15 Best Headphones for Airplane Travel 2017

Whether you’re in First Class, Business Class or Economy, the roar of the airplane’s engines are audible everywhere in the cabin.

On top of the engine hum, you also have the constant ding! of the seatbelt sign; the chitter chatter of passengers and the crashing of the beverage tray as it makes its way up and down the aisles. Are you at a rock concert or on an airplane?

Thankfully, headphones allow you to block out those noises and focus on your music, but finding those that target the needs of airplane passengers is a bit tricky.

Not sure which ones to choose? Use our experts’ shortlist of the best headphones for airplane travel to help guide you toward the right pair.

Top 15 Airplane Travel Headphones Ultimate Table

PictureNameStyleTypeRating (1-5)
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1. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless HeadphonesOver-Ear WirelessActive Noise Cancelling4.7
2. Sony Premium Noise Cancelling Bluetooth HeadphoneOver-Ear WirelessActive Noise Cancelling4.6
3. Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless HeadphonesIn-Ear WirelessCustom Noise Cancelling4.3
4. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless HeadphonesOver-Ear WirelessPassive Noise Cancelling4.2
5. Samsung Level On PRO Wireless HeadphonesOn-Ear Wireless OR WiredActive Noise Cancelling4.2
6. Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones Over-Ear WiredPassive Noise Cancelling4.0
7. Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth HeadphonesOver-Ear WirelessActive Noise Cancelling4.0
8. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint HeadphonesIn-Ear WiredActive Noise Cancelling4.0
9. Puro Sound Labs, The Healthy Ear Headphone (Kids Volume Limiting) On-Ear WirelessPassive Noise Cancelling4.0
10. BÖHM Wireless Bluetooth HeadphonesOn-Ear WirelessActive Noise Cancelling3.9
11. Monoprice Comfortable Over the Ear HeadphoneOver-Ear WiredActive Noise Cancelling3.8
12. RHA MA750i Noise Isolating Premium In-Ear HeadphoneIn-Ear WiredNoise Isolating3.8
13. TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling HeadphonesIn-Ear WiredActive Noise Cancelling3.8
14. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint HeadphonesOver-Ear WiredActive Noise Cancelling3.6
15. Beats Executive Over-Ear HeadphonesOver-Ear WiredActive Noise Cancelling3.5

How to Achieve a First Class Listening Experience When Flying

There are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing headphones, and since you are looking specifically for something suitable for flying, the search gets even more intense.

We know what it feels like to sit in coach for 10 hours with a pair of cheap airline earbuds, so to help you avoid a poor listening experience or to suffer through a noisy flight, follow the tips below to ensure you choose a quality pair before your next trip.

Start by Choosing a Style

The best place to start is by choosing the type of headphone style. You can choose from on-ear headphones, over-ear headphones or in-ear headphones.

We will weigh out the pros and cons of each one to help you decide which would best suit your needs.

  • Over-Ear  Over-ear headphones are by far the most popular choice when it comes to traveling par avion. They cover your ear completely, and many feature noise-cancellation technology that helps block out undesirable airplane noise as you fly.

If you are in First Class or Business Class where you can stretch out a bit more comfortably, then these will work out fine in spite of their bulkiness. Chances are you can sleep with the back of your head resting on a pillow rather than having to lean on a window (or a neighbor) where bulkier headphones tend to get in the way.

In the Economy seats, you have fewer sleeping position choices and probably don’t want to lean on these when sleeping. Some of them have touch panels on the ear cups, so naturally, you don’t want to risk damaging them or push random buttons as you sleep. If you usually sleep on your back, then most likely you’ll sleep upright in your seat and leaning won’t be an issue.

The Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones  are awesome over-ear headphones for airplane travel.

  • In-Ear  If you prefer something less bulky and like the style and fit of in-ear headphones, then there are some great airplane-friendly pairs on our list.

In-ear headphones are so travel-friendly; just toss them in their carrying pouch or a pocket on your luggage. On-ear and over-ear headphones require a bulky case to protect them, which makes them more of a hassle to deal with.

When it comes to choosing great in-ear headphones, pay attention to the ear tip size (you want it to feel snug but not uncomfortably tight), and the material (foam helps prevent ambient noise from entering very well). In-ear headphones with silicone or rubber tips tend to leak in more sound, but if they fit well in your ear canal, then the sound experience usually isn’t too compromised.

Bose’s QuietComfortt 20 Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones rest inside the ear canal.

  • On-Ear  These headphones don’t sit in the ear canal, and they don’t completely cover your ears; they sit on top of them.

Just as with the over-ear headphones, you will have to remember that these are bulkier and not as comfortable if you plan to lean on a pillow. The peace and quiet that you will experience, on the other hand, makes them worth the inconvenience.

We recommend these for adults with smaller ears and children.

BÖHM’s Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones sit on the ears but don’t engulf them completely.

A final word about both on-ear and over-ear headphones: pay attention to the ear cup material as you shop.

Real leather ear cups are best since they will last longer than synthetic leather ear cups, but both can get a little sweaty in hot weather.

Velour is another option, and while it is much softer than the other two, you will need to replace it or wash it (if possible) now and then since it will absorb oil and sweat.

What Are Noise-Cancelling Headphones?

There is a huge difference between noise-isolating and noise-cancelling headphones, so if you’re not too familiar with these technical terms, we will explain the difference for you.

The best headphones for airplane travel are definitely those with noise-cancelling technology.

When you head out for a run, or you’re cycling through traffic, you probably want to hear a bit of background noise for safety purposes, right?

