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Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Ideal for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phones. Connectivity Technology: Wired
- Advanced noise reduction rivaling any full-sized headphone
- Aware mode for hearing what's around you while enjoying your music
- Notable audio performance from exclusive Bose technologies
- Long-lasting comfort plus stability from proprietary Stay Hear+ tips
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CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
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Shut out the world and lose yourself in your music - or let the world in. It's your choice with the first in-ear noise cancelling headphones from Bose. Quiet Comfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are engineered to let you enjoy better sound every day, everywhere you go. Turn on noise cancelling to reduce surrounding distractions and focus on your music. Or choose Aware mode to continue enjoying your music while also hearing what's going on around you. Inside these advanced headphones, exclusive TriPort technology brings your music to life. Additional exclusive technologies provide dramatic noise cancellation rivaling any full-sized headphone on the market today. The proprietary Stay Hear+ tips create a soft, secure fit - with no need to force them into your ears. The inline mic/remote is compatible with most Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 16 hours of use, and a USB charging cable is included. And even when the power is off or the battery runs out, you can still use these headphones to enjoy Bose quality sound. What's in the Box: Quiet Comfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones, 3 pairs Stay Hear+ tips (S, M, L), Clothing clip, Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, USB charging cable and Carrying case.
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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.
Considering the price, I expected them to last longer.
1) I am extremely tough on headphones. The most durable headphones I ever owned were actually Beats headphones (the $100 in-ears) and they lasted me 2 years. Every other pair I've owned have typically died within 1 year of purchase.
2) I am not an audiophile. I love a good balance of lows, mids and highs, but don't necessarily have an acute sense of when something is too "bassy" or too "tinny". I just know when I like what I hear.
That said, here are the pro's and cons of these headphones.
Great noise cancellation (when the headset is charged)
Great sound (when the noise cancellation is on)
Very comfortable fit with the right size ear pieces
Noise cancellation is mediocre when the active cancellation feature is off
The balance of sound is sub-par when noise cancellation isn't on
The active noise cancellation "box" at the end of the cable is HORRIBLE (see inconvenient)
As I mentioned in my notes above, I am extremely tough on my headphones. It's not that I don't try to take care of them, but with as often as I travel and am active (working in the yard on projects, working out, etc...) I have a tendency to not want to care about my headphones and instead focus on the activity I'm doing. That said, I was extremely disappointed that after spending $300 on a pair of headphones, they last less than 18 months. After the amount of usage they got, a few things went wrong.
1) The tip of the headphones (the piece that inserts into the phone / player) bent.
2) The microphone stopped working altogether
Now, I feel that it's absolutely worth mentioning (and hence the 4 star rating), is that my experience with Bose customer service was fantastic. I called the support line to get a replacement pair sent (at a highly discounted rate I might add), and while on the phone, I was given an additional percentage off because of the experience I had with the headphones not lasting. The support person I talked to was top notch, and made the experience very pleasant. That is what being a world-class company is all about.
If you are as tough on headphones as I am, it MAY be worth looking elsewhere as some of the design flaws (active noise placement) can significantly reduce the life of these headphones. But, not many companies out there take care of their customers like Bose did for me, so IF you have issues, you can be assured you will be taken care of.
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Hint: Keep a small power pack handy incase you need to recharge this earpiece while using it.Read more