio-Technica ATHANC7 (two ATHANC7 and three ATHANC7B), and all five disintegrated after a year and a half of very moderate use (notably in the foam-cushioned area). I then decided to give Bose a try. Bose's noise cancelling technology does work better, however, only slightly better, than Audio-Technica's. After a few weeks, nevertheless, it broke, with one side going mute. But then a whole new world of experience started for me: the most unbelievable, professional, and courteous customer service one can imagine--and of all places... in Brazil! I was most amazed to witness Bose's truly customer-centered service. I called them several times and spoke with at least five or six employees. They were all extremely polite, warm, and professional. (Who did they think they were talking to? Some kind of VIP...?!) I dropped my defective headphone at their Sao Paulo store. After two days, they e-mailed me and called to report that they were already shipping a brand new headphone to my Rio address with express shipping paid by them. Every stage of the transaction was as smooth, respectful, and courteous as one could imagine. I'm already using my new headphone, which works perfectly. The quality of this extremely positive experience kind of "cancelled" the "noise" from the experience of my original defective headphone. Chalk one up for Bose! Best regards to all from Brazil! Peace! Claudio
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on November 23, 2013
Just not what I expected. I do a bit of airline travel and have almost always used a CD player (before iPods) or an iPod. Have used earbuds-only but was not pleased with all the additional noise. Picked up a pair of noise cancelling headphones a fellow employee had left behind about 10 years ago....and used them for several years. I don't know who the manufacturer was for those but they were/are adequate but the ear pieces fit on the ear rather than over and around. Not the most comfortable. Have always thought about getting the Bose. First, they are very comfortable. No problems wearing them on a 4 hour flight. With the caveat that I am older AND that I have a hearing impairment from a viral infection a few years ago, I was not at all happy with the quality of the sound on the Bose headphones. (It's a given that, as you age, you slowly lose your ability to hear high pitch.) The Bose were simply far too bass-ey for my taste. I've gone back to the older set which -- for me -- sound much better. Seems for the price, Bose could incorporate an in-line equalizer. (I have an idea that many people would find that the Bose are not bass-ey enough.) With an equalizer, everyone could choose their own 'mix'. A real plus -- which I had only experienced with a couple of early-model Kindles -- is the great return policy and method of Amazon. Quick, easy and the money is returned very quickly. However, even so, I would encourage others to do what I did not do: find a pair to 'test' before you actually spring for the purchase.
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on February 6, 2014
I flipped back and forth between Bose QC15 and Beats Studio FOREVER. I finally decided on the Bose, primarily because of the noise cancelling capabilities. Love them. Sleep with them on, travel with them, kids use them, sturdy, awesome. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to try the Beats studio headphones side by side with my Bose. Bose won hands down. Everyone raves about the highs and lows with the Beats, but I couldn't notice a difference with sound quality. I did notice a difference with noise cancellation though! My music was not being clouded with outside noise on the Bose. Refridgerator running, heater kicking in, people walking by, just regular noise that you take for granted every day is gone.
So great that I bought a pair for my grandpa who suffers from tinnitus. The ringing in his ears is so bad that when he goes to Wal-Mart or Target, the extra noise is crippling and he has had to leave abruptly. He has left family functions early because he can not handle the children laughing. We tried them out for Christmas, just Noise Cancelling on, no music. We all spoke up a little bit (not yelling), and he was the last to leave! It is not a cure for tinnitus, but a management option that worked for us!
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These Bose QuietComfort headphones cannot be beat on an airplane: they are comfortable to be worn for hours, and the cabin noise is almost completely blocked out. They are lightweight, too, so they don't drag on my ears. I love that they come in a compact, hard case, and that they include two audio cables, one of which can be used for smart phone calls, and an airplane adapter for the few cabins that use the two-prong format. The Bose headphones don't eat up batteries an old Sennheiser noise cancelling set did. Still, I always travel with an extra set of batteries.

Of course, none of the preceding matters if the sound quality is lacking -- and it's not. The highs are crisp, the mid-range clear, and the lows well-reproduced. I find the sound balanced, with only a slight lean toward bass. The best part is that vocals and instrumentals are clearly distinguished and not muddied.

Because the earphones fold flat and are protected in a case, the Bose are great for travel. They also do well in the home or office, although, obviously, it's overkill to get these if you don't plan on listened through them in a noisy environment. For ear-covering headphones, they couldn't possibly get any smaller or lighter.

-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
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on September 4, 2013
I had really high hopes that the Sennheiser would be the cream of the crop but like others have mentioned the bass emphasis is really low. Bass is something you can tweak other ways so I thought I would give it a shot.

Sennheiser PXC 450 first impressions:
Nice and large, especially with a person that has a big head. Earpads are roomy and don't rub/touch against your ears so you're not dogearred while listening. Battery slot seemed like it would break easily when closing the battery holder but to be fair the Bose QC15 has the same design and I felt the same with it. The Audio-Technica just slid open and I liked that. Packaging seemed a little over the top with the magnets in the box and all. Just not needed for something that you'll likely toss.

