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 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.