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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Ultra quiet and highly immersive

Our Rating :
£281.06 from
Price when reviewed : £300
inc. VAT

The omission of a couple of handy features is frustrating but the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are otherwise a compelling premium package


  • Best-in-class ANC
  • AptX Adaptive and spatial audio support
  • Very comfortable fit


  • No multipoint or wireless charging
  • Connectivity hiccups
  • Pricier than key rivals

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds were one of three pairs of headphones launched in September 2023 as part of a refresh to the Bose’s flagship lineup.

While replacements for the over-ear Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and QuietComfort 45 were arguably overdue, the decision to release new wireless earbuds just 12 months after the arrival of the QuietComfort Earbuds II came as quite a surprise.

Those buds weren’t exactly crying out for an update; they delivered best-in-class active noise cancellation and superb sound quality. But the Ultra Earbuds bring two game-changing additions: Bose Immersive Audio and Snapdragon Sound support.

With spatial and high-resolution audio now on the menu, Bose’s flagship buds are better placed than ever to take on their true wireless rivals, but frustratingly the brand still refuses to incorporate popular features such as Bluetooth multipoint and wireless charging.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: What you need to know

The QC Ultra Earbuds are the third iteration of Bose’s flagship noise-cancelling earbuds but the first to offer a spatial audio mode and high-resolution Bluetooth codec compatibility.

That spatial sound mode – Bose Immersive Audio – uses inertial measurement units (IMUs) in conjunction with proprietary digital signal processing (DSP) to broaden the QC Ultra’s soundstage and place what you’re listening to in a virtual space in front of you. The technology works regardless of content type or source, giving it an edge over spatial modes from the likes of Apple and Sony. 

The same can’t be said for high-resolution codec support. The lossless and low-latency capabilities of aptX Adaptive can only be unlocked when using the earbuds with a device packing the Snapdragon Sound platform, including Android phones like the Xiaomi 13 Pro and Motorola Razr 40 Ultra. If you don’t happen to own a handset running the Snapdragon tech, you’ll have to make do with either SBC or AAC over Bluetooth 5.3.

Elsewhere, the QC Ultra Earbuds don’t deviate far from the path trodden by the QC Earbuds II. The design is very similar and you get the same selection of ear tips and stability bands in the box plus a USB-A to USB-C charging cable. Stated battery life is unchanged at six hours in-ear and around 24 hours total, the same touch control scheme remains in place and customisation options are still available via the Bose Music app.

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Price and competition

Bose has slapped a £300 price tag on the QC Ultra Earbuds, which means they cost £20 more than their predecessors did at launch. Spatial audio and high-resolution codec compatibility go a long way to justifying that increase but it’s a hike that means Bose’s buds are that little bit more expensive than most of the competition.

Of the true wireless earbuds we recommend, only the superb-sounding Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2 cost more at £349 – most of the other premium pairs we endorse cost significantly less. The Sony WF-1000XM5 are our favourite true wireless all-rounders and can be picked up for £259, while the Technics EAH-AZ80, which won wireless earbuds of the year at our Tech awards last November, will set you back £260.

The wireless earbuds to beat in terms of mainstream appeal are Apple’s omnipresent Apple AirPods Pro 2. The latest model charges over USB-C rather than Lightning, offers fantastic noise cancellation and is priced at £229.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Design

As alluded to earlier, design is one area that Bose has left relatively untouched. The touch-sensitive surfaces on the stems of the earbuds are now reflective silver rather than black, as is the logo on the front of the charging case.

The only other change involves the stability fins that help secure the earbuds in place. These weren’t particularly easy to get onto the QC Earbuds II and would occasionally become dislodged, but Bose has incorporated small notches on the buds to make fitting them a lot easier and to prevent them from slipping off.

Both are small but welcome changes; the palette swap makes the Ultra Earbuds look slightly more distinguished than their predecessors, though they don’t necessarily scream “premium” where aesthetics are concerned. They are incredibly comfortable, however. The combination of the largest ear tips and smallest stability fins created a seal in my ears that did an excellent job isolating sound, remained stable throughout testing and never once caused any discomfort.

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Features

Aside from Bose Immersive Audio and support for Snapdragon Sound, which I will discuss in the sound quality section, the QC Ultra Earbuds’ feature set mirrors that of the QC Earbuds II.

Touch controls handle media playback: a single press on either bud plays or pauses audio, double taps skip to the next track, triple taps skip to the previous track, while swiping up or down on an earbud increases or decreases the volume. These can’t be customised but you can assign “Shortcuts” to long presses that allow you to cycle through modes and Immersive Audio options, or access your voice assistant. I have no complaints with how the controls are implemented. They cover the key commands and are easily accessible and responsive.

There are three non adjustable preset modes (Quiet, Aware and Immersion), but you’re free to add modes of your own, selecting a specific level of noise cancellation and whether or not Immersive Audio is engaged. This way, you can create profiles for various situations, which is handy, though you can’t assign different EQs to them; any EQ changes are applied regardless of which mode you’re in.

EQ options in the Bose Music app are limited to four presets – Bass Boost, Bass Reducer, Treble Boost and Treble Reducer – and a three-band graphic equaliser that lets you boost or reduce bass, mids and treble. It’s a very basic setup compared with some out there: some will find it blissfully simple, others a little too pared-back.

