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The 7 Best Travel Headphones - September 2018
Reviews

Best Headphones for Commuting
266 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

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 230 headsets and below are our recommendations for the best travel-friendly headphones to buy in 2018.

  1. Best Headphones for Commuting: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches: test

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    We've tested 230 headsets and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the best travel headphones so far. They're a slight improvement over the QuietComfort 35 with more control over their noise cancellation feature and Google Assistant built-in. 

    Although the Sony WH-1000XM2 have slightly better and more optimized noise cancellation, the more consistent overall performance and comfort level of the QC35 II make them a better headset for everyday use and commuting. They sound great, they're easy-to-use, and they're one of the best noise canceling over-ear headphones that we’ve measured. However, they can be a bit leaky at high volumes and feel slightly plasticky for their price range. 

    If you are a frequent traveler or have noisy daily commutes, then get the QuietComfort 35 II; they're a great travel headset that will not disappoint. 

    See our review

  2. Better Built Alternative: Sony WH-1000XM2

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a more customizable headset than the Bose QC 35 II that's also great for commuting, then go for the Sony WH-1000XM2 instead. They're not as comfortable or as easy-to-use as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They also do not feel as well-built or as premium as the Bowers and Wilkins PX. But on the upside, they have more features than both the Bose and B&Ws and come with a great companion app that gives them a wealth of customization options.

    You can EQ their sound quality, choose between high-quality codecs and also control the level of noise cancellation depending on your environment. This makes their noise isolation slightly better than the Bose or the B&W since you can optimize it to work best for your surroundings as well as how they fit over your ears. Overall, the Sony WH-1000XM2 are good traveling headphones and would be a good choice for most commutes.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Headphones for Commuting: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches: test

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want something a bit cheaper for commuting than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM2, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They don't isolate as well as the pricier recommendations on this list, and their app support is pretty mediocre. 

    On the upside,  they have a sturdy, durable design, ergonomic and easy to use controls as well as an exciting, bass-rich sound. They also have an excellent wireless range and support multiple codecs that make them both outdoor and indoor use headphones.

    The Plantronics are durable, comfortable and have a better performance overall, which make them a great pair of travel headphones; they're also cheaper.

    See our review

  4. A more compact Alternative: Jabra Elite Active 65t

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a more portable option for commuting than the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, then get the Jabra Elite Active 65t. They're not noise-canceling like the other recommendations on this list and their build quality is also not as durable or as premium as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and B&W PX. However, the compact format of the truly wireless Elite Active 65t makes them really convenient for commuting and easy to carry around in your bag or pockets. 

    They have a decent sound that you can EQ thanks to their customizable app and they block more noise passively than the active noise cancelling Plantronics once you get the right fit with the provided earbud tips. The Jabra Elite Active 65t also have a longer battery life, better Bluetooth connectivity and are slightly easier to use than the similarly designed Samsung Gear IconX. If you want a compact travel headset, the Elite Active 65t are one of the best options you can purchase under $200.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget Headphones for Commuting: Jaybird Freedom

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches: test

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Balanced Armature

    If you want a portable budget option for traveling and do not mind passive isolation for your commutes, then get the Jaybird Freedom. They do not isolate as well as the wireless active noise-canceling over-ears on this list and do not last as long on a single charge.

    However, they have a decent sound quality that you can further customize thanks to the Jaybird MySound app. They're also compact wireless in-ears that you can easily fit into your pockets and they have a decently comfortable in-ear fit that you can wear longer than typical in-ear designs.

    Unfortunately, the proprietary charging clip is bulky and limited so if you lose it or do not have it on you won't be able to charge the headphones. But on the upside, the Jaybird deliver a solid performance and strong passive isolation for travel and commuting but you may prefer the slightly more comfortable fit of the Freedom 2 or the longer continuous battery life of the Jaybird X3

    See our review

  6. A more budget alternative: Anker SoundBuds Curve

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a pair of portable headphones for travel and commuting and do not want to spend more than $50, then your best bet are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They do not isolate as well as the Jaybird Freedom or most of the active noise canceling headphones on this list but provide a compact and decently comfortable wireless in-ear design that's easy to carry around on your person at all times.

    They also have a long 12-hour battery life that should be enough for most trips and commutes. Unfortunately, they do not have the best build quality and do not have any additional customization options like the Samsung U Flex or Jaybird Freedom 2. On the upside, they are much cheaper and deliver the best performance to price ratio for any wireless in-ear within their price range.

    See our review

  7. Wired alternative: Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear

    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer a wired design for traveling so you don't have to worry about battery life or wireless interference when on a plane, then consider the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear. They won't be as convenient for every day casual use as the Jaybird Freedom or the other wireless options on this list but their passive wired design means they will always be ready to go as long as you have an audio source with a headphone jack.

    The SoundTrue also have an earbud fit that's more comfortable than typical in-ears and blocks a lot of noise passively which makes them a good option for traveling and most commutes. They're compact enough to have on you at all times and come with a limited control scheme for either Android or iOS. Overall, the SoundTrue are a good option if you want a wired and compact travel headset, however, they may not offer the best value for some since they do not have a lot of features.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Bowers and Wilkins PX. A better-built and more premium-looking alternative to the Bose QC 35 II. They also leak a little less but have a tighter fit on the head which may be a deal breaker for some. See our review
  • Samsung Gear Icon X. A decently versatile truly wireless in-ear and a good alternative to the Elite Active 65t. Less battery life and slightly less isolating. See our review
  • Bose QuietControl 30. Good travel headphones; portable and comfortable earbud design. Good isolation and sound quality but slightly expensive. See our review
  • Jabra Elite 65e. A well built and flexible around the neck design with decent isolation. A cheaper alternative to the QC30 but they have a slightly worse sound that's less consistent. See our review
  • Beats BeatsX. A versatile and highly portable around-the-neck design with excellent range and battery life and a well-balanced sound. Slightly limited on Android. See our review
  • Jaybird X3. Good audio quality and great passive isolation. A good alternative to the Samsung Gear IconX. See our review
  • Beoplay E8. Great truly wireless design with a premium build quality and an above-average sound quality. However, they're 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.  An alternative to the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 with a stronger isolation but at a higher cost. 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
  • Beats Studio3 Wireless. A good travel-friendly headphone with a slick and comfortable design for most use cases including sports. Inconsistent adaptive noise cancellation and no passive playback like on the older model. See our review

All Reviews

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.

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