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I normally wear headphones when I'm working, meaning they're on for at least 6-7 hours of my day. Even after that, I like to keep them on through the evening when I'm destressing with music or taking a deep dive into my YouTube recommendations.
There are a few requirements that I have when it comes to buying over-ear headphones, though. 1) $300 or less is the sweet spot for me. 2) They should be comfortable to wear for hours, and I mean hours. 3) The audio output should be immersive yet clear-sounding.
In my never-ending quest to find a pair that checks all my boxes, I've landed on the Bose QuietComfort 45, and they are definitely my favorite pair of headphones. So, let me explain why I love them so much.
To start, the Bose QC45 headphones come with a carrying case that folds open like a book, and inside is a 3.5mm to 2.5mm audio cable, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and of course, the glorious headphones.
Straight out of the box with factory settings, the QC45 headphones delivered a full-bodied sound that was surprisingly balanced. They sounded good, but I wanted them to sound great. After downloading the Bose Music app, which lets you adjust the EQ settings of the wearable, I was much more impressed with the tailored audio.
I'm a bass boost kind of gal, and after turning the bass up to 10, listening to March Madness by Future became an immersive listening experience with such deep bass that shook my eardrums -- in a good way. Future's ad-libs were so clear in each ear that I felt like I was in the studio with him.
You can listen to the QC45 headphones in Aware and Quiet modes, which amplifies external noise and blocks external noise, respectively. Quiet mode, or active noise cancellation (ANC), does a wonderful job at blocking sharp noises like typing on a keyboard while also muting droning noises like a distant lawnmower.
In louder environments, like a crowded Starbucks lobby, the QC45 headphones won't be as effective at keeping you locked into your own quiet world. The headphones are mode ideal for the low evening chatter of TVs and voices in your home or the hum of riding on an airplane.
I could wear the QC45 headphones for hours; the earcups are truly over-ear and don't agitate my earrings, while the headband doesn't squeeze my head too tight or weigh too heavily on my head. I wore these headphones until the battery gave up on me, which was about 25 hours with ANC on. That's very impressive by flagship headphone standards.
Aside from top-notch noise-canceling and high-quality sound, I love the little things about my Bose QC45 headphones. For one, I adore the carrying case. It's made of hard leather, so if you're packing the QC45 in a suitcase, they won't be squished by your other items.
I also enjoy the power button, which is a switch instead of a button. Instead of long-pressing to turn the headphones on, you can slide the power switch, hear the satisfying strum of a cello, and know for sure whether they're turned on or not.
The QC45 fold up neatly, so I'll give them brownie points for portability. However, they aren't flashy or very stylish at all. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the QC45 headphones are certainly more beautiful on the inside than out. If you prefer a more subdued appearance, these are the ones to get.
ZDNET's buying advice
Since buying them, I have yet to go through a workday without wearing the Bose QC45 headphones, nor have I had a jam session that didn't involve them. I've been glued to these headphones for about three weeks and have no plans on putting them down.
The QC45 headphones are the most practical headphones for casual listeners who are looking for portable headphones with high-quality sound that are more affordable than other popular brands.
They won't fully drown out noises in louder environments, but that's the case with most ANC headphones, and these are better fit for deep work and for listeners who want to appreciate the best parts of their favorite songs.