Noise canceling headphones

I’m going to be on a few long flights coming up and would like a pair of noise canceling headphones - what do you all recommend?

I love my Bose. They are an older model, but I never travel without them.

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what model do you have?
What is it that you like about them?

I have the Quite Comfort 15. What I love about these is:

  • great battery life.

  • They fold up pretty small(ish),

  • a mic and control for the iPhone,

  • Sound canceling is great

  • They are over the ear, so they sometimes get a bit warm on a plane that is hot, but that’s only happened to me once. I prefer over the ear to ear buds.

  • Sound quality is great

Bose QC35
They’re great on plane trips, and for screening out distractions when I’m working at home or at school/lab.
I like that they’re wireless (Bluetooth), but can be connected to, say, the airplane’s entertainment system using the 3mm/1/8” jack.
They connect to two Bluetooth devices (MacBook Pro and iPhone, for instance) and can be switched between other devices without re-pairing (iPhone and iPad, for instance).

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I have used several Bose models: QC15 (over ear, wired), QC20i (in ear, wired), and the QC35 II (over ear, wireless). Loved the size of the QC20, and my wife still uses these, but the wireless is fantastic! Occasional Bluetooth link issues, but worth the rare irritation.

+1 for the Bose. I have to QC35. I frequently travel on long flights too. I also used them for long business conference calls.

As others said, great battery life, rechargeable, you can set how much noise to cancel, if two of you have Bose devices you can listen to the same thing, comfortable for long periods of time.

I’ve had various versions of these for the last 15 years. I won’t travel without them.

I’ve been looking for an affordable pair of ANC headphones. On Prime Day, Amazon had the Bose QC25 on sale for a steal, so I purchased them. They were lightweight, great NC, etc. But the sound quality was poor, and they are wired.

So based on Marco Arment’s reviews, I tried the [Plantronics Backbeat Pro](Plantronics BackBeat PRO Wireless Noise Canceling Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic - Compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android, and Other Smart Devices They are quite a bit bulkier. But they sound amazing for the price. And they are bluetooth and pair simultaneously with my iPhone and iPad. Amazing battery life.

I sent back the Bose and am very happy with the Plantronics.

I have had Bose QC 2, 15, and 35. I like the flatter case of the 15 version but really like the wireless option of the 35. I haven’t needed to use the feature but the 35 also can work as standard headphones if turned off or the battery dies. The 35 is at the top of my packing list when flying.

The one gripe I have with the 35 is the microphone being in an earpiece making it less usable for phone calls in relative noisy environments. The mic is in the card on the 15 which I could get close to my mouth.

I have the Bose QC35 - they’re fabulous and come with a cable too which is handy if you run out of battery or want to use the in flight entertainment system (I always use my iPad personally!).

Another very happy Bose QC35 user here. Fantastic on planes, buses and trains where they can easily cancel out the background noise of the vehicle. Voices are a bit harder but they do a reasonable job there and I have good results when working in both client offices and coffee shops. It even works for dampening the loud steam iron I have.

The audio quality of the microphone is apparently very good. I’ve used with both iPhone and my work laptop for calls (Skype and cellular) and checked with the other party several times on quality. Audio received is also pretty good.

I’d agree battery life is amazing. I love the fact I can update the firmware from my iOS devices (slow though) and that I can pair two devices at a time. I also often end up using wired at home sometime for calls and listening to webinars if I quickly need to plug-in to my existing audio setup when my co-working space user (aka wife) needs to join a call for her job… and as longas I flick on the power for noise canceling it does a hand job once again.

A few bad things for me with them.

  1. They are expensive… but ultimately worth it.
  2. The bluetooth range is not great. Open office and it’s fabulous. Around a house with one regular brick wall between you and the source and you suddenly struggle with drop outs. I also get random drop out announcements after a while when next to a transmitting device, but the connections actually remain intact. Don’t know if anyone else ever gets that?
  3. The ones I have (original QC35) don’t support the low latency aptX standard, so I do have an aptX transmitter plugged into my TV and I wire my QC35s into an aptX bluetooth receiver if I need to use them with the TV.
  4. My case’s zip proved to be poor over time and after my be 18-24 months split away from the case. I found a cheaper replacement case on Amazon (the Bose case alone was once again overly expensive) which seems more durable, but is also slightly bigger as it is more of a generic case for over ear headphones. So not perfect for packing if every inch of space counts.

