Unsurprisingly for a tech journalist, I’ve had a lot of pairs of headphones. Cheap ones, pricey ones, pretty ones, practical ones – but none have stolen my heart quite like the Bose QuietComfort 20 in-ears I borrowed this month.
The noise cancelling on these babies is outstanding, and I’ve got a bit addicted to it. You know when you’re being blinded by the sun, and then it goes behind a cloud? Flipping the switch feels exactly like that. All the annoyance just disappears. Ahhh.
It’s not surprising that Bose make a good pair of noise cancellers, given that it was Dr. Amar Bose that originally came up with the idea (on a flight, unsurprisingly), leading to Bose creating the first pair on the market a decade later. These days, of course, there are loads of pairs out there – but Bose are still the name to beat, in my view.
The QC20 in-ears come with a slightly awkward control panel that houses the magical “turn off the world” switch. You can choose to have noise cancelling on or off, which is partly because it requires power (though the headphones still work well without it, so it’s not a disaster if you run out of charge) and partly because sometimes you need to hear the world around you. Like when you’re crossing the road, getting on a train, or walking at night. Or you just want to hear what the people next you are gossiping about, obviously.
Having had these for a few weeks now, I’m pretty attached to them. They falter a bit when there’s a lot of wind, and sometimes it’s mildly annoying waiting for the music to kick in again when you’ve turned the switch on or off, but those are tiny concerns compared with how much I love the “nope” button. Here are the 5 top times I used it this month:
1. On the tube (and trains in general)
Anyone who’s ever tried to conduct a conversation on the tube will have painful first-hand knowledge of just how insanely noisy it can be (my favourite way to tell out-of-towners is when they sit in opposite seats on a tube train and expect to be able to hear each other). Even when it’s not deafening, train noise makes a significant difference to how well you can hear your tunes, and the first time I flipped the switch on a train was a revelation. It’s like Taylor was singing directly into my ear – and I could no longer hear the hipsters in front of me belly-aching that they “weren’t alive when you could smoke in pubs.”
If you’re not sure exactly where you’re going, though, leave it off – you won’t hear much of the announcements with noise cancelling on. And don’t flip the switch until you’re safely on your train, because you might miss the all-important beeps that tell you the door is about to shut on your head.
2. On planes
Fairly obvious, this one, but dear lord is it satisfying. People’s conversations, rumbly engine noise, the air conditioning – everything vanishes. It’s just you and the music. But turn it off as soon as you see the refreshments trolley heading your way – you don’t want to miss out on your lukewarm chicken salad.
3. In the office
Everyone’s seen last night’s Game of Thrones except you, and they all want to discuss it in grisly detail. The intern is complaining about how badly the person they keep on seeing is treating them. Or you just want to get some hardcore work done without listening to the collaborative Spotify playlist that somehow only plays three songs. Pop in your ‘phones, flip the switch, and the Elton John track your boss is so fond of just disappears.
Don’t keep it on all the time, though – you’ll miss out when your colleagues are doing a tea run, and that’s the worst thing that can happen to anyone.
4. When it’s windy AF
As I said earlier, strong wind can cause a few blips in sound, but listening to music on these is still at least ten thousand times better than experiencing the sound of invisible particles whizzing past your ear, mingling with Will Smith’s freshest lyrics. Or, you know, recent artists. Whatever.
5. When my housemates were getting jiggy
Don’t make me relive it.