Don’t you think it’s about time they invented an app that locates where the babies will be sitting on a plane?
Perhaps they should have dedicated flights where it’s babies only?
All joking aside, traveling can be really hard work when you’re trying to keep yourself to yourself and you’ve significant distractions going on all around you.
Couples arguing, engine noises revving, last night’s sports game blaring, endless chattering and yes, indeed – babies screaming and crying.
The only thing you can do is play some nice, chilled music (or hardcore drum and bass – whatever rocks your world) and zone out into your happy place.
You can never properly shut everything out, but with a pair of the best noise-canceling headphones for travel 2021, your life will be significantly improved.
We’ve got you covered with a buyer’s guide and FAQ section following the review.
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- 16 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Travel 2021
- Mpow H12 Hybrid Active Noise Canceling Headphones
- Cowin E7 Active Noise Canceling Headphones
- TaoTronics Active Noise Canceling Headphones
- JVC Noise Canceling Wireless Headphones
- JBL Lifestyle E65BTNC Noise-Canceling Headphones
- Cowin E8 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless NoiseGard Headphones
- Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling Earbuds
- Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Headphones
- Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8 Wireless Headphones
- Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones
- Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i Wireless Headphones
- Denon AH-D5200 Over-Ear Headphones
- AKG N90Q Reference Class Noise Cancelling Headphones
- How to Choose the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones – A Buyer’s Guide
16 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Travel 2021
Mpow H12 Hybrid Active Noise Canceling Headphones
Review: Right at the budget end of the price scale, we have these Mpow H12 noise-canceling headphones. They offer full, over-the-ear comfort with memory-protein earpads, breathable mesh, 360-degree rotation, and adjustable headband.
For the technical specs, you have wireless and wired connection options, up to 30 hours of battery life, and a quality Hi-fi sound with deep bass via the dual 40mm large-aperture drivers. Compatible with Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, the H12s will allow you to take and make calls with your virtual assistant.
As for the noise canceling, they provide feedforward and feedback ANC by placing a microphone inside and outside the ear cup, which enables them to cancel out a wider range of low and mid-frequency noise.
Alas, the babies will still be heard – but eliminating that wail is a big ask for any headphone.
- Outstanding price.
- Comfortable fit.
- Good battery life.
- Not the best noise-canceling tech.
- Might feel a little big on the head for some.
Cowin E7 Active Noise Canceling Headphones
Review: Moving on up the price ladder, we have these outrageously popular Conwin E7 headphones that also offer Bluetooth capabilities, 30 hours worth of use on one charge, supersoft ear pads, and 40mm aperture drivers for excellent sound.
Music is powerful, crisp, and clear, while the pads themselves feature 90-degree swiveling cups that you can wear comfortably all day long. There’s a built-in microphone for hands-free calling, while the ANC technology focuses on shutting out low frequencies, such as aircraft, trains or traffic noise pollution – making them ideal for travel.
Considering the price you’re getting a lot of quality here that you would normally expect in high-end sound equipment.
- Excellent sound quality for the price.
- Smart design.
- Good battery life.
- Choice of colors.
- Again, good for sounds, not so great for noise-cancellation.
- Possible issues with the fit.
TaoTronics Active Noise Canceling Headphones
Review: The TaoTronics active noise-canceling headphones feature a lightning-fast charge that will give you a solid two hours of use for just five minutes plugged in. Of course, it also offers the standard 30 hours on a full charge, too.
Featuring improved noise-cancellation and a bass-driven sound, the 40mm aperture drivers offer a rich, clean and professional experience. Bluetooth capability is included, with a built-in CVC 6.0 microphone so your voice comes across crystal clear.
For comfort, the pillow-soft protein cushions, 90° rotatable ear cups, and adjustable headband ensure that you can get hours of use from these headphones – not matter the length of the journey.
- Super-fast charger option.
- Stylish contours.
- Affordable price.
- Foldable, portable design.
- Might be too bulky and on the heavy side for some.
JVC Noise Canceling Wireless Headphones
Review: With a deep bass sound and bass boost function, the 30mm drive units in these JVC wireless headphones will give you a dynamic, powerful bass option with your music.
The lightweight, on-ear design isn’t obtrusive, and it will give you 11 hours of wireless listening on a full charge. A detachable cord is included if you prefer to use them without the battery.
They feature a foldable, swivel design for transportation and easy-to-use controls from your phone to change the volume, switch bass and noise-canceling features on or off, skip or replay songs, and answer a phone call.
Simple, effective, no-nonsense headphones from JVC.
