Travel is amazing but exhausting. I find excessive noise in airports and on trains saps my energy and quality travel headphones are the key to tuning out the hubbub.
How do you choose the best travel headphones? First, consider your ear anatomy. Do you want over-ear headphones that completely cover your ears, or in-ear headphones that fit snugly inside them? Over-ear headphones are more comfortable for longer journeys, but in-ear headphones are easier to carry.
Next: noise-cancellation. It’s a non-negotiable. But you need QUALITY noise-cancelling. Finally: battery life. You don’t want your headphones to die. Check for a long battery life or headphones with a charging case.
As a full-time flight reviewer, I’ve researched and tested 8 sets of headphones to find the best sound quality, comfort and value for money.
Best Travel Headphones
Best Headphones: Top Planet Patrick Picks
Best Headphones for most people: Sony WH-1000XM5
Best Premium Headphones: Bose QuietComfort Ultra
Best Budget Headphones: Soundcore Anker Life Q20 Hybrid
Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM5
Best Wired Headphones: Bose QC20 ANC Wired
Best Earbuds: Apple AirPods Gen 2
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are simply the best noise-canceling headphones on the market, but they’re expensive.
- The noise cancellation is unparalleled with two processors controlling 8 microphones.
- The sound quality is magnificent, engineered with Sony’s new Integrated Processor V1.
- Crystal clear hands-free calling with 4 beamforming microphones, precise voice pickup, and advanced audio signal processing.
- The headphones are expensive.
- The touch controls can be finicky.
- The headphones are not sweat-proof (don’t use for working out).
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones has such good noise cancellation that it feels like you are in a soundproof room. The sound quality is also exceptional, with deep bass and clear highs. They are incredibly comfortable and feel light, so perfect for a long flight or commute. The battery life is good, with up to 30 hours of playback time and quick charging (3 min charge for 3 hours of playback).
Features include device switching, touch controls to play, pause, control volume, answer phone calls. The redesigned case makes these easier to carry than previous iterations. These are a great investment if you value noise cancellation, sound quality and comfort.Shop Sony XM5
If you’re looking for the best travel headphones, Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones could be in your top 3, as the sound quality feels immersive and more ‘real’. You can fine-tune your experience with Bose’s CustomTune technology.
- The noise cancelling feature is world-class and includes Quiet Mode, Aware Mode and Immersion Mode, which combines full noise cancellation and Bose Immersive Audio.
- The microphones focus on the sound of your voice making for clear phone calls.
- The soft ear cushions hug your ears.
- The headphones are expensive.
- Yes, comfortable, but these headphones are bulky.
- The white smoke colour may not be everyone’s preference.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones are pretty cool for travel if the design catches your eye. Under the hood, Bose uses Bluetooth 5.3 which connects up to 30 feet from your device (including Bose smart soundbars). You get 24 hours of battery life, less with Immersive Audio (18h). The touch controls manage volume, tracks and call answering.
In conclusion, Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones with Spatial Audio are the perfect travel headphones for those who want to enjoy their music without any distractions. The noise cancelling feature, crystal clear calls, and elevated design make these headphones a must-have for any travel enthusiast.Shop BOSE QC ULTRA
Note: QC Wireless headphones are different to QC Ultra
The Bose QuietComfort Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones are an excellent choice to take with you for long flights or train rides. They have practical comfort and all the gizmos you might need.
- The noise-cancelling technology is top-notch, removing distracting background noise.
- The earcup cushions are very comfortable, even during long listening sessions.
- The battery life gives up to 24 hours of listening on a single charge.
- The price point is quite high, so these headphones are an investment.
- The headphones are bulky, and hard to squeeze into a carry-on bag.
- The sound quality is excellent, but lack the nuance of more advance headphones.
Overall, I’d recommend the Bose QuietComfort Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones as an entry point into high-quality travel headphones. The noise-cancelling, design and battery life are all great and – while expensive – are at the lower end of the quality brand pricing.Shop BOSE QC WIRELESS
This was a brand of headphones that was new to me, but the Soundcore Anker Life Q20 headphones are worth considering if you value budget alongside sound quality.
- The Hi-Res Audio certification means that the Soundcore Anker Life Q20 headphones are capable of great sound quality, with extended high frequencies that reach up to 40 kHz for improved clarity and detail.
- The hybrid active noise cancellation reduces ambient noises by up to 90%.
- The so-called BassUp technology strengthens the bass output.
- The Soundcore Anker Life Q20 headphones are not the most stylish headphones on the market.
- The headphones are a bit bulky and heavy, a problem for very long flights.
- The controls on the headphones can be a bit confusing at first
The Soundcore Anker Life Q20 headphones will suit someone balancing improved sound quality, noise-cancellation without breaking the bank.Shop SOUNDCORE ANKER
The MONODEAL Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are a sensibly priced option that will take sound quality up a notch when travelling.
- Monodeal says its noise reduction eliminates up to 85% of background noise.
- The stereo driver features quite rich bass and the sound balance was strong.
