Jun 6, 2024 8 min read

Best noise-cancelling headphones for long-haul flights

Noise-cancelling headphones on airplane tray table with clear sky view from window.

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Finding peace and quiet on a long-haul flight can be challenging with the constant hum of the airplane engine, chatter from fellow passengers, and other ambient noises. This is where noise-cancelling headphones become an essential travel companion. They not only provide a sanctuary of silence but also enhance your audio experience, whether you're listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. In this article, we've compiled a list of the best noise-cancelling headphones for long-haul flights, based on extensive research and hands-on reviews.

Key Takeaways

  • Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the best overall choice for their exceptional noise-cancelling capabilities and comfort features tailored for travel.
  • Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are the top pick for travelers who prefer earbuds, offering excellent noise cancellation and a compact design.
  • Sony WH-1000XM5 stands out for its advanced noise-cancelling technology, outstanding microphone quality, and Bluetooth multipoint connectivity.
  • Apple AirPods Max offers premium build quality, excellent sound performance, and seamless integration with Apple devices.
  • Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless provides a balanced mix of noise cancellation, sound quality, and comfort, making it a great all-rounder for long flights.

1. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are a top-tier choice for long-haul flights, offering a blend of quality and comfort. These over-ear headphones feature advanced noise-cancelling technology, ensuring a peaceful journey even in noisy environments.

Key Features

  • Battery Life: Up to 24 hours, making them ideal for long flights without frequent recharging.
  • Comfort: Designed for extended wear with a comfortable fit.
  • Audio Quality: Supports Spatial Audio for an immersive listening experience.
  • Portability: Comes with a compact carrying case, making them easy to store and transport.

Performance

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones excel in providing a robust audio experience with dynamic transducers and closed-back enclosure. They are particularly noted for their powerful ANC, which is perfect for blocking out the hum of an airplane engine.

Price

These headphones come with a premium price tag of $429.00, but their durability and performance make them a worthwhile investment for frequent travelers.

For those who prioritize battery life and comfort, these headphones are a travel-friendly choice that ensures a peaceful journey.

2. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds were just released in October 2023, and they've already snagged a Mashable Choice award for their stellar noise cancellation, comfortable fit, and impressive Immersive Audio tech. Per usual for the brand, Bose's ANC drowns out a ton of background noise, making these buds a perfect fit for flights. Bose's noise cancellation is so good, that many users often wear these buds even when they're not listening to anything.

If you're not an over-ear headphone stan, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds offer similarly impressive noise cancellation and comfort as our top pick, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones. If you like to lean against the window to nap during flights or just need a lower-profile set of headphones so you can travel a bit lighter, the QC Ultra buds are the way to go. They're also a cool $130 less than our top pick, making them easier on the wallet.

Key Features

  • Stellar noise cancellation
  • Comfortable fit
  • Immersive Audio tech
  • Lower-profile design
  • More affordable than over-ear options

Battery Life

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds offer up to seven hours of battery life with the ANC enabled, ensuring you stay immersed in your audio for the duration of most flights.

3. Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are one of the most impressive all-around noise-canceling headphones we've used. We loved the lightweight and comfortable fit of the headphones; they aren't too snug or too loose but do appear slightly bulky on the head. During lab testing, these headphones impressed us with their automatic adaptive noise-canceling, which turns the noise-canceling on and off when someone starts speaking and allows users to easily skip or pause songs by tapping the side of the ear cups.

4. Sony WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are a top choice for long-haul flights, offering a blend of comfort, sound quality, and advanced features. Exceptional noise-cancelling capabilities make them ideal for blocking out the drone of airplane engines.

Specifications

  • Acoustic design: Closed
  • Weight: 253g
  • Frequency response: 4Hz to 40kHz
  • Drivers: 40mm
  • Battery life: 30 hours

Reasons to Buy

  • Exceptional noise-cancelling
  • Multi-point pairing
  • Conversation awareness

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not water resistant
Made of premium materials and sounds good, with a huge slew of high-quality Bluetooth codecs and wired listening options.

5. Apple AirPods Max

Apple AirPods Max is an incredibly comfortable, stylish, and effective noise-canceling headset. Apple has produced soft mesh ear cups that airily conform to the shape around your ears while isolating out high-pitched noise. Apple users may want to check out the AirPods Max for its seamless integration with other Apple devices.

The AirPods Max wireless headphones offer best-in-class noise canceling with twenty hours of battery life. They provide excellent frequency response and great audio features.

Key Features

  • Best-in-class ANC
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Soft mesh ear cups
  • Premium design

Pros

  1. Excellent noise-canceling abilities
  2. Crisp and vibrant sound quality
  3. Intuitive controls

Cons

  1. High price point
  2. Does not fold into a compact design
  3. Carrying sleeve offers limited protection

6. Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones are a top choice for long-haul flights, offering a blend of style, comfort, and high-end features. With an awe-inspiring battery life of 56 hours and 21 minutes, these headphones are ready for several trips without needing a top-up charge. The case provides ample storage and some rigidity to protect your investment, even though the headset lacks hinges to fold down.

No matter the music genre, the Momentum 4 Wireless deliver an ultra-detailed and crisp aural performance. There’s a real depth here that is rare even in over-ear cans.

Key Features

  • Dynamic audio performance
  • Strong active noise cancellation
  • Customizable adaptive features via app
  • Simple, elegant design
  • USB-C charging

Pricing

Retailer Price Savings
Amazon $350 Save $60.72
Best Buy $350 Save $49.99

Battery Life

The Momentum 4 Wireless boasts a battery life of 56 hours and 21 minutes, making it ideal for long-haul flights.

