Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (2023)

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (1)

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The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones replace the ageing QC35 (original and II) that set the standards for the jet-setting traveller. Small, light, great ANC, and pretty good music. The QC45s have a lot to live up to.

In case you have an older pair (and love them to death), the differences include

  • Similar folding look and feel, durability, case, power switch and volume keys
  • USB-C (micro-USB)
  • Aware mode (no)
  • Bose Music App with more features (Connect App)
  • Smart Assistant support (no)
  • Auto-off timer (no)
  • BT 5.1, multi-point, and SBC/AAC codecs (BT 4.1, no, and same)
  • Approx 30 hours battery life (20 hours)
  • ANC 20Hz to 1.1kHz ANC (20Hz to .8kHz)
  • More neutral sound signature with a bass boost and EQ (more what Bose wants you to hear)

Its competitors are

  • Sony WH-1000XM5
  • Sennheiser PXC-II (older but also set travel standards)
  • Sennheiser Momentum 3 (newer and larger – more for music pleasure)

It is a suitable evolution of the venerable QC35 and QC35 II

Australian review: Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45)

WebsiteProduct Page
Price RRP$499.95 but shop around
ColoursBlack, Midnight Blue, Eclipse Grey, or White Smoke
Warranty1-year
Country of originThailand
CompanyBose (Est 1964) by Amar Bose in 1964 in Framingham, Massachusetts. It is best known for its home audio systems, speakers, noise-cancelling headphones, professional audio products, and automobile sound systems. Bose has a reputation for being particularly protective of its patents, trademarks, and brands and seldom reveals the specifications of its products. The majority owner is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
MoreCyberShack Bose news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed. Bose does not provide detailed specifications, so our review is based on best estimates.

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (2)
Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (3)
Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (4)

First Impression – more of the same, but you would be wrong – Pass+

While Bose wisely decided to continue the look and feel of the QC35, it belies the technology advances underneath.

My wife has been using a QC35 II for about four years, and it has stood the test of travel. It is about time to buy replacement earpads, as her makeup has slightly affected the PU material. And that is why you buy Bose over some generic brands – replacement parts and great service.

Instead, the QC35 II will go to a thankful relative and my wife, when offered the choice of the Sennheiser PXC-550 II (that I also use) or the Bose, chose it.

The design is great for travellers as it folds flat and inwards for storage in its hard-sided zipper case.

Setup – Pass+

Charge, pair via BT to any PC, Mac, or smartphone host; that is all you need. The QC45s have enough physical buttons to work without the Bose Music app. And that includes a power/BT button.

Bose Music App – Pass

It is the same one size fits all App for headphones and other Bose products. The App simply enables things that work for the item.

  • Modes are Quite (it defaults to ANC) and Aware, and you can remember one for start-up.
  • The EQ is basic – a three-band Bass/Mid/Treble with Bass Boost, Bass Reduce, Treble Boost and Treble reducer. Regrettably, you can’t customise a pre-set and download it to the headphones.
  • Source covers the last six BT host pairs. It does not support multi-point pairing; you change that via the App.
  • Self-voice (called sidetone) covers how much of your voice you hear during a call – High, medium, low or off.
  • Auto-off covers from never to three hours.

How does it sound? Pass+

You have two options – BT or 3.5mm cable. Both have different sound signatures.

BT: Volume peaks at 84dB. It has over-emphasised 50Hz (mid-bass) and builds to 100Hz (high-bass), then almost flat to 5kHz (low treble) and then relatively flat to 20kHz. If you want to know more about sound signatures, read our guide How to tell if you have good music (a sound signature is the key).

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) – BT, ANC, small and sweet (review) - Cybershack (5)

3.5mm (native analogue sound): Volume depends on the listening source. There is no low-mid-high bass. Mid builds from 300Hz, peaking at 1.3kHz (mid-mid), and it is pretty well downhill from there with harsh mid-high-treble. Volume peaks at 74dB (OK). Cable listening gives it a Bright vocal signature that can be harsh. If you added more bass (and you can’t), it would be back to a Bose Balanced Signature.

Conclusion: Use BT and let Bose do its magic.

BT Codecs – limited – Pass

It has SBC for everything bar Apple with ACC. We would have liked some high-res (LDAC) or adaptive codecs (aptX), as it does not support aptX (any variant). At best, you will get 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality, which is OK over Bluetooth.

