Long-haul travel and even longer layovers in the time of COVID-19 can be a special kind of hell. Even with free booze and the best air travel accessories, packing a good pair of headphones can mean the difference between surviving a flight and succumbing to felonious air rage. But travel-friendly headphones need to do more than the ordinary pair used for casual listening in your home office. They need to be lightweight, sound great, survive the better part of a day on a single charge, and offer some form of noise-cancellation technology. That’s why choosing the right pair can seem daunting. We’re here to help with a roundup of the best travel-friendly headphones that balance price, comfort, audio quality, and battery life.
Sony’s XM4 headphones have long been a favorite among business travelers. Rightly so, because they tick all the right boxes with industry-leading noise cancellation technology, exceptional battery life, and an incredibly comfortable fit designed for all-day wear, and they look great to boot. We also love the auto-pause feature whenever the headphones are removed.
One could argue that Bose defined the noise-canceling headphones niche. These days, the brand has plenty of competition, but it still makes some of the most innovative and best-sounding cans in the world. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are its flagship product with plenty of high-tech features. Like the above alternative from Sony, they promise industry-leading audio and call quality. Travelers will also love the incredible 20-hour battery life (perfect for the longest of long-haul flights) and 11 distinct levels of noise cancellation to customize the listening experience to any environment. The included cord also means you can keep the music going in the unlikely event your flight outlasts the batteries.
We’ve long been fans of Master & Dynamic’s lineup of ultra-sleek headphones. The brand’s latest release, the MW08 Sport True Wireless Earphones, are designed with a focus on features geared toward active lifestyles. That includes shatter-resistant sapphire glass that’s beautiful and durable, plus a custom Kevlar fiber charging case to withstand the rigors of frequent travel. They also offer hybrid active noise-cancellation and dual listening modes for better ambient awareness while listening. Memory foam ear tips promise all-day comfort for the longest of long-haul travel days.
If only the best will do, Shure’s AONIC 50 boast some of the sweetest sounding audio of any travel-friendly wireless headphones on the market. That’s thanks in large part to Shure providing compatibility with a long list of audio codecs, allowing users to dial in the exact codec that fits their listening style and collection. It helps that they’re also comfortable for all-day wear in-flight and on those long hours spent waiting during your next layover. Plus, they look so damn cool in retro brown.
If you’re in the market for the best wireless headphones for travel, you’ve no doubt already looked at Apple’s AirPods Pro. We can confirm that they live up to the hype. They’re sleek, comfortable, and extremely portable at less than 46 grams. Plus, just wearing the buds provides a good degree of passive noise cancellation, while turning them on activates an excellent level of active noise cancellation. The good news for travelers is that they provide up to 24 hours of listening; the bad news is that extreme battery life requires recharging them in the included case every 4.5 hours.
Bang & Olufsen has long been synonymous with premium multimedia hardware with a future-forward aesthetic. The brand’s Beoplay H95 headphones are no exception. They feature a beautiful retro-meets-modern design, active noise cancellation, and a long battery life that’s perfect for travelers. The design is plush, bordering on luxurious, with a sky-high price tag to match. If you can’t bring yourself to drop more than $800 on a pair for yourself, they make a perfect travel gift. So, you might want to start dropping hints to your favorite well-heeled uncle now, ahead of Christmas.
It’s easy to spend more than $250 on a pair of quality travel-friendly headphones these days. But the truth is that you don’t have to. Clever’s Flow II Wireless Headphones provide many of the same features with a similar quality to the best headphone alternatives at nearly half the price. That includes flight-friendly battery life, excellent active noise cancellation tech, and a fold-flat design, so they stash neatly alongside all the other travel essentials in your carry-on.
If you’re looking for even more durable, runner-friendly headphones with sweat and water resistance, check out the best wireless headphones for running.
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