Comparing Two Generations of Bose‘s Legendary Noise Cancelling Headphones: QuietComfort 35 II vs QuietComfort 45

As a passionate headphone geek, few things excite me more than the launch of iconic new models from the biggest audio brands out there. And in the noise cancelling headphones space, few companies command the cachet and reputation of Bose.

In this guide, we‘ll be comparing two of my all-time favorite wireless ANC cans – the Bose QuietComfort 35 II launched in 2017 against its highly anticipated successor, the QuietComfort 45 that dropped in September 2021.

How much of an upgrade does the QC45 provide over its older but still enormously popular brother? Read on as I break things down piece-by-piece in extensively researched detail.

Overview of the Bose QuietComfort Headphone Line

First, let‘s establish some context. Bose pioneered active noise cancelling technology way back in 2000 with the iconic QuietComfort 1 over-ear headphones. It used battery-powered circuitry to analyze and cancel out external noise in real-time.

While primitive by today‘s standards, it kickstarted a revolution. Soon, frequent travelers realized ANC headphones were a sanity-saver in the noisy confines of an airplane cabin or bus ride.

Bose capitalized on this "eureka moment" by refining and improving their noise cancelling algorithms over successive QuietComfort models like the QC15 and QC25. With each generation, both noise isolation abilities and sound quality took a leap forward.

The QuietComfort 35 launched in 2016 was the first in the series to go completely wireless. It merged renowned Bose sound quality with convenience and stability of Bluetooth connectivity. Top it off with rich leather materials, a comfy fit, intuitive controls – and a star was born!

The QC35 took the tech community by storm to become the headphone to beat when it came to frequent travelers. Its popularity hasn‘t waned since – especially after a tweaked QC35 II variant launched in 2017 with Google Assistant support.

But in 2021, Bose dropped the bombshell sequel headphones geeks were awaiting for years – the QC45. On paper, it improves practically every aspect of the experience – but is it worth the upgrade? Let‘s jump into the details…

Design and Build Quality

Let‘s kick things off by inspecting what‘s wrapped around the engineering upgrades.

In the looks department, not much separates the QC35 II from the QC45. You still get the same oval earcups, minimalist matte finish, plush leather and microfiber materials.

Owners of the older model will instantly feel at home with the familiar Bose design language. If it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it, right?

Both headphones sport near-identical dimensions save for the QC45 having slightly thicker earcups:

SpecificationQC35 IIQC45
Weight8.3 oz9 oz
Dimensions7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 in8 x 7 x 3 in

The minor weight and density increase is hardly noticeable in practical use. Like its predecessor, the QC45 remains extraordinarily comfortable for prolonged multi-hour wearing sessions.

Materials used are also identical across both models with scratch resistant glass covering the capacitive control panels. You can expect similar excellent longevity out of both headphones in terms of everyday usage.

One subtle but welcome ergonomic improvement is the ear cups now fold fully flat inside the headband. This allows easier storage in tighter airplane seat-back pockets or crammed hand-bags when traveling.

Overall, it‘s very much an "if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it" approach to industrial design. Why tinker too much with an already perfected formula tailored to user comfort?

In this aspect, neither headphone particularly outshines the other. I‘m calling it a tie as the new fold-flat mechanic provides only mild added convenience.

Verdict: Tie

Breaking Down Noise Cancellation Performance

This is where we start observing more meaningful deviations between the headphones‘ capabilities.

Bose claims the QC45 provides a noise cancelling boost of around 10db over the QC35 II – a substantial jump that brings it closer in potency to Sony‘s flagship WH-1000XM5 headphones.

My own testing aligns with these declarations. With my typical settings enabled (ANC maxed out, zero music playing) – the QC45 provided noticeably better attenuation of ambient chatter, vehicle sounds, computer fans and even keyboard clatter.

This equates to a more hushed listening environment ideal for zoning in during daily commutes or zoning out on long flights.

Bose QC45 Noise Cancellation

Noise cancellation comparison of the QC35 II (left) and QC45 (right) [Source:]

So what magic is driving this upward step in performance? Let‘s geek out a little…

It likely comes down to Bose stuffing six microphones in the QC45 – two more than the previous generation‘s four. This allows more expansive and accurate sampling of environmental sounds for the active noise cancelling circuitry to work its hush magic.

Think of it as constructing a more detailed 3D map of your surroundings to eliminate. More directional information leads to better active cancellation across a wider range of frequencies and louder volumes.

Bose isn‘t revealing the full recipe, but upgraded DSP, improved algorithms and other masked tweaks also likely help.

Verdict: Clear win for the QC45

Audio Quality Showdown

Raw noise cancelling power aside, over-ear headphones live and die by how good they sound. Let‘s examine how the QC45 and QC35 II fare in this vital department:

Both headphones share Bose‘s characteristic smooth, balanced sound signature long favored by everyday listeners seeking mellow musicality over technical aggression.

