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Top Picks for Noise-Canceling Headphones During Air Travel in 2024

The 7 best noise-canceling headphones for flying in 2024

Air travel has never been synonymous with stress-free experiences, especially with constant airline delays, unruly passengers, and shrinking seat sizes. Flying has essentially turned into a nightmare. If you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to invest in noise-canceling headphones for a more peaceful flight, we’ve got you covered.

The good news is that a variety of headphones, ranging from over-ear options to wireless earbuds, now come equipped with active noise cancellation (ANC). In 2024, it’s not hard to find ANC headphones priced under $100. However, for the best noise-canceling headphones specifically tailored for air travel, you might need to consider a budget closer to $200 to $500, with Anker Soundcore being a notable exception.

Premium headphones not only provide enhanced active noise cancellation but also feature transparency modes for crucial announcements. Keep in mind that ANC alone might not suffice, and comfort becomes a pivotal factor, especially during long flights. Features such as balanced sound and spatial audio can further enhance your in-flight experience.

Taking all these factors into account, we’ve compiled a list of the best headphones for flying based on extensive research and hands-on testing.

Top Picks for Noise-Canceling Headphones During Air Travel in 2024

Top Picks for Noise-Canceling Headphones During Air Travel in 2024 (Credits: Tech Hive)

Does paying more really get you more noise cancellation?

In general, yes. While many inexpensive headphones claim to offer noise-canceling features, a $50 pair won’t compare to the likes of Sony’s noise-canceling headphones. The rule of thumb is that the more you pay, coupled with a reputable brand, the better the noise cancellation. Brands like Bose and Sony offer various levels of noise cancellation, allowing you to choose between complete isolation or allowing some environmental sounds during flights.

Paying more can also provide additional features like voice assistant support, extended battery life, advanced codec support for superior music quality, or enhanced call quality. For frequent flyers, the extra cost is often justified.

What are the best noise-canceling headphones for flying?

Noise-canceling headphones are exceptionally useful during air travel, providing a moment of peace amid the chaos. Different headphones excel in blocking out specific sounds, such as conversations or engine noises. Additionally, for long-haul flights, you may be interested in headphones specifically designed for sleeping.

Considering these factors, our list includes the best ANC headphones catering to various traveler preferences. Read on to discover the top noise-canceling headphones for airplanes in 2024, based on comprehensive research and hands-on reviews by Mashable.

Our Pick

Who’s it for:

If you’re seeking over-ear headphones with excellent sound quality and all-day comfort, investing in the Bose QuietComfort Ultras might be worthwhile. During testing, these headphones impressed us, especially during a five-hour flight, where we wore them continuously without discomfort, even while wearing glasses.

Why we picked this:

As a Shopping Reporter, I’ve used both Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs and tested the QC 45s. While the former two are excellent, the Ultra’s step up the QuietComfort line. They are durable, comfortable, and offer a richer sound profile. The immersion mode provides a spatial audio experience that enhances the overall experience.

Despite their merits, the Ultra’s have drawbacks, such as the standby mode, which can be inconsistent and drain the battery. The single button for power is less responsive than the previous on/off switch. Additionally, some users reported issues with the button after prolonged use. However, Bose offers a one-year product warranty.

Who it’s for:

The Bose QuietComfort line has been a staple for frequent flyers, particularly favored by business travelers. The QuietComfort 45s continue this legacy, offering exceptional comfort backed by Bose’s renowned noise cancellation.

These headphones are suitable for everyone, especially those prioritizing comfort. During testing, the QC 45s proved comfortable for extended periods, even with glasses. Other name-brand models often caused discomfort within minutes, making the Bose headphones a standout choice.

For audiophiles, the sound quality is good but not stellar. Sony headphones may appeal more to audiophile enthusiasts, while the Bose 700s excel in highly adjustable ANC. The QC 45s strike a balance between comfort, audio quality, and noise cancellation, making them the best choice for flights.

Why we picked this:

The Bose QC 45s offer the perfect combination of comfort, audio quality, and noise cancellation, making them the top choice for air travel.

While the ANC customization isn’t as extensive as the Bose 700s, these headphones deliver more than adequate noise cancellation for flights. A simple press on the left ear cup button allows seamless switching between quiet and aware modes for in-flight interactions.

With up to 24 hours of battery life, the QC 45s provide ample power for long flights. The Bluetooth connection may experience occasional hiccups when switching devices, but the Bose app helps smooth the process. Given the limited device switching during flights, this minor inconvenience is negligible.

Who’s it for:

For those seeking active noise cancellation without breaking the bank, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20s are an excellent entry-level choice. Despite their lower cost, these headphones offer decent performance and comfort.

Why we picked this:

Priced at a fraction of our top picks, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20s provide a comfortable fit and balanced sound. While their design is unremarkable, the foldable ear cups ease storage, making them a practical option for travel. Although the ANC is moderate, it effectively blocks some background noise, with an exceptional battery life of 40 hours, ideal for extended flights.

While lacking the advanced features of premium headphones, the Life Q20s embody the term “decent.” Despite limited discounts, their affordability at the standard price makes them an attractive option.

Who it’s for:

Sony’s latest WH-1000XM5 over-ear noise-canceling headphones represent an excellent choice for air travel in 2024. While not a significant upgrade for existing WH-1000XM4 owners, the improved noise cancellation and enhanced sound quality make them the superior option for flights.

Why we picked this:

The WH-1000XM5s deliver impressive noise cancellation and exceptional audio quality, making them an ideal choice for music enthusiasts and audiophiles. The “quick attention” mode allows easy interaction with flight attendants or announcements without interrupting your music.

Despite their bulkier design and lack of foldability, these headphones provide a premium travel experience. The 30-hour battery life, voice assistant support, and crisp call quality complete the package. The WH-1000XM5s are praised for their amazing sound quality, making them perfect for users who prioritize their music.

Who it’s for:

While the Apple AirPods Max are on the expensive side, they cater to Apple ecosystem enthusiasts seeking high-quality over-ear headphones. With impressive noise cancellation, these headphones are worth considering for diehard Apple fans.

Why we picked this:

The AirPods Max excels in active noise cancellation, utilizing eight microphones to deliver an immersive experience. Switching to transparency mode is convenient, allowing awareness of surroundings without complex touch controls. Additionally, the headphones boast impressive sound quality and spatial audio support, appealing to cinephiles.

Despite a somewhat lacking battery life due to the absence of a power button, the 20-hour duration is sufficient for long-haul flights. The unique

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