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I love my QC35s and use them every day. They are excellent for making phone calls, listening to music, or drowning out background noise. The noise cancellation drowns out the drone of an airplane engine so well that when you take them off in middle of a flight you’ll be in shock that you were ever able to fly without them. They make for a peaceful flight and I sleep like a baby on the plane with them over my ears.
Several commenters asked for my opinion on how the Bose QC35s compare to the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones. Let’s call them the XM4s for short.
They look fairly similar and they fold into a case similar to the Bose QC35s. There’s no Apple purse problem here.
The XM4’s music sound quality is excellent, certainly a step above the QC35s, though not quite as good as the Airpods Max.
I think that the XM4 noise cancellation is also excellent and a small step above the QC35s, though my friend Adam flew with me to Miami a few weeks ago and thought the QC35s had the better noise cancellation. This is fairly close to a toss up, but I’d give the edge to the XM4s.
However, even with the great music sound quality and excellent noise cancellation, I’m still not trading in my QC35s for these.
This is personal preference of course, but I find the QC35s to be much more comfortable to wear. While the XM4s have a polyester type lining that rests against your ear, the QC35s allow your ear to sit without anything touching them. Over time that meant my ears got hotter and more uncomfortable when wearing the XM4s. It’s just a poor design choice by Sony in my opinion.
The XM4s have touch controls, where are actually fairly intuitive, though still takes much more time and effort than the QC35s buttons. If your volume is set to high, you’ll need to swipe down many times to get it to the right place, versus the much easier clicking of a button on the QC35s. But the worst XM4 feature is the physical power button on the bottom of the left earcup. You need to awkwardly locate it among 2 buttons with your left hand and hold it down for several seconds to turn them on and off. I also found that it didn’t always turn off as it should. That’s a huge downgrade from the simple slider power switch on the right side of the QC35s, which works like a charm and is much faster.
If I’m at my desk I leave my QC35s off, and if I get an incoming call I slide the power switch on, which automatically answers the call. On the XM4s it takes several extra seconds for the headphones to turn on and it doesn’t automatically answer the call when you turn them on, which I found to be very inconvenient.
The XM4s are much newer and that shows with USB-C charging instead of Micro-USB. It also has transparency mode to talk to people while wearing the headphones, which is needed because it takes much longer to locate the power button and then hold it for several seconds to power them off and on again. On the QC35s the power goes on and off instantly with the slide of the conveniently located switch, making transparency mode mostly unnecessary.
The XM4s have the option to go into transparency mode when you talk, but that means every time you cough, sneeze, or sing along to the music that you lose noise cancellation. The other option for ending transparency mode is awkwardly cupping the right earcup. Personally I’d rather just use the sliding power switch on the QC35s to quickly turn them off and on again as needed. Turning the XM4s off and on again is much more difficult.
I also found that people who called me complained about the sound quality on the XM4s more than the QC35s.
In short, while the XM4 certainly outshines the QC35s in music sound quality and slightly outshines it in noise cancellation, it’s still not good enough to make me trade in the QC35s.
But perhaps the XM5 will solve the problems I had with the XM4? Or maybe Bose will finally release a real replacement (no, the Bose 700s were not a replacement product) for the QC35s?
What are your favorite noise cancelling headphones? Which ones should I compare next?