Music can ease the pain of daily public transportation and make flights more enjoyable. The best headphones for commuting block or cancel the ambient noise of moderately loud environments, like being in a metro, train or bus.
Travel-friendly headphones don’t leak much so other fellow commuters can’t hear what you are listening to. Since you can spend hours at a time wearing headphones, they should be comfortable and portable enough to not be cumbersome to use while traveling.
We've tested 140 headsets so far and below are our recommendations for the best headphones for commuting you can buy today.
Best Headphones for Commuting
Commuting headphones in this price range deliver superior noise isolation, typically through the use of proprietary active noise-cancelling technology. The best portable headphones have a good sound, are comfortable, sturdy and not too cumbersome. Additional features like wireless audio and efficient or unique control schemes are often provided on these models.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 are the best commuting headphones we have tested so far. While the Sony MDR-1000X have slightly better noise cancellation, the more consistent sound and comfort level of the QC35 makes them a better headset for every day use and commuting.
They’re decently well-built, though slightly plasticky for their price range. They also have the second-best noise canceling performance that we’ve measured for any over-ear headphone. However, they’re a bit leaky at higher volumes which may be distracting to those around you.
More Comfortable Alternative
If noise cancellation is your main priority for commuting headphones, then get the Sony MDR-1000x instead. They have a better noise isolation performance than the Bose QuietComfort 35 and look a bit more premium for about the same price.
They're comfortable and have a couple more features and unique gestures that make them stand out. Unfortunately, their headband design is not as durable as it looks and their sound quality can be a bit inconsistent, especially in the higher frequencies.
Best Mid-Range Headphones for Commuting
In this price range, commuting headphones will not be as feature-packed as the more premium models. They still deliver a good sound and great active noise isolation, capable of blocking the noise of a loud commute or flight.
For a mid-range option, we recommend the Beats X. They're great if you want a compact pair of commuting headphones that you can carry on you at all times. They sound a bit better and have a better range than most other wireless in-ears, including the Jaybird X3.
If you don't have an iOS device, you may miss out on a few features, but these Beats headphones fare well in loud environments and a decent battery life with quick charge capability.
If you want a versatile mid-range option for commuting, then consider the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. They don't isolate as well as the pricier recommendations on this list but they have a sturdy durable design and an exciting, bass-rich sound. They also have an excellent wireless range and support multiple codecs that make them somewhat suitable for gaming and home theater as long as you have the right Bluetooth transmitter.
If noise isolation is what matters most to you, then the JBL Everest Elite 700 may be a suitable alternative since they have a stronger isolation performance. However, the Plantronics are a better performing and more comfortable headphone overall and they're also considerably cheaper.
Best Budget Headphones for Commuting
In this price range, commuting headphones most likely have a passively isolating design. They will still be enough for loud environments, like being on a train.
The best budget headphones for travel and commuting we have tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Sport. They do not have active noise canceling but they isolate well enough to be decent commuting headphones and block noise better than the Mpow Jaws.
They’re surprisingly cheap, so if you don’t want to spend much for a versatile pair of wireless headphones, they’re a good option.
The Mpow Jaws are in the same price range as the Anker SoundBud Sports but have a much better sound. They're not as compact and the around-the-neck design won't be for everyone, but, they have a comfortable fit especially for an in-ear headphone.
They're wireless and decently portable but will not fit in your pockets like the SoundBud Sports. On the upside, they isolate fairly well despite not having noise cancellation, which is good for commuting and loud environments.
- Bose QuietControl 30. Portable and comfortable earbud design. Good isolation and sound quality but slightly expensive. See our review
- Jaybird X3. Good audio quality and great passive isolation. A good alternative to the Beats X, especially for Android users. See our review
- Bose QuietControl 30. Excellent noise cancellation in a portable format. Good audio but slightly pricey. See our review
- Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Versatile, with many features and a good customizable sound. Average noise cancellation. See our review
- Sennheiser HD 4.50. A cheaper alternative to the JBL Everest Elite 700 with slightly fewer customization options. See our review
- JBL Everest Elite 700. Good active features, strong isolation, and great companion app. Slightly uncomfortable and more expensive than the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. See our review
- Parrot Zik 3.0. Excellent build quality and versatile active features. Mediocre battery life and a bit tight on the head. See our review
- Samsung Level Over Wireless. Good sound and decent build quality. Slightly bulky and cumbersome. See our review
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best travel headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones that are good for commuting. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection, especially if you listen to audio at high enough volumes to drown the ambient noise of your commute.