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Bose NC700 Review (Noise Cancelling Headphone)

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amirm

amirm

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I know you're probably a headphone jack holdout, but it may be worth looking to upgrade to a newer phone. Android 11 nails this. It even avoids all of the quirks when you have to choose the often times non-standard bit and sample rates supported by the codec. For example, to get AptX-HD working from developer options, you need to choose that codec, select 24-bit, and select 48KHz, once everything is correct, then it actually changes. I
That only happens if the device supports that codec. If it doesn't it just reverts back without notice.
 

edechamps

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Okay, but here's the issue. They're near on unusably bad without it, and starting with such a junk response severely cuts your headroom because you're asking the drivers to do something they really don't want to do. And it's Bose's MO: start with the cheapest stuff you can get away with and force it to do what you want it to with EQ. To me, that's the silliest thing in the world.

But… Amir did measure the headroom. Look at the distortion plots. It can go to 104 dB SPL without any issues. That's more than enough for most use cases. Sure, if you listen loud, there's not a lot of margin so you can't go crazy with EQ. But that's precisely the point: you don't need to EQ it, it's already EQ'd at factory!

So what's the problem, exactly? These headphones have an accurate frequency response that doesn't need custom EQ, exhibit low distortion, and maintain these properties even at fairly loud listening levels. What more do you need? Why would it matter how Bose achieved this level of performance, as long as it sounds good? What matters is the sound waves that reach your eardrum, not how they were produced.

Engineering is about tradeoffs. Here, Bose clearly seems to believe that, given the budget constraints, the best approach is not to spend a lot of money trying to build a flat passive acoustical response, but to spend the money on aggressive DSP instead, and on drivers that have enough headroom to take such DSP. Amir's measurements clearly show that they know what they're doing and that their approach should be taken seriously. It's definitely not "the silliest thing in the world".

It makes a lot more sense to start with something decent enough and improve it with light touch DSP.

That is not necessarily true depending on design constraints and targets. Better passive acoustical design often makes the product more expensive to build and can impose additional constraints on other aspects of the product (e.g. earcup shape). If you can get away with using DSP instead (and they did!), then you can use the money you saved on something else (e.g. make the product cheaper, improve overall build quality, comfort, etc.). Engineering, tradeoffs, etc.
 
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infinitesymphony

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Engineering is about tradeoffs. Here, Bose clearly seems to believe that, given the budget constraints, the best approach is not to spend a lot of money trying to build a flat passive acoustical response, but to spend the money on aggressive DSP instead, and on drivers that have enough headroom to take such DSP.
...
If you can get away with using DSP instead (and they did!), then you can use the money you saved on something else (e.g. make the product cheaper, improve overall build quality, comfort, etc.). Engineering, tradeoffs, etc.
Exactly, and for those reasons it shouldn't be long until we start seeing budget DSP headphones with lower profit margins taking over this space.
 

PeteL

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Hmm, just received a pair of NC 700s today. And a week ago I purchased a pair of Sony WH1000 XM4s. The return window for both is still open. Wondering what to do, since I do not intend to keep both (though I may end up doing just that).

1. Neither pair sounds particularly good with default settings. Sony has hugely overblown bass and somewhat peaky treble. Bose is somewhat more neutral, but the treble sounds weird and "synthetic". The bass is not particularly strong but it has a boomy quality to it. The sound of both phones can be adjusted with their own apps. Sony is much better in this regard. The amount of bass can be decreased with 'clear bass' slider. There is also a very simple eg, which nevertheless has proved useful. With these rudimentary tools the Sony can be made to sound quite decent, if not truly hifi. The Bose cannot be adjusted the same way. There is an eq in the Bose app but it is even coarser than the one in the Sony. After adjusting the eq the Sony manages to sound more open than the Bose.

2. Both Sony and Bose have superb ANC, much better than what I currently have (Sony MDR100ABN). Sony manages to completely silence the compressor of my noisy fridge - the ultimate test :cool:. Bose also does a good job at this but perhaps not quite as effectively. Playing pink noise from my loudspeakers I also feel that the Sony ANC is able to cancel somewhat lower frequencies than Bose.