On an airplane, the last thing you want to hear is your neighbor snoring or the roar of the engines from takeoff until landing – especially when you have a long flight ahead of you.

Noise-cancelling headphones will help block out the world around you, offering you some much-desired peace and quiet as you fly.

Thanks to a small microphone placed on the outside of the ear cup, they pick up ambient noise. Their advanced noise-cancelling technology generates a sound wave that is out of phase with the sound waves of the ambient noise. These are known as “active noise-cancelling headphones, ” and they work great for flying since the technology is better at canceling out the lower frequency sound waves (like the hum of the engines). They will not, however, be as effective when it comes to higher frequencies like a baby crying or people speaking; this is just something to keep in mind as you shop for headphones.

Some headphones equipped with active noise-cancelling technology have a button that allows you to turn it on and off as desired while others will power on automatically when you turn on the headphones. We recommend those with manual activation so that you can turn it off when important announcements are being made in the terminal or the cabin and turn it on when you would like to shut out the world around you.

You will also find passive noise-cancelling headphones. What’s the difference?

Rather than generating sound waves like active noise-cancelling headphones do, these are made with special materials that are designed to block out ambient sound. They soften ambient sound but don’t “cancel” it out as well as the active noise-cancelling headphones do.

For flying, active noise-cancelling headphones are better.

And Noise-Isolating Headphones?

Rather than canceling out the ambient noise by means of a microphone and advanced technology, noise-isolating headphones rely on a snug fit to help block out the sounds around you. They basically act as a barrier between you and the sound, which means that a proper fit is crucial for them to be effective.

These aren’t the top choice for airplane travel simply because they can let more sound leak in, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t decent noise-isolating headphones out there. In-ear headphones that are noise-isolating are quite successful at offering you some peace and quiet, so if you’re interested in a great pair, we recommend the Bose QuiteControl 30 headphones.

We’ll highlight a few more in our “Review section” below if that particular model doesn’t meet your listening needs and expectations.

Other Features and Factors to Consider

The more detailed your headphone checklist is, the more satisfied you will feel when you find a pair that meets all of your expectations.

Here are a few final features and factors to keep in mind as you decide which headphones to purchase.

  • Think About Other Passengers  While you’re busy prioritizing your sound experience, don’t forget to take that of your neighbor’s into consideration, too.

Headphones that leak a lot of sound are going to disturb others, so avoid being “that guy” or “that woman” on the plane who shared their music with everyone. Check to see if the headphones are known for leaking sound before you purchase.

  • Carrying Case  Whether you choose some on-ear, in-ear or over-ear headphones, a carrying case is always handy.

For the larger headphones, a hard shell case is ideal so that you can both store and protect the headphones when not in use. Since not all models come with a case, you might have to purchase one separately, but you’ll need to double check to make sure that the particular headphone model that you have will fit in them. Some headphones fold, and others don’t, so remember these small details if you do end up purchasing a case.

For in-ear headphones, it’s nice to have a pouch or small case so you can keep the extra tips in one location.

  • Airplane Adaptor  If you have wired headphones that you want to plug directly into the airplane’s audio system, check to see if it comes with an airplane audio adapter.

Many airlines use a two-prong airline plug, and not all headphones come with the adapter.

Since some airlines won’t allow Bluetooth headphones for certain parts of the flight, the adapter is nice and you can still enjoy your headphones by plugging them directly into the airline audio source.

Some of the products we tried came with them already, but not all of them do so check into it if you feel like this is an important accessory.

  • Battery Life  Headphones that run on batteries usually have a long lifespan, but if they die and you don’t have replacement batteries, you are out of luck for the rest of your trip. Make sure you have a few spares on hand in your carry-on bag or purse for emergency situations (some headphones don’t tell you how much juice is left in the batteries, so it’s always a guessing game).

Rechargeable batteries can solve this problem; when they die, you simply recharge them. At the same time, they usually have a shorter life span and require recharging more frequently.

Some headphones have an auto-shut off feature so that you avoid draining the battery, and while this isn’t a crucial feature, it certainly is handy.

  • Comfort  The chances are that the headphones will be on your ears for hours at a time, which means that comfort should be at the top of your “must-have” list.

Cushioning plays a big part in the overall comfort level, and you only have two options when it comes to headphones: foam or memory foam. Foam is less durable if it is thin, but denser foam should hold up better. Memory foam is super soft and usually most comfortable, but if it’s covered in leather or synthetic leather, they are likely to get warm.

Everyone has a different idea of “comfort,” so while we cannot tell you which are the most comfortable headphones for airline travel, we recommend that you pay attention to the weight of the headphones and check out the ear cup fit and material to find the right fit.

Heavy headphones and tight-fitting headphones will quickly become uncomfortable on a long flight, especially if you are not used to wearing them.

We recommend wearing them for a short period each day before you fly so that you can break them in and make sure that you’re ready before wearing them for hours at a time.

Top 15 Best Headphones for Airplane Travel Reviews

1. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones

Type in “Bose QuietComfort” into any search bar, and you will see just how popular this particular line of headphones is for traveling. The QuietComfort 35 model, in particular, is geared toward airline passengers who want to experience a peaceful flight, which is why many consider them to be the best headphones for airplane travel currently available.

Overview

Noise-cancelling technology looks good when you see it on paper, but in reality, not all noise-cancelling headphones are capable of neutralizing ambient noise that well…and then there were the Bose’s QuietComfort 35 headphones.

The noise-cancellation technology is awesome; some of the best in the headphone industry at this price point. Remember that sound quality and noise-cancellation are very hard to balance in a single device, and while we can’t say that the sound experience is as good as some of the other headphones on our list (mediocre lows, decent mids, and highs), these are certainly ideal for flying since they neutralize ambient noise so well.

