Bose packages the QC 3 with some nice extras. The storage case is quite impressive on its own, with its cloth-covered molded insert that perfectly fits and protects the phones and accessories; it even has a clear window pocket on the inside cover where you can slip your business card. There's also a slick 2-hour battery charger with flip-down AC prongs, an airline adapter for plugging into armrests, a quarter-inch adapter for home stereo use, and a 5-foot extension cord. The primary, 4.5-foot cord unplugs from the left earcup so you can use the phones just for noise reduction without unsightly dangling - a nice touch. You can order a Cell Connect kit from bose.com ($40), which has an in-line microphone that allows you to switch seamlessly between music and calls from your MP3-capable phone.
Bose shrank the noise-reduction circuitry down to fit inside the QuietComfort 3's earcups. As with other noise-canceling phones, microphones in the earcups pick up ambient noise so a signal with opposite polarity from the noise can be generated and mixed into the earpiece, hence canceling it out. Otherwise, the phones are uncluttered, with the only a sliding power switch on the right earcup. A built-in red LED indicator lets you know when the phones are on and flashes when the battery is running low.
Note that when the switch is in the off position, it's really off - this slider turns the entire headphone on and off, not just the noise-cancellation electronics. This means, unfortunately, that if you're caught with a dead battery, the QC 3s are utterly useless, which is not the case with many competing models. That's easy to do, too, since without manually tracking your hours of play, there's no way to know your battery is drained until the LED starts flashing, and by then you've got only a little while before it's lights-out, so to speak (though Bose claims you've got 4 hours). I understand the QC 2 suffers from the same drawback, probably because Bose applies equalization in these phones along with the noise cancellation to tailor the sound. But having experienced it once or twice during commutes, I can tell you it's a bummer to have your headphones go dead. I'm squeamish enough now to consider a spare battery ($50) to charge up and stash in the carry case.
PERFORMANCE Putting aside those occasional rude (but avoidable) blackouts, the QC 3s are an absolute pleasure to put on every day. While I wouldn't describe them as rugged, their build is fairly solid and sure, with details like shiny metal rings around the earcups that lend a feeling of quality. That's something I couldn't really say for the company's Triport headphones ($140), a traditional non-canceling model I've also used.
I'd rate sound quality among the best I've heard from headphones. I found them cannily balanced: They were fairly detailed in the high frequencies, if perhaps a touch rolled off, and notably full-sounding down below, with a slight bump in the upper bass to give the impression of more low-frequency information than headphones normally deliver.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.