A Better Traveler's Sanctuary: The Bose Quiet Comfort 25

Noise Cancelers for Loud Environments Only
It needs to be said right off the bat, the fidelity of reproduction with noise canceling headphones is generally not very good. But that's not the point. The fidelity when listening in a very loud environment without decent isolation will be poor regardless of the headphone's performance—all that outside noise just gets in the way too much for good listening fidelity. It also needs to be said that in-ear phones will often provide better isolation than noise cancelers can provide, and with better fidelity. But lots of folks simply don't like the discomfort of in-ear phones.

I consider noise canceling headphones to have a very specialized purpose: Listening in very loud environments. If you're listening in only moderately loud environs, you're usually better off, in terms of sound quality, with full-sized or on-ear sealed headphones. However, if you are in very noisy situations a lot, and don't want to stick IEMs in your ears, a good noise canceler is the way to go...and Bose knows how to do that very well.

Bose Quiet Comfort 25 ($299)
It must be going on 5 or 6 years now that I've been recommending the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 as the best noise canceling headphone. Time after time when comparing the QC15 with newcomers to the field, they either slayed the competition with their ability to isolate from outside noise, or with their competent sound...usually both.

Then last year at about this time, Bose introduced their Quiet Comfort 20, a shallow insertion in-ear noise canceling model. I thought it was awesome. The shallow fit is remarkably comfortable—similar to just gently putting your finger against your ear canal—and their ability to isolate astonishing. When recently I heard that Bose was about to introduce a new over-ear model to replace the QC15 I emailed my contact at Bose immediately—when it comes to noise canceling headphones, Bose is the maker to keep an ear on. They did not disappoint.


The now discontinued Bose Quiet Comfort 15 (left) and replacement Quiet Comfort 25 (right).

Physical Description
The Bose Quiet Comfort 25 is a circumaural, sealed, noise canceling headphone. Though similar in size and shape at first glance, numerous improvements have been made relative to the QC15. The headband shape has been changed to allow the QC25 to conform more closely to the head; the pleather of the QC15 earpads and headband pad have been replace with protein leather on the ear pads and a synthetic suede covering on the headband pad. I feel the comfort of the headphones has improved modestly—the QC15 is a light and comfortable headphone already, but I do suspect that the protein leather of the QC25 earpads will be significantly more comfortable in hot climates, and the depth and materials within the ear cup make it feel slightly more comfortable. Earpad openings are the same on both models (60mm x 39mm). Earpads are replaceable; $34.99 here.


QC15 folding was only rotating the pads flat (left); the QC25 shown folded for carry case (center) or in its most compact form (right).

Folding mechanisms and compactness of storage is significantly improved with the QC25. The QC15 simply has earpads that rotate flat. So does the QC25, but it also has cast Zinc hinges that allow it to become a bit more compact when folded flat and stored in their case—which is about 25% smaller than the QC15 case, and has a rectangular shape that's a bit more packing friendly. They can also be folded with cups not rotated for an even smaller package.


Cases for QC15 (left) and the smaller QC25 case (right).

Likewise, the travel case that comes with the QC25 is about 30% smaller than the QC15. In fact, on almost every front, the new QC25 is incrementally improved over the QC15. The QC25 now continues to play if the battery dies (though sound quality suffers in passive mode, 35 hour battery life with one AAA). It has a little more room for your ears within the cups. The 56 inch cable is a little larger in diameter and a little softer to the touch. A bumper now surrounds each earpiece to protect the finish when laying it on the table. This headphone is clearly a step-wise evolution for the better in almost every way; not huge steps in any one area, but nice incremental steps every where you look.


The styling is a bit more contemporary with less chrome flash than its predecessor with a more understated and sophisticated gray and black, or tan and white look. Also available for an additional $100 is the ability to customize the color of the various headphone parts through Colorware.

The big question for me is whether this trend of incremental improvement included noise canceling and sound quality...

Bose Corporation
The Mountain
Framingham, MA 01701

tony's picture

Hello Tyll ,

Is that the only clue you will give to the amount of reduction in noise , what is the total reduction in Noise ? .

I wear the little yellow plugs when I travel and am now considering a pair of these QC 15 or 25 . I wouldn't be using the cord so it's good to see you removing it to install in the case .

I would use an iem or ciem with the QCs , the idea would be to lower ambient noise level .

Looks like you're having a White-out Snow Storm from the looks of your Window , hope your snow blower is tuned up .

Tony in Michigan

ps , I checked the Bose site , love the colors , no db reduction quoted or promised , what gives ?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Sorry, I assumed people would read the measurement page and I shouldn't do that. Broadband attenuation (100Hz to 10kHz) was 26dB for the QC15, 26dB for the QC20, and 28dB for the QC25.

