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The 7 Biggest Complaints About the Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones

The Top 10 Biggest Complaints About the Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones

Hello there, fellow tech enthusiasts and audiophiles! Today we‘re going to take an in-depth, critical look at one of the most popular noise-cancelling headphones on the market – the Bose QuietComfort 45. As someone who eats, sleeps and breathes digital audio tech, I‘ve scoured user reviews, spoken to industry colleagues, and of course put the QC45 through its paces myself. Bose has a stellar reputation for delivering premium sound and comfort, but no product is perfect.

In this article, I‘m going to break down the top 10 complaints, concerns and controversies surrounding the QC45. But before we dive into the negatives, let‘s do a quick overview of what this headset is all about.

Bose QuietComfort 45 – The Basics

The QC45 is the latest iteration of Bose‘s flagship wireless noise-cancelling headphones, released in late 2021 as the successor to the hugely popular QC35 II. It maintains the same core design – a lightweight, over-ear form factor with plush cushioning and a clean, modern aesthetic. But under the hood are various tweaks and enhancements like improved active noise cancellation (ANC), better battery life (now up to 22 hours) and a USB-C port for charging.

On paper, the QC45 matches up well against class-leaders like the Sony WH-1000XM4. It has a similar MSRP of $329 and shares many of the same headline features. But specs don‘t tell the whole story. Let‘s get into some of the issues that real users have encountered.

Complaint #1: Sound Quality Leaves Audiophiles Wanting More

One of the most prominent complaints about the QC45 relates to its overall sound profile and clarity. Make no mistake, the QC45 is a very nice sounding headphone with punchy, dynamic output. But many users, especially self-proclaimed audiophiles, have remarked that it lacks next-level detail and definition, particularly in the midrange frequencies.

As a classical and jazz enthusiast myself, I tend to agree. Subtle nuances in string and brass instruments can sound slightly smeared. Compared to wired audiophile headphones or even some other premium Bluetooth cans like the Sennheiser Momentum 3, the QC45 isn‘t quite as revealing or textured. The soundstage feels a tad closed-in.

Now, the vast majority of mainstream listeners will be very happy with the QC45 sound. Its powerful bass and crisp treble are great for popular genres. But discerning ears may be left wanting a bit more refinement. As PCMag‘s Tim Gideon puts it in his review: "The drivers deliver solid bass depth and clarity, but you get more detail from the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700."

Complaint #2: Microphone and Call Quality Concerns

Another notable issue that some QC45 owners have encountered relates to its headset performance. While Bose touts "clear calls" as a key selling point, real-world testing reveals some problems.

When using the QC45 for voice and video calls, users on the other end have reported that the microphone pickup sounds muffled, compressed and distant compared to a smartphone mic or dedicated headset. There are also too many instances of calls dropping out, even with a stable connection.

Considering that headsets like the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver significantly better call quality, this is a disappointing shortcoming. As Soundguys‘ Sam Moore concludes in his mic test: "Bose dropped the ball with the QC45 microphone this time around…this microphone may make you want to revert to your smartphone microphone instead." Not exactly a glowing endorsement for a premium headset.

Complaint #3: ANC Needs More Flexibility

A big part of the QuietComfort line‘s appeal is Bose‘s industry-leading active noise cancellation technology. The ability to block out loud droning sounds like airplane engines or construction is a game-changer. And on this front, the QC45 is indeed very impressive. Flick the switch and the noisy world around you mostly fades away.

However, Bose made the curious decision to remove the ability to turn ANC fully off. You can choose between Quiet Mode (maximum noise cancellation) and Aware Mode (which allows some sound in), but there‘s no option to disable noise cancellation entirely and just use them as normal headphones. For some people, the sensation of ANC can feel unnatural or cause discomfort over long periods.

In comparison, the Sony WH-1000XM4 provides much more granular control over ANC. You can select from multiple levels (transport, office, etc.) or turn it off completely. Similarly, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 has an adjustable ANC scale from 1-10.