The comfortable ear cups will have you forgetting that you’re wearing headphones at all. They used the prestigious Alcantara® material on the cups, which is a mixture of polyurethane and polyester. The material is actually designed for use on cars, aircraft, and yachts, but Bose thought that it would work well on headphone ear cups and they were absolutely correct. It feels like suede yet has the durability and resistance of polyurethane, rendering it more stain-resistant than just regular suede. The cushioning they used is quite soft, as well, and since the headphones are so flexible, it almost feels like a “glove” for your ears. Wearing them for longer flights made the entire process so much more enjoyable.

Remember that while they don’t have an inline remote, there are buttons integrated right onto the ear cup itself. You can adjust the volume level, songs, and handle calls with ease.

When using them in-flight, you’ll appreciate the airline adapter cord for times when you aren’t allowed to have your Bluetooth appliances turned on. Just plug into the airline’s audio system and can still enjoy your favorite music, film or TV show.

These are compatible with the Bose Connect App, but we didn’t find it to be that useful since the app is so basic. We did, however, like that it helps you avoid running the battery down (it allows you to program an automatic shut off time), and it allows you switch from one device to another easily.

Details

  • 20-hour battery life
  • 15-minute charge time for every 2 ½ hours of play time
  • Airline Adapter included
  • Carrying Case included
  • Weighs 8.3 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones

The Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are worth every penny if you want to experience a peaceful flight. If you are extremely sensitive to noise, you won’t find any other headphones with noise-cancelling technology this advanced.

They may be heavier than Bose’s previous model of these headphones and the fact that you can’t change out the rechargeable battery yourself makes it a bit inconvenient; however, we still wouldn’t recommend any other product as highly when it comes to flying. They have the top three features that most passengers desire when flying: noise-cancellation, comfort and an airline adapter.

Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Noise-cancelling technology is superb
  • Excellent customer support
  • Durable and flexible
  • Function as either wired or wireless headphones
Cons
  • Heavier than the previous version
  • Batteries aren’t user-replaceable

2. Sony Premium Noise Cancelling, Bluetooth Headphone

Sony’s MDR-1000X headphones provide some stiff competition to the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones. We like things about both models, so we will take a closer look at the Sony’s to help you decide which best suits your needs.

Overview

While we just discussed how Bose is an industry leader in the noise cancellation department, Sony had an Ace up its sleeve when it designed the MDR-1000X. The two are very similar, but Sony’s sound quality is superior.

First, we’ll discuss the noise cancellation. We felt that the MDR-1000X had a slight advantage to the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones since it was able to neutralize a wider range of frequencies. From the low hum of the airplane engines to the higher pitches of cackling neighbors or crying babies, these impressed us.

The noise-cancellation feature is manually operated, and what makes them great for airplane travel is the fact that they have an “Ambient Sound” option. It allows voices to be audible but still neutralizes lower frequencies like the airplane’s engine, which is a very unique feature that other headphones don’t offer. You can still hear important announcements without having to remove your headphones or press any buttons.

The sound quality – for those of you who value your listening experience in all ranges – is definitely superior with the MDR-1000X model. If you’re the type of traveler who likes to immerse yourself in music as you fly rather than TV shows and films, then Sony is clearly the winner.

Another great feature that we like about these headphones is the “Swipe and Tap” technology. If you want to interrupt your listening experience temporarily to hear an important announcement or speak with a flight attendant, just cup your hand over the right ear cup, and it will pause the music. Once you remove your hand, it will resume playing again. These are very convenient features for passengers on an airplane. You can tap the ear cup to answer phone calls, play and stop, control tracks and adjust the volume.

Details

  • 20-hour battery life
  • 4-hour charge time
  • Swipe and Tap technology
  • Carrying Case included
  • Weigh7 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Sony MDR-1000X Headphones

If you’re a traveler who prioritizes sound quality, the Sony MDR-1000X headphones will meet and even exceed your expectations in this department.

We liked the handy Swipe and Tap feature as well as the special Ambient Sound Modes since we found them to be very useful while flying. Even though they’re more expensive than the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, we still felt the price was justified thanks to all of the advanced features that didn’t compromise the sound quality nor noise-cancellation technology.

Pros
  • Noise-cancellation technology covers wide range of frequencies
  • Comfortable to wear with glasses
  • Plenty of cushioning on ear cups and headband
  • Swipe and Tap technology useful to passengers
Cons
  • Ear cup material is not as durable
  • Easy to bump Swipe and Tap controls unintentionally

3. Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones

Another pair of Bose headphones topped our list and ended up being the best pair of wireless headphones we tried for airplane travel.

Some of you may be more familiar with the wired version of the headphones – the  QuietComfort 20 – that are equally as popular. As technology advances so does our taste in headphones, so we decided to focus on this version instead.

Overview

If you’re looking for less bulky headphones that are still capable of offering you active noise cancellation and wireless capabilities, then it’s hard to beat the Bose QuietControl 30s.

The around-the-neck style is very sleek, and the silicone ear tips are tree-shaped; this allows them to sit in your ears comfortably while still offering a decent seal against ambient noise. Most in-ear headphones leak sound in, but these are equipped with active noise cancellation!

One of the coolest things about these headphones is the fact that you can control the amount of noise cancellation directly from your device (hence the description “custom noise cancellation” in our table). Turn it up when the cabin noises are getting too loud and turn it down when you need to hear important announcements in the terminal or during your flight. It’s available through the same Bose Connect App we mentioned for the QuietComfort 30 headphones earlier, or you can also adjust it from the in-line remote, too.

