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Bose NC700 Review (Noise Cancelling Headphone)

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Many folks: Life is like a bowl of cherries
Amir: Uuhh, about that.

The headphones are beautifully styled, they have the aesthetics of an Apple product, while still retaining the sound characteristics that have been troublesome for Bose. As Bose has shifted their product mix away from traditional stereo speakers to focus on more profitable segments of the market, we can hope that they are also redefining their paradigms in terms of accurate musical reproduction. Then again, that is pure conjecture.
 
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amirm

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Perhaps today is as good as any to show some appreciation?
Thanks a bunch. My wife felt bad for me and bought a container of cherries. This helps pay for that. :)
 

Johannes AU

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Sennheiser PXC-550 II is far better and simplier to operate, and it sounds good, the app is easy to use and no need to register !!!!
 

dfuller

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index.php
This is exactly how I don't like seeing DSP used. This isn't "using DSP to improve an already good design", this is " DSP making up for crappy design". I know, I know, DSP is the future, whatever. This is still indicative of Bose's whacked out design philosophy.
 

Maiky76

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Bose NC700 Bluetooth noise cancelling wired and wireless headphone. It was kindly purchased by a member new and drop shipped to me. The NC700 costs US $379 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

I must say, this is one of the most luxurious looking and feeling headphone I have seen:

View attachment 138484

The material is super soft-touch reminding me of silicone insulation on wires with such. The adjustment mechanism is super clever with that sliding bar which even allows some amount of movement for the cup. Top dollars were spent on mechanical and industrial design to be sure.

The cups are pretty small but still, mostly fit my ear. Inside dimensions are 70 x 56 x 24 mm (height, width, max depth). The cup depth is highly variable as the baffle is angled. The light weight of the NC700 helps a lot in comfort:

View attachment 138486

It took me two days to test what should have been a 2 hour affair. As with all rechargeable devices I test, I immediately plug in the power cable, USB-C in this case, and then continue with the process of setting up the test. The quick start guide that comes with the unit says to push the power button and hold it down until it goes into Bluetooth pairing mode. No such thing occurred. I tried every which way but could not get it to show up in my Samsung Android phone's Bluetooth discovery. On a hunch, I disconnected the USB cable but now ran into other issues with the little white LED switching to red sometime which I assumed it meant it did not have enough charge.

Next day I tried again with the USB cable still plugged in. Still no luck in getting it to recognized. I figured I should install their app to see what happens. Search for Bose and first hit is "Bose Connect" or some such thing. I start it and it asks me to select the device type. I tell it it is a headphone and it instantly showed a picture of NC700 which put joy on my face. Oddly, it demanded that I put my finger and drag the picture of the headphone down to confirm! What the heck? What is the point of that gesture? Why not the usual "OK, Done, etc." button for confirmation? Figuring I had no choice I do that. Immediately I am told that there is a better app for that called Bose Music. Bose Music? I don't want another Music player. I just want to connect and configure the darn thing. So reluctantly I download this massive 60 megabyte app....

The app starts and immediately asks me to register to use it. The Connect app did as well but let me skip that. Not Bose Music. This thing wants your email address or else. Reluctantly I go through the whole account setup process. It then switches to the same screen the other app did asking me to tell it what device it is. I select again the headphone followed by NC700. The thing sits there saying it can't find the headphone. :(

So I unplug the USB-C cable and the app recognizes it now. Why or why? Why can't I charge the headphone and still use it as a bluetooth wireless device? What possible limitation of design led to this? Too much heat dissipation? Later I read in the manual that if you plug in the USB-C cable, nothing works!

I think I am done at this point but no. The app paired the device over Bluetooth and then told me to wait while it was talking to it. Well, I waited minutes and the app was plain hung. I read a number of reviews of similar issues when the headphone first came out a few years ago. But now? Still have this kind of problem? Has incompetence in software set in so much in the company to not be able to get their app to talk to their own device after so much time passing?

Anyway, I had to test the NC700 without the benefit of the app and ability to change it settings. So everything is as shipped.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

My testing hell was not over. I connect the wired 2.5mm cable to 3.5mm and start testing the unit while off. I was getting insanely wrong results. Channels would not match and there was massive frequency response error (see below). Positioning was also challenging given the small cups but could not explain the huge problems I was having. Searching online, I was surprised to find almost no measurements out there other than Rting. I switched to Bluetooth testing and response was massively different making me realize there is DSP correction in there.

Bose NC 700 Measurements
As noted, there was massive difference when the unit is off vs on:

View attachment 138487

OK, I appreciate the value of DSP correction but good grief, why start with such poor response as shown in dashed lines? The driver seems to only like midrange between 400 Hz and 1.5 kHz. Rest of the response sinks like mad. Such massive correction takes away a ton of headroom from the amplifier and driver which we can ill afford in a portable battery operated device. Still, if it works, it works. Here is the response by itself (after a bit of adjustment):

View attachment 138488

By the way, Bluetooth response is substantially the same (not shown). There is a slight deviation due to different signal I used and possibly the compression algorithm.