- The ear pads are ‘skin texture’ and lightweight enough around your ears to make them feel pretty comfortable.
- The headphones are wired, which will be a no for wireless headphone users.
- The noise-cancelling feature is not perfect.
- The headphones may pinch anyone with smaller head sizes.
The MONODEAL Active Noise Cancelling Headphones include a battery capable of up to 20 hours of continuous use. If you switch off noise cancelling, the headphones will function without battery power.Shop MONODEAL
If you’re in the market for a new pair of wireless headphones, the YMOO Y7 Bluetooth Headphones are worth adding to your list of possibilities.
- The sound quality is impressive, with powerful bass, soft mid-frequencies, and clear treble.
- The active noise cancelling feature is best with low and mid-frequency ranges.
- The battery life is excellent, with up to 50 hours of playtime in noise cancelling mode.
- The ear cups may be too small for some users.
- Noise cancelling isn’t as effective with higher-frequency noises..
The standout feature of the YMOO Y7 Bluetooth Headphones is the battery life, which will extend to 75 hours when noise cancellation is switched off. That means no need to recharge on extended travel days. These are a solid choice within their price bracket.Shop ymoo Y7 HEADPHONES
If you’re looking for wireless earbuds with excellent noise-cancelling capabilities and personalized spatial audio, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) could be a great choice for you.
- Richer audio experience with intelligent noise cancellation and immersive sound
- Next-level active noise cancellation for dramatically less noise
- Customizable fit with four pairs of silicone tips to fit a wide range of ears
- Expensive price point compared to other wireless earbuds
- Battery life could be longer
- Limited compatibility with non-Apple devices
I find the AirPods Pro to be comfortable to wear, with a snug fit that creates an acoustic seal to help keep out noise. The noise-cancelling feature is impressive, with up to 2x more active noise cancellation for dramatically less noise when you want to focus.
You can manage playback functions from the stem with touch control, swipe up or down to adjust volume, press to play and pause music or mute and unmute yourself on calls, and press twice to end calls. And you can summon Siri with a simple “Hey Siri” or just “Siri.” Though the effectiveness of Siri is a whole other blog article!Shop APPLE AIRPODS G2
When it comes to choosing the best travel headphones, there are several factors to consider. Here are some features to look out for:
Noise-cancellation technology is a must-have for any travel headphones. It blocks out external noise, allowing you to enjoy your music or movies without any distractions. Look for headphones with active noise-cancellation (ANC) technology, which uses microphones to detect and cancel out external noise.
Since you’ll be wearing your headphones for extended periods, comfort is crucial. Look for headphones with soft earpads and an adjustable headband that fits snugly without causing discomfort. Over-ear headphones are generally more comfortable than in-ear headphones, as they distribute the weight of the headphones more evenly.
Battery life is an essential consideration, especially if you’re going on a long journey. Look for headphones that offer at least 10-12 hours of battery life. Some headphones come with a quick charge feature, allowing you to charge them in a short amount of time.
Wireless headphones are the best option for travel, as they eliminate the need for messy cables. Look for headphones with Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to connect to your phone or tablet without any wires. Some headphones also come with NFC connectivity, which makes pairing even more seamless.
When it comes to travel headphones, portability is key. Look for headphones that are compact and foldable, making them easy to pack in your luggage. Some headphones come with a carrying case, which provides extra protection during transit but may make them heavier to carry.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top affordable headphones for long-haul flights?
When it comes to affordable headphones for long-haul flights, consider the YMOO Y7 Bluetooth Headphones if you don’t mind wired headphones, or the the Soundcore Anker Life Q20 for wireless headphones. Both are over-ear models with decent noise-cancelling at an affordable price.
Which noise-cancelling headphones offer the best value for air travel?
The best value noise-cancelling headphones for air travel are the Soundcore Anker Life Q20 but if you could stretch to the Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones, you’ll get long life from them. Both offer excellent noise-cancelling and sound quality, as well as long battery life.
How do Bose headphones compare for in-flight use?
Bose headphones are known for their excellent noise-cancelling technology, making them a popular choice for in-flight use. The Bose QuietComfort Ultra and Bose QuietComfort Wireless are both great options for air travel.
Are there any high-quality wired earbuds suitable for flying?
If you prefer wired earbuds, the Shure SE215 and the Bose QuietComfort 20 are both high-quality options suitable for flying. They offer good noise isolation and sound quality, and are comfortable to wear for long periods.
Can Apple headphones be effectively used on airplanes?
Apple headphones, such as the AirPods Pro (Generation 2) and the Beats Solo Pro, are effective for use on airplanes. However, they may not provide the same level of noise-cancelling as other headphones specifically designed for air travel.
What features should be considered when purchasing headphones for sleeping on a plane?
When purchasing headphones for sleeping on a plane, it’s important to consider the comfort level, noise-cancelling capabilities, and battery life. Look for headphones with soft earpads and adjustable headbands, as well as good noise-cancelling technology to block out ambient noise. Additionally, long battery life is important for flights lasting several hours.