According to Bose, this outstanding performance is due to its CustomTune technology. When the earbuds are removed from the charging case and placed in the user’s ear, brief tones assess the specific characteristics of the ear canal. In less than half a second, the QCE II takes information and sets itself up for audio and ANC to best complement the wearer’s specific characteristics. Then, with Encore, if you’re in Perception mode, CustomTune will be on alert, and if there’s a sudden loud noise, it will immediately activate noise cancellation.
Despite the lack of header codec compatibility, the QCE II is a unified, detailed, spacious way of listening, and in a way it should be a given, but often it isn’t.During our testing, Bose played everything from Warren Zevon Gorilla, you’re an outlaw to …the world laughs with you by Flying Lotus via the Cleveland Orchestra’s Rampage Orff’s or luck— and at all times, they sound more important than engagement and entertainment.
As is the case with the Bose headphones, the low frequencies are rich, but here they have proper attack and decay controls to match their amazing extension and considerable weight. This level of authority makes for decent rhythmic presentation, and the recording has the right sense of dynamics and a solid foundation. The level of detail about the textures is high and there is equal punch and finesse.
At the other end of the frequency range, the treble attacks politely. Bose erred cautiously here, but only a little. There’s plenty of bite and sheen on the top end, with little, if any, sign of hardness even at volume. Some listeners may crave higher-end aggression, but then again, some listeners have never heard of tinnitus.
In between, Bose does a simple good job with singers of all genres and ability levels. The level of insight available through the mids means that no detail of tone or technique is too minor or fleeting to escape the attention of the QCE II. Thus, the character and attitude of the singer are intact.
Bose firmly integrates the entire frequency range, smooth and bump-free from top to bottom. When the EQ settings are kept well, the overall tone may just be on the warm side of the neutral. Of course, the presentation can be tweaked to your liking in the app, but honestly, it’s hard for you to make real improvements. The difference is about the best you can hope for.
It’s easy to imagine that when Bose tweaked the QCE II, “good taste” was high on the sonic wish list. This may partly explain the slightly dampened dynamic response to large Orff-like changes in volume and intensity. Sure, there’s a distance between the quiet and the loud here, but it’s not as pronounced as other similarly priced alternatives. However, when it comes to low-level dynamics of instruments or sounds, Bose’s foundation is far more solid.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are smaller and lighter than the models they replace, which puts them on par with obvious competitors. In terms of sound quality, battery life, and user interface, they are fully competitive, if not top-notch. When it comes to actual noise cancellation, only Apple’s next-gen AirPods Pro seem to have a chance of replacing them. That means we’ll be updating the best list right away.