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Bose QC20 earphones review – the sweet sound of silence

There’s a surprising amount of noise that you encounter in everyday life that you don’t notice until it’s taken away from you. That’s what the Bose QuietComfort® 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® (QC20) headphones made me realise with its awesome noise-cancelling function. I had already seen it in action when I was invited down to the launch event previously, so I was really keen to see how effective they would be on my trip to the Maldives.

The nice thing about earphones is their compact size, especially when compared to bulky headphones. These QC20s came in a convenient padded carrying pack, though they take up a little bit more space, mostly due to the noise-cancelling technology, but are still fairly easy to stash away in your pocket or bag.

Bose QC20 Earphones

Here is my review pack – a small pouch that contained the earphones, a charging USB port and two other sizes for the earphones.

As mentioned previously, the moon-shaped earpieces are also quite comfortable – normally I have to take my earphones out from time to time just to give my ears a break from the soreness, but these were really comfortable once you figured out how to get them to sit in your ear – you kinda have to wiggle them around a bit so they sit right, it takes a bit of experimenting. There are 3 sizes of ear buds so choose the right ones that fit in your ear.

The noise cancelling technology remains awesome, wonderful and somewhat mystical to me – toggling the switch on turned the loud roar of the plane taking off to a much more manageable hum, which I estimate is around 20% of the original sound; surprisingly restful for my ears, I barely even heard the plane take off and land. I wore it throughout the flight as well, even when I was sleeping, and I think I managed a better nap than usual because of the quiet – never quite realized how much noise the plane makes in transit. Music and dialogue from shows I was watching were also much easier to hear with the roar muffled, I didn’t have to turn the volume as loud as I normally do.

The noise cancelling is great for eliminating background noise, but when it comes to voices, it’s a little hit and miss. Some voices were completely blocked out – my friends in conversation looked like they were mouthing words silently at me, or sounded like they were very far away. Other loud tourists nearby were also muffled, though ironically the noise cancelling actually made it easier to pick up on what they were saying because there was less interference from the background sound. Also sadly, while the wailing toddler two rows down was less ear-piercing, it didn’t manage to block out that sound completely.

Bose QC20 Earphones

Just a quick flick of the switch makes all the noise disappear. The odd looking moonshaped

The Aware mode is basically just turning off the noise cancellation – the background sound level feels the same as if your earphones were off, so you can hear things as if you didn’t have them on. I didn’t actually use this very much – mostly when my friends wanted to ask me something, but for plane and airport announcements, it was loud enough to bypass the noise cancellation mode so I didn’t have to turn on the Aware mode.

Needless to say, my travelling companions were intrigued by this device – I loaned it around to get their opinions, and there was generally pleasant surprise at the powerful noise reduction, though the high price point left most a little iffy about whether they would get it, which is the same conclusion I drew myself. I love the idea of it and I’m convinced that the technology is stellar, but S$499 is really a little out of my price range right now. Perhaps a gift for someone, or if you really need the peace and quiet.

Want to find out more about the QC20s? Head over to the Atlas E-Store!

Thanks to Bose and Hoffman Agency for loaning me a pair for the review.

Looking for more affordable earphones? Why not check out my Sudio earphones review?