Bose is no stranger to excellent audio quality, and the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones have been a favorite of mine for quite some time. With top-notch audio and some of the best noise cancellation in the business, they’re a tough formula to improve upon. But with the second-generation, just a single addition has really improved the experience as a whole, and that’s Google Assistant.

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Audio Quality & Noise Cancellation

Bose is well-known for providing great audio quality, but it also has a reputation for a flat sound stage. Like the first generation, the Bose QC35 II are no different, offering sound quality that’s very solid, but they don’t really push too hard on the lows or highs.

Although sound quality is important, the noise cancellation is the real selling point on the QC35 II headphones. Just like the first-generation, Bose’s work here is incredible. At its highest and default level, any continuous sound is effectively cancelled out, with only short sounds such as loud beeps or voices making their way through. This is most effective on an airplane or commute, where the engine or ambient conversations are blocked out, while important sounds are simply toned down a bit.

What’s great about the QC35 II is the new ability to adjust the noise cancellation levels. You’ll be able to do this on the first generation as well, but on the second-gen, the “Action” button, which we’ll get to more later, can adjust the cancellation levels on the fly. This includes three levels: high, low, and off. At the lower level, you’ll still hear most things, but the level of sound it does remove helps a lot with concentration.

Hardware & Comfort

As for the hardware, nothing has changed from the first generation aside from two minor changes. First and foremost, there’s the previously-mentioned “Action” button which can adjust noise cancellation or activate Google Assistant.

And the QC35 II are also slightly heavier. It’s unclear why these are any heavier, as there’s no increase in battery life at 20 hours, but it’s something you won’t really notice while wearing the headphones.

When it comes to comfort, Bose still nails it across the board if you ask me. I can easily wear a pair of QC35’s (either generation), for hours upon hours without experiencing any discomfort whatsoever. That’s thanks to the ample padding and overall “loose” design.

Google Assistant Integration

Now, on to the headline feature of the Bose QC35 II. These are the first headphones shipping with Google’s new platform for headphones with Assistant, and it effectively builds the AI directly into the headphones.

The first question you may ask yourself here is how this differs from a current pair of wireless headphones that can trigger the Assistant. Not only do the QC35 II integrate directly into the Assistant app on your Android or iOS device (yes, it works with both), but it can also better take advantage of Assistant’s various features. Unfortunately, it doesn’t (yet) work with Assistant apps, but it does have two notable features that I think will pull a lot of users into trying it out.

First and foremost, there’s notifications. Assistant on headphones works with a “Voice UI” which works beyond just commands and results. When your connected phone gets a notification, a text message for example, Assistant will subtly chime in without stopping your music to let you know a message has arrived, as well as telling you who sent it. To listen to its contents, simply tap the Assistant button once.

Further, a tap of the Assistant button at any time will read off the time and any new notifications you’ve received. In the few days I’ve been using these headphones, I’ve already found this incredibly useful, and surprisingly, it never once turned into something that annoyed me. I do wish that Google gave users the option to filter out notifications instead of sending (basically) all of them, but I think the overall implementation is spot on.

Along with that, Assistant on headphones packs native support for podcasts. Simply ask Assistant to play a podcast by name, and it will start streaming it, as well as saving your progress across the headphones, your phone, and devices like Google Home. That’s a huge benefit if you ask me.

Honestly, it’s pretty hard to explain exactly how useful these Google Assistant features are without experiencing them yourself, and I think that’s one place Google is faltering here. The announcement post didn’t effectively share the great Google Assistant experience consumers can expect, and debuting it on a pretty expensive pair of headphones isn’t going to help raise awareness. Hopefully, the company will soon launch a more affordable option to bring this to more users.

Accessories

Included in the box with the QC35 II you’ll get a carrying case, charger (microUSB, ugh), and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable for wired audio. Strangely enough, the airplane adapter that came with the originals is no longer included. It’s a pretty basic package, but it works and the included case alone is a great addition.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely loved my first-generation Bose QC35 headphones, but the QC35 II aren’t exactly a massive upgrade. The only thing the company has added is this integration with Google Assistant. For me, that’s enough to pull the trigger, but it probably won’t be for most people, and I can’t blame them, especially at $349.

I can’t wait to see this new Google Assistant integration extends to more headphones, especially options in other form factors and designs. In the meantime, the Bose QC35 II are an awesome pair of headphones that I’ll continue to love…

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