I do not use Bluetooth devices. I don't own any and I don't like Bluetooth that much.

I think it does not work that great, and that it is often unnecessary. I also think Bluetooth creates way too much e-waste considering so many of those wireless devices have non-replaceable batteries that forces us to throw away a perfectly working device the day its batteries die and it will die, sooner than later, all batteries having a limited life span.

That being said, I had the opportunity to test a Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless headset my spouse recently got as a work-from-home package. The headset will work wired or through Bluetooth, though its noise cancelation is only available when BT is enabled.

To get it working under Debian (bullseye), I had to reactivate Bluetooth in the BIOS of the laptop and install the required non-free Bluetooth drivers (told you, I do not use Bluetooth). After that, I installed Blueman, the application used to pair devices.

Blueman could not find the Bose. I double-checked that BT was activated in the BIOS, that I installed the right drivers and that everything was enabled on the PC (it has a physical switch for WiFi and Bluetooth), just to realize I had forgotten to put the headphone in pairing mode—yeah, I know. BTW, to put the headset in pairing mode, push the BT button on the back of the right ear cup for >2 seconds, wait for the blue LED to light and start blinking.

Even in pairing mode, Blueman kept on not seeing the headset. I tried a few workarounds, to no avail. I tried these too, modifying my /etc/bluetooth/main.conf like suggested, replacing the line:

#ControllerMode = dual

With a:

ControllerMode = bredr

But it changed nothing. I was ready to give up and go back to my trusty wired headset when I tried a:

pactl unload-module module-Bluetooth-discover

Followed by a:

pactl load-module module-Bluetooth-discover

And would you believe it, the headphone appeared in the list after I right-clicked the Bluetooth icon in the Panel to try to add a new device.

Alas, it was a very short-lived yeah! as, the moment I clicked Pair, the app returned an error message 'Protocol not supported' or something along that line. Still, I had never been that close to get it working, that was amazing progress. I decided to reboot the PC and start the entire pairing process, one last time, doing things in that exact order:

  1. I kept the edit I made to the #ControllerMode entry in my /etc/bluetooth/main.conf file.

  2. Turn off the headset.

  3. Open the Blueman app.

  4. Select Set up a new device in Blueman contextual menu, in the tray.

  5. Turn on the headset and put in pairing mode.

  6. The Bose appeared in the list. re-yeah!. I right-clicked but, this time, instead of trying to pair it, I clicked the trust button and then the Connect button.

A few seconds later, the device was connected. I have been using it since then.

Great

  • Plastic does not feel cheap.

  • The ear pads are user-replaceable, and using the headset one will probably need new ones.

  • Essential features do not require the proprietary Bose connect app (no GNU/Linux version, of course).

  • Volume controls and the Bluetooth pairing buttons work as expected.

  • Ditto for the Action button that lets you select the noise cancelation level (high>Low>Off).

  • Headset comes with a male to male mini-jack cable. I would not trust it on the long run but it nice to have. The great thing is that any standard cable should be compatible since there is no recess where one plugs the jack nor a custom designed plug that says 'fuck you!' when you try using any other cable than theirs. Thanks for that, Bose.

  • The headeset can easily be reconnected between my two computers (the other computer is a desktop running Nanjaro, btw).

  • Sound quality? See 'Impressions', below.

Meh

  • I have not found a way to configure the middle button (the one with the 3 dots on its surface). For now, it seems like a quick double press is supposed skip forward in a playlist, while triple moves backward. Great save that I must have a problem with my player (mpv + mpv-mpris) that systematically moves two titles forward or backward when using those buttons.

  • The Bose app is not available for GNU/Linux. Though, if it was I would probably not install it either as I try to avoid installing closed crap on my system, as much as possible (I have some).

  • Can't use the Bluetooth while the headset is charging.

  • BT is automatically switched off once you plug the mini-jack in.

WTF, Bose?

Batteries are hardly replaceable—requiring the use of a soldering iron and heat gun, really Bose? Are you one of those Apple copycats that will go out of their way to make sure their expensive devices can't be fixed just to sell more of them?

Forcing a customer to throw away a (hopefully) perfectly working device the day its batteries die, for the sole reason it has been designed that way, is a shame. If not a crime.

Impressions

I am not a huge fan of Bluetooth and wireless devices, that should be clear by now. But I can see the appeal in such a device and can easily see myself using one, /if only it had replaceable batteries/—and if Bluetooth was slightly less shitty which is probably never going to happen.

I noticed some hiccups and freeze in the sound transmission, even when sitting literally in front of the computer mostly when it was real busy doing its computer stuff, and when moving or with obstacles between the headset and the computer. Remember that my BT card is a 2011 model, which does not help.

The practical range is 10 meters or so at max, that is in an open space without obstacles. Such a short range is one reason less to use wireless devices imo. Why bother with batteries, if one is supposed to always stay close to the source as if one was, you know, wired to it?

The noise cancelation is impressive, even with no music playing. We live in a busy street in a busy corner of Paris. Using the Bose, I was able to appreciate an almost silent working day.

Sound quality is… a very personal matter. It is fine, I would say. Excellent for casual use, it is a little bit too muffled to my taste for listening to music but I am no audiophile either, and it could very well be due to the nature of this headset? I mean, I can only compare this closed back headset to my daily driver, a Grado Lab SR80 which is an open back headset, aka the total opposite of closed back and noise-canceling headsets. Open backs block nothing. I have been using this Grado for years and despite it being the most uncomfortable thing ever made (it is a pain to wear, no kidding), it is also the best-sounding I have ever used. I love it. The Bose does not sound as rich and does not offer as much depth but it really is a question of personal preferences… It is fine as I said, but it is also clear I will never enjoy listening musci with the Bose as much as I do with the Grado.

I expected much more trouble setting it up under GNU/Linux (I was the cause of most of the issues, by removing Bluetooth from the PC, by not knowing how to use Bluetooth and by not reading the user manual), but it is also clear setting up a Bluetooth device could be simpler. But I blame Bluetooth ;)