Bose QC15 first impressions:
Also nice and large for my big head. Earpads were comfortable and roomy enough. Lightweight... Very light compared to the other two. As mentioned above the battery slot seemed like it could break easily but at least this model uses a AAA battery instead of a proprietary battery pack.

Audio-Technica first impressions:
Was a little small on my head. Lighter than the Sennheiser but not as light as the Bose.

Performance:
So I've always tested audio systems of any kind with Outkast's - Way You Move because the intro has a very smooth bass loop at the beginning. The following are my notes I took as I went through each set and compared/recompared... I felt these songs were well known and that many would know what it should sound like no matter what sound system you've heard it on in the past.

outkast - way you move
sennheiser - no bass
audio technica - more bass but not as much as i'd like
bose - nice and boomy

jethro tull - bouree
sennheiser - no feel... sort of like being in the next room
audio technica - good bass and crisp cymbals/flute
bose - as good as audio technica

joe satriani - flying in a blue dream (vinyl)
sennheiser - bass is less but strings seem crisper and pluckier
audio technica - good bass but strings aren't as crisp... slighly dull.
bose - good bass and strings but not as sharp as seinheiser

fleetwood mac - never going back again
seinheiser - full sound
audio technica - had to back off volume because of peak clipping on plucking
bose - full sound with a good bass background

fleetwood mac - go your own way
sennheiser - no feel
audio technica - distortion in highs
bose - excellent hearing mick fleetwood hitting the skins

And for a finally, I put in Rush's - La Villa Strangiato from the Time Machine tour:

I didn't run the audio technica's on this last test because I felt the others were good enough... But in the end the bose really made it feel like you were at the concert rather than the sennheiser's making it seem like you were watching it on a 4:3 tv with mono sound.

Final impressions:
The Sennheiser had a few moments but when you're spending this kind of money on a set of headphones, you want them to be special. You want them to make the music come alive. You want to feel like you're in the studio with the artists and they're playing a private concert specifically for you. In this department, the Sennheiser's really let me down. I may try one of their studio grade headphones sometime but I specifically wanted noise-cancellation which both the Sennheiser and Audio-Technica were good but the Bose had a slight edge on them. Probably not enough to matter as my comparison is with an air conditioner next to my desk which I feel is representative of the white noise you'd hear on an airplane.

The Audio-Technica's I might have kept but the size is a deal breaker and some of the clipping/dullness in the strings just put the extra nails in the coffin.

The Bose are the winners in my book and the one's I'll keep. The Audio-Technica's would be my budget suggestion as they are over $150 less than the Bose and over $200 less than the Sennheisers.
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on October 4, 2014
I was given a pair of these for work use and liked them so much I bought another pair for home use. First, they're very comfortable. The cups are both soft and durable, which is a rare combination in my experience. The headband is also comfortable, never cutting into my head like some headphones I've owned. I wear these all day without a problem. The pressure is just right, and only rarely do the arms of my glasses cause me discomfort.

The sound quality is great. I won't pretend to be an audiophile or anything, and I'm mostly listening to MP3s, but they sound great to me. These won't melt your brain with bass or anything. They'll just give a good, authentic sound.

The noise cancellation is good. If you're unfamiliar with noise cancellation, it is not magical. It will not silence everything. It's mainly good at cutting lower frequencies, like the white noise of machinery (bring them on your next flight and thank me later). The cups are enclosed, so you also get some passive attenuation as well. They're better than conventional headphones of their size but not as good as magic. This isn't a flaw with these in particular, just a limitation of noise cancellation.

They come with lots of excellent accessories. It includes two different cords, one with a mic and iPod controls, one without. You can also use the headphones without a cord at all for the noise cancellation alone. It comes with an excellent, well-made rigid case to keep your headphones protected, and it has a small pocket inside for storing extra batteries or small adapters. It also comes with one of those absurd airplane audio adapters, which I have never, ever encountered a need for in decades. Nice of them to include it I suppose.

Battery life can range from terrible to great. It all depends on how vigilant you are about turning them off when not in use. I've trained myself to hit the switch on the ear cup every time I'm removing them from my head, even if it's only for a moment. If you're good about that then one AAA can last you weeks. Leave them on overnight and you'll only get a day or two. I highly recommend picking up a set of Amazon Basics AAA rechargeables. I keep a few in my case and recharge them every couple months when they're drained. One bad thing is the light on the ear cup will blink most of the time (indicating a low battery). That does not mean the battery is dead, and if you are good about turning it off when not in use you'll still have many days or weeks remaining. What's REALLY TERRIBLE is when the battery is close to dead you'll hear these VERY loud clicks through the headphones. It startles the crap out of me every time. I think they make the noise loud so you'll hear them when they're not on your head. If you swap out the battery earlier you'll never run into this problem.

It should be noted, these headphones cannot be used while turned off. You'll not just get no noise cancellation, but you'll get no audio either. I had some other noise cancelling headphones without this requirement and wish these had the same flexibility. So keep some spare batteries around.

These would be the best headphones I've ever owned even without the noise cancellation. Treat yourself to a pair.
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