You can also switch between sources – sadly multipoint is not supported so you can only connect to one input at any one time – adjust the level of your voice while on calls, switch wear detection on or off and check whether you’ve managed to achieve an effective in-ear seal.

The latter is crucial as it impacts Bose’s CustomTune technology, which optimises sound reproduction and noise cancellation based on your ears’ size, shape and depth. A chime plays upon the insertion of the buds and their in-built microphones measure changes to the soundwaves as they make their way through your ear canals and back to the headphones. Changes that impact audio fidelity are neutralised, while those that affect noise-cancelling efficacy are compensated for. If you don’t have an effective in-ear seal this won’t work properly, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure you’re using the right tips and stability bands before tuning.

Speaking of not working properly, I experienced some connection issues when using the QC Ultra Earbuds. On a few occasions, the buds decided to disconnect from my phone and I had to re-pair them from scratch. There were also a couple of instances when I took the buds out of their case and they stubbornly refused to connect to my source device. Although not regular enough to be a massive problem, these incidents were frustrating.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Sound quality

Audio quality was a major strength of the QC Earbuds II and their successors don’t disappoint in that department. Their sound signature is very similar – warm, rich and detailed – but that’s only half the story, as the Ultra have a couple of aces up their sleeve.

First, there’s support for high-resolution streaming via the Snapdragon Sound platform. Those with a compatible source device can use aptX Adaptive to enjoy music at an above-CD-quality sampling rate of 48.1kHz, and there’s also a low-latency option that’s great for playing games without worrying about audio and video syncing issues.

The step up in quality from AAC to aptX Adaptive is noticeable: bass notes are cleaner, the mid-range is more clearly defined and trebles shine that little bit brighter. The QC Ultra Earbuds sound great whatever source device you’re using but for an optimal listening experience, you’re going to want a phone with Snapdragon Sound.

Fortunately, the other big addition – Bose Immersive Audio – is device, platform and content type agnostic. And that’s great news, as it’s the most engaging spatial mode I’ve come across for headphones.

There are two Immersive Audio modes available: Still and Motion. Both create a sensation that you’ve got a pair of virtual speakers in front of you rather than a pair of earbuds in your ears, expanding the soundstage of whatever you’re listening to considerably. But they handle the response of those speakers relative to your head movements differently.

The former is intended for use while you’re stationary and the two virtualised speakers initially remain directly in front of you when you move your head. After a brief delay, they’ll recentre in front of you again. This recalibration is quite obvious and can be a little jarring, so I generally preferred the Motion option as I can barely sit still through the entirety of a track, let alone a whole album or playlist.

The Motion option sees the virtual speakers adjust their position as you move your head and it does so effectively, keeping sound consistently centred. It became my go-to listening mode during testing, ramping up the immersion in everything from dance tracks like Clean Bandit and Zara Larson’s Symphony to vocal-driven pop songs such as Jason Derulo’s Want to Want Me.

Some spatial modes can be rather subtle, such as that found on the Denon PerL Pro, while others can sound unnatural, but Bose has got the balance right here. Things became a bit muddy and over-processed on a live performance of the Strawbs’ Lay Down, but this was a rare exception to an otherwise very satisfying spatial experience.

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Noise cancellation

The ANC benchmark set by the QuietComfort Earbuds II was extremely high but Bose’s latest buds manage to surpass it, albeit only by a very narrow margin. The Ultra Earbuds suck that little bit more sound out of your environment and create as close to silent listening conditions as you’ll get from a pair of in-ear headphones.

Without any music playing in the office, I was able to hear people talking on the bank of desks behind me, but what was previously a distracting racket was reduced to inconsequential mutterings. The buds are so effective at dampening external sound that I found myself using them when I wanted a bit of peace on the train, although the occasional audio artefact in the left earbud did prove a little annoying.

Whack on some music at low volume and the only external noise you’ll hear is either exceedingly loud or in the high-frequency band that all headphones find hard to attenuate. Even then, the QC Ultra Earbuds do a better job cutting down on high-pitched sounds than any other buds out there.

The above observations were all made in Quiet mode, which has ANC cranked up to its maximum level. When creating bespoke modes, you’re able to select one of ten levels, ranging from zero (full transparency) to ten (maximum ANC). This flexibility allows you to tailor options that meet a wide range of noise-cancelling needs.

It’s also worth highlighting just how good the transparency (Aware) mode is. Sound from the outside world is filtered in without a static hiss and sounds very natural, conversations are perfectly intelligible, and if things around you suddenly get very loud, Bose’s ActiveSense technology will automatically bump up the ANC a notch or two to compensate.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review: Verdict

Bose has been the brand to buy if noise cancellation is your top priority for some time now and the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds further cement that position; no other wireless earbuds attenuate external sound more effectively.

The addition of Bose’s Immersive Audio mode and support for Snapdragon Sound – both of which had a positive effect – further strengthen their appeal, while a comfortable fit and new lick of paint top off a compelling package.

It’s a package that’s still not quite complete, however. Bose wants you to fork out an additional £50 for a wireless charging case cover when other manufacturers offer that feature on their premium buds as standard, while the continued absence of Bluetooth multipoint pairing frustrates, as did the odd connection hiccup.

Unless you’re made of money, then, I wouldn’t recommend forking out for the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds if you already own the QC Earbuds II. If you don’t, however, they’re fantastic headphones and deserve to be in any conversation about the best premium wireless earbuds around.

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