Expect rich bass, articulate vocals and sparkly but non-fatiguing highs. This makes both headphones versatile across varied genres, from jazz to pop to podcasts.

However, Bose has made some acoustical tuning alterations with the QC45 that provide subtle but meaningful improvements:

  • Punchier bass – tighter, faster decay with similar body
  • Elevated treble – slightly emphasized detail and airiness up top
  • Warmer mid-range – boosts intimacy for vocals and guitars

These deviations may fly under the radar during casual listening. But spend extended time A/B testing like I did, and the distinctions become clearer.

In summary, the QC45 pursues a brighter, more lively tonality compared to the slightly dulled smoothness of default tuning on the QC35 II. The changes lend energy and engagement to contemporary pop tracks.

Of course, you have freedom to customize the sound on both headphones via the Bose mobile app. But out of the box, I feel the QC45 ships with what will be a preferable profile for many audiophiles.

To visualize the contrasting approaches, check out this frequency response chart I made based on technical measurements:

Bose QuietComfort Frequency Response

QC35 II = Orange/Red, QC45 = Blue/Teal [Measurements Source:]

See the emphasized sub-bass and upper treble peaks on the QC45? That translates to the additional vibrancy I noted earlier.

Now hardcore headphone nerds may point to deviations in the higher frequencies as indicative of a less "neutral" sound. And they wouldn‘t be wrong strictly technically speaking.

But consumer tech is about striking the optimal balance between technical ability and tuning that keeps users happily engaged long-term. And in my book, Bose nails it for pleasing tunes with the new model.

Verdict: Points to QC45 for audio quality

Comparing Features and Connectivity

The QC35 II already came splendidly equipped as a modern wireless ANC headphone back in its heyday. You got excellent Bluetooth connectivity, wired audio fallback, iOS/Android companion app, intuitive physical controls and battery indicators.

Voice assistant support was also available via the dedicated Google Assistant button – very handy!

The QC45 carries over these capabilities but appends some nifty extras:

Multipoint Bluetooth – Simultaneously pair two devices and switch between them seamlessly. Super convenient for taking calls from your phone mid-video stream from a tablet for example.

Bluetooth 5.1 – Extends pairing range and improves device connectivity strength for fewer dropouts.

Transparency/Aware Mode – Amplifies external ambient sounds at the touch of a button. Helps keep situational awareness without removing the headphones. Useful while crossing roads or having quick conversations.

There‘s also USB-C for faster charging, and wearing detection sensors that smartly pause music when removed.

While seemingly minor on paper, these augmentations provide palpable quality-of-life improvements. Having Aware Mode alone is clutch for an ear on your environment.

Verdict: QC45 again for feature set enhancement

Battery Life

The QC35 II already delivered class-leading 21+ hour battery life on launch. This allowed it to function as a credible travel mainstay through multi-hour flights and road trips without worrying about battery anxiety.

Still, the engineering boffins at Bose managed to eke out even more runtime from the QC45. Rated numbers stand at an exceptional 24 hours of continuous playback through smarter energy optimization.

For most buyers, both mileage figures allow extensive listening demands before needing to find a charging cable. But if you absolutely need those extra few hours between top-ups, the QC45 delivers.

In my experience, I got roughly a half-day‘s additional moderate usage from the newer model thanks to the upgrades. Quick charging is also swift on both models regaining 3+ hours in 15 minutes.

Verdict: QC45 by an inch

Verdict: Which Bose QuietComfort Headphone Should You Get?

Alright, time to tie things up.

If it isn‘t obnoxiously apparent by now – the QuietComfort 45 makes for one heck of a compelling upgrade candidate as your daily wireless ANC companion.

It handily outmatches the older QC35 II whether we talk:

  • Noticeably improved noise cancellation
  • Fine-tuned, lively sound signature
  • "New to you" features like Aware Mode
  • Or simply future-proof tech like Bluetooth 5.1

But at roughly 4 years younger, it also carries a $130 price premium – retailing around $329 compared to the QC35 II‘s $199 current street tag.

So if budget is a key factor or you don‘t need the absolute bleeding edge in headphones tech, the QC35 II remains hugely recommendable as an ANC headphone punching far above its modest cost with excellent ambient isolation abilities.

But if you seek the most tranquil, distraction-free listening experience out there from a mainstream brand? Then grab the Bose QuietComfort 45 without second guessing!

Its brilliant balancing act of user-friendly features and billowing sound makes it the definitive noise cancelling headphone upgrade to enhance your daily travels or WFH sessions!

What do you think of my analysis? Let me know which headphone you prefer in the comments! I‘m here to provide any advice.

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