- Collapsible design.
- Good bass sound.
- Power chord option.
- Battery life is shorter than cheaper models.
JBL Lifestyle E65BTNC Noise-Canceling Headphones
Review: The first thing you’ll notice about these striking JBL Bluetooth headphones is the attractive, cloth material used for the headband. It sets it apart from other designs in its class and gives it a quality look.
On the technical side of things, you have the well-respected JBL sound, with a powerful, deep bass and warm mid-tones and top range that wouldn’t be out of place in more expensive sets.
They provide 24 hours of battery life on a single charge, or 15 hours if you’re using the noise-canceling function. Playback and wireless controls are on the right earcup, with a micro USB port on the left.
The speakers also have the additional advantage of being able to connect to several devices at one time.
- Head-turning look – they look high-end.
- Respected brand.
- Good price for the quality.
- Excellent sound.
- Choice of smart colors.
- Controls might take a little getting used to.
Cowin E8 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Review: Cowin has improved their ANC technology in this pair of headphones, accessible with or without the audio cable and offering superior sound quality.
The E8 is 25% stronger than the previous model, with a deep and powerful sound that is crystal clear, resonating from the 45mm aperture drivers.
The super-soft ear cushions are 90-degree adjustable, and the new, lightweight material has a magnetic absorption to improve comfort for over extended use. They offer 20 hours of battery life, full Bluetooth and handsfree capabilities, and an improved microphone system.
The plastic body of the headphones has also had an update to ensure they’re far more durable and robust than ever before.
- Improved design across the board.
- Quality noise-canceling tech.
- Hard case included.
- Choice of colors.
- They still might be a little heavy for some.
Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless NoiseGard Headphones
Review: German company Sennheiser specializes in high-fidelity products, and this is a smart, stylish example with superior sound quality. It features Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology in an ergonomically designed, lightweight, comfortable and collapsible headset that just lends itself to travel.
The user interface includes voice prompts, touch controls, NFC pairing, smart pause and automatic on/off option. The PXC 550 boasts a triple microphone so your calls come over loud and clear with exceptional voice clarity, pitch, and tone.
The device is fully compatible with Sennheiser’s premium music player and tuning app, while it offers 30 hours of play on a single charge from any USB outlet.
Sennheiser likes to draw your attention to the fact that this is London to Hong Kong and back again on a single charge, and with the ‘phones being collapsible, it’s an excellent unit for when you’re on the move.
- Good price for the quality.
- Stylish, high-end look and feel.
- Premium materials.
- Long battery life.
- The accompanying app might be a little superfluous – but if you don’t use it then you don’t use it.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling Earbuds
Review: Our first Sony device arrives in the shape of these tiny, noise-canceling earbuds, with 24-bit audio signal processing to offer unrivaled sound quality. They’re capable of a ten-minute quick charge for 90 minutes of play but can last up to 24 hours continuous use on a full charge.
It boasts a smart listening function which automatically switches to the ambient sound depending on your activity, while a quick attention mode makes conversations easy when required at the touch of a panel.
Additional microphones isolate outside noise to dramatically improve the clarity of phone calls in the office or out and about. Adjust the sound levels through your smartphone, and change tracks or answer calls with the touch-sensitive panels on the buds themselves.
Top-drawer stuff from Sony – if you like sticking things in your ears.
- One of the best brands in the business.
- Super-compact and portable.
- Touch-panel controls.
- Wearing detection.
- Quick attention mode.
- Earbuds not for everyone.
- Risk of falling out.
- Easy to lose.
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Headphones
Review: Bose needs little introduction when it comes to audio technology, having been one of the first companies to pioneer the noise-canceling trend.
These wired earbuds come in two designs – depending on if you’re packing iOS or Android devices – so make sure you purchase the right one.
They’re super-lightweight and feature exclusive TriPort technology and Active EQ to help deliver lifelike digital-quality audio into your lugholes. The aware mode lets you know what’s going on around you at the touch of a button, while the Stayhear and tips come in three sizes for a soft and secure fit that is comfortable enough to wear for hours.
- Pioneering audio company.
- Excellent sound for an in-ear headphone.
- Aware mode incorporated.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Ideal for travel.
- In-ear isn’t for everyone.
- Make sure you’re ordering the right pair for your device.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8 Wireless Headphones
Review: The very high-end, luxury Danish company was always going to make an appearance here, this time with these super-stylish active noise-canceling headphones.
Offering wireless connectivity with Bluetooth, they’ll provide up to 14 hours of battery life while weighing just under eight ounces – making them up there with the lightest ANC headphones available.
