Product Review: Bose QC20 Noise Canceling Headphones @bose


Please note – this is not in any way a sponsored post. I received the Bose QC20 In-Ear Noise Canceling headphones as a Christmas present. The Amazon links are affiliate links though.

I travel quite a bit, and needless to say, planes are loud. Just the noise from the engines and the air passing over the jet body can be enough to drive a person a little nuts, to say nothing of the other passengers and the numerous crying children that are on every flight. My co-worker who also travels a lot recommended that I get a pair of noise canceling headphones, so I asked my wife for a pair for Christmas.

We had visited the Bose store in the Westfield City mall, and I tried these in the store. I had tried the Bose Noise Canceling HeadphonesQC15 headphones (the over-ear ones) and they were quite good – these were the model recommended by my co-worker. The representative at the store recommended that I try the Bose Noise Canceling HeadphonesQC20 headphones as well.

It was love at first hear. As soon as I switched on the noise canceling, the world was reduced to the volume I think it should be all the time. It was fantastic. I didn’t want to ever turn them off and I certainly didn’t want to leave the store without them, but I was patient and waited to see what Christmas would bring.

I was fortunate that I got these, and today was the first day that I used them for a full day. I had to travel from London to Farnborough, and so I charged the QC20 headphones overnight and turned them on as I left the building this morning. The world descended into quiet and it was such a pleasant thing! The best part was that it didn’t interfere with my hearing things – the sound was just at a reasonable level (since I consider most everything too loud).

I used them on the Tube, and it was great to be able to stand there in the quiet – even though I knew that the Tube was rocketing through the tunnel and giving off that low screech that it does on the rails. I couldn’t hear it at all! It was bliss. Once on the train to Farnborough, settled into my first class seat, I was all but alone (there was one other gent in the carriage) and I couldn’t hear him at all. I could still hear the announcements though – instead of blaring through the train coach I could hear them as if someone were sitting next to me talking at a reasonable volume.

On a couple of occasions, I used the “Aware Mode” button on the side next to the mic, and I was able to hear things much louder – once when I wasn’t sure if I’d missed an announcement (I hadn’t), and once just to see what it did.

There are some small negatives to the headphones. First, the control module is a little unwieldy (as you can see in the picture). It’s fairly big, and since I keep my phone in my pocket, this portion of the cord hangs outside my pocket and can’t easily be put in with my phone. I understand that that’s likely the battery and that a different battery would decrease the 16 hours of charge time you get with the headphones, but it’s still awkward.

Second, though there is an “Aware Mode” button that you can use to allow you to shut off the noise canceling temporarily (without actually turning it off), when you’re using it to interact with people they don’t understand that you can hear them. To them, it just looks like you have headphones in and you’re being rude. You have to pop one of the earphones out as is the standard social convention because they have no way of knowing that even though you have the headphones in that you can still hear them. If there were a way to use some kind of led to indicate that you could hear them that would make it more obvious but at the same time then you’d have to develop a social convention around that!

Those two negatives aside, these headphones are fantastic. I would recommend them to everyone, even given the fairly expensive price. If you’re a frequent traveler, you will definitely find these useful, especially on planes. I haven’t had a chance to test them on planes yet, but I will by next week, and given how well they worked on the Tube I’m sure that they will work equally well on a plane. I imagine that for once I will finally get some peace and quiet in coach!