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When it comes to ANC headphones, Bose and Sony are regarded as the best. Both the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Sony WH-1000XM3 made our list of best noise cancelling headphones, but which out of the two are best?
The QC 35 II and the WH-1000XM3 both feature active noise cancellation and extended battery life. The Bose were released in 2017, while the Sony arrived nearly a year later in 2018, meaning these aren’t the newest cans on the block.
Nevertheless, we can still pit them against each other. Which pair of headphones are the best value today?
Related: Best headphones
Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000XM3 – Price
The Bose QC 35 II had an RRP of £329.95 at launch. Since then, the price has dropped down to as low as £225 for the black, silver and rose gold finishes. The Midnight Blue model, available on the Bose website, is available for £299.95.
Sony’s contender has steadily dropped in price since last autumn, reaching its current price of £259. We anticipate this as being a price reduction ahead of the mooted Sony WH-1000XM4 arriving later this year.
Related: Sony WH-1000XM4 − What to expect from the wireless over-ears
Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000XM3 – Design
The Bose QC 35 II look very similar to the original QC 35s. The frame is primarily made of plastic which makes them very light. They’re comfortable to wear, with soft padding that doesn’t squeeze on the ear. While the design is pretty basic, there are four colours to choose from with your options being Black, Silver, Rose Gold and Midnight Blue.
As far as controls are concerned, the QC 35 II have physical buttons in an on/off/pairing switch, playback and volume keys, plus a button that offers access to Google Assistant, but can also be customised to adjust ANC levels.
The WH-1000XM3 are also very similar to their predecessors in the WH-1000XM2 and the MDR-1000X, though with a few subtle changes. In terms of finishes, Champagne Gold has been replaced with Platinum Silver, and the subtler matte black version. The earcups are larger with more padding, and the headband has a more acute bend to for a more snug fit on the head.
On the right are touch controls to play/pause/skip tracks and adjust the volume, and that’s also where activation of the Quick Attention mode is placed.
While the WH-1000XM3 weigh 21g more, overall they’re fairly similar and the comfort levels of both are evenly matched. Let’s call this a tightly contested draw.
Related: Best noise cancelling headphones
Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000XM3 – Features
Both pairs of headphones come with an abundance of features with ANC being the obvious standout.
The WH-1000XM3’s ANC is powered by Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 chip. It tackles mid and high frequencies, as well as the typical low-rumbling noises. ANC levels can be changed in Sony’s Headphones app, and the app uses the sensors in your mobile device to customise the application of ANC, whether you’re sitting down, walking, running or on transport.
The QC 35 II also features adjustable ANC. Users can toggle through the three levels – full, low and off – in the app (iOS and Android), and as noted before, the Google Assistant button can be customised for use as the ANC button. The ‘off’ option will let noise in to catch announcements over a tannoy etc (basically passive noise isolation). Note that this isn’t a true ambient mode, or Bose’s Conversation Mode in action, it’s just the off setting.
The QC 35 II uses Bluetooth 4.1, while the WH-1000XM3 has the slightly more advanced 4.2, which is faster and can handle more data. Disappointingly, the QC 35 II does not support aptX unlike the Sony over-ears, which are much superior with support for aptX, aptX-HD and Sony’s proprietary LDAC transmission for hi-res audio.
Both feature built-in Google Assistant and support Amazon Alexa functionality for hands-free assistance.
While both headphones have long battery life, the WH-1000XM3 features longer wireless battery at 30 hours compared to the Bose, which is up to 20 hours. You can eke out more from the Bose with a wired connection for a total of 40 hours.
The WH-1000XM3 feature quick charging for five hours of battery from a swift 10-minute charge. A quick 15-minute charge for the Bose only supplies 2.5 hours.
The Sony wins hands down here. Its feature set is more advanced, the battery life is longer, and with the support of aptX, aptX-HD and LDAC, you get better sound quality from your sources.
Related: Best wireless headphones
Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000XM3 – Sound
Both the Bose QC 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3 offer great audio performance, as would be expected from premium over-ear headphones.
The WH-1000XM3 have a large, open sound with full and defined vocals and instruments. The bass is tight and brings a good sense of attack, but the headphones are capable of conveying delicacy and grace where necessary.
The QC 35 II also offer a spacious soundstage. They are an excellent all-round offering offering meaty bass, detailed mids and crisp treble. However, dynamically they fall short when compared to the harder hitting Sony pair. The Sony gets the victory here.
Related: Best wireless headphones
Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000XM3 – Verdict
The QC 35 II are no longer the top-rated offering in the Bose’s headphone range with the release of the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. The Sony still is, until they’re replaced by the WH-1000XM4.
As far as looks, fit and comfort are concerned, there’s very little between them. Both headphones offer ANC with multiple levels of customisation, with the Sony pair a step ahead thanks to the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 chip. The Sony also offers better connectivity, stronger Bluetooth support and longer battery life. The Sony cans also have the edge when it comes to audio.
That makes Sony WH-1000XM3 the more compelling headphone over the Bose QC 35 II. Even though you can find the Bose for less money, the Sony’s are much better value