While these headphones are older than most, the Bose QC15 are a pretty good deal for portable use at around $150, although their value was arguable at their original price of around $300. They offer a fun, pleasant sound signature without sacrificing too much in the way of sound quality.
Fit and Form
The QC15s come in with an attractive carrying case, their cable, and an airplane adapter. The carrying case is a zippered, flip-open hard shell case. The headphones themselves feature a cohesive and pleasing design, mainly silver and black. They are reasonably small and not overly ostentatious. The cable itself is, to me, a bit of a downside, as there are no non-OEM replacements, given its deep insertion and integrated high-/low-gain switch.
They require one AAA battery to power their active noise-cancelling, which works very, very well. Once the switch is flipped on, any ambient noise is immediately pretty much gone. Microphonics are low, and the 1/8” adapter meets its cable at 45 degrees.
These headphones feature a slightly V-shaped sound signature. Their bass, thankfully, does not drown out their mids, and there isn’t too much bleeding or muddying of the frequency ranges. As a closed set of headphones, they don’t leak too much, but do somewhat at louder volumes. The isolation is fairly good, but I can still hear myself tapping the keys as I type this review.
I found that there was little fatigue with extended listening, and there were no flagrantly distracting negatives to their sound signature. Recommended genres include modern pop, hip hop, and electronic genres.
For closed-back headphones, the soundstage is reasonably large, but the imaging leaves something to be desired as instruments and vocals tend to blend, not to the point of inability to distinguish them, but still undesirably.
Songs used; Born to Shine feat. Run the Jewels by Big Grams, I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before by Hans Zimmer, and Weight Off feat. BADBADNOTGOOD by Kaytranada
Bass is full and satisfying. It is reasonably fast, but can still get a little behind itself in faster passages of some tracks. It, regrettably, does fail my standard test for speed (which is “I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before”), but the vast majority of headphones do, as it is tremendously hard to accurately convey the speed and rhythm present in the bass in that song. The bass has good texture without becoming grainy and it is not muddy.
Key descriptors: textured, responsive, and engaging
Songs used: City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz, While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Regina Spektor, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Jake Shimabukuro
The mids in these headphones are, as expected from their V-shaped sound signature, slightly recessed. However, they still retain quality, and the quantity is not so low that vocal get lost or even overshadowed. In songs with little bass emphasis, the mids come into their own and present as relatively forward given that they are actually recessed, which I noticed particularly in instrumental guitar music, like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Jake Shimabukuro (yes, it’s actually a ukulele, but that is only an example). They are relatively detailed, but can occasionally lose some noticeable detailed in more intense and dense passages. They lack some of the warmth that I generally prefer in my mids, and as a result can seem a little bit analytical.
Key descriptors: clean, bright, and analytical
Songs used: Morphogene by Machinedrum, Never Be Like You by Flume, and Livin’ Thing by Electric Light Orchestra
The treble in these headphones is slightly accentuated, but not as much so as the bass. Although it isn’t necessarily sibilant, it can be slightly sharp, although certainly not painfully so. When they’re not sharp, they are fairly detailed. They have a little bit of sparkle, but are not overly detailed, which seems like a common thread throughout this review.
Key descriptors: sharp, clear, and forward
Minutia and Miscellaneous
One inconvenience that I found with these headphones is that if you don’t have a battery in them, they are unusable. If you’re on a long flight and your battery dies on you, you are fresh out of luck. Their newer models, I believe, fix this, but they also come at a higher price.
These headphones combine a fun, engaging sound signature with a convenient experience. They offer reasonably good soundstage, especially for a close-back set of cans. Although I believe they are more enjoyable for casual listening, they can still be enjoyed analytically. I think the best summary is that these have many of the sound qualities of a higher end headphone with the same sound signature, just a little bit fuzzier around the edges. Detail is lost in some places, bass lacks the speed of higher end models, and imaging is pretty lackluster, but in general, they serve their purpose well and offer very reasonable fidelity, particularly at their current price-point.
These headphones were not provided to me by Bose, they were purchased purely of my own accord. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.
I have had these headphones for about a year, and they were my main driver for that about 2 months of that time.