These are ideal for businesspeople thanks to the superb Bluetooth technology. Callers can hear you clearly since the headphones muffle background noise in the terminals and the fact that you can customize the level of noise cancellation is also great when you need to focus on important calls.

Sound quality is decent. We found that pop music and jazz sounded particularly good, but if you’re a fan of the bass, these probably aren’t going to provide enough of it for you.

Details

  • 10-hour battery life
  • 3-hour charge time
  • Carrying Case included
  • Bluetooth range 33 feet
  • 3 ear tip sizes included (S, M, L)

Final Thoughts About the Bose QuietControl 30 Headphones

With mediocre bass and a higher price tag, we can’t say that these are our favorite pair of Bose headphones.

What we do love about them is the fact that they’re one of the very few in-ear headphones on the market with decent noise-cancellation technology. Not everyone wants huge over-ear headphones to lug around yet still want the peace and quiet that most over-ear headphones provide. Bose created an amazing compromise with the QuietControl 30s, which is why they earned the number three spot on our list.

Pros
  • Can customize the level of noise cancellation
  • Slim design with great noise-cancelling technology
  • Great for business people
Cons
  • Battery life is short
  • Pricey

4. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Headphones

You don’t tend to see many passive noise-cancelling headphones at the top of airplane travel lists; however, the Bowers and Wilkins P7 headphones provide you with relatively decent sound isolation thanks to the secure fit. You can hear some ambient noise, which means that important announcement in the terminal and in-flight won’t be missed.

Let’s take a look at some other reasons why we enjoyed them for airplane travel.

Overview

For some who fly, it’s more about the listening experience than it is about blocking out the airplane hum (it’s loud, but it might not bother you that much), which is why we included these passive noise-cancelling headphones from Bowers & Wilkins. They block out the crowd and provide you with a rich listening experience as you fly.

We did find these to be comfortable thanks to the memory foam on the ear cups, but the real leather did get a little warm and sweaty after a few hours of use. Leather is, undoubtedly, more durable and will last longer, but might be too hot when the temperatures are higher.

As passive noise-cancelling headphones, you know that the seal is important when it comes to blocking out ambient noise. The nice thing about these is that the fit is snug yet comfortable. True, they are a bit heavy, but this was not a problem with the seat reclined and head on the pillow.

We appreciated the aptX Bluetooth technology they used in these headphones, which we’ve seen used on some in-ear headphones we have tried and really liked. It balances sound quality and wireless quality since the audio is reproduced at full bandwidth. The sound experience is undoubtedly rich and accurate, with a deep bass and dynamic range. Very impressive. We definitely noticed the improvements they made from the P5 model.

Details

  • 17-hour battery life
  • Carrying Case included
  • aptX Bluetooth technology
  • Weigh 323 grams (just over 11 ounces)

Final Thoughts About the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphones

We liked that these headphones come in both wired and wireless versions; every passenger can choose the option that works best for their listening needs.

While they may not have active noise cancellation technology, they are still very comfortable for long flights and block ambient sound very well. Don’t expect them to neutralize engine hum, but it will dampen it and still provide you with a rich listening experience as you fly.

Pros
  • Very little sound leakage
  • Available in both wired and wireless versions
  • Travel-friendly design
  • Comes with two cables – one straight and one with an Apple-friendly inline remote microphone
  • 2-year limited warranty
Cons
  • No active noise cancellation technology
  • Inline remote/mic not so great for Android
  • Heavy

5. Samsung Level On PRO Wireless

We have looked at over-ear headphones and in-ear headphones, but what about some on-ear headphones for airplane travel?

Samsung’s Level On PROs turned out to work quite well for flying, and while they don’t come anywhere close the Bose QuietComfort 35s in terms of quality, they’re more budget-friendly and still have plenty to offer airplane passengers.

Overview

One of the first things we noticed was the same type of “swipe and tap” technology that Sony used on their MDR-1000X headphones. While you can’t cup your hand over the right ear cup like you could with the MDR-1000X to temporarily interrupt the sound, you can still tap to pause and play music or swipe it to adjust the volume.

We chose these headphones for two main reasons: the active noise-cancellation technology and the price.

The noise cancellation is activated manually (just flip the button on the side of the ear cup), but it can’t compete with the top headphones on our list. Sound still gets through. Samsung’s UHQA (Ultra High Quality Audio) technology does provide you with a pure listening experience, however, so if you can tolerate a bit of ambient noise, these have enough active noise-cancellation to keep you happy.

As an on-ear headphone, it might not be as comfortable for users with larger ears, but if you have smaller ears or need something for younger passengers, these are decent.

We must say that the only people who can reap the full benefits of these headphones are Samsung smartphone owners; this earned them fewer points on our list, but we did appreciate the fact that Android users can still benefit from it thanks to the Level App. If you do have a Samsung device, you can reap full benefits including the SoundAlive sound equalizer that can changes automatically from song to song or you can adjust it manually based on your listening preferences. It’s nice to be able to interact with the music like this, but it is not necessarily something that you need when on an airplane.

Details

  • 10-hour battery life
  • Bluetooth 4.1 technology
  • Carrying Pouch included

Final Thoughts About the Samsung Level on pro Headphones

We liked the price and the fact that these have active noise-cancelling technology, but seeing that they are so brand-specific, their usage is too limited.

If you can’t spring for the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones or the Sony MDR-1000Xs, we would consider these a good alternative thanks to the noise cancellation. Just be sure you understand their limitations. If you happen to be a Samsung smartphone owner, you will love these.

