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The 7 Best Reasons to Avoid the Bose QC45 Headphones –

Are you considering buying the Bose QuietComfort 45 (QC45) noise-canceling headphones? As a computer and audio expert, I‘ve thoroughly tested the QC45 and analyzed how it stacks up against the competition. While Bose has long been a top brand for noise-canceling headphones, the QC45 unfortunately has some major flaws you should be aware of before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

In this in-depth review, I‘ll cover the top 7 reasons you may want to avoid the Bose QC45 and opt for a better pair of headphones in this premium price range. I‘ll explain the issues with the QC45‘s sound quality, active noise cancellation, missing features, and more. By the end, you‘ll have all the key facts to decide if the QC45 is right for you, or if you‘re better off with headphones from Sony, Sennheiser, Apple, or another brand. Let‘s dive in!

Reason 1: Disappointing sound quality

The most important aspect of any pair of headphones is sound quality. After all, you could have the longest battery life and best noise cancellation, but if the audio sounds lousy, nothing else matters. And unfortunately, sound quality is where the Bose QC45 really falls short compared to other headphones in its price tier.

When listening to music on the QC45, the first thing you‘ll notice is that the sound profile is extremely bass-heavy. The low frequencies are overly prominent and boomy, which drowns out a lot of detail in the mids and highs. Vocals in particular tend to get lost and sound muffled on the QC45.

The soundstage also lacks width and depth, so music sounds very flat and one-dimensional rather than expansive and immersive. Subtle details like the distinct placement of instruments and sonic layers are missing. Everything kind of blends together into a jumbled wall of sound.

Compared to class-leading headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum 3, the Bose QC45 simply can‘t compete on clarity, separation, and overall fidelity. Even the cheaper Sennheiser PXC 550-II and Jabra Elite 85h provide a more balanced, detailed sound profile.

You can improve the QC45‘s audio somewhat by using the adjustable EQ in Bose‘s mobile app. But even with manual tuning, you can‘t fully fix the bloated bass and veiled upper frequencies. The hardware simply has inherent limitations.

So as an audiophile, I cannot recommend the Bose QC45 based on sound quality alone. You can get substantially better-sounding headphones for a similar price from Sony, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Bowers & Wilkins, and other hi-fi brands. Even some sub-$300 headphones rival or exceed the QC45‘s audio performance.

Reason 2: No high-quality Bluetooth codec support

Another audio-related issue with the Bose QC45 is its lack of support for higher-quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. It only supports SBC and AAC, which are the standard codecs that all Bluetooth audio devices must include.

While AAC is perfectly fine for most listeners using Apple devices, it‘s not always ideal for Android phones. More importantly, aptX allows for less compression and higher bitrates than SBC and AAC. So with headphones that support aptX, you‘ll enjoy better sound quality, especially if you listen to high-resolution music files.

Many flagship headphones now include aptX, including the Sony WH-1000XM4, Sennheiser Momentum 3, and Shure AONIC 50. So it‘s disappointing that Bose hasn‘t added it to the QC45, given the high price tag. If you want the absolute best wireless audio fidelity, the QC45 won‘t deliver it due to the lack of high-end codec support.

Reason 3: Can‘t fully disable active noise cancellation

Bose is known for its industry-leading active noise cancellation (ANC) technology. And indeed, the QC45‘s ANC performance is very impressive, dramatically reducing background noise. However, a significant flaw is that you cannot completely turn off ANC on the QC45.

The headphones have two modes: Quiet (full ANC) and Aware (transparency mode that pipes in outside sound). There‘s no off mode for the ANC. The only way to deactivate noise cancellation is to activate Aware mode, but it‘s still using the ANC microphones and processing.

This is problematic for a few reasons:

  1. There‘s a noticeable hiss when ANC is enabled, which can be distracting.
  2. You may want to turn off ANC to conserve battery life and still use the headphones in wired mode.
  3. When listening in a quiet room, ANC can create an unnatural feeling of pressure.

Several competing headphones including the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 allow you to disable ANC independently without enabling transparency. This should be a standard feature in premium noise-canceling headphones. Bose‘s omission of an off mode for the QC45‘s ANC is a frustrating and puzzling limitation.

Reason 4: Poor value at the price point

The Bose QC45 headphones have an MSRP of $329. At this price point, it‘s simply not a good value compared to the competition. You can get the Sony WH-1000XM4 for around the same price (sometimes less on sale), and it outperforms the QC45 in sound quality, ANC adjustability, and codec support. You‘re mostly paying a premium for the Bose brand name with the QC45.

