Pros:Comfortable, high quality
Cons:Can inadvertently turn on headphones, surprising you with an exhausted battery.
The Bottom Line: Chose product after reading other reviews and testing it and similar products. I chose Bose for the quality, the reputation of the company and its response to the headphone's breaking.
I’m a frequent flyer on Alaska Airlines. Living in the Northwest, Alaska is “my” airline and I have a great deal of loyalty, but it's a "talking airline." Stewardesses (yeah, yeah, I know, today they’re called flight attendants; I’m revealing my age) drone on and on, turning safety advisories into endless speeches. It’s worse on Horizon (Alaska’s commuter partner) whose attendants fancy themselves comedians. Seeking an escape from this human cacophony I began using foam earplugs. However, I’d long been thinking about nice headphones to do double duty of noise cancellation and serve as earphones for movies and music on long-haul flights (those provided or sold by the airline are chintzy affairs that won’t stay in my ears).
Recommend this product?
Against this backdrop I started comparing different headphones. Candidly, I hoped the Boses’ would be the winner because they look good. However, I checked out a number of headphones to satisfy the search. During that search the Bose QuietComfort 3 (QC3) was introduced. I was intoxicated by the smaller size, although I thought that the QuietComfort 2s, which cover the ear, might do a better job. I think they actually do a very slightly better job of keeping noise from leaking in under the cups but there’s little difference in performance and I liked the compactness of the QC3. I decided to forge ahead with the QC3. I checked prices at several locations on-line, including Boses’, and found that Bose doesn’t discount. I purchased from a supplier on eBay, paying a total of $326.99 including shipping.
The QC3 arrived in the sturdy Bose box. Included are the headphones, a nice black zipper carry case and all the accoutrements, including a cord for the standard .5 mm jack. There are also adaptor jacks for airplane seat inputs (the two-prong input ports on airplane seats are now quite rare but Bose supplies an AC charger which accommodates either the single or double port. You’ll probably never use it). Instead, the main cord (the long one which you have to use because of the uniquely-shaped jack end which fits the port on the left cup) has the .5 mm jack on the other end. It’s fit in every airplane system I’ve used in the past several years. The case has formed press-fit areas to hold each item, including the battery charger. That charger is a small black thing which fits in the hand . You snap the battery pack into the top, then flip out the standard 2-blade plug. Bose is smart not to use the 3-prong configuration because with two one can use the charger in many foreign countries whose outlets are double-blade only. The charger will work in a maximum 240 volts, making it further adaptable for use in many countries.
The case provides great protection for the headphones and is reasonably compact; however, I don’t use it. I just throw the headphones in my computer bag (I probably shouldn’t but I do), along with w/battery pack, cord and AC charger. However, the case will fit easily into most carry-on/computer roller bags. Bose started shipping a shoulder strap for the case but I can’t imagine anyone strapping on a Bose case across his or her shoulder.
For me, the QC3 does everything it’s advertised to do. I haven’t tested how long the battery lasts but it held up throughout a flight from Reagan National Airport (DCA for you pilot types) to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
I’m a happy Bose owner. The QC3s (I can’t decide whether the term “headphones” is singular or plural) are comfortable and do a terrific job of keeping out unwanted ambient noise. They are light on the head and work well. I use ‘em a lot, on airplane and almost daily in the gym. I find them particularly good at limiting the intrusively loud and garish music that gyms insist on piping out for everyone’s displeasure.
Customer Service. About a year into ownership the cups on one side separated from the frame. The cups have several snap points where they snap into the frame ears, and the fit and plastic materials felt flimsy. I kept “snapping” the cups back onto the frame but they ultimately broke, first on one side, then the other. I spent much of 2008 overseas and was unable to contact Bose. When I returned I contacted it by phone and reached the customer service center in Massachusetts. Although I’m think the offshore call centers do a good job it was nice to see some work kept domestically. I described my issue to the representative who some math and told me I was past the one-year warranty. However, he said Bose would still honor it and send me replacement headphones. I corrected him, stating that I had had the headphones for two years, not one, so I was well past the one -ear warranty. The guy cheerfully acknowledged that he hadn’t listened closely and, because he promised to do so, STILL honored the warranty.
The replacement QC3s arrived promptly; although they look the same as the originals they feel sturdier. I’ve now had them a year and they’ve held together perfectly. The carry case has been changed slightly and the accessories have small universal symbols stamped on them to show their intended uses, such, for example, an airplane. Even the cardboard box is smartly done and form-fits the headphones and accessories.
Here’s a case of a company delivering on its promise of quality for an expensive product, by (here) going well above and beyond its warranty obligations. Following my experience with the device, followed by superior warranty service, I remain a fan of the company.
If you’re on a budget you can buy cheaper headphones, which come reasonably close to the Bose in quality and performance (a great consumer organization which publishes a monthly magazine (initials CR) says as much). However, I'll stick with Bose for headphones.
Follow-Up Note. Recently, I tried out the newly-introduced Bose 15. I would have to say that, in testing them for just a few minutes, their performance is slightly better than my QC3’s. However, given the choice of the two I’d probably opt for my QC3 because the difference in performance doesn’t justify the price differential.