You’ll usually recognize the road warriors as you board the plane as they fiddle with their noise-cancelling headphones. And I can finally say that after many years as a frequent traveller, I have finally joined up with the road warriors and invested in a good pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I had them on my trip to Dubai! Rather than review 5 different headphones (buy 5 and return 4), the purpose of this post/review is to bestow the virtues of quality headphones for travel and to review my new Sennheiser headphones based on real life usage.
For many years, and like many of you, I carried earbuds and/or purchased them on the plane. I even purchased noise-cancelling earbuds a few years back. (They aren’t noise-canceling and aren’t nearly as effective as over the ear headphones). While travelling with earbuds in your pocket or handbag is beyond easy, listening with them on a plane is like being in the dark ages. If you travel with any regularity (and/or commute by transit or walk distances), you simply must get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Headphones are quite simply essential in today’s world of packed flights and delays. Travel is certainly easier when you can “noise cancel” the snoring guy beside you, the crying baby and/or the arguing couple. They will change your in-flight experience, letting you disappear into a cone of silence and/or song. Deep relaxation and sleep are within your reach. I find it easy to sleep on a plane but only if I can block out the airplane sounds, the baby cries and the frat boys’ banter.
There are plenty of great headphones in the market. Sony, Beats, Bose and Marshall all make great headphones. Whatever you choose, make sure they warrant the investment (generally $200-$1,000) and are worthy of being in your carry-on. They must be comfortable, portable (fold up), have great sound, cancel noise, and have enough battery life to last through a long day of travel. And will they fit with a decent travel pillow? Keep in mind that if you are a commuter, you’ll be using them on subways, buses and long walks down busy sidewalks (in addition to travelling).
I’ve opted for Sennheiser Model HD 4.50BTNC, largely based on their reputation for fidelity. They are middle of the pack in terms of cost ($250-$300) and quality. You’ll pay more for many other models from Sony, Bose and Sennheiser too.
The lower price comes from a mostly plastic shell (fine with me), and a canvas sack carrying case (instead of a rigid case). The 4.50s fold up easily for carry-on and provide very good stereo sound (my opinion). Sennheiser’s NoiseGard™ active noise cancellation lets you enjoy silence or music in peace. If you spend more on a higher-end model, you will undoubtedly get more but I’m perfectly happy with my first pair of quality, noise-cancelling headphones. I’ve travelled with them and had an almost silent plane ride with music and sleep. The battery life is decent at close to 19 hours (2 hours to charge).
My verdict – a solid buy (and I did buy them). They provide great value; they are comfortable; fold easily and come with an auxiliary cord when you need to be wired.