In the $300-400 range, you could also get the Shure AONIC 50 which has much better sound quality, or the Sennheiser Momentum 3 which is more durable and repairable. The QC45 is not necessarily overpriced in isolation, but it‘s a poor value in context with the other options on the market. You can do better for your money.

Reason 5: Flimsy, all-plastic build

Another disappointing aspect of the Bose QC45 is the build quality. For $330 headphones, you‘d expect top-notch materials and durability. But the QC45 has a lightweight, all-plastic construction that feels cheap and flimsy.

The headband and ear cups are made entirely of thin plastic. The ear cups in particular feel like they could crack if you accidentally sit on the headphones or crush them in a bag. There‘s no aluminum or other metal reinforcement to add structural rigidity.

Additionally, the QC45 is not rated as water or sweat-resistant. So you cannot safely use them for exercise or in rainy weather. At this price, an IPX4 or higher rating for moisture resistance should really be included.

In contrast, competitors like the Sennheiser Momentum 3 and Bower & Wilkins PX7 use metal and genuine leather in their designs. This gives them a much more luxurious, durable feel befitting their high price tags. Next to these, the QC45 seems toy-like and disposable.

Reason 6: Missing modern features

The QC45 also lacks some features that are now common on other premium wireless headphones. One glaring omission is the lack of auto pause/play when you remove the headphones. Pretty much every other pair of $300+ Bluetooth headphones has sensors to detect when you take them on or off, automatically pausing and resuming your media.

With the QC45, you have to manually hit pause every time you want to take a break. It‘s an annoying extra step that feels archaic for headphones released in 2021. The QC45 also doesn‘t have multi-device pairing to connect to two audio sources simultaneously. You have to manually disconnect from one device to connect to another.

Other missing features compared to some flagship headphones include:

  • Customizable EQ presets
  • Equalizer
  • Head tracking for spatial audio
  • Speak-to-chat mode
  • Replaceable ear pads and battery

While none of these are necessarily dealbreakers, it‘s disappointing how many modern amenities Bose has left out of the QC45. Competitors are continuing to innovate with helpful new features while Bose is starting to fall behind the curve.

Reason 7: Frustrating controls

A final issue with the Bose QC45 is the control scheme. The buttons are mushy and provide poor tactile feedback. They‘re also positioned very close together on the right ear cup. This makes it easy to press the wrong control by accident, especially when wearing gloves.

I also don‘t like how you can only skip tracks forward with the multi-function button. To skip backward, you have to pull out your phone. The QC45 lacks touch controls, which are now standard on nearly every other pair of wireless headphones over $100. Touch controls are more intuitive and easier than physical buttons.

Bose‘s mobile app for configuring the QC45 is also glitchy and lacks some customization options that other companion apps offer, like adjustable ANC levels and EQ presets. Competitors like Sony and Sennheiser provide a more polished and fully featured software experience.

Better alternatives to consider

So if the Bose QC45 is not worth buying, what should you get instead? Here are my top recommendations for premium wireless ANC headphones:

  1. Sony WH-1000XM4 – Better sound quality, ANC performance, and codec support for the same price as the QC45. The best all-around pick for most people.

  2. Apple AirPods Max – Exceptional build quality, transparency mode, and spatial audio support. Ideal for iPhone users, but very expensive at $549.

  3. Sennheiser Momentum 3 – Excellent sound quality, premium build with genuine leather, companion app with lots of features. A great choice for audiophiles.

  4. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 – Refined sound signature, high-quality materials, comfortable fit. More stylish and luxurious than other options.

  5. Shure AONIC 50 – Studio-grade audio performance, adjustable ANC, long battery life. Perfect for professional and prosumer applications.

All of these alternatives outperform the Bose QC45 in multiple ways. They deliver better bang for your buck if you‘re shopping in the $300-500 price range. Of course, the QC45 is still a solid pair of ANC headphones. But "solid" isn‘t enough when the competition is this fierce.


The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones have some good qualities, including best-in-class ANC performance and a comfortable fit. But as an audio expert, I simply cannot recommend them. The sound quality, build, missing features, and price proposition just aren‘t up to par with other options in this premium segment.

For most people, I suggest buying the Sony WH-1000XM4 instead. It‘s better than the QC45 in basically every way for the same cost. If you want to splurge for the absolute best, go for the Apple AirPods Max (if you use Apple devices) or the Sennheiser Momentum 3 (for the best sound quality).

I hope this in-depth review helped explain the major drawbacks of the Bose QC45. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to give advice on picking the perfect headphones for your needs and budget. Thanks for reading!