Pros
  • Can be used wired and wireless
  • Easy to fold and stow
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Noise cancellation isn’t that impressive
  • Short battery life
  • Technology is geared toward Samsung Galaxy phones

6. Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones

We are fans of the over-ear headphones when it comes to flying even though they are a bit bulky, and if we had to choose our favorite pair in the comfort department, we would choose these.

Overview

Sennheiser’s HD 380 PRO model features their unique E.A.R. technology that really brings the sound experience to life. It helps reduce distortion, allowing you to hear everything crisply and smoothly. Overall, the sound is warmer, and we were pleased with the bass

We loved how flexible they were, giving us that glove-like fit that we loved so much with the Bose QuietComfort 35s, and the lay-flat design makes them easy to fold and store in the included carrying case. When you have headphones this big, it’s important that they are travel-friendly.

We mentioned that comfort was important when it comes to choosing headphones, and these definitely get an A+ in the comfort department. The ear cups are extremely soft and you can even purchase replacements separately. They’re made of synthetic leather and have a foam core, so you probably will need to replace them.

Ambient noise: yes, you will hear some, which is why they didn’t earn more points as we compared them with the rest of the models we tried. The closed circumaural design, however, does lessen ambient noise up to 32 dBs, which is good enough for some travelers.

Remember that these are wired only, so there is no option to go wireless.

Details

  • Carrying Case included
  • Weigh7 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Sennheiser HD 380 pro Headphones

These are some of the lightest over-ear headphones on our list, and while they aren’t our idea of “dream” travel headphones, they are comfortable and affordable.

The sound quality is crisp and clear thanks to their E.A.R. technology, and we found it to be quite accurate thanks to the large drivers. Even though they don’t keep all the ambient noise out, we still found them to be extremely comfortable and were pleased overall with the quality and the performance for the price.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Clear, accurate sound quality with plenty of bass
  • Extremely comfortable for extended periods
  • Affordable
  • 2-year warranty
Cons
  • Can still hear some ambient noise

7. Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones

The Paww WaveSound 3 headphones are extremely appealing to those who travel on airplanes frequently and don’t want to spend $300 or more for a pair of headphones. The price is fair, and the accessories and features are useful to passengers, which is why they earned the number seven spot on our list.

Overview

Airline adapter – check. Active noise-cancelling technology – check. Over-ear design – check.

The Bose QuietComfort has all of these things, as well, but the price difference is significantly different. Paww’s WaveSound 3 headphones are much more affordable than the options at the top of our list, but having said that, we know that there’s no comparison when it comes to the active noise cancellation technology. While the Pawws do have it, it can’t even come close to the Bose QuietComfort 35s nor the Sony MDR-1000X headphones.

We love the versatility of these headphones and the fact that they work so well in different environments. Yes, they are great for flying but feel free to use them in the office or on the subway when you’re headed home from work. Headphones that are great on the airplane should be great in other environments, too, and we did feel that these were versatile.

While the buttons on the ear cup are rather large, we actually didn’t mind them. They are easy to push and see, and you can choose when to turn on or turn off the active noise cancellation feature. Just make sure that you don’t leave it on. Otherwise, it will drain the battery. Since you can’t see how much juice is left on the battery, either, you will need to make sure you charge them before you head out the door.

In the comfort department, these are some of the heaviest on the list, and that might be a problem for some of you. On long flights, the cushioning around the ear cups and headband is comfortable, but the sheer weight of them is a concern if you are sensitive to pressure and susceptible to headaches from anything you wear on your head or face.

Details

  • 16-hour battery life
  • Bluetooth 4.0 technology
  • Airline Adapter included
  • Carrying Case included
  • Weigh 12.8 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Paww WaveSound 3 Headphones

The main reason that so many travelers opt for these headphones is that they have everything you need for airplane travel without having to spend a fortune.

We did not expect the active noise cancellation to be stellar at this price point (and you shouldn’t, either), but for budget travelers and those who can tolerate some engine noise throughout the flight, we wouldn’t recommend anything else.

Pros
  • Great Bluetooth connection
  • Good sound quality in the mids and highs
  • Affordable headphones with active noise canceling technology
  • Decent battery life and plenty of travel-friendly accessories
Cons
  • Noise cancellation isn’t that impressive
  • No battery life indicator
  • Heavy

8. Audio-Technica QuietPoint In-Ear Headphones

The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint headphones aren’t nearly as good at the Bose QuietControl 30s, but if you want to spend less and still desire the active noise-cancelling technology, give these a whirl.

Overview

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint headphones are pretty good at blocking out the ambient noise – up to 90 percent – thanks to the active noise cancellation technology and the comfortable foam tips they include. While they do come with the standard silicone tips, too, we found that the foam tips they included came in handy on an airplane. Foam is better at sealing the ear canal and happens to be more comfortable than silicone (in our opinion); however, the silicone tips on these do have gel on them, which offers a more soundproof fit.

These are a bit different from the other in-ear headphones since they have a battery box located on the cable; this is where you activate the noise cancellation. The problem is that it adds weight to the ear tips and can cause them to slide down if you don’t store it high enough on your clothing. Luckily, there is a clip on the back of the battery house, so just clip them to your shirt or a jacket, and this shouldn’t be an issue.

How do these sound? We thought they had pretty good bass with warmer sound overall. When there’s not much ambient noise leaking in, you get pretty good clarity, as well. In the highs, we were pleased, but in the lows, we found the sound to be a bit muddy at times (when the volume was turned up higher, for example).

We did appreciate the airline adapter that came with it, which gave it some bonus points for being airplane-friendly.

