19 Bose QC 35 aBose has just announced a new noise-cancelling headphone and the big news is Bluetooth and near-field communication. For my money Bose makes the best performing noise-cancellers in the biz and I have no problems with Bluetooth and NFC, but the other big change – the inclusion of a rechargeable battery – has become the subject of spirited debate at our place. Better half Sheryl, who does a lot of to-and-fro to Singapore and Europe, thinks it’s a great idea. Me, shuttling about on the domestic routes, not so much.

I like that my QC25s run on a single AAA battery. It lasts and lasts, usually well beyond Bose’s stated 30 hours, and when it finally runs out changing it takes less than 30 seconds. And there’s a spare battery in the carrycase. I don’t have to fret about charge levels. With the new, rechargeable QC35s I have visions of being an hour into a Sydney-Perth flight and running out of juice. Murphy will dictate this happens in an old banger built before USB outlets were born. Sure depleted 35s will still play music through the cable, but there’s no noise cancelling. One never realises just how wonderful noise cancelling is until it is torn from one.

Sheryl likes not having to change batteries and has no problem with the two-and-a-quarter hour recharge time. All the planes she’s been in lately have USBs at every seat, even in the depths of economy, and plugging in does not worry her. I suggest that getting a meal tray into that equation may complicate matters, she tells me to get over it.

I must admit that cordless is the way to go on planes and the lack of Bluetooth and/or NFC on over-ear noise-cancellers has been the major hole in the Bose range. Running on Bluetooth the internal lithium-ion battery in the 35s will go for a stated 20 hours, using a cord gets twice that and using the cord will yield an improvement in sound quality too. Given the sound quality of the 35s, which Bose claims is improved over the 25s by volume-dependent equalisation and wind rejecting microphones, I am disappointed that the Bluetooth is not AptX.

19 Bose QC 35 cI play my last card in the AAA-versus-rechargeable debate. As anyone who has kept a phone or a tablet for more than a couple of years will know rechargeable batteries wear out. Slowly the time between charges gets shorter and shorter until eventually the battery is practically useless and the only option is to throw the device away and get another one. But Sheryl doesn’t mind this, it gives her an excuse to upgrade to the latest thing. Most recently it was her Kindle, pretty soon it will be a phone.

Bose claims that after 500 charge cycles at least 80 per cent of the battery’s original capacity will still be available and I concede that this is a lot of flights. Even folk who use their noise-cancellers at work – and there are lots of them – will easily get two or three years before they start noticing anything.

The only problem Sheryl has with the 35s is that they’re only available in black or silver and she’s very fond of her white 25s.

I guess the good news is that whatever side of this argument you may favour you can stay happy because Bose will continue to sell the $399 QC25s alongside the new $499 QC35s. And in a few months it will introduce QC30 Bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds and these have a most interesting and usable idea for commuters; you can adjust the level of noise cancelling.

Should you wish to be aware of the arrival of your bus you turn the noise cancelling down to get more ambient sound into the mix. Once safely seated inside you crank it up again and escape into your own little cocoon. And as you turn it up and down there is no change to the volume of the music. The very clever electronics have been shoehorned into a neckband and there are six microphones in there. You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black.

They’re $399.

Published June 2016


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