3. I am tempted to keep the Sony, but it has one big problem (to me): the background noise inherent in ANC is surprisingly loud. You cannot help noticing it the very moment you put the phones on. The Bose has this "wooosh", too, but it is quieter and not as disturbing. I might get used to the noise in Sony, the again I might not. Anyone else with this problem, too?

I don't have much answer to your post, yes most noise cancellers I have tried didn't sound very natural to me, but your third point is interesting to me. I was in the portable audio business for a while, and that's where I noticed how much human hearing acuity vary between individuals on low level hiss. One day I'd like to read a quantified study on this.. I know, from large "sample population" that very few people can hear what you are experiencing, but when you do, you do, it's very real. I don't buy so much on the golden ears kinda debate but it was an interesting finding to me. I thought that my ears were good, but on some tests with very sensitive IEM, heck a very small proportion, maybe 2-3 percent in my case, like at trade shows where you meet a crowd, or by doing customer service would plug their earbuds in my BT amp and would hear a hiss. I have never been able to hear that or most people I know. An amp that had competitive measured Sinad for the time, with relatively highish gain but still. Interesting to me just because we often talk about audibility here, but this vary a lot. I am sure you'll lend your headphone to a friend with a good audition and he won't hear that, yes even young folks, that still hears high up there. That also shows that it could be a relevant measurement for amplified headphones like that, like how loud is the actual noise floor. What I am saying is, you have exceptional audition, but as you noticed sometimes it can also be a curse.
 

Todd k

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I second the sennheiser pxc 550. Went to can jam pre pandemic to listen to all the NC cans there. The 550 won for my ears. Sound great, work flawlessly and will last 18 hours.
 

KeithPhantom

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show that they know what they're doing and that their approach should be taken seriously.
Pretty much the reason I’m currently using the AirPods Max. This is a great headphone with a lot of potential, already great transducers (< 1% THD 20 Hz-20 kHz at any SPL, great matching) and I fix the FR with DSP (Qudelix 5K). I keep almost all of the benefits (except full wireless use, that I still use from time to time) and improve in an already great product and with a lot of potential to grow.
 

MayaTlab

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3. I am tempted to keep the Sony, but it has one big problem (to me): the background noise inherent in ANC is surprisingly loud. You cannot help noticing it the very moment you put the phones on. The Bose has this "wooosh", too, but it is quieter and not as disturbing. I might get used to the noise in Sony, the again I might not. Anyone else with this problem, too?

I've had two copies of the XM4 and god knows how any copies (because of various problems, quite a few related to the headband to cup pivot mechanism) of the 700 on my head.
The first copy of the XM4 I received had a sort of low level buzz (think ground loop kind of buzz in character) in the right earcup on top of the ANC "wooosh". But I didn't find the latter that objectionable. I'd love to see how this phenomenon could be measured and how different people may subjectively perceive / appreciate various kinds of ANC noise floor. It would be interesting to see if the same exact noise floor "character" is perceived differently.
All the Bose 700 behaved consistently but one thing that drove me a bit annoyed is that the Bose 700's noise floor isn't constant like on the XM4 / AirPods Max but variable. A good test of this is to play Massive Attack's Heligoland album at barely audible levels. Anytime content below 1kHz or so is played, the noise floor rhythmically varies with the music (Babel). You can also assess that by playing Girl I Love You and stopping / resuming the track. On tracks with parts with only low frequency content (Girl I Love You, even Zimmer's well known "Why So Serious" bass bridge), I could still distinguish that pumping noise floor at the levels I usually listen at.
 

Leporello

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I've had two copies of the XM4 and god knows how any copies (because of various problems, quite a few related to the headband to cup pivot mechanism) of the 700 on my head.
The first copy of the XM4 I received had a sort of low level buzz (think ground loop kind of buzz in character) in the right earcup on top of the ANC "wooosh". But I didn't find the latter that objectionable. I'd love to see how this phenomenon could be measured and how different people may subjectively perceive / appreciate various kinds of ANC noise floor. It would be interesting to see if the same exact noise floor "character" is perceived differently.
All the Bose 700 behaved consistently but one thing that drove me a bit annoyed is that the Bose 700's noise floor isn't constant like on the XM4 / AirPods Max but variable. A good test of this is to play Massive Attack's Heligoland album at barely audible levels. Anytime content below 1kHz or so is played, the noise floor rhythmically varies with the music (Babel). You can also assess that by playing Girl I Love You and stopping / resuming the track. On tracks with parts with only low frequency content (Girl I Love You, even Zimmer's well known "Why So Serious" bass bridge), I could still distinguish that pumping noise floor at the levels I usually listen at.
Thanks for the tip, have to try Heligoland with Bose.
 

bt3

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You summed up my thoughts in 2 sentences. And it isn't as though great "no dsp needed" transducers don't already exist - imagine what you could do with those as well as DSP? I think for stationary speakers DSP is a godsend and I can't wait for passive speakers to die out entirely.