Details

  • 60-hour battery life
  • Airline Adapter included
  • Carrying Pouch included
  • 1 pair of foam tips (regular silicone tips included as a standard)

Final Thoughts About the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Headphones

We really liked the foam tips on these and how they offered a comfortable yet secure fit in the ear canal.

The sound clarity was great for us and while the noise-cancellation isn’t stellar, it gets the job done. If you are a fan of in-ear headphones and want a decent pair to use for airplane travel and daily use, these are an excellent choice.

Pros
  • Decent sound quality
  • Foam tips are comfortable
  • Great price considering they are noise-cancelling
  • Extra-long battery life
Cons
  • Heavy battery box can cause tips to slide out of ears

9. Puro Sound Labs, The Healthy Ear Headphone

Are you flying with children? If so, Puro Sound Labs has some kid-friendly headphones to keep them entertained from takeoff until landing.

Don’t let the fact that they are marketed for children prevent you from reading more about them. They just so happen to work great for adults with smaller ears, which is why we wanted to include them on our list.

Overview

Just like the previous headphones from Samsung, these also feature an on-ear design.

While it’s true that the passive noise cancellation of these headphones can’t compare to a set of active noise cancellation headphones, Puro Sound Labs has managed to block out 82% of ambient noise, which is still pretty good. Parents often choose these for children to help protect them from hearing damage (kids can crank up the volume unreasonably high sometimes), which is why these have an 85 dB sound limit.

Adults who might not want to be constricted to just 85 dB will like that these headphones come in slightly larger version – the Puro Sound Labs BT5200. They feature a flashing light that lets you know when you exceed 85 dB, but it’s a bit useless since you need to remove the headphones to see it.

We didn’t experience any sound leakage and found that they were comfortable enough for kids to wear while flying.

So, the noise cancellation is medium, and the sound experience is limited. Why do we think they’re worth the purchase?

Because we know that parents who fly with children will benefit from them greatly. Traveling is expensive, and these allow you to get a decent pair of headphones to keep your kids happy as they fly without draining your pockets.

The fact that you can use them both wired and wireless makes them great for airplane travel. You can plug them into the plane’s audio system if you don’t have a device for your little one to watch. 

Details

  • 18-hour battery life
  • 30-foot wireless range
  • Comes with hardwire cable
  • 85 decibel sound limit
  • Carrying Case included

Final Thoughts About the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Headphones

If you are traveling with kids, you will appreciate these headphones greatly. From the time you check-in to the time you pick up your bags at your destination, they will help keep kids occupied at a safe listening volume.

The adult version is slightly larger with no decibel limitation, and while they don’t feature active noise cancellation technology, we were still impressed with the sound quality.

Headphones can also ease the discomfort that some younger users experience due to pressure changes. If they haven’t learned to pop their ears, then headphones help a lot!

Pros
  • Perfect for children or adults with small ears
  • 85 dB volume limit helps protect your hearing
  • Can be used wired or wireless
Cons
  • Pressure is uncomfortably tight for some users
  • Only passive noise cancellation

10. BÖHM Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

The Pure Sound Labs headphones we looked at were on-ear models geared more for kids, but BÖHM has a pair that will work better for adults since they don’t have a decibel limit and they are larger.

Overview

The B-66 headphones are a great alternative to the Beats Executives (which we will be looking at later down the list) and are definitely appealing to those who have ruled out the Bose headphones due to price. Not everyone can spring for those big brand names, and BÖHM realized this.

While you do get the great battery life, decent wireless range, and active noise-cancelling technology, obviously at this price point, the headphones aren’t in the same league as the Beats or the Bose headphones. They might surprise you, however. We were skeptical about them at first, but after a short flight and plenty of at-home use, they had us hooked.

The highs and mids were so clear, and the lows were decent. We can’t say that there was a lot of bass, but that isn’t a surprise since these are Bluetooth headphones. Bluetooth can sometimes affect overall sound quality, and we definitely noticed this in the BÖHMs.

What about the quality of the noise cancellation? The active noise cancellation technology can be manually activated or turned off on the ear cup, and it does a decent job of eliminating background noise. You’ll still probably hear a bit of engine noise and probably noisy neighbors if they’re talking too loudly, so don’t expect them to match the Bose or Sony headphones in this department.

While the ear cups aren’t going to last as long since they are made with faux leather (BÖHM calls it “protein leather”), they are still comfortable for long periods thanks to the generous cushioning. Since comfort varies from user to user, we would say that these work best on those of you with smaller ears. On-ear headphones aren’t always the most comfortable option for standard to larger ear sizes, but for kids and those with smaller ears, they tend to fit just right.

Details

  • 18-hour battery life
  • 3-hour charge time
  • 33-foot wireless range
  • CSR Bluetooth 4.0
  • Carrying Case included

Final Thoughts About the BÖHM B-66 Headphones

These are definitely our favorite pair of entry-level active noise cancellation headphones. Their sleek design, decent sound quality, and comfortable fit make them perfect for long flights. Some find the fit to be a bit snug, but they should loosen up a bit over time.

The main problem we have with these headphones is their lifespan. We were a bit concerned that the materials – while they do look attractive – aren’t going to hack it. If you tend to treat your headphones a bit rough as you travel, then opt for something a little more durable.

Pros
  • Aluminum frame makes them lightweight and sturdy
  • Can use both wired and wireless
  • Easy to pair with other devices
  • Reasonably priced considering sound quality and features
Cons
  • Carrying case a bit large
  • Noise cancellation is mediocre

11. Monoprice Comfortable Over the Ear Headphone

Interested in some headphones with a little extra bass? Monoprice has a special “Bass Boost” feature on their headphones that will give you the extra thump you need when listening to your favorite tunes or watching action-packed films as you fly.

