I Bought the Bose QC-15

I bought the Bose QC15 noise canceling headphones for my trip back from the US. See my previous posts about Noise Canceling Headphones [1] and Testing Noise Canceling Headphones [2] for the details of my search.

Me wearing QC 15 headphones

I first tried my new headphones in my hotel room and they worked really well at blocking the noise from the nearby road (El Camino Real in Menlo Park) as well as the noise from the heater in my room. At the airport they entirely blocked the sound of the airport air conditioning system (which was surprisingly loud – I didn’t realise how loud until I tried the headphones).

On the flight the headphones worked really well. I used them for hours when they weren’t plugged in to any source, just stopping the noise was a huge benefit. I was also able to listen to music (both MP3s on my laptop and the plane sound system) at a relatively low volume with an apparent high quality. The Bose store I visited in Stanford mall has a sound system set up to emulate the noise you experience inside a jet to demonstrate what the headset can do. It really lives up to this demonstration! I recommend them to anyone who wants over-ear noise canceling headphones and can afford $US300 + tax.

But one thing to note is that not everyone likes such things – my wife didn’t like the sound that they generate (the least bad way to describe it is as a soft hiss). This is definitely not something you would want to buy based on reviews alone, it must be tested in-store.

The main technical suggestion I can make for improvement to the QC-15 is for it to have slightly softer and thicker padding where it contacts the sides of the wearer’s head. I find that my glasses prevent it from making as good contact as I would like, and that when wearing it while eating the contact is significantly broken with every jaw movement which is really annoying. A minor suggestion is that every pair of headphones should have the left and right ear pieces clearly marked, I really shouldn’t have to read an instruction manual to discover which way to wear it.

One thing that surprised me was the inclusion of business cards for the headset! Here is a picture:
Bose business card
The picture links to a larger picture that also shows the French version of the same text on the other side.

I was astonished by this, encouraging happy customers to help sell your products is a reasonable and effective form of product promotion (really this is what I’m doing for Bose with this blog post). But giving customers business cards is going too far – anyone who wants me to hand out their business cards can offer to pay me to do so (and I probably won’t accept). But if such things are considered to be a good idea then here are a few suggestions for other things that they could do:

  1. Create a Bose dating site where one can meet people who like music and traveling (this does sound appealing). In about 10 years the children of people who meet that way would start buying audio gear…
  2. Start a Bose fan club.
  3. Create a template that be used by a tattoo parlor to make a Bose tattoo.
  4. Sell Bose fan t-shirts to people who aren’t dedicated enough to get a tattoo.
  5. Register Bose as a religion, that gets tax free status among other benefits.

It’s a pity that Bose doesn’t make any water-proof noise canceling headphones. It would be something for their marketing people to wear while jumping over a shark on water skis [3].

But seriously the best thing that Bose could do to have their products promoted would be to start by printing the web site for each product on the item, my headset has two patent numbers listed which seem unlikely to provide any benefit for anyone, in that space they could have printed the URL that is on the business card. Of course providing the URL really doesn’t do any good when the URL actually is useless. It starts by giving me a page asking which country I am in – the correct thing to do is to use geoip to determine the country and then give the user the option of selecting another country if that one is not ideal. Then after I select a country it doesn’t take me to a specific page for the product! I could have typed in and got the same result (in terms of US shopping at least) while typing six fewer characters!

Next like most corporate web sites the Bose site doesn’t appear to be configured for longevity of URLs – URLs which are clearly designed for the computer rather than humans are expected to change without warning. This discourages linking to any page that one might discover through web searches or navigating the site, and causes them to lose a lot of potential links.

Having specific URLs for all the products (including the obsolete ones) that are designed firstly for humans to read and write would be a good idea. It would be really useful to be able to compare the features of new products with the ones that are going cheap on eBay. For someone who is considering buying a new product now the purchase decision would be easier if they knew that the company would provide resources to help them get a better price on eBay in a few years if they want to upgrade to a newer model. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that the reputation of a company (which makes a dramatic impact on the prices customers are prepared to pay) depends largely on a long history of making quality products. Telling customers about those historic products is one of the most sensible things that most corporations fail to do on the Internet.

4 comments to I Bought the Bose QC-15

  • Buck Batard

    I’m just curious if there is any research that these keep the noise from hurting your hearing. After all, you have the original noise and the inverted signal that’s all inside that headphone and I wonder if both of those signals reach your eardrums or do the signals cancel out before they reach your eardrums. I ask this because I have had surgery on my eardrum in one ear to allow the eardrum to grow back , and had an infection in the other ear that also caused my eardrum to disappear, although in that ear the drum was able to grow back on its own. Miraculously, I did not suffer any hearing loss. But I still worry about my hearing and whether I will lose hearing in the future and wonder if these eardrums might be something that would be helpful when mowing the lawn, flying in a small plane, etc. or would it be better to wearing regular hearing protection, which does still allow some noise to get through. In theory I would think the cancellation effect would take place before the sound reaches the ear drum but I don’t know that for a fact and am curious.

  • etbe

    I believe that in the case of helicopters a major point of using noise-canceling is to prevent damage to the pilot’s hearing. For lower amounts of noise and cheaper headsets I’m not sure if there is good research.

    When the signals are traveling in the same direction at the same amplitude and frequency but 180 degrees out of phase they will cancel. If they aren’t in quite the same direction or amplitude then they won’t quite cancel – which is the expected result.

    There is nothing stopping you from using multiple layers of protection. If I had particular concern about hearing damage then I would consider wearing noise-canceling headphones on top of ear-plugs. Of course there are other options that include industrial ear-muffs on top of noise-canceling ear-buds or even ear-muffs on top of ear-plugs.

    Another option to consider is to just pay someone else to mow your lawn. ;)

  • Peter Schoensted

    Dear Sirs

    Where in Copenhagen, Denmark cann you buy QuietComfort 15?


    Peter Schoensted

  • etbe

    Peter: Does Amazon ship to Denmark? If so you can use the Amazon link at the top of this page. If not then I suggest going to the URL on the Bose business card as a start for your search.