SPY agents, trained to be discerning and skeptical, are tasked with identifying high-value targets for shrewd shoppers. Products curated by The Informant are the best of the best: beautifully imagined and thoughtfully made products that become instantly indispensable.
Finding the right pair of over-ear headphones for travel is a bit of a Goldilocks challenge: They need not feel too bulky in a bag. They need to fit comfortably for long periods of time. They need to have a good battery life and excellent sound quality. Bonus points for a noise-canceling feature, which makes a loud plane, bus, or train infinitely more bearable. In the words of the famously picky storybook character, they have to be just right.
Bose has long been a staple in personal audio, but both audiophiles and normies love the brand’s QuietComfort line for its high-quality sound, cushy fit, and user-friendliness. They’re also a SPY favorite, ranked as our best headphones for travel.
And so, when the brand sent SPY the newest version of the QuietComfort over-ears, I jumped at the chance to check them out. Years ago, I’d had an older pair that I wore constantly, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on (and ears under?) the new ones.
When they arrived, unboxing was seamless — I was off to the races in less than five minutes. They came fully charged — they have a brawny battery life of up to 24 hours — inside a soft-shell, oblong carrying case that also includes a 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm audio cable and a 12-inch USB-C power cable.
I put them on, powered them up, and connected them to my iPhone via Bluetooth. Sitting at my desk, I immediately clocked how comfortable they were; I wore them for about seven hours and barely noticed them. No pain, pressure, or discomfort whatsoever. Also, yes, the sound quality was excellent. The music I played sounded rich — no tinny, thin treble during Ariana Grande’s “Yes, and?” — yet entirely crisp and clear.
I started commuting to and from work wearing them, experimenting with their two pre-set modes: Quiet mode, which is fully noise-canceling, and Aware mode, which lets in ambient noise. Personally, I love Quiet mode when I’m sitting still and Aware mode when I’m crossing the street or navigating New York’s subway system — or at other times when I need to hear ambient noise for safety reasons, really. Also, having the ability to jump quickly between the two modes — there’s a toggle button on the left ear cup — is very helpful.
They’re also great for commuting thanks to their tiny footprint. Their carrying case is almost impossibly slim because the headphones can fold and the ear cups can flatten completely. Over the weeks I’ve tested them, I’ve packed them in bags big (a weekender) and small (a tote bag). They never add bulk and they’re not heavy, either.
In the future, I’ll be taking my QuietComfort Headphones with me everywhere — to work, to play, and on the way. Great things — such as the perfect pair of over-ear headphones for travel — really can come in small packages.
Bose QuietComfort Noise-Cancelling Headphones