I was excited to finally get my hands on the new Bose QC35 II because noise simply annoys me more than the average bear. The beautiful world we live in today is very noisy, from cars to traffic lights to photocopiers to background chatter, and it’s something some of us have learnt to live with while others suffer from the disruption. I’m in the latter crew. Until that it, a $300 Bose QC35 II became my friends, even if it was for a short period of time.
During this short period of time they were amazing. The ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) was superb! I was so excited I started showcasing (marketing for Bose) to all my software engineers and entrepreneurs, who like me seek silence to do their focused work, how their lives will change. I also sold my wife on these as a solution for plane travel. Noise inside planes reaches 80db, the sound of a vacuum cleaner near your ears on a trip from San Francisco to Sydney has shown over time to damage ear drums.
That is until I upgraded to firmware 4.5.2.
Enter the Firmware
You see, the Bose QC35 II has a computer inside which uses the multiple microphones places strategically to listen to incoming noise and cancel out the sound waves. This is orchestrated by a small onboard computer (think Arduino) running custom Bose software to run and manage the hardware. Hence ACN. Software has bugs. Even production versions. Thus is the nature (complexity) of the beast. And manufacturers will send updates over the internet to patch things up.
I have no idea why I installed the firmware update since the headphones were working flawlessly. I’m sure it was from habit; an expectation of better things to come from an update. Just like when I update my iPhone or MBP I get better performance and maybe few new bells and whistles (features).
Sound Quality Degradation
After the update, the noise cancelling quality of my QC35 II was degraded. I sat there in the library hearing the photocopier and background chatter. Something I could never hear before. WTF! I tried the 2 ACN noise levels (high and low) and both were indistinguishable.
There was something wrong with the v4.5.2 firmware update.
- A quick google for “Bose qc35 noise issues” revealed a bucket load of sites where Bose QC35 II owners complain of degraded noise after this dirty version upgrade.
- Videos are popping up confirming everyones worst fears while Bose social/marketing reps deny any sound degradation.
- Even the Bose Community is flooded with customer complaints. And Bose is listening by stating that nothing has changed in the ACN and that their tests reveal all is good and square.
Whether intentional or not, one has to question whether Bose took the $9 an hour engineer outsource route (Boeing is famous for doing so with their 737 MAX MCAS) because something like this surely could not happen if they owned the whole release process and had QA. However the timing of these degrading version updates coincides with the more expensive Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 release. Coincidence or not I’ll leave this to the conspiracy experts to debate.
- Downgrade downgrade your Bose QuietComfort 35 II from 4.5.2 to 3.1.8. Yes it’s a tad complex but unfortunately Bose doesn’t support this, nor do they even explain what each version contains, so do this at your own risk.
- Send it back to Bose for replacement/repairs; but good luck. The customers who did say the returned units were just as bad.
- Leave your views/complaints on the Bose Community website to hopefully make them acknowledge this and fix it for good. Go here: https://community.bose.com/t5/Around-On-Ear-Headphones/Bose-QC-35-ii-firmware-4-5-2/td-p/213820
So who really owns your Bose QC35 headphones?
They are the puppet master here. Controlling at will the quality of the headphones you paid them handsomely for.
Commanding a premium for average quality sound gear with what used to be amazing ACN, then manipulating the quality of their ACN moat through ghost version updates to prop new cheaper build products (*cough* Bose 700) by degrading previous generation units.
If you own the QC35 please let me know how your experience has been so far.