They feature an aluminum touch interface to skip tracks, hit pause and play, adjust the volume and connect to calls. This even works with gloves on, so you’re not inconvenienced when you’re on the slopes.
You’ll get up to 14 hours of battery life on a single charge, while the headphones themselves have been designed by one of Denmark’s most respected designers, Jakob Wagner. You can own a thing of beauty if you purchase these.
- Stunning design.
- Premium materials – real leather and aluminum.
- High-end manufacturer.
- Choice of chic colors.
- No mute button to listen to what’s going on around you.
Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Review: You might come across the term “best noise-canceling headphones for air travel” quite a lot when you’re shopping for this tech, but you’ll likely hear (and read) regularly when it comes to the Sony WH1XM3s.
With astonishing ratings, thousands of reviews, and fistfuls of awards, they’re regarded as the number one choice in the world. With industry-leading technology, a super stylish design, and all the bells and whistles you need from ANC headphones at this price point, it doesn’t get much better than this.
With touch controls, Alexa voice assistant compatibility, quick attention mode, and Sony’s trademark sound quality, it looks like they’ve usurped Bose for the ANC headphone crown. But don’t take my word for it – just check out those reviews.
- Just about everything.
- If you find one, let me know – even the price for this kind of quality isn’t bad.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Headphones
Review: Hold the bus, maybe I spoke too soon? The Bose QuietComfort ANC headphones are the closest rival to the Sony flagship model, and like Canon versus Nikon, it’ll probably just come down to personal preference and product familiarity.
This design offers three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening experience in any environment, with a balanced audio performance at any volume, Alexa compatible voice activation, and specialist Bose AR apps for hassle-free device pairing and complete control throughout your day.
20 hours of battery life are offered on a single charge, and like the Sony, the reviews simply speak for themselves. With these two heavyweights slugging it out for the title – who do you think takes it?
- Outstanding build quality and performance.
- Augmented reality platform.
- Bose AR technology.
- Apps might be overkill for some – but it’s a minor issue.
Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
Review: A subsidiary of Apple, Beats were famously founded by music producer and rapper Dr. Dre, so they’re going to incorporate some serious know-how when it comes to sound quality.
This super-stylish headphone collection comes in a variety of designs and specs throughout the product line. 12 hours of battery life can power you through multiple workouts; while Fast Fuel technology can turn 10 minutes of charging into three hours of playback when the battery is low.
Speaking of workouts, these headphones are sweat and water-resistant, while flexible, secure-fit ear hooks maximize comfort and stability. Connect to Siri, take calls, control your volume and your life from the on-ear controls. They even fold down to a super-compact size in their own hard carrying case.
- Quality manufacture.
- Professional musician input.
- Super-stylish design.
- Great headphones for exercise and workouts.
- Lots of options in the product collection.
- Only really beneficial if you’re an Apple lover.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i Wireless Headphones
Review: A step up from the H8 model (both in quality and in price) the Danish company offers its premium model with the H9i ANC headphones. They feature a hybrid ANC that reduces both high and low-frequency background noises, while the transparency mode lets you tune back into the outside world with a swipe of the touchpad.
With an improved Bluetooth range of an excellent 121 feet, you can connect up to two devices at once from a great distance away.
Offering the Band and Olufsen signature sound, with a rich, deep bass and two dedicated microphones for enhanced call clarity, you can have a generous 18 hours of playtime while using both the Bluetooth and the ANC.
They’re also just a beautiful, classic design that looks top-quality.
- Attractive, stylish headphones.
- Premium look and feel.
- High-end brand name.
- Excellent Bluetooth range.
- There’s talk of larger ears being a problem – or rather – this is a problem for larger ears.
Denon AH-D5200 Over-Ear Headphones
Review: Okay, look, you got me. They’re not ANC headphones. But, just look at them. They’re stunningly beautiful and try as I might I couldn’t not put them in this review.
The sound quality on these babies will be so good you don’t need to have noise-canceling capabilities. Japanese company Denon has been making high-end audio and electronics since 1910, and there are years of experience gone into these headphones.
With a 10.25-foot detachable 7N-purity copper cable terminated with a gold-plated 1/4″ headphone plug, Denon’s “Free Edge” drivers, and Zebrawood earcup housings, you’re going to get a captivatingly rich sound right across the range.
As far as can go, these are up there with the very best.
- High-end brand and manufacture.
- Beautiful look and feel.
- Outstanding sound range.
- No noise-canceling option.
- Not the best noise-reducing headphones for travel.
