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Bose Says Its New QuietComfort Earbuds 2 Have the Best Noise Canceling Ever

The new wireless earbuds are 30% smaller and feature improved noise canceling and better sound -- along with a higher $299 price tag.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
5 min read
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in sandstone color
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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in sandstone color

The earbuds will first ship in black with this sandstone color to follow later this year.


When I spoke with Bose reps about the company's new $299 QuietComfort Earbuds 2, which launch Tuesday at an event in New York, they made a bold declaration: The new buds have the best noise canceling ever in a pair of headphones. Not just Bose headphones -- any headphones. (Whether or not that boast covers the new AirPods Pro 2 -- which were announced almost simultaneously -- is unclear.) 

Watch this: Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2: Better design, better performance

Since I've yet to test the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 -- they ship in triple-black color on Sept. 15, with a sandstone version to follow later in the year -- I can't confirm Bose's claims. But I can tell you that the earbuds have some welcome design changes. Not only are the earbuds about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable.

While the original QuietComfort Earbuds featured excellent noise canceling and very good sound quality, they were pretty hefty and protruded from your ears. The new buds each weigh a little less than 0.25 ounces (7 grams), according to Bose -- still not svelte but significantly smaller.  

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The buds have slimmed down and feature new ear tips and stabilizers that Bose calls a Fit Kit.


The other big change is to the ear tips. Bose has ditched its one-piece StayEar wing tips for a two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and "stability bands" in three size options, giving you more flexibility to get a secure fit and tight seal.

Read moreBest Wireless Earbuds for 2022

That tight seal is crucial to getting optimal sound and noise canceling performance. Like Apple and some other earbuds makers, you can run a test in the app to make sure you're getting the right fit and Bose has also developed a new CustomTune sound calibration system to optimize noise canceling and sound quality for your particular ears. Bose says that every time you place the buds in your ears, a proprietary tone is played and a microphone measures your ear canal's acoustic response. "This information is then used to precisely tailor both sound and noise canceling especially for you," Bose says. It's designed to happen within half a second. 

While the drivers appear to be the same or very similar to those found in the original QuietComfort Earbuds, Bose reps told me that thanks to the CustomTune technology, the sound is noticeably improved, with more "nuance, clarity, depth" and better accuracy. CustomTune also improves how natural and lifelike the transparency mode sounds (Bose calls it Aware Mode with ActiveSense). The best transparency or ambient aware modes have such a natural-sounding passthrough filter that they make it seem like you're hearing the world as if you weren't wearing earbuds or headphones. 

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Thankfully, the case is 40% smaller.


On the noise-canceling front, Bose says it targeted frequencies that were previously difficult to reduce in the mid and high range -- "voices of nearby coworkers, screaming babies and family distractions in your home office." A lot of noise-canceling headphones are good at reducing low-end frequencies like plane cabin noise, but it's more challenging to reduce noise in a broader spectrum of frequencies. In recent years, Sony and Bose have been battling for noise-canceling supremacy and we'll have to see whether Bose has ticked back into the lead.

While software and advanced algorithms play a big part in the QuietComfort Earbuds 2's performance, they also feature four microphones in each bud, two of which are beamforming microphones to focus on picking up your voice. Voice-calling performance could have been better in the original QuietComfort Earbuds and -- at least according to Bose -- it's made improvements there as well with better noise reduction and voice pickup during calls. That's something we'll be testing, too.


The new fit test in the companion app for iOS and Android.


Battery life is rated at six hours with noise canceling on. You get about three extra charges from the new, trimmed-down charging case, which features USB-C but not wireless charging. That seems a bit unfortunate, since most earbuds in this price range offer that step-up feature. Like their predecessor, they're splash-proof (with an IPX4 rating) and have touch controls with a swipe gesture for volume control that I liked.

As for Bluetooth flavors, these are equipped with Bluetooth 5.3. They use the AAC and SBC audio codecs, but currently have no support for Qualcomm's aptX audio codec, though Bose and Qualcomm recently announced a deal to include Qualcomm's S5 Sound Platform (its high-end system on a chip) in future Bose products. Indeed, a Bose rep told me these earbuds are equipped with a 5 Series Qualcomm chip. That chip supports multipoint Bluetooth pairing and has aptX support, so I think there's a good chance we'll see at least multipoint Bluetooth pairing added via future firmware upgrades, possibly alongside other features.

While customizing and optimizing the software for these earbuds is tricky, I don't understand why companies who work with Qualcomm on earbuds releases sometimes have to delay releasing supported features for months after their launch. Jabra almost took six months to release a multipoint Bluetooth pairing update for its Elite 7 Pro earbuds. In such a competitive market, consumers are less patient about waiting for an update that may come when another product already has that feature.   

It's worth noting that while the noise canceling is of the adaptive variety, you can adjust its levels between three settings. The earbuds also have adjustable equalizer settings so you can tweak the sound profile. After many years of having a fixed sound profile, Bose is allowing you to create a more personalized sound profile in its latest earbuds and headphones. That said, I suspect that most people will stick to the default sound setting and allow the CustomTune technology to just do its thing. 

I'll be posting a full review right around the time the earbuds ship, and look forward to comparing them to Sony's and Apple's flagship noise-canceling earbuds. Given Bose's lofty claims on this model, I may even test them versus a few over-ear headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sony WH-1000XM5, which arguably have the best noise canceling. We'll see if the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 can beat them.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 key features, per Bose

  • 30% smaller buds and 40% smaller case
  • New CustomTune technology for optimizing sound and noise canceling
  • Improved sound, noise canceling and voice-calling performance
  • Touch controls with swipe gestures for volume control
  • New two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and stability bands in three size options
  • 4 microphones on each earbuds, two of which are beamforming for voice calls
  • 6 hours of battery life with noise canceling on 
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Support for AAC and SBC audio codecs
  • Customizable EQ settings
  • Price: $299 (about £260 or AU$445, converted)
  • Ship date: Sept. 15 (triple black ships first, with sandstone to follow later in the year)