The lack of ANC flexibility is an unfortunate limitation in the QC45 that will likely frustrate some users. As Engadget‘s Billy Steele sums up: "The two ANC modes are really all you have to work with and there‘s no way to disable it if you find yourself needing a break."

Complaint #4: No Support For High-Quality Bluetooth Codecs

For passionate audiophiles, the type of Bluetooth codec a wireless headphone supports is a big deal. Higher quality codecs like aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC allow more data to be transmitted, resulting in better fidelity and less compression.

Frustratingly, the QC45 doesn‘t include any of these higher-bitrate codecs. You‘re limited to the default SBC codec and AAC. While these are serviceable for most people, it means you‘re not getting the absolute best wireless sound quality possible. Bose‘s support forums are filled with disappointed users pleading for aptX support, especially at this high price point.

In contrast, top competitors like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Shure AONIC 50 do support LDAC and aptX HD respectively. If pristine wireless audio is a priority for you, the QC45‘s codec situation is undoubtedly a mark against it.

Complaint #5: Can‘t Listen While Charging

This one baffles me. Unlike most other wireless headphones, you cannot use the QC45 to listen to audio while it‘s plugged in and charging. Once you connect the USB-C charging cable, the headphones automatically power down. If the battery is dead, you‘re out of luck until you charge up again.

Yes, you can still listen passively with the included 2.5mm audio cable. But you‘d think a pair of headphones this expensive would allow you to listen and charge simultaneously. "You cannot listen while charging which is INSANE for a pair of headphones at this price. What are they thinking? It makes zero sense," vents one disgruntled user on Bose‘s forums.

Complaint #6: No User EQ Adjustments

Another puzzling omission in the QC45 is the inability to tweak the EQ to your liking. Bose has opted for an active EQ feature that automatically adjusts the sound profile based on the type of audio you‘re listening to. And while this generally works well, I believe many users would appreciate the ability to make manual adjustments.

Want a bit more bass kick or to dial back the treble? Too bad. The Bose Music app offers no user-facing EQ tools whatsoever. Compared to the robust equalizer controls in Sony‘s and Sennheiser‘s companion apps, it feels like a major oversight.

As PCMag‘s Tim Gideon notes in his review: "Some users will find the inability to adjust the EQ disappointing." I wholeheartedly agree. Fingers crossed that Bose adds this feature in a firmware update.

Complaint #7: Lacks Smart Features Like Wear Detection

In 2023, we expect premium headphones to come with some level of intelligent features to make the user experience seamless. One such function that I consider a must-have is wear detection – the ability for the headphones to automatically pause audio when you take them off and resume playback when you put them back on.

Sadly, the QC45 has no such sensor. You have to manually hit pause each time you remove them, then press play again when you‘re ready to resume. It‘s a small annoyance, but one that I find irksome in daily use, especially since so many other flagship headphones have offered this for years, like the Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose NCH 700 and Apple AirPods Max.

Not a dealbreaker by any means. But for $330, I don‘t think it‘s unreasonable to expect some of these smart creature comforts that have become industry standard.

Complaint #8: Cramped Controls

While the QC45 maintains largely the same physical design as its QC35 predecessor, Bose made some tweaks to the on-ear button layout that haven‘t been universally loved. The volume and multi-function buttons have been consolidated into a single control cluster.

Some users have complained that the buttons now feel small and cramped, making them fiddly to operate. "I have trouble finding the right button because they sit so close together and have a similar feel…I often hit the wrong button or hit two at a time," says one reviewer on Bose‘s website.

The touch controls on headphones like Sony‘s WH-1000XM4 may not be everyone‘s cup of tea, but at least they‘re unambiguous. Bose could have done a better job here with making the buttons more tactile and distinct.

Complaint #9: Worrying Reliability Concerns

Perhaps the most concerning complaints I‘ve seen regarding the QC45 relate to quality control and reliability issues. A worryingly high number of user reviews mention problems like "rattling" drivers, random shutdowns, and straight-up failures after only light use.

