The Best Noise-cancelling Headphones for Every Type of Traveler
A good pair of headphones should be at the top of every traveler’s essentials list — and we're not just talking about the pair that came with your smartphone.
Even if you’re not the type of person who plans to spend the entire duration of a 10-hour flight listening to music or watching movies, you’re still going to want to tuck a pair of headphones into your carry-on bag. Why? Because falling asleep on a plane or train is not the easiest or most relaxing thing to do. And your best bet to block out the sound of that baby crying behind you or the couple loudly discussing their vacation itinerary in the next seat: a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
So what sets noise-cancelling headsets apart from their standard counterparts? There are two components and we will get a little scientific here, so bear with us.
Each pair has a miniature built-in microphone that picks up sound waves from background noises — the buzzing of the airplane’s engine or your neighbor’s snoring, for example. Then, an integrated noise-cancelling system emits waves of the same amplitude but of the opposite phase, effectively cancelling out the annoying ambient noises. The result — if you’ve gotten a high-quality pair of headphones — should be silence. That way, you can enjoy your podcast binge without having to turn up the volume really high to block out the background noise. Or you can use a white noise app like Noisli to drown out any annoying sounds.
One more important bit to note: the difference between active and passive noise-cancelling is that the latter uses physical insulation such as better soundproofing materials to reduce ambient sounds.
Here, we divided the best noise-cancelling headphones into categories to help you find the pair that best suits your travel preferences and needs.
The Best Over-ear Noise-cancelling Headphones
1. Sony Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Sony’s sleek headphones feature an adaptive sound control smart system that balances the noise-cancelling levels according to your environment. The Hi-Res Audio sound reduces distortion so you can enjoy your favorite tunes the way they were recorded. And you can customize all of your sound options in Sony’s app. The battery lasts up to 30 hours, which is quite impressive.
To buy: amazon.com, $348
2. Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Wireless Headphones: These editor-approved headphones take noise-cancelling to a whole new level. With the push of a button, you can regulate how much background noise you hear, adapting it to best suit your environment. The noise-rejecting dual-mic system lets you take clear calls, and the sound quality is just what you would expect from Bose. The battery life is 20 hours in wireless mode and up to 40 hours with the wire.
To buy: amazon.com, $349
The Best In-ear Noise-cancelling Headphones
3. Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise-cancelling Headphones: You really won’t find better headphones in this category. Activate Aware mode with the touch of a button to hear your pilot’s announcements or turn it off to focus on your music and shut out the world. The earbuds' design features additional tips that guarantee a secure and comfortable fit. These headphones are compatible with Apple devices as well as some Android and Samsung ones.
To buy: amazon.com, $249
4. Linner NC50 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones: These active noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones will block out 97 percent of surrounding noise — letting you enjoy your music, podcast, or movie to the fullest. The Increased Awareness Monitoring button lets you hear important announcements without having to take your headphones off. The battery will last 13 hours on a single two-hour charge and the neckband is sweatproof, so they are perfect to use during workouts, too.
To buy: amazon.com, $63
The Best Noise-cancelling Headphones for Sleeping
5. CozyPhones Sleep Headphones: Side sleepers will absolutely love these washable Lycra sleep headphones that come with a bonus travel bag. Compatible with basically all types of devices, the ultra-thin speakers that are inside the headband provide powerful enough audio that you'll be able to fall asleep even if you happen to be sitting next to a crying baby or a noisy neighbor.
To buy: amazon.com, $20
6. Maxrock Sleep Earplugs: The light and soft silicone of these in-ear headphones fits like an earplug, cancelling out background noise. The dual layer ergonomic design is comfortable for long wear and the earbuds will stay in place even if you are a side sleeper. These headphones are perfect not just for sleep, but also for meditation and yoga.
To buy: amazon.com, $12
The Best Noise-cancelling Headphones Under $200
7. Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless Over-the-ear Noise-cancelling Headphones: These headphones have impressive Bluetooth capabilities — you can stream rich audio up to 330 feet away from your device. To save up your battery life (which offers 24 hours of streaming), the headphones are equipped with smart sensors that pause or resume audio as soon as you remove or put them on. The headphones also feature a built-in microphone and come in a convenient travel pouch.
To buy: amazon.com, $236
8. AKG N60 NC Noise-cancelling Headphones: Light, elegant, and foldable, these AKG headphones were created with travel in mind. Their noise-cancelling technology minimizes any ambient noise while delivering full-bodied sound. The battery life is estimated at 30 hours but you also get a USB charging cable so you can keep listening even if the battery dies.