Hope that helps.

I have on (older and not longer available) Ausdom ANZ7 - works good for me. If the price for the Bose to high, maybe one from Anker?

For earbuds, I’m a big fan of my Pioneer Rayz. They’re wired, and the version I have has a power pass-through jack that allows simultaneous charging. Great sound, great noise cancellation, and I never need to worry about keeping charged. If you’ve not had luck with buds before, these also come with Comply foam earbud tips, which are easily the most comfortable and individualizing.

For passive cancellation, my Klipsch X11i buds are amazing (and they’re so lightweight you forget they’re in.)

And I love my Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2s. Big cans, but long battery life, can pair to multiple devices, good noise cancellation, and very comfortable. I wear them 4-5 hours most days at work.

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I also like earbuds with passive isolation. I am obsessed with music and value great sound. Get a good pair of in-ears and use something like the Comply memory foam tips (several models and sizes can be had for different needs) and you will have a nice solution in a much smaller package. My current box is one third of the one for my Bose QC25’s, and then it also holds a Lightning to USB adapter and an external DAC / headphone amp.

Two main reasons I stopped using my Bose set

  • bulky to carry
  • less comfortable than in-ears (personal preference)
  • strongly prefer the sound signature of my AKG N40’s

As far as “noise cancelling”, I will say the over-the-ear headphones, as opposed to in-ear devices:

  • are easily seen from a distance, letting people know you’re focusing
  • provide a bit of a barrier to people interrupting you
    • taking headphones off is a ‘larger’ task that popping out an earbud, therefore should provide a greater barrier

Surprised that nobody has mentioned the Sony MDR-100X or the newer WHM-1000M2. Both of these have been very popular over the Bose QC35 mk2. Take a look at Amazon reviews or Reddit. The noise cancelling is of Bose level and the sound quality seems to be more lively. They’ve also got better support for a wide range of Bluetooth codecs.

For anybody that wants to use the headphones for conference calls (not the original question, but some may care), I’d suggest staying away from both the both the Bose & Sony over the ears. Both headphones have the microphones tuned more for noise cancelling and they pick up A LOT of external environment noise when on calls. Might be OK if you are in a quiet environment, but I couldn’t use either simply typing on a keyboard. There are a few that have additional mics specifically directed for voice such as the Sennheiser PXC 550 or the B&O H9i. There are other office focused headsets as well (notably from Plantronics), but i’ve never gone down that path.

I recently upgraded to the B&O H9i and they sound amazing. They are not cheap, but if you watch for sales you can get them down at the price of the Sony or Bose headphones. I used (and still have) the Sony MDR-1000X before that. Upgraded specifically so that I could use them on conference calls more often.

Headphones I have first hand experience with…

Bose QC35mk 2 - most comfortable, A+ noise cancelling, decent sound
Sony WH-1000M2 - OK comfort, A+ noise cancelling, better sound
B&O H9i - Near QC35 comfort, A- noise cancelling, best sound, suitable call quality


+1 for QC35 II

See also

User of both the QC35 and the QC30. The QC30’s are great for in the office/ calls and shorter flights when i dont want to pack the big cans. The 35’s arw great for longer flights as they do block more noise.

+1 for the Bose QC35. They work solid for me. I use them exclusively for air travel and they keep their charge in the case between trips without fail. One thing I was surprised by is that with the headphones on I can hear flight announcements clearer than with them off. Seems strange :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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I just purchased the Sony WH-1000XM2 and they are great. I compared them with the QC35 II in the store side by side and these are my results:

  • sound quality MAYBE a little better with the Bose but probably just a matter of taste
  • nc quality is absolutely the same for both of them
  • I really like the Sony’s gesture control and its “killer feature”: if you put your hand on the right ear cup it turns down the volume and the surround noise up, so you clearly understand somebody talking to you, this really comes in handy
  • the battery lasts around 25h+ with one charge and is way better than the Bose in this regard

So, all in all, it was a close call for me but I settled on the Sony ones and I am pretty confident with my choice.