Overview

Monoprice isn’t a headphone-specific company. They manufacture quite a few different products ranging from home security systems to cycling gear and 3D printers. With that in mind, we weren’t too critical as we judged their product and realized what we were getting into before actually purchasing it.

The sound quality is so-so with them. It wasn’t as clear as some of the other headphones we tried for airplane travel, especially when you activate the active noise cancellation switch. We did appreciate the Bass Boost for action films, but you risk sound leakage and disturbing your neighbors if you activate it, so keep this in mind if you do decide to use it. The fact that you can turn it on and off is definitely a bonus.

Looking at the active noise cancellation capabilities of these headphones, we noticed that they’re said to reduce ambient noise by up to 15 dBs or 95 percent. That doesn’t seem to add up considering the fact that the Sennheiser HD 380 PRO headphones we reviewed earlier could diminish ambient noise up to 32 dBs. On an airplane, these aren’t the best at neutralizing ambient noise and would give them a C+.

The biggest problem is that you lose sound clarity when the noise cancellation is activated, which isn’t appealing when you’re trying to enjoy films and tunes as you fly.

We will say that these get a high score in the comfort department. Thanks to the memory foam padding in the ear cups, these worked out well for longer flights. We also thought they were quite durable – much more so than the BÖHMs.

Details

  • 20-hour battery life
  • Bass Boost feature
  • In-line controller
  • Carrying Case included
  • Airplane Adapter included

Final Thoughts About the Monoprice 112231 Headphones

It’s always nice to find headphones that are easy to pair with any kind of device regardless of the software, and the fact that these are both active noise-cancelling and affordable make them a great find for travelers.

Are these the best headphones for flying? No, but when comparing the quality in terms of their price point, we would say that Monoprice nailed it.

Pros
  • Great bass
  • iOS and Android-friendly
  • 1-year replacement warranty
  • Durable
Cons
  • Noise cancellation not that impressive

12. RHA MA750i Noise Isolating Premium Headphone

These headphones from RHA aren’t quite as high in quality as the Bose QuietControl 30s, but the cheaper in-ear headphones from Audio-Technica still beat them out.

They are the only noise-isolating headphones that we have tried on an airplane, and while we normally push the active noise-cancelling technology for flying, the sound quality was good enough that we wanted to include them.

Overview

Sound quality is a big deal for some of you, and that is exactly why the RHAs made our list. You will experience crystal clear sound with a decent amount of bass, and the noise isolation is good thanks to the dual-density ear tips. The dynamic driver they used is to thank, and their unique AerophonicTM housing design will help channel sound from that driver cleanly into your ear: no distortion.

This “dual-density” design uses a softer layer of material on the outer layer of the tip and a denser material on the inside. The result is a snug fit and excellent ambient sound blockage, so just think of them as a great set of earplugs that just happen to play music.

These reminded us of workout headphones since they hook over the ear. This fit is comfortable to some and uncomfortable for others, so try it out if you’re not quite sure if you will like it. They stay in your ear well – especially if you happen to sleep on your side and rely on a shoulder or a window seat with pillow to lean on – and they’re much less bulky than on-ear and over-ear headphones are.

We’re not sure how long these will last with regular use. They may sound good and isolate noise to a fair extent on an airplane, but we noticed a lot of complaints about the durability. Luckily, we didn’t experience any problems, but it did leave us feeling a little nervous about spending this much on a pair of in-ear headphones.

Details

  • Inline microphone and volume control
  • Memory foam and silicone ear tips included (10 pairs)
  • Clothing clip
  • Carrying Case included

Final Thoughts About the RHA MA750i Headphones

The quality seems to be the biggest issue with most who purchase these, so even though they provide you with a generous 3-year warranty, the chances are high that you’ll need to take advantage of it at some point in time.

We did like the sound quality and still think that they are worth the investment, but they ultimately earned a lower spot on the list since they don’t have any noise cancellation technology. If they did, they would be much higher up on the list.

Pros
  • Good sound quality
  • Easy to achieve ideal fit thanks to numerous ear tip choices
  • 3-year warranty
  • Plenty of ear tip choices
Cons
  • Limited use since it is more Apple-friendly than Android-friendly
  • Microphone doesn’t perform that well for calls

13. TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

We were glad to find another pair of active noise-cancelling in-ear headphones for the list at such a reasonable price point.

These are similar to the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint headphones but just aren’t as popular as the latter.

Overview

Let’s start out with what we like about these headphones.

While they are hard wired, they still feature a built-in microphone that allows you to use them for calls, but just remember that these don’t have Bluetooth technology which means that you won’t be able to answer calls unless they are plugged into your device. We found that the microphone performed quite well on both ends of the call.

In some ways, these had a slight edge to the Bose headphones we tried in the sound quality department when the active noise cancellation was activated. The range from lows to highs seemed more balanced with these, and we were surprised by the quality of the noise cancellation. The combination of the comfortably snug seal on the ear tips and the active noise cancellation rendered our listening experience a pleasant one as we flew. They seem to do a better job at blocking out the lower frequencies than they do the higher frequencies (e.g. you won’t hear much of the airplane engines, but you can still hear the voices of those around you).

If you want to invest in a pair of headphones that will perform well in-flight and for regular everyday use, we highly recommend them. They’re not really designed for sports since they don’t have a waterproof or sweatproof rating, but for daily commutes via public transportation and use in the office, these work just as well as they do when you’re flying.

