REVIEWED: Bose QuietComfort QC20 & QC20i acoustic noise cancelling earphones

Silence at 40,000ft? These tiny and very comfy earphones are a business travellers’ sweet dreams come true

Price as reviewed: £259.95

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These are the best noise cancelling earphones ever made. We’ve tried many pairs bulky battery powered noise cancelling headphones that do a similar job, but until now only Sony has tried – and failed – to shrink what is perhaps the ultimate travel gadget. That Bose has done so at its first attempt is stunning.

Smallest-ever noise cancellers

The Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones are the smallest of their type. Weighing no more than the cheap earphones you used to use, they comprise two earbuds and a cable that sports both an in-line control for volume, and a small battery pack. The latter produces sweet, sweet silence that’s addictive and so effective in aircraft cabins where ambient noise levels can reach 60 decibels.

16 hours battery

That battery pack lasts for ages (about sixteen hours) and recharges via a micro USB cable; an hour or so hooked-up to a laptop is enough to power the silence for a long flight. Happily the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones have a passive as well as active mode; if that battery pack does run down during a flight, they still work as regular earphones. That’s not the case for most noise cancelling headphones, which can be rendered useless mid-flight.

Easy fit

For all their convenience, the use of in-ear buds means that the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones won’t appeal to all. One look at the sail-shaped silicone dframe that accompanies each earbud is likely to put-off many more, though it’s all surprisingly comfortable. We gave the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones to four different people, and all of them found them exceptionally comfortable. It’s easy to forget they’re even on.

Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi

Used on a flight from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi, the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones excelled. An almost total silence is produced – certainly good enough to silence screaming children and allow sleep – while the pause button on the in-line remote proved handy when the flight attendant was dishing out drinks and food.
As impressive as they are, the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones are incredibly expensive, and here’s the rub; the sound quality isn’t amazing. There are better earphones for sound quality – so there’s a big chance that Bose will get surpassed quickly – but it’s not happened yet.

Ultimate in-flight set-up

If you’re travelling with a laptop, consider pairing the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones with the stunning Cambridge Audio DacMgic XS digital-to-audio converter for perhaps the ultimate in-flight set-up.
Incidentally, the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones come in two versions – QC20 model for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phones, and the QC20i model for iPhone and iPod. The latter – which we tried – adds music control and voice commands to the in-line remote.

Buy the Bose QuietComfort QC20 & QC20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling earphones