Thanks, I should have mentioned that.

tony's picture

I did read the measurement page , I enlarged it on my iMac , the lettering seems blurry and I wasn't sure what I was seeing . Thanks for explaining , that 28 db is important , perhaps the most important part of the product . I don't see it as an advantage over the Etymotic or the yellow plugs unless a person wear them over the Etymotic or yellow plugs yielding a total of 50-60 db .
I do fly in Small single Cessna and Beach Aircraft equipped with Canceling Headphones , Canceling phones work but I wouldn't want to live with them , I'm in a hurry to take them off when we finally arrive , they're quite horrible without horrible noise to contend with , the flying noise ruins flying as a hobby .
We live in a noisy World , sometimes we can't get around being surrounded with high ambient noise levels , it seems a tense time , even with sound protection .
I'll take Walden's Pond with its Frogs croaking .

Thank you for being helpful

Tony in Michigan

ps . Bose won't quote their measurements , your the only one willing to whisper the real number , hope you don't get in trouble for it !

Limp's picture

The graphs are vectorized (PDF), you really shouldn't see any blur if you do things right, viz. clicking the preview and then zoom.
Tyll could probably make the previews a tad more readable (and reduce file size) if he exported them as PNGs. Seeing jpeg compression applied to nice flat graphics like that makes the graphical designer in me cry a little every time.

Impulse's picture

I wonder if a lot of people don't realize they're clickable PDFs and/or if that contributes at all to many ignoring the measurements page (as per Tyl's own stats)... More than likely it's a general aversion to numbers and the fact that they're placed last AFTER the review conclusion, still tho, I agree it'd be better presented if he changed the preview as you suggest.

zobel's picture

Heard anything about progress there?

Impulse's picture

I think they reached a settlement a few days ago, I remember reading a news article about it... I doubt we'll be privy to any details on the actual settlement or reasons for it.

Eli's picture

Thanks for the review Tyll!

I think you forgot to mention one other (important) incremental improvement of the QC 25 which is the reduced hissing noise produced by the headphones. Bose speaks about this and I also verified it in a store. It was quite a big difference between the QC15 and QC25.

bernardperu's picture

Tyll, so oN a jet airplane...what combo would give me more musical pleasure for well recorded hi-rez music?...let's say i am listening to Mingus...1) ak240+focal classic or 2) bose qc25 + the best dap that matches it.

How much noise is it necessary for me to dump my best dap + my best noise isolating phones in order to upgrade to the Boses? Does it require standing right next to a construction site?

By the way. I travel a lot. Best solution for noise while enjoying music i use is mad dogs + hifi m8.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd take the Bose over the Focal on an airplane, the Focal just won't secret you away from the noise.

75-80dBspl, I'm guessing. Airplanes, trains, noisy bars, room full of servers. I recon if you're in a loud environment you'll know it.

Mad Dogs isolate quite well, Alpha Dogs even better.

bernardperu's picture

ThAnKs for the reply!

My fiio x5 + focal classics allow me to engage in the music while being on an airplane with no need to multitask; just listening...

Perhpas, Tyll, you could be more specific about the qc25s: are they good enough for conscious listening? Or good enough for listening while multitasking? So they are good at cancelling noise while music is the background to something else? Can they make music engaging and non-fatiguing?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Is it best to meditate on a bed of nails or a lay-Z-Boy chair? Some might argue convincingly that the bed of nails is better.

What I'm saying is that musical engagement is fundamentally about state of mind rather than fidelity of reproduction. But I will say that I find the QC25 plenty good at delivering music well enough to enjoy, and they are definitely non-fatiguing to my ears.

bernardperu's picture

"musical engagement is fundamentally about state of mind rather than fidelity of reproduction."

Those are very wise words. So if it all comes down to our state of minds, why don't you elaborate more on this and write Think Pieces on your philosophical approach to musical engagement?

I bet many of your readers would appreciate a large dose of "Philosophical Tyll."

In my opinion, Hi-End publications desperately need more Think Pieces. The state of mind you are referring to does not necessarily reside in each individual gene pool, but it is more a product of modern trends. More exploration on this matter is highly welcome.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
....well, I do have a whole schtick about, "Is the appreciation of the art of music directly related to the fidelity of reproduction?", which is where that statement about the bed of nails comes from. Okay, I'll think bout writing that one up one of these days.
bernardperu's picture

Excellent! You have a way of capturing readers' attention so you are likely to have tons of comments for this Think Piece.

Not long ago I read that you wanted feedback from InnerFidelitytes on how you could improve the impact of your online based media platform. In my opinion, Think Pieces can create a lot of valuable broad attention.

DiRo's picture

Hi Tyll thanks for another great review. I am wondering if you can elaborate just slightly on your definition of "mid fi". As some people consider HD600 as mid fi others may use M50s as an example.

I currently have SRH840 for just run around headphone, would you say sonic wise QC25 is same class give or take...or? Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd characterize the HD600 as more entry to mid level high-end...they're very good.

M50s and SRH840 would be mid-fi, thing is, there's all sorts of ways to fall short. The 840 might not be neutral enough, the M50 maybe lacks transient resolution. The QC25 is surprisingly neutral, but the artificial treble keeps it from being more than good mid-fi, IMO.

DiRo's picture

If I may one more question relating to "Wall of Fame".

