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A little music at just the right moment can take the edge off tedium and improve mood, even just by canceling out an annoying rattle. But a good sonic intervention doesn’t happen by accident. One must travel prepared with the gear to broadcast it, the backup power to keep it thumping, and, of course, the right mix of tunes.
Bose QuietControl 30 earbuds ($300)
Most experts agree that Bose has the best noise-canceling technology on the market. These wireless earbuds are fixed with microphones that measure background sound and then neutralize it with a built-in processor. You can turn it down to hear when your plane is boarding, then max it up when the engines crank during take off. A handy remote allows you to answer calls with the touch of a button, and adjust the amount of filtering separately from the sound, so the music is always clear.
Urbanears Plattan 2 headphones ($49)
The Platten 2’s checks all the travel-headphones boxes: braided cables and a flexible headband that stand up to abuse, super-comfortable fit, a nesting shape for compact portability, and a second audio port for easy sharing. Plus, with a modest price tag, it won’t hurt too much if you forget them in your hotel room.
Ecoxgear Eco Pebble Lite speaker ($40)
Measuring three inches across and less than two inches deep, there’s always room to bring the Pebble Lite. And it’s ready to go anywhere. The portable three-watt Bluetooth speaker broadcasts impressive sound for its tiny size, and its battery lasted for an entire day. It’s also tough enough to take to the beach—buoyant, waterproof, drop-resistant, and backed by a three-year warranty. With additional accessories, you can mount it on a handlebar or suction it to a board.
Outdoor Tech OT2650 Kodiak Plus external battery ($80)
Ten thousand milliamp hours is enough juice to recharge a laptop. Put another way: the Kodiak’s lithium-polymer battery stores more than enough electricity to revive a phone and a speaker. Bonus: since the Kodiak Plus has two USB charge ports, it can resuscitate both at the same time. Fully waterproof when it’s not charging, the rubberized case is tough and lightweight at just over ten ounces.
Seagate Wireless Plus hard drive with Wi-Fi ($160)
With up to two terabytes of memory and an active mobile hotspot, the Wireless Plus can store a ton of media and stream it via Wi-Fi to any device—no Internet required. Pair it with your phone, tablet, or computer and you’ll have access to thousands of songs or hundreds of movies, whenever you need it. The Wireless Plus is ideal for saving space on your phone, and since it can simultaneously stream three different songs to three different devices, you’ll never get into another argument over what to listen to.
iLuv Splitter audio adapter ($10)
Sharing tunes with a seatmate is great, but it’s not fun listening to just half of the stereo sound. The next time you have to share earbuds, plug in a splitter like this one by iLuv. It turns one earphone jack into two while maintaining the volume adjustment, mute, and other remote functions of each—with no loss of sound quality.
Indie Shuffle app (free, Android and iOS)
We stream Indie Shuffle whenever we want an introduction to a whole bunch of new music. Dedicated to independent artists—not top-forty junk—the app can filter your selection by genre or mood, while a team of listening aficionados curates a one-of-a-kind playlist of small-time and up-and-coming artists.