"After 2 months, suddenly the left side is not working anymore for no reason," writes one frustrated owner. "This is unacceptable for a premium product." Another reports: "Horrible quality. The right side rattles and distorts so bad with ANC enabled it hurts my ears."

Of course, we have to take anecdotes like these with a grain of salt. Bose generally has a solid reputation for build quality. But I have to say, I‘ve seen more reports of defects, glitches and "lemons" with the QC45 than I‘m comfortable with. I really hope this isn‘t a systemic issue.

For what it‘s worth, Bose does offer a standard 1-year warranty on the QC45. So if you do run into problems, you should be able to get a replacement. But obviously, it‘s not a great feeling to drop serious cash on a pair of headphones only to have them break within months.

Complaint #10: Not Enough of an Upgrade?

A more subjective complaint I‘ve encountered is that the QC45 simply isn‘t a big enough leap forward from its predecessor to justify upgrading, especially at full price. Yes, you get moderately better ANC and battery life, USB-C, and a few other minor enhancements. But the fundamentals – including the overall sound profile – are extremely similar to the QC35 II.

As What Hi-Fi puts it in their review: "The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones don‘t reinvent the wheel compared to their predecessors…some will feel Bose could have pushed the boundaries further in terms of adding new features."

This one is debatable. I can certainly understand QC35 owners feeling a bit underwhelmed by the QC45 as an incremental update. But if you‘re coming from an older pair of headphones, there‘s still a lot to like here. The QC45 remains competitive as an overall package.

Final Thoughts and Alternatives

Phew! We covered a lot of ground. To quickly recap, the 10 biggest complaints about the Bose QC45 are:

  1. Overall sound lacks fine detail and texture for discerning listeners
  2. Microphone and call quality is subpar
  3. No option to fully disable ANC
  4. Doesn‘t support high-quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX
  5. Can‘t listen while charging via USB-C
  6. No user-adjustable EQ settings
  7. Missing convenience features like wear detection and auto-pause
  8. Button controls feel small and cramped
  9. Potential quality control and reliability issues
  10. May not be a big enough upgrade over QC35 II for some

All that said, I don‘t want to give the wrong impression. The QC45 is still an excellent pair of noise-cancelling headphones. It‘s extremely comfortable, has outstanding ANC performance, reliable wireless connectivity, and very good (if not class-leading) sound. Bose‘s companion app is also refreshingly straightforward.

But for $330, it‘s fair to expect a near-flawless experience. And the QC45 has just enough quirks and caveats to give me some pause. I believe many of these shortcomings could be addressed with firmware updates. Here‘s hoping Bose is listening to customer feedback.

So, where does that leave potential buyers? If you prioritize comfort and noise-cancellation above all else, the QC45 is still a very compelling option. For most mainstream listeners, it checks all the important boxes. But if you‘re picky about sound quality, features and bang for the buck, there are some notable alternatives worth considering:

  • Sony WH-1000XM4 ($350) – Class-leading ANC, LDAC codec support, touch controls, tons of customization via app. Slightly warmer sound profile some prefer.
  • Sennheiser Momentum 3 ($350) – Exceptional detail retrieval and soundstage, aptX support, auto-pause wear detection, granular EQ. Very "premium" build.
  • Bose NCH 700 ($379) – Better microphone clarity, touch controls, more ANC flexibility, still extremely comfortable. Somewhat polarizing looks.
  • Apple Airpods Max ($549) – Pricey but fantastic audio quality, unique mesh canopy design, unrivaled ecosystem features…if you‘re in Apple‘s walled garden.

At the end of the day, choosing the right noise-cancelling headphones comes down to your individual priorities. Critically, the QC45 delivers on Bose‘s core promises of quiet comfort. But it does stumble in a few areas that prevent it from being the uncontested all-around champ.

Hopefully this in-depth breakdown gave you a clearer picture of the key complaints and controversies to consider. Whatever headphones you end up with, I wish you happy listening! Feel free to sound off in the comments with your own experiences.