ANC – Quiet mode or aware mode – Pass+ to exceed

Some ANC headphones have adjustable levels, but Bose has Aware (hear-through) or Quiet – no ‘off’ unless using a 3.5mm cable.

There is nothing wrong with Quite – it does a fantastic job blocking everything. But there is a perceptible, not unpleasant, ear ‘pressure’ that may affect some people.

Aware mode uses the mics to bring the outside in, and it does a good job with minimal blocking.

Conclusion: Very acceptable for a 240g travel headphone.

Sound stage – Pass

As in all closed-back headphones, the sound stage is just wider than your head. Dolby Atmos content widens the horizontal and vertical sound stage a little.

Battery – Exceed

Bose quote 24 hours at 50% volume with ANC on. Well, for starters, most users will listen at 70-80%, and we got 18 hours and 43 minutes. Charge time was 2 hours and 12 minutes – under the 2.5-hour claim. Quite impressive.

These are USB-C but only require a 5V/.5A/2.5W charger. It will charge with any USB-C or USB-A charger.

Hands-free – BT only – Pass

The mics are excellent but have difficulty separating your voice from background noise. Callers said my voice was clear but use hands-free indoors and out of the wind.

Sound leakage – Pass

Because of Tri-porting, you can hear the headphones from an adjacent seat!

Latency – not for gamers – Pass

We cannot measure latency, but they kept up with lip-sync video. We understand that BT latency is about 180ms. Gamers can use the cabled option, but the mics are disabled.

CyberShack’s view – Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (QC45) are for travellers

The real competition is Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser PXC 550-II (although this is quite an old model now and likely due for replacement).

The Sennheiser (EPOS Aston Martin review – same headphones with added UC capabilities) excels on a few fronts

  • 227g – it is lighter than 240g (not much)
  • SBC, AAX, AptX, AptX Low Latency (SBC and AAC only)
  • Can charge and play over USB – great for long travel
  • Superior hand-free use and background noise reduction
  • Better sound signature
  • Fold flat and in (like the Bose)
  • Excellent App
  • 2-year warranty

The Sony WH-1000XM5 BT, ANC, headphones – great gets even better (review)

  • 250g – slightly heavier
  • Multi-point
  • Better App (than Bose)
  • Superior hands-free background noise reduction
  • SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs (no LDAC)
  • Does not fold-in

Bose QC45 (this review)

  • 240g – comfortable
  • SBC, AAC
  • Best ANC
  • Fold-in and Flat
  • Physical buttons

You would be happy with any of these. As I said, when faced with the choice of all three, my wife chose the Bose.

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones specs

Note that, as usual, Bose publishes limited specs

ItemBose QuietComfort 45 (QC45)
WebsiteProduct page
Price$499.95 but shop around
Warranty12-month ACL if bought from Bose approved reseller
Country of originThailand
ColoursBlack or White Smoke
Bluetooth5.1 with SBC and AAC
multi-point pairing to two devices
Battery (claims)24 hours 50% volume and ANC on
Charge timeUSB-C 2.5 hours (cannot play while charging)
15-minutes for three hours of playtime
AppBose Music
ANC (Active noise cancellation)Quiet mode
ControlsButtons: (Right) Power/Bluetooth on/off, Volume up/down, Power and multi-function button. (Left) Quiet/Aware mode
SidetoneAdjustable in App
Hear throughAware mode
Voice guidanceLimited
SpeakersNot specified
Sound stageThe sound stage is just outside your ears. Good Left/right separation.
Personal sound profileNo
EQ/presentsNo
Simple SyncConnect to a Bose Soundbar (700, 500) or Smart speaker (500, 300n and portable home speaker)
MicNot specified but expect 2 x inside ear cup for ANC and an external microphone array for voice detection and noise cancellation
IPNo
Weight (g)240g
BuildGlass-filled nylon reinforces the headband to protect against falls and maintain its shape. Each pivot point has a cast-metal hinge. Synthetic leather (PU) on the earcup cushions and headband. Fold-flat and in for storage
InboxHard-sided carry case
30.5cm USB-A-USB-C charge cable
3.5mm to 2.5mm 3-pole (stereo) cable – No ANC or microphone
Voice assistantsUses phones default

Pros

  • Bose quality
  • Comfortable for the long haul
  • Possibly best in class ANC
  • Fold-in and flat for travel
  • New natural sound signature and App EQ

Cons

  • Cannot use while being charged
  • Only ANC on or Aware on – not adjustable
  • No Qualcomm aptX codecs

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