To buy: amazon.com, $154 (originally $300)
The Best Noise-cancelling Headphones Under $100
9. Hiearcool GD1 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones: The Active Noise Reduction feature on these headphones allows you to block out most ambient noise with the press of a button. Other perks of these travel-friendly foldable headphones include a built-in microphone, wired and wireless mode compatible with Android and Apple devices, great audio, and, of course, an affordable price tag.
To buy: amazon.com, $60
10. Cowin E7 Active Noise-cancelling Headphones: Designed with a soft, cushioned headband and ear cups, comfort is one of the main advantages of these headphones. Not only can you answer phones and adjust the volume directly on the headphones, but the battery lasts for 30 hours in wireless mode — so you never have to worry about them dying mid-flight.
To buy: amazon.com, $60
The Best Cheap Noise-cancelling Headphones Under $50
11. Tesson Wireless Bluetooth Headphones: Enjoy up to five hours of playing time after just an hour of charging. These wireless headphones are perfect for working out and travel as they filter out the surrounding noise and deliver great sound. They are compatible with all Bluetooth devices and have a built-in microphone.
To buy: amazon.com, $19 (originally $50)
12. TaoTronics Active Noise-cancelling Headphones: Experience crystal clear and powerful sound for up to 15 hours per charge with these active noise-cancelling headphones. Their sturdy metal design features interchangeable earbuds and additional hooks that guarantee a perfect and stable fit. The built-in microphone makes answering your voice calls easy as pie.
To buy: amazon.com, $50
Best Wireless Noise-cancelling Headphones
13. Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise-cancelling Wireless Headphones: These headphones have exceptional audio quality and an intuitive system that will pause your music if you take them off, lift an ear cup, or simply hang them around your neck. The adaptive noise cancellation signal blocks out exterior noise, and you can choose between three environment filters that adapt the level of noise cancellation to your surroundings. And with 22 hours of wireless battery life, these headphones have you covered for the longest of flights.
To buy: amazon.com, $300 (originally $400)
14. Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones: Beats' newest headphones deliver the same great listening experience, thanks to the Pure Adaptive Noise-cancelling technology that blocks out ambient noise and optimizes sound quality. Stay unplugged for up to 22 hours and when the battery dies, a quick 10-minute charge will give you another three hours of playback.
To buy: amazon.com, $350
The Best Wired Noise-cancelling Headphones
15. Conambo Active Noise-cancelling Headphones: These headphones come with an extra airplane adapter and when folded can fit into your pocket. They have outstanding active noise-reduction capabilities and given the price, deliver amazing sound quality.
To buy: amazon.com, $27
16: Sony MDRZX110NC Noise-cancelling Headphones: The noise-cancelling technology of these wired headphones reduces ambient noise by 95 percent while optimizing your audio experience. They have a compact, foldable design that's perfect for travelers.
To buy: amazon.com, $27
The Best Active Noise-cancelling Headphones
17. Boltune Wireless Bluetooth Headphones: Besides boasting a 30-hour play time, these Boltune headphones boast an active noise cancellation feature which allows you to focus on your listening experience. What’s more, the high-tech headphones also fold up, making them super easy to pack.
To buy: amazon.com, $70
18. Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation: Sennheiser’s new headset features active noise cancellation technology that lets you enjoy your music or movies even in the loudest environment. The deep ergonomic earpads completely cover your ears to deliver comfort and exceptional sound quality. Their battery life is estimated at 25 hours.
To buy: amazon.com, $146
The Best Noise-cancelling Headphones With a Microphone
19. Nuraphone by Nura Headphones: These award-winning headphones feature technology that adapts to your hearing and optimizes the sound to your ear, delivering a truly personalized experience. The headphones’ dual-layer noise-isolation design blocks out ambient sound. The integrated microphone lets you take phone calls without having to take off your headphones.
To buy: amazon.com, $399
20. Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless Earbuds: Go completely hands- and wire-free with Jabra’s new headphones. The integrated control lets you take calls, play music, and adjust the volume with the touch of a button. The four-microphone technology together with the background noise filter guarantees you clear voice calls.
To buy: amazon.com, $148 (originally $170)
Most Comfortable Noise-cancelling Headphones
21. Mpow H5 Active Headphones: Along with 30 hours of battery life, these active headphones from Mpow boast padded 90-degree swiveling ear cuffs and an adjustable headband for a super comfortable fit. The headphones are also incredibly lightweight and feature an active noise-cancelling technology which helps reduce pesky low-frequency noises.
To buy: amazon.com, $50
22. Sony WH-XB900N Wireless Headphones: These ultra-comfortable headphones from Sony feature advanced Bluetooth technology that is compatible with both Apple and Android devices. They also conveniently fold up and come with a handy travel case. Since they’re Alexa-enabled, you can even access music, information, and more through a voice-activated control.
To buy: amazon.com, $248