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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 June 9, 2014
The sound quality on these headphones is wonderful. I'd forgotten how nice real over the ear headphones could sound after years of using earbuds but these converted me back. The noise canceling features work well and really reduce the background noise on my commute (the BART trains of the SF Bay Area).

My only complaint is the lack of support for Android phones as controllable music players. You have to use the plain cable with your Android phone or you won't even get stereo sound, also the controls don't work for the Android devices. I've tried it on a Samsung Galaxy SII, a Motorola Droid Mini, and a Google Nexus 7. Plug it into the iPhone 4S or 5S or a Mac Laptop and everything is perfect. Bose doesn't advertise support for Android, but I really think they should. And before you think you can just find a third party cable - don't bother. As of the time I write this there is only one, and it flips the L and R channels which really annoys some.

Add full Android support and this becomes a five star review.
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Enthusiast: BBQon October 17, 2014
Amazing! These are the first set of noise cancelling headphones I have bought, so I can't compare them to the others out there but I can say they are fantastic. I bought these for two main reasons: One, I was about to take a series of long flights economy class and, two, to use at work. On the six different flights I had to take, I was always fairly close to the engines. These headphones are amazing in how they distinguish between sound and noise. The engine noise went from a roar to barely audible, without affecting the sound quality of the music or movie I was listening to. They even eliminated the noise of a crying baby. (There's always a crying baby). Yet, I could hear and speak with the flight attendants and hear the announcements without removing the headphones. When I ordered these, I was a bit concerned aout the comfort of over the ear headphones as I wear glasses and headphones sometimes uncomfortably push against the stems of the glasses. However, I was able to wear these through most of a 10 hour flight. When I wear these at work, all the background noise is eliminated, yet I can carry on conversations without problem. The only improvement I would like to see is the ability to customize the noise elimination for specific environments. As far as I am aware, there are no noise canceling headphones on the market that do this.
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on February 15, 2015
Of course these are awesome. Bose is the standard. I bought their first pair until they fell apart some ? 20 years ago. Forget Dr. Dre and the over priced clunky things. GO on any aircraft and you'll see the "elite" passengers with Bose. Bose invented noise cancelling...period. Always buy the "over ear" ones since you get the max power of noise cancelling. I have had all sorts of short cut ones and been fooled by "noise reducing". Never buy "noise reducing". If you want real noise reduction buy ear muffs for a rifle range! I once took my shooting ear buds and ear muffs on a plane - worked great with one on top of the other. The whole point of ear protection on a plane is that you do arrive more rested - at least I do. The constant pounding on your ear drums is more exhausting than you'd imagine on a 14 hour flight. Most times I use only 15 cent construction equipment foam ear plugs. But, my QuietComfort is awesome for great sound while watching a movie. Go Bose or go home!
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on January 18, 2014
This was done with a side by side comparison with an audio splitter so I could compare these under the same conditions and switch between them very quickly...

Passive Noise Cancellation (just the earcups on)... Slight edge to QC15.
White Noise Cancellation (I used a youtube track of airplane noise)... VERY close (slight edge to QC15)
Random Noise cancellation (voices, etc...)... QC15 wins hands down.
Comfort... Equal. The QC15 articulate more in all directions which may allow for a more custom fit on some people though.
Durability... VERY close (slight edge to ANC7 because of the extension slide on the QC15's being thinner)
Sound... QC15, ANC7 sounds slightly tinny by comparison. (SLIGHTLY)
Convenience of use... ANC7. The proprietary cord on the QC15 is annoying and too long plus you have to have noise canceling on to hear audio. It irks me that they have a cord you can only get from them. It's just an excuse to get more $ out of you down the road. The high/low volume switch is pointless and a stupid marketing gimmick to make the cord seem like it serves a purpose. Just leave it on high and turn the volume down. Plus it's awkward to store in the case when you take it out because the end is rather large. Neither is an issue with the ANC's. The ANC's can pretty much take any headphone audio cable so you can get one you like if the one it comes with is too long/short for you. You get sound even with a dead battery unlike the Bose as well, although it's not good sound and I never really had an issue with this because I keep extra batteries in the case.

Having owned both I went with the QC15's after one of the speakers in my ANC7's starting crackling because the $100 premium was worth the extra noise canceling and slightly better sound even though the cable is annoying once you're listening I find it's just enough of an improvement to be worth it. These are both great though and in reality very close. I owned the ANC7's for years and was happy with them but there were times when they just couldn't quite cancel enough of the sound for me.
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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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on October 5, 2017
The headphones are extremely comfortable on the ears. When you turn on the noise cancelling switch, it blocks out nearly all of my surrounding sound so that I only hear what's playing on my mac or phone. When I'm not playing music and I use it for complete silence, I can still hear some things. If I'm in a coffee shop, I will still hear people talking, however I can't understand their entire conversation, it'll just sound muffled. Of course for the price I would've thought the noise-cancelling would be better, but I still like the headphones.
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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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on March 11, 2014
Wait, that was the slogan for Porsche. Anyhow the sound on these headphones is superb. The "suction" created by the noise canceling takes a bit to get used to. I won't fly on an airplane without them now. Sometimes I don't even play music. I just listen to the sound...of silence. Noise cancelled silence that is. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. The build quality is decent with the exception of the battery compartment. The plastic tab which holds the battery door shut is very cheap and poorly constructed. Fragile. Frah gee lay. Must be Italian. In summary for the bose noise canceling headphones: great sound, ok construction, be careful with the battery door, flip the switch to on and let the sweet sweet cancellation of noise carry you far away from the screaming child in seat 16b.
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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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