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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds: Review

The top-of-the-line 2023 Bose QuietComfort Ultra add immersive audio, but is it enough to entice customers and reclaim their title?

Bose QuietComfort Ultra True Wireless Earbuds Black

Those who have been around the portable audio scene any length of time know there has been a battle raging between Bose and Sony with each new release leap-frogging the other. Sony’s WF-1000XM5 in-ear (released mid-2023) is the reigning champion for noise cancelling earphones and the still excellent Bose QuietComfort II (QC II) earbuds released in 2022 trailing just slightly behind. 

No one really expected to see Bose release a new earbud just 14 months after the QC II, but with both Apple and Sony having released new products, Bose felt compelled to release the new QuietComfort Ultra model to reclaim their crown. In many ways the Ultra is a revised version of QC II as it shares a lot of the same design language and internals, but there are some notable changes. 


Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (2022 model) vs. Ultra Earbuds (2023 model)
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (2022 model) on left vs. QuietComfor Ultra Earbuds (2023 model) on right.

The shells have a new metallic face. Slightly redesigned stability bands offer improved comfort thanks to a notch in the band that helps lock it in place, which is a definite improvement over the QC II. Colors are off-white, black and a new pale blue option that was not available on the QC II. Like the QC II, Ultra fits in the ear and then twists to lock into place. 


Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbud Black Interior

Bose Ultra fit comfortably in my ear but is slightly larger than models like the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation. I thought the larger size could be a concern, but my daughter with smaller ears had no trouble with Ultra, and she actually preferred the fit over AirPods. The Ultra are IPX4 rated which allows for gym wear but swimming with them is still off-limits.   

Charging Case

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds inside Charging Case Black

The Ultra’s charging case is quite similar to the QC II design, but neither support wireless charging. However,  Bose has announced a case cover that will add wireless charging to either model for an additional $50 charge.


Both the QC II and Ultra use the Qualcomm series 5 chipset for connectivity, but the Ultra implements Snapdragon Sound Technology Suite and adds aptX Adaptive. Other new features on the Ultra include Google quick pair, Bose Immersive Audio (spatial technology) and a new head-tracking sensor enabled by an IMU chip. Unfortunately, Bluetooth multipoint is not yet available, but in theory could be added in a future firmware update.

Tip: Remember both the earbud and source device need to be compliant to take advantage of the Snapdragon Sound Suite. Not all Android phones support aptX Adaptive, and no iPhones support aptX at all. In such cases, Bluetooth will default to a fallback (lower fidelity) codec such as AAC. 

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds Black with included accessories

Immersive Audio

I’m not a big fan of spatial audio. I find such artificially enhanced tracks often sound, well artificial. However, in today’s market if you aren’t offering some form of spatial audio, you are going to be alone on the shelf. With both Sony and Apple’s latest earbuds having a full suite of spatial audio features, Bose had little option but to add its own version called “Immersive Audio” to keep pace.

However, Bose’s spatial audio implementation differs from Apple. Instead of requiring a specially mixed track for spatial audio (e.g. Apple’s “made for spatial audio” or Dolby Atmos Music), Bose applies its immersive audio technology to any stereo track.

Bose Immersive Audio comes in two flavors. Still mode enhances audio but does not enable head-tracking, while Motion mode adjusts audio with head movements. The first thing one notices when going from standard to still mode is a wider stage and larger stereo separation, which gives music a more layered sound. I found the immersion worked better on some tracks than others — sometimes sounding more like a live performance and other times a bit odd and off-putting. If I were going to use the spatial features regularly I’d develop playlists of tracks that sounded good with the enhancements and avoid those that did not.

Battery Life

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Earbuds Black with Charging Case

Those who do use spatial audio will want to know that it does impact battery life. I was able to get 6 hours of battery life with ANC and spatial turned off, but only 4 hours with it on.  The case provides an additional 2.5-3 charges in my testing.

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Sound Notes

I did notice that sound quality has been slightly improved compared to the QC II. Ultra delivers better bass along with a tighter presentation through the mid-bass and more details in the mids.  Sound quality without spatial audio enabled is very close to Sony’s XM5. However, I do still think the Sony is a bit more resolving in the lower mids. Ultimately, the differences may come down to personal preference between the two. On the other hand, Bose users can adjust EQ in the companion app to dial in their preference. 

In the default setting, Ultra sounds slightly bass boosted with a drop back in the lower mid-range and then a mild lift in the upper vocal range followed by a polite treble. Top-end extension is ultimately a draw, as all flagship wireless ANC earbuds continue to struggle against their wired counterparts. 


One place I didn’t find improvements between the Ultra and QC II was in noise cancelling while making calls.  There is still more background noise transmitted by the Ultra than competing models. So those who use their earbuds for a lot of phone calls, especially in the car or outdoors, may want to look at the Apple Airpod Pro 2nd Gen which does a bit better job of filtering out road noise and wind. 

Noise Cancellation

Overall ANC is roughly the same as the QC II which was already quite good. I did find some improvement in Transparency mode that now integrates ANC to prevent outside noises from overpowering the music.  


Bose QuietComfort Ultra True Wireless Earbuds Package Black 2023 model

Those looking for a better QC II ($279 $199 at Amazon) will find that the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra buds do indeed improve upon an already great wireless earphone, while offering a better fit. If you already own QC II, you’ll need to weigh the importance of Immersive Audio and whether your device supports aptX Adaptive and Snapdragon Sound, before upgrading. 

Overall, the Bose QC Ultra edges closer to the heels of the Sony WF-1000XM5 ($248 at Amazon), but doesn’t do quite enough to steal back the crown. However, QC Ultra earns a spot among our top wireless earphones of 2023, and is certain not to disappoint. 

Where to buy: $299 $279 at Amazon | Bose (available in black, white smoke, and moonstone blue)

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