That said I think for headphones I'm decidedly anti-DSP for repair reasons (as well as usability). Active headphones require an onboard battery to work, and that onboard battery is rarely if ever replaceable (and god forbid any of the silicon fails!)... and then there's the part where battery life is really still quite limited. That to me makes them kind of a poor choice unless you absolutely need ANC.
No BT but for wired-only NC headphones, the QC25’s are good. The single AAA battery lasts a good while and easy to replace. I own one set of QC35II, but three sets of QC25’s. NOS QC25’s are getting harder to locate, so buy while still available.
 

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I decided to purchase the NC700's after "accidently" listening to them and the QC35's at an endcap at a Walmart. I was amazed that the sound of the A/C unit(s) disappeared once I put either of them on. I did think the QC35's sounded a bit better, but that the NC700's reduced the noise just a bit better, and were much better sounding than any headset I had listened too- I don't do any music listening using a headset, other than the few times I travel on an airplane. I did not struggle that much at all getting the Bose App set up in my android phone, and did not install the Bose Music App. I did have the same problem about them not connecting when plugged in and charging, but did not struggle too much with that as I just let them charge up 1st and unplugged them. I wanted them mainly to wear when I run, which is every day, and they make it much more enjoyable. Amir is spot on with how nice they feel, and I find them comfortable and they do not move around much while I run (they are on top of the baseball cap I wear). While the last thing I need to do is to try talking while running, they do give me the capability to answer a phone call as it is paired with my phone. I had the opportunity to use them on a flight about a month ago, and they made the experience much more enjoyable listening to music streamed by my phone or when I plugged directly into my laptop to watch a movie. There is also that added benefit of wearing them while watching a show/movie while the wife has something on around the corner, and barely hearing it :) So for uses like mine, they are great and I would recommend them.
 

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My wife likes them. :)

Setup was super simple for her. She just followed the instructions to install Bose Music and didn't think to plug them in. They ran a firmware update or something too, which took a few minutes.

The cup/headband interface is a marvel. I didn't understand it totally until I held them.
 

MayaTlab

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The cup/headband interface is a marvel. I didn't understand it totally until I held them.

Until it breaks or stops sliding smoothly (if it ever did, I’ve had several 700 coming out of the box with loose or uneven sliding action), or the parts knock against each others when you walk because of how the cup is angled relative to the arm because of your anatomy (microphonics) :D.
It also undermines the internal packaging and compromised the acoustic design.
I find that a pretty terrible solution in search of a problem to solve compared to Bose traditional yoke design before.
 

KEFCarver

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Until it breaks or stops sliding smoothly (if it ever did, I’ve had several 700 coming out of the box with loose or uneven sliding action), or the parts knock against each others when you walk because of how the cup is angled relative to the arm because of your anatomy (microphonics) :D.
It also undermines the internal packaging and compromised the acoustic design.
I find that a pretty terrible solution in search of a problem to solve compared to Bose traditional yoke design before.

I have got about 200miles running with them on have not experienced what you are describing. I will agree that they do not slide smoothly on the rails, but they are manageable.
 

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MayaTlab

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I read a few pages of those posts, but can't relate to them.

As said, it's entirely dependent on your anatomy :D. If you don't have to have the cups angled upwards enough you won't encounter it.
 

Helicopter

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I read a few pages of those posts, but can't relate to them. One would think it would be worse while running. I keep the noise cancellation at 5- it works so good that I almost ran into a car while running the other day.
This is why I use Koss when I am literally on the road, and Bose when I am figuratively on the road. I.e., cycling or walking versus riding an airplane, train, etc.

Another thing to note, I find the USB-C port on NC700 to be the most important advantage over QC35ii. Much more robust and it fits in either orientation.
 
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