You who’ve been with me a while know that I can’t resist playing with new tech. So I ordinarily wouldn’t have bought the Bose QuietControl 30 (QC30) in-ear headset during July Camp NaNoWriMo—but I made the mistake of putting it on my birthday list, and to my astonishment, it arrived! (Thanks, Hubby!)
As an ADHD writer, I need a serious noise-attenuating headset. I’ve had a mid-level active noise cancelling (ANC) in-ear headset, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33IS, for years. It does great for airplane noise, but for coffeehouse music and conversation, not so much. I’ve had two gaming headsets, which do well on passive noise attenuation. But I left the quite good Hyper X Cloud II over-the-ear set behind at coffeehouses no fewer than three times, the last time for good. It just wasn’t meant to be. And the Razer Hammerhead BT—well, it’s just not up to attenuating the coffeehouse milieu, either, not even with Comply Foam Eartips installed.
Since I can’t stop losing over-the-ear headphones, there seemed to be only one choice for wide frequency, in-ear ANC—the outrageously expensive Bose QC30. Four times the cost of the ATH-ANC33IS or Razer Hammerhead BT, is it really worth that much money?
Yes. Yes, it is, if you need that level of attenuation. The QC30 drops outside music and loud conversation volume to such a low level that I can turn down the volume on my soothing background music and just write. OMG, it’s wonderful! Occasionally I start thinking that it’s not doing much—but then I turn off the ANC and hastily turn it back on.
The QC30 music quality is great, for my not-too-picky taste. Will it satisfy serious audiophiles? Probably not, but it’s not shabby. Check out this Sound Guys article if you’re curious. I’m happy with how it treats my Bach concertos, though.
There’s also the “Control” part of QuietControl. I can increase or decrease attenuation at will. In other words, I don’t have to dig an eartip out of my ear in order to talk to the coffeehouse barista, then replace it afterwards. I just lower attenuation, talk normally, then raise the attenuation back up to max.
Don’t be discouraged by the (comparatively) low ratings for the QC30 v. the Bose over-the-ear headsets. Expectations for Bose are high, and in-ear headsets always have lower ratings than their over-the-ear counterparts. Here are some common complaints:
- The batteries die after two years. Rechargeable lithium batteries wear out. Depending on how many times you charge them, this isn’t unexpected. Not even Bose can change physics.
- The QC30 doesn’t stand up to workouts. Bose doesn’t claim it will. Their sports headsets are not noise-cancelling. Their noise-cancelling headsets are not intended to stand up to sports.
- The eartips don’t fit. They’re good eartips, provided in small, medium, and large, but of course they won’t fit everyone. Poor eartip fit is the cause of not only fit complaints, but many poor sound complaints as well. I’m lucky the large tips fit me, because the QC30 won’t accept third-party eartips. In my opinion, the inability to accept third-party eartips is one of its few flaws.
- The neckband shifts position. It can slip off to one side a bit if I’m taking a brisk walk to the neighbourhood Starbucks whilst playing Pokemon Go. The only time I’ve had a real problem with this is if I’m listening to music, forget myself, and start dancing. This appears to be part of the “not ready for workouts” syndrome.
- The ear wires/neckband physically wear out. I haven’t had mine long enough to give this a test. However, by design necessity in-ear headsets are more delicate than over-the-ear ones. The wires and components of the QC30 are heavier than those of my old AT headset, which has lasted me years. Many Bose customers complaining about this say that it happens after the 1-year warranty runs out—and that their expectations for Bose are that the set will last several years more. I’ll revise my review if this happens, but like my Audio-Technica set, I intend to treat my QC30 as if it’s made of glass. Similar complaints were rife about the AT set, and I managed to get five years out of it (it’s still going, in fact.) Honestly, I’ll likely wear out the battery before I wear out the rest of the device.
Tips for Using the Bose QC30 Headset
Update your firmware. There are many reviews complaining about the voice microphone for phone calls, sound quality, etc. My unit arrived with firmware 1.2.x. By the time I finished updating, the firmware version was 3.0.3! Don’t just depend on the Bose phone app, Bose Connect. I got a more recent copy of the firmware by going to the Bose update site, btu.bose.com. I have had zero problems with sound quality or with folks I call complaining about call quality.
Change the way you think about voice pickup. There’s no microphone in the control module. It’s not hidden in the neckband, either. No, the microphones(!) are on the earbuds themselves. So holding the control module or the neckband closer to your mouth won’t help. Just speak normally. I’d suggest keeping your voice even a bit softer than normal—one person I called said my voice was “over-modulated”. That meant that I was speaking too loudly for the mics and they were distorting my voice. But please do be sure you have the latest firmware (see above.)