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Headphones

After many flights I've had enough of uncomfortable earbuds and crying children. I want to buy some over-the-ear headphones before my May trip. Is noise cancelling a must? I would like recommendations for headphones that won't break the bank. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
9361 posts

If you want to block out other noises, noise-canceling is a must. But there are lots of options in all price ranges - no need for $300 Bose or anything. Mine, though they are earbuds, were less than $50 and work like a charm. They are Phillips. I am fine with earbuds myself, but there are lower cost options out there for noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones, too.

Posted by
20628 posts

Even with over the ear, all the noise is not going to be blocked. If you want to cancel noise you need noise cancelling. That is not cheap. I use Audio-Technica (ATH-ANC7). They have been evaluated as equal to or superior to the high end Bose but that was several years ago so that model probably is not available. The over the ear is superior because of the cups but they are also bulky. The Bose will be in the range of $300 - 400 but I think the AT is around $150. You can find cheaper but do some comparison shopping. And there are lots of evaluations on the web. Not all noise cancelling headphones are created equal. This is one area where price has some meaning.

Posted by
7639 posts

Thanks everyone!

DJ, I bought those very headphones at Best Buy yesterday. After I got home I read the reviews. It seemed that people loved them or hated them. I haven't opened the package yet, so if I decide on them I'll return them to Best Buy and get them at Walmart for less. I like that those headphones fold up.

Earbuds just don't work for me. They are too uncomfortable.

Posted by
1406 posts

You really should research this on Amazon, there will be plenty of pros and cons. And then "showroom" them at Best Buy and get them to pricematch if you find a pair you like.

I like noise cancelling but I bet some folks are bothered by what it does to sounds and/or the constant "hissing" or white noise it can generate. I've decided that headphones are not a lifetime investment so I'm only willing to spend 40 or 50 bucks on them. In fact I often take 2 pair on a trip and trade back and forth during the flight since they can get uncomfortable after a while. make sure you have plenty of batteries in your carryon.

Posted by
20628 posts

Maybe cheap noise cancelling headphones give a buzz or generate a white noise but the good ones do not. The is a good deal of technology in use with noise cancelling. My AT do not eat batteries. An AAA battery will last for several trips and probably in the range of 50 hours.

For $25 I doubt if you will get much in the way of noise cancelling. Read the 1 and 3 star evaluations. They are probably accurate.

Posted by
5313 posts

Or come to Oakland on March 5 and 6 for the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale -- amongst all the other "treasures" there are usually lots of headphones in the $10 range (I got some pink $2 ones to listen to stuff on my computer)

Posted by
163 posts

I never bought into the idea of noise canceling headphones until I tried a friend's pair. After that I had to have some. I splurged on the Bose over ear option. I LOVE them! Yes they are expensive, but they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, have good sound quality, and block noise wonderfully. I recommend them to anyone looking at noise canceling headphones.

Posted by
365 posts

I think it depends on what you want to use them for.I bought a pair of noise canceling headphones (ear cups) for my trip this past December. I used them to listen to the audio on the plane. They were also advertised as noise canceling. Well they muted the plane noise but it was still bothersome. Unfortunately, I don't remember the brand but they were about $50 at best buy . When I wanted to sleep, I used ear plugs and that muted about 90% of the noise. I would recommend ear plugs if you are not listening to audio.

Posted by
1406 posts

The other oddity about noise cancellation is it doesn't know which noises you don't want to hear. Sometimes it can make conversations even louder!

Also consider if you'll ever use them again after the trip. Sure (some) people love Bose headphones but they're an awful lot of money.

Posted by
8617 posts

About eight months ago, I broke down and bought a pair of Bose 20 noise cancelling headphones. I normally don't like in ear headphones but I tried these in the store and they seemed comfortable. If I didn't like them I could always return them for a refund.

My life changed. No more engine noise. Yes, some muffled conversations could be heard but none of that droning engine sound. I could listen to audio and not have to turn it up loud because the external noise was gone.

I got mine when they were on sale and believe they were worth every penny. Even with them turned off, they are comfortable and can still be used. I use them when in my hotel and want to listen to something. I just keep the noise cancelling off.

Posted by
823 posts

Over many years, I have tried all manner of noise-cancelling headphones from <$50 (Sony, JBL, etc.) all the way to $300 Bose. I can tell you without reservations that Bose are the very best and worth every penny. This is also validated by the fact that many airlines provide Bose over-the-ear headphones to business and first class passengers on their international routes.

BTW - if you do get Bose, I recommend the over-the-ear (OTE) versus on-ear (OE) model because the OTE model uses a standard AAA battery and the (OE) model uses a proprietary rechargeable battery. If you go with the OE, purchase a spare battery and keep it charged because these headphones DON'T work at all without juice. (I always carry a spare AAA...)

If you can't justify the price of the Bose, check with your airline or hotel loyalty program to see if they offer "shopping with miles." I purchased my Bose headphones using airline miles...

Posted by
1406 posts

I'm glad you like Bose, if you do just a little google you'll find that many folks absolutely HATE them. Especially audiophiles. But hey, my feeling is let your ears decide if it's worth the money.

No highs, no lows, it's Bose. That's one of the nicer comments.

Posted by
823 posts

Phred,

After walking around running airplane engines for several years, my ears wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a studio-grade and non studio-grade headphones anyway. The original question was about headphones on airplanes and whether noise-cancellation was worth it. So, that is the context of my post. Anyway, nobody is going to hear audiophile quality sound on an airplane with 300 passengers cruising 550kts at 35K feet regardless of headphone brand/quality.

Happy Travels...

Posted by
823 posts

Phred,

After walking around running airplane engines for several years, my ears wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a studio-grade and non studio-grade headphones anyway. The original question was about headphones on airplanes and whether noise-cancellation was worth it. So, that is the context of my post. Anyway, nobody is going to hear audiophile quality sound on an airplane with 300 passengers cruising 550kts at 35K feet regardless of headphone brand/quality.

Happy Travels...

Posted by
33 posts

On the plane and generally on the move in public transport or while waiting in the terminal I use "in-ears", preferably with microphone and remote control for my mobile phone. Decent ones start from $30 up, but you can also spend over $1000. You will be surprised, compared to the muffled sound you get from the airline's headphones.

For about $150 your local audiologist makes custom earpieces that increase comfort and noise isolation furthermore. "In ears" sit in the outer part of your ear canal. "Ear buds" sit in your ear cup and do not provide any noise islolation. Nowadays most musicians on stage use custom "in-ears".

The current Bose QC25, does a better job in noise cancelling, but I could't justify the bulk and the $300 price tag. The QC20 "in-ears" take away the bulk, but not the price tag. For critical listening in a quiet, non-distracting environment $300 buys so much better value elsewhere.

Posted by
7639 posts

Thanks everyone. I've decided to keep the inexpensive Sony headphones I purchased before asking this question. I'm sure there are better headphones, but these fold up relatively small and sound good enough for the limited use they will get. I'll also have my Apple earbuds. They become very uncomfortable to me after even a short time, so the over ear headphones will be great for the plane. I'll probably bring foam earplugs and use a combination of those and the headphones to try to sleep on the flight.