Review: Bose Quiet Comfort 45
As a daily rider of the local light rail to the office (pre-COVID naturally), I listened to music from my phone during the journey while reading. For the longest time I used the ear buds that came with my iPhone, but I wanted to ditch the wire, and being happy with my vintage 2004 wired Bose headphones, I took the plunge.
Pricewise, they were not terrible. Sure, I could have bought a dozen off brand versions that Amazon served up, but the only real competition were the Sony's, and they were a little better in noise cancellation, but they were bigger. I stuck with the brand I know, and chose the Bose.
Having lived with them for 2 years now, I have some observations to make...
Performance - Sound quality is excellent, with good enough dynamic range that my relatively uncalibrated ears can't detect any defects throughout the range. I do not listen to much "Pop" or hip-hop, so I can't gauge the bass performance, but I understand that some connoisseurs bag these and prefer a different arrangement.
But audio performance is only part of the story. Like most modern headphones, these also function as a headset when connected to a phone. And that works well enough. The microphone does a decent job picking up your voice, while filtering out much of the background. There is no boom, so it is coming from the earmuff on the right side.
Bluetooth Performance - here is where some demerits begin to accrue. First, like most modern headphones, it supports being connected up to two concurrent devices (like your phone and your computer). You can do this by just repeating the connecting process twice. Of course, with the Bose app on my iPhone I can have it connect to my work laptop (a Mac) and my home Mac (a Mini) and use the app to enable/disable whichever one I don't want to use.
But this works better in theory than in practice. It seems that I am constantly re-setting my preferences, and forcing it to connect (or disconnect) from one device or the other. To be honest, until I started working from home semi-permanently in the COVID era, this wasn't a big deal, as I rarely turned on my work laptop at home.
But now that I am at home, there seems to be a lot of bouncing between the two Mac's and it is super annoying. I ended up deleting (un-remembering) the Bose configuration on my work laptop, which leads to another issue, albeit not Bose's
While using the headphones in WebEx meetings, I got a lot of weird behavior. Drops, skips, inability to mute properly, and more. Additionally, listening to music on my work laptop was flat, and definitely without some "pop". It seems that the enterprise management layer that my company installs to protect their network (good stuff, I agree) plays games with the bluetooth stack. It mattered not one whit what bluetooth headset I used (and I tried several) I got the same lousy performance. The solution to that was to - ironically - buy a Plantronics BT600 headset ($180) that came with its own bluetooth dongle, and to use that.
Boom, suddenly no issues with audio and meeting performance. Man, I wasted time on that... (I will admit that I even bought a set of Airpod Pro's that had the same glitches)
Bluetooth Range - But, there is one other issue. That is the range. While the QC45's sound great, and I am free to roam, they have a fairly short range before the audio devolves into digital fuzz. Maybe 2/3 the roaming range of the tiny Airpods. For a high dollar bluetooth headphone, that is disappointing (and the Plantronics slays here, I can walk out into my garage without any real issues).
Still, these are quasi audiophile headphones, not roam abouts, so I will cut them some slack here. I just wish they worked as well as the Airpods.
Battery Life - That is pretty decent. I get a solid 7 or 8 hours of music listening at moderate volumes, before the first "low battery" warning materializes. I could probably stretch it out a bit beyond that, but that is quite good. A heavy day of meetings, with the crappy audio performance (say 6 hours on meetings) would leave the headset with about 50% battery left.
The Bose App - when I first bought them I loved the app. It allowed me to decide what device to connect to, and that was handy. It also read the battery level. Cool. But it is pretty lame otherwise, and lately I have stopped using it. In fact I just have the headphones connected to my Windows PC these days, because ...
Bouncing Bluetooth - the latest OS for the iPhone must have fucked with the bluetooth stack. I know this because, I will be listening to music or a podcast and I will get like 10 announcement pairs "iPhone disconnected" followed 2 seconds later with "iPhone connected". I had to go and unremember the Bose's from my iphone, ipad, work laptop, home mac, just to not get this bounce.
To me, this is a fatal flaw. Perhaps it is because the Bose, being 2+ years old has last gen Bluetooth chipsets, or because they are possessed by teh devil, it basically means that I can't have multiple devices connected. That is fine though, because I have the Air Pods, and they work very well in the Apple ecosystem.
Yes, they were pricey, yes they have some flaws with connectivity (to be fair, the glitchy audio is NOT Bose's fault) and later Apple OS's make them flakey, for what I purchased them for, listening to music on my commute, they worked great.
Would I recommend them? Well, I suspect that the latest shipping versions have a better Bluetooth chipset, and support. There are less expensive alternatives, but the original works well, and if the support is what I experienced with my original set from the early oughts, Bose will take care of you (that's part of the reason of the high price).
If you do a lot of video conferencing, I would recommend the Plantronics BT600, and use the dongle.