Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Last updated date: June 25, 2020

DWYM Score
8.2

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

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Overall Take

The lone pair of wired, earbud-style headphones in our top four makes a powerful case for itself with surprisingly effective noise cancellation, secure silicone tips and a portable earbud design. Android fans might be turned off by the Apple-centric compatibility, but the crisp sound across all genres make these buds worth it. In our analysis of 152 expert reviews, the Bose Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones placed 6th when we looked at the top 19 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note July 2, 2020:
Checkout The Best Headphones for a detailed review of all the top .

Expert Summarized Score
8.4
10 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.7
2,948 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
The Bose QC20 came out on top because it provided better active noise cancelling than any other model we tested by far. In this regard it even bested the larger QuietComfort 35 Series II, our pick for the best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones (though the QC35 has additional passive isolation that the QC20 lacks; more on this later). The sound quality is nothing to write home about, but in our tests this set sounded good enough. And we measured the battery life at over 17 hours, which is long enough for the QC20 to outlast almost any flight between recharges.
- New York Times Wirecutter
November 20, 2018 | Full review
This iPod/iPad/cellphone-centric model from Bose combines elements of in-ear and earbud earphones. Though the QC20i earphones are pricey, they deliver very good sound quality and excellent active noise reduction, the best of the in-ear models we've tested.
- Consumer Reports
The Bose QuietComfort 20 and 20i are compact in-ear headphones that sound good, are very comfortable to wear, and offer surprisingly impressive noise cancellation. The noise cancellation is powered by an integrated rechargeable lithium battery that delivers up to 16 hours of battery life.
- CNET
October 31, 2013 | Full review
Extremely comfortable. Amazing sound quality. Aware mode will keep you alive
- Tech Radar
Superb noise cancellation. Extremely comfortable and stable fit. Slim battery pack. Audio plays without power
- Tom's Guide
February 12, 2014 | Full review
The best noise cancellation circuitry on the market. Rich bass response and crisp highs. Comfortable, secure fit. Works in passive mode.
- PC Magazine
August 7, 2013 | Full review
First class noise cancellation. Clear sound across all genres. Comfortable, easy to insert earbuds. Good feature set
- Digital Trends
An all-around great product that's among the best in its category. You'll almost certainly be happy.
- Engadget
Excellent noise isolation. Simple, durable design. Comfortable stable fit from the StayHear+ tips.
- RTINGS.com
What experts didn't like
Expensive; they don't sound as good as many competing in-ear headphones in this price range; rechargeable battery isn't replaceable.
- CNET
October 31, 2013 | Full review
Battery module is huge
- Tech Radar
Expensive. Bulky inline mic/controller. Battery life could be better
- Tom's Guide
February 12, 2014 | Full review
Sound signature is very sculpted, and not for purists. Light on accessories like extra eartips.
- PC Magazine
August 7, 2013 | Full review
DSP creates a synthetic quality to the music. Battery/electronics bar is awkward. Expensive
- Digital Trends
Slightly bass-heavy audio reproduction.
- RTINGS.com

From The Manufacturer

Shut out the world and lose yourself in your music--or hear what's around you. It's your choice with the first in-ear noise cancelling headphones from Bose. Quiet Comfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are engineered to let you enjoy better sound every day, everywhere you go. Turn on noise cancelling to reduce surrounding distractions and focus on your music. Or, at the touch of a button, activate Aware mode so you can hear what's happening around you without removing the headphones. Inside, exclusive TriPort technology brings your music to life while additional Bose technologies provide dramatic noise cancellation rivaling any full-sized headphone on the market today. Proprietary Stay Hear+ tips create a soft, secure fit. The inline microphone and remote let you switch to calls on your iPhone, and provide control for select iPod, iPhone and iPad models. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 16 hours of use. And even when the power is off or the battery runs out, you can still use these headphones to enjoy Bose quality sound. Included: Quiet Comfort 20 headphones; 3 pairs Stay Hear+ tips (S, M, L); clothing clip; rechargeable lithium-ion battery (built-in); USB charging cable; carrying case.

Overall Product Rankings

Sony MDRZX110 ZX Series Stereo Headphones
2. Sony MDRZX110 ZX Series Stereo Headphones
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 9
Bose SoundLink II Around Ear Wireless Headphones
4. Bose SoundLink II Around Ear Wireless Headphones
Overall Score: 8.4
Expert Reviews: 9
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
6. Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 10
Sennheiser RS 165 RF Wireless Headphones
8. Sennheiser RS 165 RF Wireless Headphones
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 4
Sony H900N Hi-Res Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
9. Sony H900N Hi-Res Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 3
Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
11. Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 9
HyperX KHX-H3CL/WR Cloud Gaming Headphones
12. HyperX KHX-H3CL/WR Cloud Gaming Headphones
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 8
Plantronics BackBeat GO 410 Wireless Headphones
18. Plantronics BackBeat GO 410 Wireless Headphones
Overall Score: 7.4
Expert Reviews: 4

An Overview On

Headphones are huge right now. Music fans, gaming buffs and podcast aficionados spent more than $9.5 billion dollars on them in 2016, and that number is projected to balloon to $13.8 billion in the next seven years.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

There are multiple styles of headphones. Earbuds, on-ear and over-ear headphones are the three most popular types, and they’re all available in wired and wireless versions. If you’re intimidated by the number of options you’re seeing online or in the electronics aisle, there are a number of ways to narrow down the choices and find the best headphones for your needs.

