I've been a big Bose fan since I got my hands on my first pair of QuietComfort headphones back in college. The company provides excellent noise-cancellation technology, an infinitely comfortable headset, and surprisingly long-lasting construction for oft-abused electronics.

Bose has three different noise-cancelling over-ear sets, each with their own perks and features. If you're considering a set this holiday season, here's how they compare.

Controls and design

On the surface, all three of Bose's headsets look nigh-identical. The folding plastic-and-foam body includes synthetic protein leather ear cups and a plush Alcantara microfiber headband to keep your head from long-term headphone pain, with a single side switch and a bottom-mounted 3.5mm hole on the left earcup for the headphone cord.

Colors

As always, Bose offers fairly limited color choices for its headphones. You can get the QC25s in a dark gray "black," true "triple black," or tan-and-silver "white" with blue accents on its interior ear cup and headphone cord. Both QC35 models come in a slightly more professional-looking black and silver coloration, though you can also occasionally find a discontinued "midnight blue" edition of the QC35 I on eBay).

Hardware differences

Minor aesthetic differences aside, the hardware is where these headphones stand apart. The QC 35 I and II support Bluetooth and NFC wireless audio pairing, while the QC25 does not. Which headphone you prefer will largely depend on your love of wires, built-in buttons, and Google Assistant.

As such, the QC35 I and II have an inline mic, Micro-USB charging port, and play/pause/volume buttons built into their right ear-cup; the QC25 instead has the mic and play/pause controls along the 3.5mm headphone cord. These are all still physical buttons — despite the move by some headphone manufacturers to pick up touch controls, Bose has eschewed that trend in favor of traditional buttons.

The QC35 II additionally has a new Action button on its left ear cup: This can be used to trigger Google Assistant (if you have a supported Android or iOS device), Siri, or adjust your noise cancellation levels.

It's also worth noting that the QC25 comes in different models depending on your device, while the QC35 supports all Bluetooth- and NFC-compatible devices out of the box.

Weight and dimensions

The QC25 and both QC35 models vary a little bit in their weight and dimensions.

The QC25 is a little taller (7.5 inches) and slimmer (6 inches wide) than its 7.1-inch by 6.7-inch QC35 siblings, with a much thinner ear cup depth, too: 0.9 inches to the QC35 I and II's 3.2 inches.

It's also quite a bit lighter than the QC35 models, weighing in at 6.9 ounces (compared to the 8.3 oz of the Bluetooth models).

This size and weight difference is largely due to the lithium-ion battery built in to both the QC35 I and II, along with the integrated mic and music controls.

The QC25 does have a slightly longer headphone cord (56 inches to the QC35 I and II's 47.2 inches) because of the addition of inline mic and play controls on the cord.

Noise cancellation and sound

All three headsets offer Bose's top-tier, adaptive noise-cancellation technology. In my testing, it's one of the best at isolating your music from the sounds of the outside world.

It's also a powered technology: All three headsets require battery power to provide noise-cancellation. The QC25 uses a single AAA battery, while the Q35 I and II use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

If you want to listen without noise cancellation (and thus, no battery), you can use all three headsets in their wired configuration without enabling the noise cancellation switch. You can also adjust this setting inside the Bose app for the QC35 I and II, which both support three different levels (High, Low, or Off). All three also offer volume-optimized equalizer settings within the app for a more tuned experience for your songs.

If you're not using Google Assistant or Siri on the QC35 II, you can instead adjust your noise cancellation levels with the Action button on the left ear cup.

The one issue I have with adaptive noise cancellation is present in all three of Bose's models: If you're in a particularly windy environment, you'll occasionally get interference while listening to your music. It's not usually a problem in your traditional noise-cancellation setting (on a plane, in the office), but if you plan to use these headphones for any sort of regular outdoor commuting, it's worth considering.

Bluetooth & NFC

Both of the QC35 models can be used wire-free in either Bluetooth 4.1 or NFC configurations. While neither provides an augmented wireless sound experience (like Bowers & Wilkins's PX, which offers aptX HD), they still pump out some excellent sound.

As with Bose's other wireless options, you can connect to multiple Bluetooth sources for sound, though (unlike Bose's QC30 in-ear headphones) you can't share a single source between multiple pairs of wireless headphones.

Battery

Both the QC35 I and II have an identical 20 hours of battery life in noise cancellation mode; in my personal experience, that can translate to several weeks of on-again, off-again listening without needing a charge. A full charge takes just over two hours over Micro-USB, though the QC35 II also supports quick-charging technology — plug in your headset for just 15 minutes, and you'll get 2.5+ hours of listening time.

Without noise cancellation (or while using the QC35 II's Low setting), the QC35s edge closer to 40 hours of battery when used wireless. That said, I've found those times few and far between. Generally, if I'm using my Bose headset over my AirPods, I want extraneous background noise eliminated.

The QC25s, in contrast, offer a straight 35 hours of noise cancellation — if you don't turn it on, you're just using the headphones like a regular wired headset. (The QC35 I and II also offer non-powered wired usage, for reference.)

Google Assistant (and Siri)

Bose's QuietComfort line has long been able to trigger your device's built-in assistant using Apple's MFi (Made For iPhone) controls: Holding down the play/pause button will bring Siri (or Google, or Alexa) up to the forefront and let you chat with little delay.

But the QC35 II's Google Assistant support is a little more thorough than that: It not only supports chatting with Google, but you can also use the headset's new Action button to get notifications and reply to messages. It's not a dramatic increase in functionality, but if you're someone who regularly likes using Google Assistant, you may appreciate the extra care Bose and Google have put into this integration.

It's important to note that the QC35 II doesn't have any sort of Wi-Fi or cellular network built into its headphones to let you access Assistant at all times: It simply relays your iPhone or Android phone's connection.

Price

Only the QC35 Series II is still officially offered by Bose — the Series I and QC25 are technically discontinued, though you can still find them on Amazon and in Bose's Special Offers section.

As a result, the pricing for these three headphones varies considerably; you can find refurbished QC25 models on Bose's site for as little as $160, while the average price for factory-sealed QC25s hovers around $175 at Amazon and elsewhere.

The QC35 Series II is roughly double that, at $349; the Series I is still factory-listed at the same price, though it currently sells at $329 on Amazon (and often even lower during sale periods).

If pricing is a factor, the QC25 delivers the same core experience as Bose's wireless headphones, just with a cord. Those on a budget who still want Bose's noise-cancelling technology should consider them.

Who should buy the Bose QC25?

If you want a pair of lightweight wired headphones that provide best-in-class noise cancellation, Bose's $180 QC25 is a great pick. If you don't mind a wired set of headphones in today's Bluetooth age, you can get the company's same sturdy design and top-notch electronics at almost double the battery life and half the price of Bose's latest Bluetooth model.

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Who should buy the Bose QC35 Series I?

If you don't need multiple levels of noise cancellation or a Google Assistant shortcut, the original QC35 is still just as good now as it was when first released. The $329 Series I packs in the same great 20+ hours of battery life, full-featured noise cancellation, and comfortable fit as its successor; if you feel like saving $20 (or more, during sale periods), the QC35 I is still one of the best noise-cancelling headphones out there.

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Who should buy the Bose QC 35 II?

If you can afford the premium cost of Bose's latest and greatest, the $300 QC35 Series II offers a few nice perks absent from the Series I. You'll get multiple levels of noise cancellation and deep integration with Google Assistant — most helpful for Android users, though iPhone owners can also take advantage of the feature using the Google app.

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Updated August 2018: Updated pricing.

Originally written September 2017. Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide.

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