Been following your articles and wall of fame... D2000 got bumped by K550, it self then got bumped by UE600< Momentum< HP50. 4 revamps later, is the HP50 incrementally better than K550? Or HP50 is leep and bounds better in sound quality than K550, now K550 has been lapped 4x on the wall. Somewhat ironic in that both headphones is going for the "open" sound.

Noted your review of K550 stated it's better than SRH840. But don't think I can make the inference "If QC25 is in same class as SRH840, then sonically K550 is better than QC25." Or can I make such an inference?

Simply **my purchase decision is stuck between K550 and QC25. Currently own Shure SE425, SRH1540, 840, HD600, HD25. Like them all but wouldn't say I like lay back or warm sound as I sold my Momentum, just wasn't happy with the sound signature.

HugoQueiroz's picture

Hi there Tyll, I really hope you can help me out with this one.
Right now, in my laptop bag, I carry around 3 different headphones every day to work. Plantonics for conferences, Klipsch One Premium for music\movies and a small Monster Purity In-ear for whenever I’m listening to my cellphone. So, as it turns out, too much stuff to carry around and I really would like to find the best solution to only use one headphone.
My desired budget for this is around $300, it must have a mic (so I can join conferences if I have to), and it must have some level of portability\durability, since I travel a lot.
I’ve never used Noise Cancelling, so not sure how useful that would be, but I do fly a lot…
Right now I was thinking of a few options, I would to hear your opinion: Bose QuietComfort 25, V-Moda M100, V-Moda XS, Sony MDR-1R, but that’s just what it came to my mind…

Tyll Hertsens's picture
You may want to give the Focal Spirit Professional or NAD VISO HP50. Both have some fit oddities, so you should see if you can find a place to try them on, but both are also better sounding than the cans you mention, IMO. If you fly a lot, the QC25 might be the way to go, the other cans won't isolate nearly as well.
mvyrmnd's picture

Hi, and thanks for the awesome website!

I had a pair of QC15's that my 2yo made short work of one fateful morning - and upon closer inspection was sorely disappointed with the strength of the cup rotation mechanism - it was (in aussie vernacular) piss weak, a very small amount of plastic was doing all the work. Have they improved the design any on the QC25? What material is the primary structure of the folding made of?

PS. It was on the strength of your review that I replaced the broken QC15's with a pair of Fidelio L1's I got on a end-of-model runout sale. Now these are headphones that are made properly!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
The folding mechanism on the QC25 is cast zinc, so I think it is an improved design.
blueangel2323's picture

Tyll, how do the QC25 compare to the QC20? I know it's hard to compare between over-ear and in-ear, but the QC20 sounds pretty neutral to me, and far superior to the QC15 which seems very harsh in the treble. Not bright, just harsh as in very peaky, gritty, un-smooth. The QC20 doesn't have this problem as the treble is pretty much perfect below 10k (but lacks extension beyond that). Thanks

Thorz's picture

Hello Tyll.
I have read your review on the QC20s and you write marvels about them telling also that they are a big improvement over the QC15.
In this review of the Q25s you say that they have improve a little bit over the Q15.
How do you compare the sound quality between the Q20 and the Q25? I am specially interested in the bass quality.

blueangel2323's picture

I have both now, and Tyll is right when he says that everything is slightly improved on the QC25 over the QC15... which unfortunately means that they still don't sound as good as the QC20. The QC20 is much flatter in the treble region, whereas the QC25's treble is still peaky and artificial sounding, albeit not as bad as the treble on the QC15.

Thorz's picture

Thanks. How about the bass? Have read on some places that the bass is better on the Q25 compared with the Q20.

blueangel2323's picture

Yes, the bass is the best aspect of the QC25's sound. QC15's bass was flabbier in comparison. QC25's bass is tight but very powerful. Kinda reminds me of B&W P7's bass actually.

Thorz's picture

Thanks again, you have been very helpful. I think that I will order the QC25 and take them for a spin. If I am not satisfied I can return them and go for their sibling.

dp's picture

I take them with me whenever I travel. I use them on airplanes and in hotel rooms to tune out noisy ac or snoring roommate.

They are also the most comfortable headphones. I travel often between US and Asia. QC15/25 are the ones that I can wear for 13 hours or more straight.

thonglor16's picture

I purchased the QC25s in triple black recently and they look gorgeous.

They seem quite durable, although I wouldn't want to really test them.

The noise cancelling abilities are really second to none. I didn't own the QC15s so can't really compare.

If you're sitting on the fence about these, don't.

Grab them while the triple black is still available!

They rave about them here

Phryq's picture

Thanks so much for this review Tyll!

I currently own the QC 25s. I use them for composing / mixing samples music, for example on my website AlbertMcKay.com

Some people tell me noise-cancellation is really bad for mixing. I'm thinking I should get a set of AKG 702s. Do I really need this? Or am I ok with the QC25s? For example, I might have difficulty hearing balance / reverb. But maybe it's only my hearing ability, and not the headphones' fault.