- Very expensive.
AKG N90Q Reference Class Noise Cancelling Headphones
Review: Endorsed by the legendary Quincy Jones, this line of electronics from Austrian company AKG is clearly shooting for the big time. When you have the backup of a producer who has won 28 grammy’s, the sound quality that comes out of these cans might well be worth listening to.
Beautifully designed with a solid look and feel, the TruNote Technology analyzes sound pressure distribution, then it adjusts the sound according to the shape of your ear. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the tone control feature personalizes the sound you hear by allowing you to adjust bass and treble without any sound distortion.
When it comes to any kind of headphones, these things are on another level. That doesn’t necessarily make them the best, though.
- Quincy Jones. End of conversation.
- Exorbitantly expensive.
- I wouldn’t risk taking them anywhere.
- Only really useful if you have high-end audio equipment.
How to Choose the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones – A Buyer’s Guide
There’s a lot going on in the world of hi-fidelity, and to guide you through I’ve included a detailed buyer’s guide to help you select the right pair of ANC headphones for you.
This is what you need to look out for.
What Are Noise Canceling Headphones?
Before we delve deeper into the myriad of things you should be considering when in the market for noise-canceling headphones, it might be a good idea to explain what they are and how they work.
Because contrary to popular belief, they don’t shut out every sound around you. More’s the pity.
The concept of noise-canceling headphones has been around since the 1970s when one Dr. Amar Bose apparently came up with the idea mid-flight on an airplane napkin.
The way they work is by using clever technology that emits a counteracting sound wave to the exterior soundwave – providing it’s something steady and monotonous, such as the noise of traffic, train or jet engines.
Noise-canceling headphones will effectively cancel out both sounds – and it’s replaced with silence.
At least, in theory. As you can imagine, some are better than others with technology.
Yet they’re still excellent for use while traveling when you want to settle down and block out as much as possible. Alas, the technology to eliminate a baby’s caterwauling isn’t quite with us.
I could go into the tech and jargon at length, but check out the video below for a more in-depth explanation of how noise cancelation works.
Headphones or In-Ear?
This is a matter of personal preference – it depends on what you feel comfortable with.
The headphone-style devices are a lot heavier, bulkier and are visible to all when in use.
For some people, this can make them self-conscious, and they might not enjoy the extra weight around their heads.
The clear advantage of these types of headphones is that they will generally offer better sound quality and significantly better noise cancelation.
Having said that, there are some in-ear or earbud-style headphones with powerful noise cancelation capabilities in their own right.
The advantage here is that they are much more portable, as well as being far more subtle than their larger cousins. A good pair will still offer excellent sound performance, too.
However, they also have notable disadvantages to contend with.
You can regularly hear users complain about ear-buds hurting ear holes. Sometimes the fit isn’t quite right and it can cause the wearer some discomfort.
Wireless versions, while being small and endlessly portable, can sometimes fall out with the chance of getting lost much higher than a standard headphone set.
And don’t get me started on wired in-ear models – if you put them in your pocket they’re going to come out like spaghetti.
To each their own.
Wired and Wireless
Most noise-canceling headphones off Bluetooth capabilities, giving you total, unrestricted freedom to go where you want, how you want, listening to what you want.
The downside is they’re always much more expensive, and they need to be charged (more on that later).
Wired headphones are much cheaper and they don’t need charging – so if you’re happy being connected to whatever device you’re using by a chord, then this is the most likely choice for you.
But really, though, you just can’t beat the freedom that wireless offers. If you’re considering noise-canceling headphones for travel, it would be madness not to choose a Bluetooth compatible set.
The extra investment is worth its weight in gold.
Which brings me nicely onto battery life – which can vary outrageously from set to set.
By and large, most ANC headphones will offer up to 30-hours playing time on one charge – which is usually around two hours to be fully juiced.
But even some high-end models take that number down to 24-hours, 16-hours or even 12-hours.
It just depends on whether or not you need a lot of hours all in one go. Singapore Airlines currently operates the world’s longest flight time – from Singapore to Newark which is – give-or-take – just under 20 hours.
Given that most people won’t be on the go for that length of time regularly, having a shorter battery life isn’t going to be a deal-breaker.
Remember, the battery will drain much faster if you’re using the noise canceling function, and much faster still if you’re listening to music, podcasts or watching movies.
And some models have a flash-charge option, where you can be good to go for a couple of hours after a short burst of being plugged in.
Adjustable Noise Cancelation
As technology advances over time, the ability to do cooler stuff comes with it.