Here is our relative response:

View attachment 138490

You can see very good compliance with our target. Due to large variation between the channels, EQ will be a bit challenging but not much should be needed.

I should not that I had a hell of a time getting max volume out of the headphone with the gesture on the right cup. I could get it to max volume but then it would go down one notch on its own. This may have a small impact on our distortion graph with input stage possibly clipping at 114 dBSP:

View attachment 138491

Distortion at lower levels is excellent but clearly you can't push the unit hard due to internal amplifier limit -- a drawback of having to use the unit with it being on.

The QuietComfort 35 II that I reviewed did much better at max SPL:

index.php


In absolute terms, we see some issue at the end of the spectrum:

View attachment 138493

It is strangely sinusoidal indicating some correlated cause.

Here is our Group delay showing a pipeline latency of about 17 milliseconds when the unit is on but using wired connection:

View attachment 138492

Bose NC700 Listening Tests and Equalization
I started listening with the unit on and tonality was right on the money on my standard set of tracks. For grins, I tuned it off and boy, this thing produced the worst sound I have ever heard in a headphone! Could not listen to it for than a few seconds and had to turn it back on. When on, of course you benefit from what seems to be superb noise cancelling even using its default setting. It completely muted my Audio Precision analyzer which is quite loud. Nicely so, it did not create that vacuum effect when turning it on and off that some noise cancelling headphones suffer from.

As much as the tonality was right, the sound was anything but exciting. Sub-bass tracks surprisingly had no impact. I thought there was enough bass response there but apparently not. Spatial qualities were non-existent. And the highs were ever so slightly harsh which could just be my imagination.

I brought out the parametric EQ and managed to remedy most of the above:

View attachment 138494

I took out the broad peak in bass which made the headphone lighter sounding. That slight boost then at 3200 Hz gave it some semblance of spatial qualities where none existed before. A quick shelving filter brought out the sub-bass finally but with a cost: turn up the level and you were greeted with static which from my experience indicates amplifier or DSP clipping. So you are limited to low to medium levels.

Once there, the quality combined with the comfort of the unit made for a nice experience.

Conclusions
The Bose NC700 is gorgeously built. Sadly little effort was put in the software side of thing, making me think they farmed it out. For a company who has sold millions if not billions of dollars worth of headphones, it is so surprising to see that they did not invest in proper software development expertise to produce a bug-free companion app. Documentation is of need of severe help to bring out common issues like not being able to use the thing while being charged.

Without being on, the objective performance of the NC700 is horrid and shameful. Sure they could start with a better platform than this. Fortunately they seem to have followed the research into headphone preference and hug our target pretty well. Tonality is therefore achieved but some make up was needed to get the unit to delight. We run into some power limitations here but not a show stopper.

Personally, I can't recommend the NC700 due to bugs in the app and power limitations. But you may think otherwise. On performance basis alone, when turned on, it easily satisfies my minimum goal for a good sounding headphone.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Yesterday was a depressing day.... I can only get our Cherry trees to fruit once ever three years or so. This year they put on a decent harvest. Problem is, animals were going after them as soon as they developed color. They were too unripe to pick though so I put in a motion activated sprinkler to keep racoons, etc. off of them. Day by day though, the number of cherries on the tree was reducing together with small leaves and branches being broken. :( Yesterday morning I looked and there were probably 50 to 100 cherries still on the tree. I tell myself I better pick them by the evening or there will be none left. Go to the store and come back 2 hours later and there is none, let me repeat, no cherries whatsoever on the tree! :(:( Saw a whole family of Robins feasting on it before I left. I am wondering if they were the guilty party as opposed to racoons. Oh well, now I have to wait another year or more to get some cherries. The shame of it is that the one tree has some of the best cherries I have tasted!

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

No EQ there.
A ton of DSP processing is already happening in there...
This is Bose exact target.

Average L/R match.

Score no EQ: 53.5
Score Armirm: 67.3

Bose NC700 frequency response when on FlatdB@HF.png
 

Johannes AU

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The 3.5mm cable quality of the Bose NC700 is not on par with the headphone ....

NC700 is the first noise cancelling headphone I pick when I want one more than a year ago, I went to Bose shop and test it ...... not happy with the sound, which is low in volume even at max, ANC make it more dull and uncomfortable feeling at the cup ... later, I dig into their forum, a lot of user said firmware upate is a mess, battery cannot charge to 100% after firmware update, connection problems, etc etc ......

The design is nice, outlook is nice, kind of B&O design, but soundwise, not good. Lots of used unit at Carousell.com

Then I opt for another one ..... the S brand .....
 

GWolfman

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Crazy deal. Maybe you should've play music through these cans near the trees to scare the animals away! ;)
 
OP
amirm

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cyruz

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Just my 2 cents regarding the apps on Android. On Android 11, MIUI, I was able to pair the headphones and use them directly without any effort. I used the Bose Music app just to regulate the ANC and I didn't have to register.

