Ask nearly any frequent flyer, and they’ll tell you the most important thing in their carry-on is their headphones. Some might reach for studio-level quality headsets endorsed by famous musicians, but when you’re on a plane, the most important feature is active noise canceling. These headphones use built-in microphones to zero in on the ambient hums and rumblings of the airplane cabin. When you hit play, a set of equal and opposite tones are mixed into the music, canceling out the noise and allowing you to enjoy “My Aim Is True” in all its remastered glory. Here are some of our favorite headphones for flying.
Bose QuietComfort 35 ($350)
Music sounds rich and full on the Bose, which offer a bigger emphasis on bass than previous models. The noise canceling works flawlessly through the supremely comfortable ear cups, and there’s enough battery storage for 20 hours of music. As a bonus, owners can connect to the Bose app to access the auto-off timer, volume control, and battery readings. You can also share music with another set of Bose headphones via Bluetooth.
Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 ($200)
For nearly half the cost of its higher-priced competitors, the BackBeat Pro 2 delivers clear, crisp sound quality and superb battery life: 24 hours per charge. These are a bit on the heavy side, though the noise-canceling feature works well, if not quite as good as the Bose.
Sony MDR-ZX110NC ($50)
If you’re looking for affordable noise-canceling headphones, check out this pair from Sony. They aren’t cordless, but the sound quality is impressive for the price (the least-expensive model on this list).
Klipsch X12i ($280)
A good friend swears by these wired earphones from Klipsch, claiming they’re the first thing he packs when heading out on a trip. The sound quality is amazing—no earphones this small should have such a rich dynamic range—and the noise canceling is equally impressive. Made from aluminum, these earphones are so light and comfortable that you’ll forget they’re in your ear.
Phiaton BT 100 NC ($100)
Planning to get in a workout after your flight? These around-the-neck, Bluetooth-capable headphones are water- and sweat-resistant and allow you to control your music without having to fish the device out of your pocket. Phiaton claims the noise canceling blocks out up to 95 percent of outside noise—perfect for when you’re trying to avoid the clanging weights and tinny radio of your hotel gym. Expect 12 hours of use on a single charge.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 ($70)
The bass is absolutely phenomenal for a set of earphones at this price point. They fit snugly and offer superb comfort, and because they’re wired, you can get up to 80 hours of use from one AAA battery.