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Customer Review

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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