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Bose’s new noise-canceling headphones make it easier for Alexa to hear you

Simon Cohen

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Bose just announced its follow-up to its massively popular QC35 II headphones: The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which will retail for $400 when they go on sale June 30 but can be pre-ordered starting Wednesday, May 29. The new wireless model builds on the noise-canceling technology the company is known for but adds a new twist. By isolating a user’s voice from 360 degrees of unwanted sound, Bose claims the 700 headphones can dramatically improve all voice-based activities, from phone calls to interacting with virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa, which are both built-in.

“Pairing our phones and headphones have given us more freedom for calls,” Bose headphones category director Brian Maguire, category director said in a press release, “and lets us use our personal assistants to get things done. But there are still barriers, and we’ve all experienced them. Our VPA doesn’t understand what we said and dials the wrong number. Or botches our text, so we send it ourselves.”

The voice-boosting technology incorporates a new acoustic and electronics package, new digital signal processing, and a new eight microphone system. Six of the microphones cancel noise, while another two combine with two others to improve voice pickup. A beamform-array isolates speech while suppressing other sounds. Bose claims that all of this processing happens in real-time — adapting as you move, turn your head, and as your environment changes. Voice calls should be substantially improved, but the system also allows (via a software update) for Alexa to be summoned with your chosen wake-word instead of tapping a button.

Bose has placed an emphasis on being able to adjust the degree to which the 700 cancels external noise. A new conversation mode drops cancellation down to zero, using the embedded microphones to let all external sounds be heard through the headphones. The company claims it’s so effective, “it’s like you aren’t wearing a headset at all.”

Bose says the 700 will get 20 hours of battery life and can be quick-charged in 15 minutes for two hours of additional listening time. Capacitive touch controls are used for answering and ending calls, muting audio, changing volume, pausing music, or skipping tracks. Three physical buttons are also included, for powering on and off, accessing noise cancellation levels, and summoning your chosen voice assistant. As with its previous wireless models, the 700 will ship with an optional cable for use with headphone jacks.

Of course, the 700 boasts improved audio performance too, with the company claiming the new headphones eliminate the “hiss” sound that frequently plagues noise-canceling headphones, plus the use of a proprietary active equalization algorithm that promises balanced sound while eliminating boosted bass. Disappointingly, despite using Bluetooth 5.0 on these headphones, Bose has opted to stick with lower-bandwidth Bluetooth audio codecs, SBC and AAC, instead of adding support for the higher quality aptX and aptX HD codecs.

The new headphones have some intriguing augmented reality features, via Bose AR-enabled apps that add a layer of audio over the real-world based on where you are, and what you’re facing. After launch, Bose will add the ability to use “noise-masking” tracks that let you choose different ambient sounds that can play atop the silence of the noise cancellation feature, for improved relaxation and focus.

The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which come in black, white, and silver, aren’t a one-off. The model is the first of three new headphones Bose will be introducing this year and in 2020: The totally wireless Bose Earbuds 500 will be released later this year and the upgraded fully wireless Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 will debut next year. Bose did not provide any details or pricing for these upcoming models.

Will the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 knock their predecessors from our list of the best noise-canceling headphones? We’ll let you know as soon as we get our hands (and ears) on a set. In the meantime, check out our comparison of three of the best pairs of noise-canceling headphones you can buy right now.