“The most important factor to consider when shopping for headphones is the environment it’s going to be used in,” says music and video producer Calvin West.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

At the gym? At home? On the train? For example, if you’ll be outdoors a lot or wearing the headphones on the bus while you commute to work, consider headphones with noise-canceling properties, West suggests.

Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, sit just inside your ear canal. Soft silicone tips fit snugly inside your ears, and some models come with different sizes for a customized fit. Other models have secure-fit eartips that create a stronger seal in your ear canal for a more secure fit.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Earbuds are available in standard wired versions, wireless versions (which connect around the back of your neck with a small wire but do not need to connect to your device with a wire), and true wireless versions (where both earbuds operate independently with no wires at all).

On-ear headphones, which are sometimes called supra-aural headphones, are larger, with soft ear cups made from real or synthetic leather. They sit on top of your ears and allow more sound in while you’re listening, which makes them great for times when you want to listen to music without completely canceling out surrounding sounds. They’re also more lightweight and portable than heftier, full-coverage over-ear headphones.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Over-ear headphones enclose your entire ear in soft ear cups. They’re the largest headphone option, and they boast advanced features like noise cancellation and higher sound quality than other types of headphones. They’re great for wearing indoors while you’re focused on work, playing video games or enjoying high-definition sound on your smart TV. They tend to be a bit bulky to take with you when you’re commuting, but the total noise cancellation option makes them great for long flights.

Kristin Forte/Simplemost Media

Some over-ear headphone models have active noise cancellation as well as ambient sound modes for different listening scenarios. Other types of over-ear headphones come with a transmitter that connects to your home audio or entertainment system for a more robust digital listening experience.

DWYM Fun Fact

You owe your favorite pair of headphones a salute. The first pair of modern audio headphones were picked up by the U.S. Navy in 1910 after being repeatedly rejected by private sector investors. Mormon inventor and engineer Nathaniel Baldwin invented them on his kitchen table; the Navy’s eventual investment made him a rich man. They ordered 100 pairs and sparked a headphone revolution. Unfortunately, Baldwin never patented them, so the German company Bayerdynamic made some serious cash when they created the first pair for home enjoyment in 1937. Baldwin also wound up bankrupt after using his payout from the Navy to make a less-than-sound investment in the Mormon polygamous movement. Whoops!

The Buying Guide

  • If you’re picking out new headphones, the first order of business is choosing between wired and wireless. Wired headphones are generally more reliable, since they don’t rely on a Bluetooth connection to connect you to your music, but wireless technology is quickly catching up. You can get more bang for your buck in terms of sound quality with wired headphones, too, and you’ll never have to worry about your wired headphones running out of battery. However, the freedom of wireless headphones outweighs their downsides for many people, and high-end styles have up to 20 hours of battery life per charge.
  • Next up: what activities will you be doing while you wear your headphones? Gym rats will benefit from earbud styles. Their cone-shaped silicone tips fit securely in your ears, staying in place during very active sweat sessions. Plus, the in-line mic and volume control helps you answer calls or switch songs without fumbling with your phone. If you’re relying on headphones to help you focus while working from home or enjoying your favorite music, a pair of plush over-ear headphones can provide premium sound and comfort with active noise cancellation.
  • How portable do you need your headphones to be? Earbuds are lightweight and fit into a purse, pocket or briefcase, but wireless and true wireless versions are easier to lose. If you’re not planning on taking your headphones far from home, on-ear or over-ear options make more sense; you can enjoy their superior sound quality without worrying about hefting them around.
  • If you’re going to drop your hard-earned cash on headphones, you’ll want to take steps to care for them to keep the music playing. Wired headphones need cable care; you’ll want to wind up the cable and secure it with a twist tie or velcro rope while not in use. Make sure you don’t leave your headphones in areas where it becomes extremely hot or cold (like inside your car during chilly winter days or hot summer nights). Those temperatures can damage the internal audio components.
  • Keeping your headphones clean also contributes to their life span. Earbud-style headphones need special attention since wax buildup can affect sound quality and hygiene. Removing the silicone ear tips, rinsing them with warm water, and drying them with a soft cloth should be part of their regular maintenance. All types of headphones should be wiped with a damp, clean cloth and dried if they’re exposed to excessive sweat or moisture. Make sure to keep your charging port clear of crumbs and debris for reliable charging, and store on-ear and over-ear headphones in a hard case when they’re not in use.