Design and Comfort

While the design is slightly basic and the weight mildly chunky, the focus on style and comfort makes these headphones a great travel companion.

7. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2

Design and Comfort

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 headphones boast a high-end design that is both stylish and comfortable. The ear cups are well-padded, ensuring a snug fit for long-haul flights.

Sound Quality

The sound profile of the PX7 S2 is impressive right out of the box. The headphones deliver rich, detailed audio that enhances your listening experience, whether you're enjoying music, movies, or podcasts.

Noise Cancellation

While the active noise cancellation is decent, it doesn't quite match up to some of its competitors in the same price range. This is an area where the PX7 S2 could see some improvement.

Connectivity

One downside is the Bluetooth connection, which can be unstable when paired with more than one device. This can be a hassle if you frequently switch between your phone and laptop during flights.

Price

At $399, the PX7 S2 headphones are on the pricier side. Given the issues with noise cancellation and Bluetooth stability, some might find better value in other models.

For those who prioritize design and sound quality, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 are a solid choice. However, if noise cancellation and connectivity are your top concerns, you might want to explore other options.

8. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H95

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H95 headphones are a premium choice for long-haul flights, offering a blend of luxury and performance. These headphones are designed with elite active noise cancellation, ensuring a peaceful journey even in the noisiest environments. The sound quality is superb, providing an immersive audio experience that is perfect for enjoying movies with Spatial Audio.

Reasons to Buy

  • Elite active noise cancellation
  • Superb sound quality
  • Spatial Audio for movies

Reasons to Avoid

  • Android users don’t get the full features
  • Not the longest battery life in the buds
For those who prioritize both style and substance, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H95 headphones are an excellent investment for long-distance travel.

9. JBL Tour One M2

Overview

For daily commuters, frequent travelers, or anyone else who wants to be completely immersed in sound, JBL's Tour One M2 headphones have the adaptive technology you need to get that concert-quality experience. You can use these over-ear headphones right out of the box without the app, you just connect them to your device as you would any other Bluetooth device.

Key Features

  • Smart noise cancelation that continuously adjusts to your environment
  • Up to 8 hours battery life
  • Bluetooth range up to 30 feet
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Lightweight at 1.2 ounces
  • Comes with a carrying case

Performance

These headphones are perfect for audiophiles as the noise-blocking capabilities are so advanced, it actually takes some getting used to. The Tour One M2's have smart noise cancelation that continuously adjusts as you’re wearing them, so if, for example, a train or siren goes by, the noise is blocked along with the regular ambient sound of the room.

Ratings

Category Rating
Ease of Use 5/5
Functionality 5/5
Sound Quality 5/5
Noise Cancelation 5/5
Comfort 5/5
The JBL Tour One M2 headphones offer a concert-quality experience with their adaptive technology and smart noise cancelation, making them ideal for long-haul flights.

10. Shure AONIC 50

Overview

The Shure AONIC 50 headphones offer a combination of great isolation and noise cancellation, making them ideal for long-haul flights. These headphones are made of premium materials and provide a pleasant fit, especially for those who wear glasses.

Sound Quality

The AONIC 50 delivers decent sound quality with a huge slew of high-quality Bluetooth codecs and wired listening options. This ensures that you get the best audio experience whether you are using them wirelessly or with a cable.

Comfort

For the folks who wear glasses, the AONIC 50 has been tested as providing a pleasant fit. The premium materials used in the construction add to the overall comfort, making them suitable for extended use.

Price

The Shure AONIC 50 is priced at around $298 USD on Amazon, making it a premium yet affordable option in the sub-$100 headphone category.

Key Features

  • Great isolation and noise cancellation
  • Premium materials
  • High-quality Bluetooth codecs
  • Wired listening options
  • Comfortable for glasses wearers
The combination of premium materials and excellent noise cancellation makes the Shure AONIC 50 a top choice for long-haul flights.

Conclusion

Choosing the best noise-cancelling headphones for long-haul flights can significantly enhance your travel experience. Whether you prefer the over-ear comfort of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones or the compact convenience of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, there are excellent options available to suit every traveler's needs. Our comprehensive guide has highlighted the top choices based on extensive research and hands-on reviews, ensuring you can find the perfect pair to block out the chaos and enjoy your journey in peace. Investing in a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a decision you won't regret, as it allows you to rest, work, or simply enjoy your favorite audio content without interruption.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best noise-cancelling headphones for flying?

The best noise-cancelling headphones for flying are the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, thanks to their exceptional active noise cancelling (ANC) capabilities and comfort features tailored for travel.

Do noise-cancelling headphones actually work on a plane?

Yes, noise-cancelling headphones are highly effective on planes. They help block out the ambient noise, making it easier to rest or focus on your work or entertainment.

Are earbuds effective for noise cancellation during flights?

Yes, earbuds like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are very effective for noise cancellation during flights. They are compact, comfortable, and offer excellent ANC performance.

Can noise-cancelling headphones cause ear pressure?

Some people may experience a feeling of pressure in their ears when using active noise-cancelling headphones. However, this is less of an issue for frequent flyers who often get used to it.

What should I consider when choosing noise-cancelling headphones for travel?

When choosing noise-cancelling headphones for travel, consider factors like ANC performance, comfort, battery life, and portability. Features like Bluetooth connectivity and ease of use are also important.

Are there any affordable options for noise-cancelling headphones?

Yes, there are affordable options for noise-cancelling headphones that still offer good performance. Brands like JBL and Shure offer models that provide effective noise cancellation without breaking the bank.

Curtis Duggan
Curtis Duggan
Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.
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