I'm using it with Poweramp and the oratory eq profile, the results are excellent but the max volume is quite low, so I had to ramp up the preamp a few db...
 

frix

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Now we need the sennheiser momentum 3 reviewed, which I think is the best sounding premium NC headphone.
 

infinitesymphony

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I started listening with the unit on and tonality was right on the money on my standard set of tracks.
...
As much as the tonality was right, the sound was anything but exciting. Sub-bass tracks surprisingly had no impact. I thought there was enough bass response there but apparently not. Spatial qualities were non-existent. And the highs were ever so slightly harsh which could just be my imagination.
This is the most interesting part because it suggests that hitting a target frequency response and low distortion are not enough to make for a satisfying headphone experience. What accounts for the other factors?

Could the missing impact be due to the steadily increasing group delay in the bass frequencies?

index.php


Could the harsh high frequencies be due to comb filtering in that region?

index.php
 

soundwave76

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Thanks, great review. I own these and liked them the best over the other nc headphones. I have mild tinnitus and another rare ’feature’ in which strong noise cancelling makes me feel nausea. I am serious :) Many years ago when the first nc headphones came I bought a pair and and was puzzled what the hell. I did some research and apparently some people share this disorder - the nc somehow messes up the inner ear and thus nausea. So back to these headphones… some models have mild / different nc that I can stand. These are one of them. Beats another. These also sound quite nice and the ergonomics are superb, so my choice was easy. Highly recommended!
 

Mauro

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Yesterday was a depressing day.... I can only get our Cherry trees to fruit once ever three years or so. This year they put on a decent harvest. Problem is, animals were going after them as soon as they developed color. They were too unripe to pick though so I put in a motion activated sprinkler to keep racoons, etc. off of them. Day by day though, the number of cherries on the tree was reducing together with small leaves and branches being broken. :( Yesterday morning I looked and there were probably 50 to 100 cherries still on the tree. I tell myself I better pick them by the evening or there will be none left. Go to the store and come back 2 hours later and there is none, let me repeat, no cherries whatsoever on the tree! :(:( Saw a whole family of Robins feasting on it before I left. I am wondering if they were the guilty party as opposed to racoons. Oh well, now I have to wait another year or more to get some cherries. The shame of it is that the one tree has some of the best cherries I have tasted!

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

A well known sad story!
You really have to climb the damn tree to get the damned cherries before the stupid birds get their meal
Also bottles of waters hanging from the branches help just a bit..

I feel your pain.
 

THW

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This is the most interesting part because it suggests that hitting a target frequency response and low distortion are not enough to make for a satisfying headphone experience. What accounts for the other factors?

Could the missing impact be due to the steadily increasing group delay in the bass frequencies?

index.php


Could the harsh high frequencies be due to comb filtering in that region?

index.php

from a layman just looking through the graphs, my $0.02:

from what I can tell from Amir’s measurements though, distortion becomes unacceptably high on louder levels. also one channel seems to be displaying a dip in 2-5 kHz region.
 

Johannes AU

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Yesterday was a depressing day.... I can only get our Cherry trees to fruit once ever three years or so. This year they put on a decent harvest. Problem is, animals were going after them as soon as they developed color. They were too unripe to pick though so I put in a motion activated sprinkler to keep racoons, etc. off of them. Day by day though, the number of cherries on the tree was reducing together with small leaves and branches being broken. :( Yesterday morning I looked and there were probably 50 to 100 cherries still on the tree. I tell myself I better pick them by the evening or there will be none left. Go to the store and come back 2 hours later and there is none, let me repeat, no cherries whatsoever on the tree! :(:( Saw a whole family of Robins feasting on it before I left. I am wondering if they were the guilty party as opposed to racoons. Oh well, now I have to wait another year or more to get some cherries. The shame of it is that the one tree has some of the best cherries I have tasted!

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/


The worst part is none left .......
 

LTig

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Sennheiser PXC-550 II is far better and simplier to operate, and it sounds good, the app is easy to use and no need to register !!!!
The AKG 371bt paired with my old Samsung S5neo (Android 6) instantly without any other software installation. I always thought this to be the standard ...
 

Johannes AU

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The AKG 371bt paired with my old Samsung S5neo (Android 6) instantly without any other software installation. I always thought this to be the standard ...

I agree, nowadays some electronics are made too complicate for its main purpose ...

Actually the PXC-550 II do not need an app to start, the app is only a surplus to the product to do a bit more things, like firmware update, adjusting EQ, read battery level, etc.... The buttons on the headphones controls are all you need without a smartphone (of course not at BT pairing, but not the app).
 
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Johannes AU

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I want to rant a little bit here, don't get me wrong, it is not against Bose.

Modern electronics can be flustrating if it is too much, for example a touch sensitive switch in a car, it makes you mad during winter with cold fingers or with gloves on, sometimes old school is good, a physical button is always reliable.....
 
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