What are the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Flying?

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As a traveler, if you’re like me then you wouldn’t mind investing in the best noise cancelling headphones for flying when it comes to ensuring your comfort during journeys. A nice neck-pillow, a warm fluffy travel blanket or maybe even a portable footrest can all prove to be a Godsend, especially during long tiring flights.

What if I told you, you could make the experience better with no ambient noise at all? Yes, you heard that right. The ability to shield yourself from the sound of those loud plane engines or that cute baby who just won’t stop crying, and listen to your music or sleep in peace? Too good to be true?

Well, here is a three-word solution for you: Noise Cancelling Headphones.

What exactly are Noise Cancelling Headphones?

Unlike regular headphones, Noise Cancelling Headphones are specially designed to filter ambient noise using unique materials. They usually come in 2 forms: Active Types and Passive types. This is where it gets a bit more technical. For the Active types, there are a number of parts that help them in bringing out this effect. These include:

  • A Microphone – Strategically placed inside the cups, the microphones are used in detecting any sounds that are not blocked and go through the ear-cups.
  • Noise-cancelling circuitry – After detecting the noise, the microphone sends a signal to a number of electronics inside the ear-cup. These, in turn, note the frequency and amplitude of these waves then creates new waves that are 180 degrees out of phase.
  • Speaker – The two different waves, in turn, “cancel-out” in a process known as destructive interference after being fed to the speakers. This leaves you with only the normal audio you wanted to listen to.
  • Battery – Since the entire process requires an energy source, a battery is fitted to provide that.

Passive types, on the other hand, are normally packed with layers upon layers of sound-absorbing material, the most common being high-density material. Though this adds extra weight compared to normal headphones, it absorbs up to an average of 16 to 20 decibels.

For air travel, though, you’d be better off opting for the Active types. This is because jet engines alone have been proven to create up to 80 decibels inside the cabin!

Are Noise-cancelling headphones worth having during flights?

Absolutely yes! They’re 100% worth their price tags! In case you didn’t know it, the first pair of Noise-cancelling headphones were designed for pilots way back in 1986 by Dr. Amar Bose to help them endure long flight periods.

Constant exposure to high levels of aircraft noise (measured at around 85 decibels), could potentially lead to a number of medical problems: with hearing loss topping that list.

Sadly, low-frequency sounds are no good either. They have been shown to increase the stress hormones in your blood, your heart rate, and even blood pressure. Increased fatigue levels during flights can also be attributed to these low-frequency sounds.

So, with exposure to both these all but guaranteed inside the aircraft craft cabin, you’d see why investing in the best noise cancelling headphones for flying is a no-brainer.

Other than the health risks, I mean who doesn’t want to fly in a noise-free, relaxed state of bliss?

What are the best noise-cancelling headphones for flying?

With a number of noise-cancelling headphones flooding the market on a daily basis, choosing the right one for you can end up being a daunting task.

However, there are a number of factors you could use to separate the best from the rest. These are:

  • Build quality
  • Battery life
  • Sound quality and,
  • Noise-cancellation properties (of course).

With that in mind, let’s go ahead and dive in and have a look at the top 5 best noise cancelling headphones for flying.

1.  Sony WH-1000XM3

Without a doubt, these are among some of the best headphones you could buy at the moment in my opinion. A worthy competitor to the Bose Quiet Comfort.

The successor to the Sony WH1000XM2, the new Sony headphones come equipped with an extra layer of padding and a USB-C port for faster charging. The fast charging feature now lets you get up to 5hrs of playback music with just 10 minutes! Better still, a fully charged device can last up to a whopping 30hrs!

These bluetooth noise-canceling headphones are not only comfortable, but the integrated aptX HD and Sony LDAC features also provide music lovers with High-Res sound quality that would keep you listening for days. The noise-canceling feature is also class leading. The smart listening feature adjusts ambient sound depending on the type of activity you’re doing and even atmospheric pressure! Essentially, the cancellation you get when walking around the airport and actually flying to a different location are two different things.

Given their wireless nature, the addition of Alexa into the system also makes life a whole lot easier. You get hands-free voice access to your music playlists and even more phone information. Die Hard physical control lovers shouldn’t worry since they have the option to use the touch controls on the outer sides of the ear cups.

The call quality with these headphones is also inspiringly good, thanks to the newly added multi-microphone array system.

