Steven 5 minute read
April 15, 2014

Bose QuietComfort® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones

I like using good headphones. It makes music sound better and there’s no sound leakage to annoy other passengers on a train.

I don’t mind spending what some would consider to be serious money on headphones (although I spoke to a chap at a Linn event the other week who owned a set that cost in the thousands). Like my computer equipment, they’re something that I use every day and buying cheaper alternatives is often a false economy.

Typical earbuds (like those provided with the iPhone for example) don’t fit my ears - I know, I’m weird. Not sure what it is about this style of bud but I can never get them to stay in place, useless for pretty much everything.

I bought my first Bose buds in 2008 after getting my first iPhone. At that point, I already owned a set QC2 cans that I generally only used when I was travelling. I’d occasionally use them at work, but listening to music wasn’t something my boss at the time would encourage.

These buds succeeded where others failed, they stayed in my ears. All the time. Didn’t matter if I was walking, talking, eating or running. Job done right? Unfortunately though, the 3.5mm jack connector was a little brittle and after a couple of years, it gave way. Thankfully though, the people at Bose know how to do customer service.

After an explanation of the issue (and given I was a year out of warranty) they offered me a set of MIE2 at discount.

These were certainly an improvement on the previous generation. A new inline volume control and iPhone control and a better connection point with the 3.5mm jack. My only dislike was the ‘candy stripe’ black and white cable. Black would have been fine. They also upgraded the ear pieces making a little hook for the part of the ear that doesn’t go anywhere.

Fast forward 3 years and we had another breakage, this time at the point where the cable meets the bud. I visited the Bose store in Glasgow to see what they could do. Not much in this scenario unfortunately but then, the buds had been well used. What they did show me though was the QuietComfort® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones. Comfortable buds with the addition of the trusted noise cancellation of my Bose cans.

The connections the ear bud and jack ends have been improved greatly, they’ve obviously sought to fix a common problem. The black and white cable is now black and gray — an improvement but I’d still like just a plain black option. The iPhone controller feels a little more substantial than its predecessor but then it has a little more functionality this time round.

The introduction of the noise cancelling technology is obviously the biggest change. It has also introduced the need for a battery compartment. This is a little bit of a drawback but it’s not overly inconvenient. What is neat compared to the Bose cans, is that the battery is USB rechargeable (getting around 8 hours playback from a full charge). Also, when the battery loses charge entirely, the buds just revert to being normal buds. Even without the noise cancelling, they’re far superior to others I’ve used, you really notice the sound difference as you put the buds in without them being turned on or even music playing through.

One of the great additions to the noise cancellation function is ‘conversation mode’. Noise cancelling headphones are great, not so much when you’re on a call. It’s hard to ascertain just how loud you are because you’d really hear yourself. Conversation mode is toggled by a switch on the controller. What this does is enable more sound through the microphones in the buds so that you can hear yourself.

These are now the headphones that I use every day at my desk for iTunes, Spotify, Skype, Google Hangouts etc. I’m tempted to put my cans on ebay at this point. They’re also much more convenient than cans and I don’t look like a tool on the train with massive headphones (at least they do look smarter than Beats).

One of the things I haven’t yet experienced is travelling with these buds. Noise cancellers are great for flying — I couldn’t imagine flying without noise cancelling headphones now (first world problems right?). Often I’ll just put them on, no music and try get some sleep — until your head flops to the side. Sleeping with a set of cans on isn’t particularly comfortable if you want to put your head against something.

I hope that the buds will go some way to alleviating this mild annoyance.

So, if you use headphones every day and like good equipment, I’d really recommend the Bose QuietComfort® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones.