If you are wanting to listen to music in a noisy environment (in particular, airplanes), or if you just simply want to tune out the noise and relax, and if the in-ear headphones don’t appeal, then you need to consider headphones where the highest priority consideration is noise cancelling rather than sound quality.
We strongly recommend the use of noise cancelling headphones when flying, even if you aren’t listening to any music or watching any video. Our sense is that the surprisingly loud background noise actually contributes to the tiring effect of a long flight, and we feel we always arrive more refreshed and less fatigued if we’ve been wearing noise cancelling headphones for the entire flight.
Of course, if you have no plans to listen to any audio, you could create the same effect with a pair of $1 ear plugs!
Noisy environments are not conducive to good sound appreciation, and in particular limits the dynamic range of the music you can experience, and while the sound processing involved in noise cancellation invariably impacts on the sound quality of the music to a greater or lesser extent, we feel the compromise is worth it.
We’ve written extensively on the subject of noise cancelling headphones, and over nearly 15 years have evaluated in considerable detail more than 20 different sets. Our clear recommendation is for the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones. Their noise cancelling is way better than any other model we’ve tried, including models costing appreciably more.
Talking about cost, the QC15 headphones list for $300 but have been at a 10% discount on Amazon for a couple of months now (ie $270). It is unusual to see Bose products discounted anywhere, so we’re not sure how much longer this discount will continue. It is a lot of money to pay for a pair of headphones, but if you spend less than this, you’re just not getting anywhere near as much noise cancelling.
This is a part of our buyers guide series on headphones. Please also visit :
How to Properly Compare Headphones
Five Headphone Recommendations – Introduction
2. Noise Cancelling Headphones
4. Under $200