Details

  • 15-hour battery life
  • Inline microphone and remote
  • 3 ear hooks and 3 ear tips
  • Airplane Adapter included

Final Thoughts About the TaoTronics TT-EP01 Headphones

These headphones aren’t the most comfortable for some users (the ear fins aren’t our top choice in the comfort department), but in terms of durability and noise cancellation, we found them to be a pretty good deal.

Since there is no carrying case included, make sure you have something you can put them in when you travel so you keep all of the ear tips and fins together. You can also purchase one separately for just a few bucks.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Decent noise cancellation for the price
  • Comfortable if you like in-ear headphones with fins
Cons
  • No carrying case included

14. Audio-Technica QuietPoint Closed-Back Headphones

We looked at the Audio-Technica in-ear headphones earlier on our list but were pleased to see that they also had decent over-ear active noise-cancelling headphones for airplane travel, as well.

Overview

As we’ve constantly been repeating throughout this guide, one of the most important features that headphones should have when it comes to airplane travel is active noise cancellation. Not all technology is equal in this department, but usually, when you pay more, the quality is higher.

Based on the price of these headphones and the noise cancellation, we would say that they were just as good as some of the other models on our list that had a similar price tag. They tuned out enough noise to make a long flight more tolerable, to say the least.

From there, you need to consider the sound quality. Obviously, you don’t set out in search of poor sound quality, but sometimes the headphones you try just can’t snuff up to the higher end models you have tried. After trying a wide variety of headphones, we found that the sound quality of these was only so-so. Not stellar but not poor. Just OK. The bass was good!

If you don’t want to listen to music, you don’t want to watch films and you want to block out typical airplane noise, just slip these over your ears and you will have a higher level of noise isolation that you would with regular earplugs. They offer passive noise cancellation even when you don’t have them turned on, so if it’s the dead of night and you prefer to catch some ZZZs, these will help soften the background noise.

Details

  • 40-hour battery life
  • Carrying Case included
  • Carrying Case included
  • Airline Adapter included
  • Weigh4 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B Headphones

The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B Headphones have some airplane-friendly features, but fall short in a few key areas.

The sound leakage was a bit of a problem since we know that it disturbed other passengers and based on the materials they used to construct these headphones, we just didn’t feel that they would last long-term.

That’s a pity, because thanks to the sound quality and noise cancellation, we were impressed; however, we tried other headphones on the list in the same price range that were more dependable.

Pros
  • Good noise cancellation, both active and passive
  • Comfortable ear cups
  • Very lightweight
  • Decent price for the quality
  • Travel-friendly
Cons
  • Leak sound
  • Quality isn’t that dependable at this price point

15. Beats Executive Noise Cancelling Headphones

Beats and Bose have some pretty good products out there, and while these headphones aren’t quite at the same level as Bose in terms of noise cancellation, they still have a few impressive qualities that we felt made them worth the purchase

Overview

When these Beats work, they work well, and they even come with an airline adapter. We found them to be very comfortable for long trips and appreciated the long battery life. The sound quality was also good with plenty of bass and a crisp treble,

One constant complaint that both professional and amateur users have is that the noise cancellation hisses when activated. Distortion and poor sound quality really aren’t acceptable at this price range, which is why we rated these headphones so low on our list.

While they are noise-cancelling headphones, we can’t say that they are the most airplane-friendly noise-cancelling headphones that we tried. They did, however, end up working out well for daily use, so if you only fly occasionally, these might meet your expectations.

Keep in mind that these run on two AAA batteries, so if they die; you’re out of luck for the rest of the flight. Having to worry about extra batteries as you travel is a bit of a pain in the modern world, and we aren’t fans of using them ourselves.

Overall, we realized after trying them that they are better suited to everyday use than to airplane usage, but they still have an airplane adapter that makes them useful if you only fly occasionally. Beats pushes their travel-friendly features a lot, but having tried some of the higher end models ourselves, we know there are better options out there.

Details

  • 12-hour battery life
  • In-line microphone and controller
  • Airline Adapter included
  • Weigh just under 12 ounces

Final Thoughts About the Beats Executive Headphones

Beats has some great headphones in their lineup, but the Executives definitely aren’t their strongest model.

We liked the sound quality when using the headphones in regular environments, but one of the main reasons we got them was for the noise cancellation technology to use in-flight and they definitely disappointed us.

You can’t always win when you try headphones, and this is a good example of how a bit of trial and error can help you determine which are truly the best headphones for airplane travel. Let our error help teach you what to look for when shopping for headphones!

Pros
  • Travel-friendly
  • Comfortable
  • Airplane-friendly
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Noise cancellation quality is just not that great
  • Expensive for the quality

Our Final Thoughts About Headphones Airplane Travel

As you can see, there are many, many factors to take into consideration when choosing headphones for flying.

Over-ear models offer the most peace and quiet to airplane passengers since they completely cover the ear, with in-ear models following closely behind since they create a barrier between the ear canal and ambient noise.

The true key to a successful flight, however, is getting headphones with active noise cancellation. Their ability to neutralize the low-frequency hum of the airplane engines makes them the perfect companion on both long and short flights.

Whether you choose over-ear, on-ear or in-ear headphones, we have shared our experience with 15 of the best choices currently available on the market. Take all of our tips and suggestions into consideration as you create a checklist of the ideal headphones and we’re certain that you can experience a first-class flying experience wherever your travel destination may be.

Comments(4)
  1. Sean June 1, 2017
    • Vectrøn June 3, 2017
      • John V June 6, 2017
  2. Flighter May 28, 2017

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