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. Below are our recommendations for the best headphones for commuting we have tested so far.
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 best commuting headphones we have tested are the Sony MDR-1000X. If you’re often on public transit or need headphones with enough isolation to block the ambient noise at an airport, then the MDR-1000x won’t disappoint.
They’re well-built and comfortable headphones with one of the best noise canceling performances that we’ve measured so far. They’re a bit leaky at higher volumes and slightly pricey, but these headphones are versatile with an above-average sound that will please most listeners.
If comfort is a high priority for you, then the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 are still the go-to headphones for most commuters and frequent flyers. Their isolation measurements are slightly worse than the MDR-1000x, but it’s more than sufficient to block the ambient noise of a daily commute. Like the Sony MDR-1000x, they're a bit leaky at higher volumes, but they’re one of the most comfortable closed-back headphones we’ve tested.
If you prefer a more portable design, then the Bose QuietControl 30 may be a better alternative for you.
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 BeatsX. If you want a compact pair of commuting headphones that you can carry on you at all times, it's a great choice.
They're versatile wireless in-ear headphones that are lot more portable than the over-ear headphones on this list. They also 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 bit more control and customization over your audio than the Sony MDR1000x and the Bose QC35, then consider the JBL Everest Elite 700. They don't isolate as well as the first two recommendations but they're considerably cheaper and their companion app is one of the best we've tested. They have a decently sturdy design (but not the most comfortable one) and an above average sound quality that's only slightly lacking in the treble range.
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 still isolate well enough to be decent commuting headphones. They’re cheap, so if you don’t want to spend much for a versatile pair of wireless headphones, they’re a great option. Unfortunately, their bass-heavy sound quality might be a deal breaker for some.
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).
A few examples of commuting headphones that didn't make the cut:
- Bose QuietControl 30. Portable and comfortable ear bud design. Good isolation and sound quality but slightly expensive. See our review
- Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. Versatile and well built over-ear headphones. good active features but slightly lacking noise isolation. 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
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.