The 6 Best Travel Headphones
- Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
- Retest after major updates
- Easily comparable results
- No ads; unbiased reviews
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 184 headsets and below are our recommendations for the best travel-friendly headphones.
Best Headphones for Commuting: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
We've tested 184 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 noise cancellation, the more consistent overall performance and comfort level of the QC35 II make them a better headset for every day 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.
More Isolating Alternative: Sony WH-1000XM2
If noise cancellation is your main priority, then the Sony WH-1000XM2 are a great alternative to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They have a better noise isolation performance 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, thanks to the new app support. It adds a lot of customization options that felt lacking in the previous model and they have a more consistent sound with better codec support.
They're as good as the QuietComfort 35 II for traveling and noisy commute, but they're a bit bulkier and not as comfortable or as easy-to-use.
Best Mid-Range Headphones for Commuting: Samsung Gear IconX
For a mid-range option, we recommend the Samsung Gear IconX. They're good, truly wireless earbuds that are compact enough to fit in your pockets, which is convenient when commuting. These earbuds are also well-designed and look more premium than competing truly wireless in-ears, at a lower price point.
They block a lot of noise with their in-ear fit but do not actively cancel noise. 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. However, they're a bit more optimized for Android and Samsung users.
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 Curve
The best budget headphones for travel we have tested so far are the Anker Soundbuds Curve. They do not isolate as well as the Anker Soundbuds Sport but they have a much better sound quality and a longer battery life. They're also compact enough to easily carry around on your person and bit more comfortable than typical in-ears.
They do not have as many features as the Samsung Level U Pro and you can't customize their sound with an app, but they are surprisingly cheap for a Bluetooth headset and they have a decent performance for their price point. If you don’t want to spend much for a versatile pair of wireless in-ears, then they're a great option. However, if you need a bit more isolation and do not mind a worse sound quality, consider the Soundbuds Sports instead.
Better Sounding Alternative: Samsung U Flex
The Samsung U Flex are also versatile and affordable wireless in-ears with great customization options as long as you have a Samsung device. They won't be as good for regular Android users and even worse on iOS devices since there is no app, but they have a well-built around-the-neck design that feels a lot more premium than their price would suggest.
They're decently comfortable, have a great wireless range and they're easy-to-use. They're also a bit better built than the Level U Pro but not as versatile since their customization options are limited to Samsung only devices.
- Bose QuietControl 30. Good travel headphones; portable and comfortable earbud design. Good isolation and sound quality but slightly expensive. 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
- Mpow Jaws. An affordable wireless around-the-neck in-ear with a decent sound. Cheap build quality may be a deal breaker for some. 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.
Questions & Answers
At the moment our Commute score favors headphones that can achieve the most amount of noise-cancelling. We agree that this may not be the choice for everyone and are thinking of ways to improve this.
We find the Bose SoundLink/SoundTrue over-ears perform similarly to the Momentums, but with more comfortable ear cups. They tend to be a bit leaky though. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is also a great sounding headphone, but not as comfortable as the Bose.
For an over-ear recommendation, the Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear II are just below a 100$ with the same comfort level and a slightly better sound quality than the QC25 but they have no noise canceling, and they're wired.
Let us know which criteria is more important for you; wireless, noise canceling, or comfort and we can better tailor our recommendation for your needs. Lastly, most decent headphones with strong ANC for traveling are above 100$, so you may need to increase your budget if noise isolation is most important.
Before asking a question, make sure you use the search function of our website. The majority of the answers are already here.