The holiday travel season is soon approaching and with it the inevitable flights to see family or vacation. Just as inevitable are the hum of a jet plane engine, the whine of a child, the overly chatty stranger in the seat next to you and the inconsiderate person blasting their own music. We've found a pair of noise canceling or reducing headphones helps us achieve a quiet, zen-like serenity during the mid-flight chaos. Here are some of our favorites to make your next trip more bearable.
1. Bose QuietComfort 15 ($299.95)
These headphones provide excellent sound quality as well as active and passive noise cancelation, the active being a system embedded in the headphones and the passive being that it wraps around the ear. They also fold up and sit in a case for easy packing. The only downsides are price and the fact that you have to have noise canceling engaged to listen to music.
2. Sennheiser PXC 250-II ($108.99)
We've reviewed these headphones before and they're great at isolation, even with noises two feet away. Like the Bose they come with their own carrying case and run on a single AAA battery. While they are certainly cheaper than some models they don't have the large ear cups that we enjoy.
3. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B ($119.11)
These 'phones promise to reduce environmental noise by 90 percent and fit comfortably over the ears for passive and active isolation. The case includes a spot for your mp3 player and the kit comes with an airline and 1/4 inch adapters as well as two cables. Sound quality for these has sometimes been rated above the cheaper Bose models, which often are heavy on the bass. For a smaller, cheaper but still useful sound-canceling model the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 ($79.95), a sister model to these, can't be beat.
4. Beats Studio by Dr. Dre ($299)
Another higher-end model, these will appeal to anybody who enjoys styling as well as sound quality. While they do fall prey to the usual issues of piano black devices (namely smudges, fingerprints and the constant wiping that accompanies them), the kit comes with a cleaning cloth and if you're really anal about it you get used to taking them off with minimal touching. The sound is surprisingly balanced and crisp; surprising because we expected bass issues from headphones by a hip hop artist. The only downside here is the price, and while we can't guarantee it'll work like the video, the premium looks and sound justify the high price if you can afford it.
5. Klipsch Image S4 ($79)
We're always wary of ear bud headphones that aim for noise isolation. Often the sound the cable makes as it hits things, even a shirt, is annoying best and painful at worst. So we were happy to come across the Klipsch Image S4s (so much so that we included them in our ultimate carry-on), ear bud headphones at a sub-$100 price with good isolation and great sound quality that rarely if ever annoy. If you like earbuds rather than full size models, these are a good choice. We also like the Etymotic Research HF5 ($98.79) for their sound quality, noise isolation and lack of in-ear annoyance.
Have a favorite pair of headphones for flight we missed? Tell us in the comments.