Noise-cancelling headphones can mean the difference between a good flight and a great one. We present the quiet achievers.
For something that seems so simple, the technology behind noise-cancelling headphones is surprisingly complex. They work by sampling the external ambient noise and then creating an opposing soundwave to cancel it out. So, when worn inflight, they banish engine noise while maintaining high-quality audio. No wonder frequent flyers love them. As an added extra for users of Apple’s latest iPhone, all but one of these models are Bluetooth-enabled.
Bose QuietComfort 35
Bose has long been lauded for its range of noise-cancelling headphones and rightly so. The QuietComfort 35s have internal and external microphones that remove a remarkable amount of external sound for a superior audio experience. They are lightweight, can be folded away for easy storage and have a welcome fast-charge feature – just plug them in for 15 minutes and you’ll get another two-and-a-half hours of life. $499
Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
With a somewhat edgier style – the faux wooden trim is not to everyone’s taste – and a friendlier price tag, the BackBeat Pro 2 headphones will appeal to younger audiophiles. But the youthful design doesn’t mean a lack of refinement. Easy to wear and sporting a solid battery life, these headphones offer intuitive audio controls on the outer earcup, including a textured rocker-switch for the volume. Bonus cool feature? The audio automatically pauses when you move the Pro 2s off your ears. $299
Sony is giving Bose a run for its money with the MDR-1000X headphones. The understated design includes hidden touch controls on the outer earcup for a clean look. But the real engineering feat is on the inside, where proprietary Sense Engine technology delivers a bespoke audio experience. The adaptive noise cancellation works via microphones on both the inside and outside of the cups, automatically adjusting to the size and shape of your head, ears and even glasses. $700
Featuring 360-degree noise-cancelling technology, a strong metal headband and memory-foam earpads, these headphones reflect the high quality that Audio-Technica is known for. Comfortable and featuring a simple, elegant look, this is the only non-Bluetooth model on this list. The battery life for the noise cancellation is impressive: 30 hours on a single charge. Add a travel case, high-end audio and separate cable with smartphone controls and these headphones are worth every cent. $549