These days, any decent ANC headphones will offer the ability to adjust the level of noise cancelation at a moment’s notice, depending on what is happening in your current environment.
And that environment can change at any time, so lookout for a pair of cans that offer this excellent and extremely useful bit of tech.
If you’re pairing your headphones up to your smartphone device (and you nearly always will be) it’s a good idea to check out their microphone specs.
Some phones have more than one microphone to improve calls and send your voice down the line with crystal clear clarity.
If you make and receive a lot of calls while at work or play, then this should be a feature you’re actively interested in.
Environment Aware Feature
While it’s great to be able to shut out the world on a long haul flight, occasionally you do need to tap back into reality.
This can be as simple as lifting the headphones off or pulling them out your ear – but this is the 21st century – and we can do something much cooler than that.
For next-level tech to make you feel like you’re in a science fiction movie while talking to the flight attendant, check out the headphones that offer a touch interface that shuts off whatever you’re listening to just by tapping the side of the earcup.
And then switches it right back on again when you’ve finished listening to the specials.
Not only is this awesome, but it’s also a good idea for safety too – because when you’re traveling or on the go in anyway, there will be times when you need to be aware of your surroundings.
This neat trick stops you from zoning out completely.
Alexa, Siri, Skynet…the machines are online. The question is – do you want to tap into the matrix?
Voice control is firmly here to stay, and most likely we’ll all be connected up in this way over the next five to ten years.
And you have to admit, having the ability to search the internet, turn lights on and off, locks doors, feed the cat, play a game, order takeout, and listen to Barry Manilow’s greatest hits – all without lifting a finger – is a great thing.
Are you ready to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?
I’ll keep this brief because you’re not an idiot.
Good quality headphones are very expensive.
That’s not to say you can’t get a bargain – but if you’re in any way serious about your music, then do yourself a favor and dig as deep as you possibly can.
I wouldn’t think twice about spending $300 on noise-canceling headphones – the sound quality is worth it alone.
Are Noise-Canceling Headphones Safe?
They are indeed. They’re not like your smartphone which does give off low-level radiation, so feel free to wear them until your heart’s content.
Just remember not to listen to Slayer at ear-bleeding decibel levels for several hours.
Do Noise-Canceling Headphones Work on Airplanes?
They work BEST on airplanes – this is the main thing they were designed for – to shut out the drone of the engine.
That way you can enjoy your music, film or podcast in peace – or if you just want to catch some ZZZzzzzzs.
Earplugs have their place, but if you want to be able to drop off on a long flight (or even a short one) noise-canceling headphones are the way to go.
If you’re at all concerned you’re getting overloaded with tech, then simply pick up one of these essential electronic organizers – to help keep all your gear in order while you’re in transit.
What are the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Flying?
Now, this is probably down to a matter of personal opinion, as what works for one person might not work for another.
However, if I had to choose, I would say it’s definitely between the Sony XM3 and the Bose QC35.
And I’m not the only one – they’re easily the top two noise-canceling headphones in the world right now.
Let me know which one you’d prefer and why.
Also, if you’re looking for the very best in noise-canceling headphones, then you should also look at the very best in carry-on backpacks.
If you’re packing a top-of-the-range Sony or Bose while carrying a 20-year-old sweaty gym bag, alarm bells are ringing.
Can You Sleep with Noise-Canceling Headphones?
You can, so long as you’re not a side sleeper, and you’re not prone to tossing and turning – if you’re in bed that is.
In an aircraft seat, it’s perfectly okay to pass out with headphones on – you’re less likely to damage them or yourself.
However, most experts would advise that you don’t spend too long with headphones on anyway, both for the comfort of your head and your actual ears.
You could always try a set of headphones that are specifically designed for sleeping instead.
And then include them as part of your packing list, which you can find help with by reading these top tips for packing for a solo trip.
And one of those top tips will undoubtedly be to pick up some packing cubes to help you organize your luggage like a pro.
Can Noise-Canceling Headphones Block Out Snoring?
It depends on how loud, how consistent and where they are in relation to you.
Three rows back in the center aisle – maybe.
Right next to you and shuddering like an epileptic hippo – highly doubtful.
Noise-canceling headphones are becoming all the rage with travelers everywhere – or even if you’re just on your commute to work.
I hope this article has helped you make a choice in this minefield market, and you’ve managed to decide which pair you think is the best noise-canceling headphones for travel in 2021.
Let me know in the comments what you’re going for and why.
I’m away to listen to some classic Simon and Garfunkel.
The Sound of Silence.
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