Hands-On Review:Audiophile sound at 30,000 feet? or anywhere

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By E.A. Tennaway


Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones1978. Somewhere over the Atlantic. Audio scientist and founder of the corporation bearing his name, Dr. Amar Bose, is having no fun. In attempting to check out a pair of airline-supplied headphones, the scientist finds that the roar of the jet's engines intrude on his listening to such an extent that it is impossible for him to judge or enjoy the 'phones.


This experience got Dr. Bose wondering about how to deal with the omnipresent noise of commercial aviation. Before his flight had landed, Dr. Bose had sketched out some calculations that pointed to the viability of a technology that would cancel out the noise. Those calculations led to the formation of an entire research group dedicated to the subject of noise reduction. Over a decade later Bose unveiled its first Acoustic Noise Cancelling headsets. Military came first and then aviation for military and private pilots. In 2000, Bose launched it's first noise cancelling headphone for consumers - The Quiet Comfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphone. They now follow-up that highly acclaimed product with The Quiet Comfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphone. Designed for use by consumers rather than pilots, the introduction of the QuietComfort 2 model marks the latest evolution of that same noise-cancelling technology that was born in Dr Bose's mind back in '78.



Click to EnlargeHow it works

Microphones in the earcups of Bose noise cancelling 'phones "hear" sounds an instant before they reach your ears. Advanced circuitry recognizes what the listener is about to hear, a Bach fugue, hip hop, an in-flight movie soundtrack, or silence and noise -and compares it to the sound the listener doesn't want to hear - the noise. Bose Corporation's patented technology then calculates and generates a signal the precise opposite to the unwanted noise, dramatically reducing noise while preserving the desired music, speech, or silence.


Although the Bose original design targeted aviation passengers, feedback from satisfied users pointed to use in a wide range of noisy environments-everywhere from subways, trains, and buses to offices and homes. A number of users have told us they've bought half a dozen to use in their recording studio to provide headphone mixes to performers laying down tracks. The word is the QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are great for this application and make recording clients very happy.


Less is more
You get less with this newest permutation of Bose Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphone technology. That is, less clutter. The original QuietComfort model had an outboard battery box that connected to the source via a separate cord. With the QuietComfort 2, the batteries and circuitry are now housed right in the phones, eliminating a source of cable tangles. Building on two decades of research into on-head audio and noise cancellation, this new circuitry also dramatically reduces the "noise floor"-the hiss emitted by many audio devices.


These new phones have a single, detachable cable that, unlike two-cable designs, stays out of your way. You can go cordless by disconnecting the single cable, then touching a button on the ear cup that activates the patented Acoustic Noise Cancelling circuitry. The result is blessed silence. I've found that when I'm ready to catch an in-flight 40 winks, the QuietComfort 2 reduces all the high- and low-frequency noise to barely audible levels so that my airborne sleep is completely refreshing.



TClick to Enlargehe Bose design team has put a lot of ergonomic smarts into the headphone design. They've neatly integrated the electronics and batteries without an appreciable weight gain in the swiveling, rotating earcups that have a lower profile than the original design. Folded into a resting position, they easily slip into a briefcase or the included case that is only slightly larger than a portable CD case. As for comfort, I've auditioned a lot of headphones over the years and the QuietComfort 2

cushioned ear cups are among the easiest my ears have ever experienced during long-term listening sessions.


The sound you do hear
With noise reduction conquered and an elegantly simplified design in hand, the Bose team met its first and second objectives. By integrating the company's proven TriPort audio technology, sterling sound reproduction has also been achieved.


As the name suggests, each ear cup has ports that actively equalize the incoming audio signal to deliver deep, punchy, accurate bass; clear, defined mid frequencies essential for highly intelligible dialog; and pristine, smooth treble response without shrillness. Also, the headphones deliver an accurate soundstage that is remarkably spatial-not something every headphone can produce. And, as in the original QuietComfort 'phones, the drivers generate outstanding volume levels from those portable players with anemic preamps.


The original QuietComfort headphone was easy for me to recommend. With the improvements incorporated into the QuietComfort 2, that endorsement goes double this time!