So, in short:

  • Ergonomic, foldable design makes these comfortable to wear and easy to carry.
  • Has a new fast-charging feature and battery life lasts up to 30 hours.
  • Sound quality and Noise-cancellation are top notch.
  • Added Alexa assistant makes wireless use a breeze.
  • Multi-microphone array system provides excellent call quality.

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2.  Bose Quiet Comfort 35 (Series II)

The Godfather of noise-canceling headphones, Bose are considered by most to be the best when it comes to this. The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 (Series II) is no exception.

A little larger than their Sony counterparts, the Quiet comfort 35 (Series II) is quite comfortable to wear even when it comes to very long listening sessions. Newer in the Series II is a dedicated buttoned for google assistant which is a nice touch, especially since it can also be programmed to carry out other functions, such as adjusting the level of cancellation.

However, it’s with the Bluetooth connectivity the Bose headphones truly shine. Capable to connect to 2 devices at one go, you can easily manage connections using the in-phone app and seamlessly switch between either. Although the sound doesn’t sound quite as crisp as the Sony 1000XM3, it’s still high quality and sounds great. The noise cancellation, on the other hand, is just as good as the competitors, if not a tad better.

On a full charge, the headphones have been known to last around 20 hours, which is great. If it does run out though, you can use a cord to plug in and continue enjoying your content

All in all:

  • Noise-cancellation is superb
  • Dual Bluetooth-connectivity is superb and works flawlessly
  • Lightweight materials used in the build make them very comfortable.
  • Google assistant works great
  • Best overall pick for noise canceling headphones for flying

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3.  Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

If you’re in the market for a mid-range headphone, Plantronics has got your back with the BackBeat Pro 2. Dubbed “A traveler’s best friend”, the Pro 2 fixed a number of issues its predecessor faced, including the quality of sound. The Pro2 now features rich bass and crisp, clear sounds.

Bluetooth range is also quite impressive standing at 330 feet (100 meters). Couple this up to 24 hours of music streaming and you end up with quite a formidable noise-canceling headphone. It also comes equipped with smart sensors that pause audio when you take them off and resume once you put them on again. The in-built microphones close to the sensors also provide decent call quality.

To sum it up:

  • Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) works great in reducing ambient noise
  • Bluetooth range is incredible
  • Battery life is great
  • Sound quality is clear with deep rich bass

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4.  Bose Quiet Comfort 20 Acoustic Noise-cancelling Headphones

If in-ear noise-canceling headphones are more your thing, then you can’t go wrong with these.Another great product from Bose, these headphones bear a unique design compared to other in-ear headphones.

Firstly, they have a control module (Active Aware) that lets you switch the noise cancellation on and off whenever you like. Want to hear the pilot’s announcements then get back to your music? Do it all with the flick of a button.

The battery indicator button next to the power button really comes in handy when your 16-hours-use charge is almost up. However, since they’re corded, you can still continue enjoying your music. Apple users, in particular, could also benefit from a few added features. QC20i models come with two additional buttons that can be used with Siri voice commands and iPhone music control.

In general:

  • The lightweight feature makes the device very portable.
  • 16-hour charge is sufficient for most users.
  • The presence of a cable makes it very versatile.
  • The battery indicator is also a welcome addition
  • Noise cancellation and sound quality are also very good

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5.  Cowin E7 Active Noise-cancelling headphones

Shopping on a budget? Why not try the Cowin E7 Active Noise-Cancelling headphones? Apart from its stunning good looks, the device not only offers high-quality sound but also decent noise cancellation features. The build quality is also pretty good, with the swiveling earbuds proving to be quite comfortable.

The in-built 600mAh battery also packs a punch. Just like the Sony 1000XM3, the headphones can last for up to 30 hours on full charge. The device also has a 3.5mm audio cable in case you run out of juice. The microphone and NFC Technology offer decent call quality, while the Bluetooth feature enables the device to connect to 2 devices at a go.

In summary:

  • The battery life is great at 30 hours
  • Sound quality and noise-cancellation are great for the price
  • The design is great and build quality is strong
  • The 3.5mm audio cable is a welcome addition
  • Best budget pick for noice canceling headphones for flying

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Final Thoughts

In the long run, investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones could make all the difference when it comes to air travel. If you can afford them, go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose Quiet Comfort 35. Both have amazing sound quality, great build, and their noise-canceling capabilities are off the charts. You could try them on and judge for yourself if you get the chance, but you wouldn’t be disappointed with an impulse buy with either.