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.
So far, we've reviewed 166 headsets and below are our recommendations for the best travel-friendly headphones.
Best Headphones for Commuting: Bose QuietComfort 35
Travel headphones in this price range deliver superior noise isolation, typically through the use of proprietary active noise-cancelling technology. Since you can spend hours at a time wearing headphones while traveling, they must be comfortable, have a good sound and not too cumbersome. The best headphones for travel 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.
We've tested 166 headsets so far and the Bose QuietComfort 35 are the best travel headphones. While the Sony WH-1000XM2 have a slightly better noise cancellation, the more consistent performance and comfort level of the QC35 make them a better headset for every day use and commuting.
They're a bit leaky at higher volumes and slightly plasticky for their price range but feel decently durable. They also have the second-best noise canceling performance that we’ve measured for any over-ear headphone. If you are a frequent traveler, these headphones will not disappoint.
More Isolating Alternative: Sony WH-1000XM2
If noise cancellation is your main priority, then get the Sony WH-1000XM2 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 compared to the original Sony MDR-1000X. Their new app especially adds a lot of customization options that felt lacking in the previous model. They also have a more consistent sound quality with more codec support.
Best Mid-Range Headphones for Commuting: Beats BeatsX
In this price range, travel 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 more balanced and have a better range than most other wireless in-ears, including the Jaybird X3.
These travel-friendly headphones do not actively cancel noise, and if you don't have an iOS device, you may miss out on a few features. But on the upside, they fare well in loud environments even with their passive isolation, and they have a decent battery life with excellent quick charge capability.
Over-Ear Alternative: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
If you want a versatile mid-range option for traveling, 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 or the Sennheiser HD 4.50 may be a more suitable alternative since they have stronger isolation. However, the Plantronics are more durable, comfortable and have a better performance overall, which make them a great pair of travel headphones. They're also considerably cheaper.
Best Budget Headphones for Commuting: Anker SoundBuds Sport
In this price range, travel 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 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.
The Anker SoundBuds are surprisingly cheap, so if you don’t want to spend much for a versatile pair of wireless in-ears, they are a great travel-friendly option.
Better-Sounding Alternative: Mpow Jaws
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 SoundBuds Sports. They passively isolate well and should be good enough for commuting and moderately loud environments.
- Bose QuietControl 30. Good travel headphones; portable and comfortable earbud design. Good isolation and sound quality but slightly expensive. See our review
- Sony MDR-1000x. Excellent noise isolation and good design. The WH-1000XM2 is the more up to date variation with app support. 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. Nice headphones for traveling: 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 travel-friendly headphones: 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 traveling. 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.