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 Sony MDR-1000X are the best headphones for commuting. 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, but these headphones are versatile with an above-average sound that will please most listeners.
The Bose Quiet Comfort 35 are still the go-to headphones for most commuters and frequent flyers, especially if comfort is a high priority for you. 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 so far.
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.
If you want a compact pair of commuting headphones that you can carry on you at all times, then get the BeatsX. They're versatile wireless in-ear headphones that are lot more portable than the over-ear headphones on this list. 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, have a better range than most other wireless in-ears and a decent battery life with quick charge capability.
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 portable headphones for travel and commuting 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.
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:
- Sennheiser PXC 550. Well-built, versatile headphones. Isolation is weaker than the QC 35 and the Zik 3.0. 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
- Jaybird X3. The newer model of the Jaybird series. As versatile as the X2 but comes with a customizable app. 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.