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Bose Quiet Comfort 20i Noise Cancelling Headphones Review

Robert Greiner
Robert Greiner
3 min read

I received the Bose Quiet Comfort 20i Noise Cancelling Headphones as a Christmas gift from my wife who remembered an offhanded comment about how nifty I thought they were a few months prior.

I'm very picky about my headphones for a few reasons. First, I really like the comfort of over-the-ear headphones, but I find them difficult to use at work since they seem to give off an antisocial vibe. Plus, the top part always puts a big crease across my hair if I'm not careful. I haven't had much luck with in-ear headphones either. They are significantly less comfortable and the sound quality isn't as good as over-the-ear headphones.

The Bose QC 20i headphones offer all of the sound quality you would expect from over-the-ear headphones in a lightweight in-ear form factor. Here are few of the notable good features and shortcomings I have experienced over my short time with the 20i headphones. Hopefully, this will help you make a decision on whether or not the QC 20i headphones are the right pair for you.

The Good

  • Comfortable - I had been using my Apple Ear Pods before switching to the QC 20i, and they worked fine for the most part, but usually ended up hurting my ears after a while. The Bose gel ear-inserts are very comfortable and feel like they were custom built for my ears. I can comfortably wear the 20i's much longer than any other in-ear headphones I have ever owned.
  • Great sound quality - This is typical for Bose headphones and the QC 20i Noise Cancelling headphones are no exception.
  • Exceptional noise cancelling - I was surprised how effectively the 20i headphones cancel sound. When I am using them, I hardly notice the world around me. Great for treadmills, bad for walking the dog outside.
  • Lightweight - The headphones don't feel heavy in your ear and they roll up into a super-portable pouch for easy transport.
  • Rechargeable Battery - Bose outfitted the 20i headphones with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. I really appreciate this since I tend to forget to turn off the headphones after I am done using them. The headphones charge fully in around two hours and they last for close to 16 hours before needing a recharge.

The Bad

  • Cumbersome noise canceling brick - I know it needs to be there, and it is probably placed in the best possible location. However, it is a bit cumbersome and gets in the way from time to time. This isn't a deal breaker, just a minor annoyance.
  • Slight buzz when noise canceling is activated - There is a strange audible buzz or hum that emits from all Bose noise canceling headphones when there is no audio playing. I can't hear the buzzing once the audio starts; I'm not sure if it goes away completely or if I just don't happen to notice it. This doesn't annoy me at all, but I thought it was worth pointing out in case you think this could be a deal breaker.
  • Difficult to use as a phone headset - it's hard to judge how loud you are talking when wearing these headphones - even with noise cancelling deactivated. It is also difficult to leave one of the earpieces out while talking since there is no good place to put it.

Final Thoughts

The Bose QC 20i headphones are exceptional. They offer everything you could ask for in terms of sound quality, effective noise cancelling, portability, and comfort. The $299 price point is a bit steep, but I'm banking on the quality of the headphones and I fully expect them to serve me well for years to come.

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Professional optimist. I write a weekly newsletter for humans at the intersection of business, technology, leadership, and career growth.