How to shop for noise canceling headphones

I want to buy my 1st pair of noise canceling headphones b/c the last time I flew (2018) I couldn’t even hear well enough with cheap headphones to follow the movie I was trying to watch. I know nothing about these but know that I want for them to work with whatever airline I will fly with (this June it’s United) and I need them to be wireless b/c I have a galaxy S22+ with no headphone jack. I also don’t want a really expensive one if I can avoid it. I would like to be able to hear if there is an emergency announcement etc, so I don’t need 100% noise blocking.

Ear buds which stick inside the ear will probably work well enough. Not just rests in the ear, but actually blocks the ear canal. Noise cancelling isn’t likely needed.

I have AirPods Pro from Apple and I absolutely love them. I have been watching a movie on an airplane on my iPad and have to keep checking to make sure the sound isn’t playing directly out of the iPad because the sound is so clear and crisp that I can’t believe it’s playing directly in my ear.

They are expensive (like $300+ I think?) but worth every penny.

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Bose QuietComfort are amazing. A baby could be crying next to me and I’d never know. Expensive but can probably get a used pair on eBay.


I love my iLive active noise cancelling headphones. You can use them with bluetooth or with an aux cable. I don’t remember if they came with the airplane adapter, but those are easy to get if you need one. Really good quality for the price point.

I agree. I love my Bose. I didn’t like the apple AirPods.


I had Beats Studio - but didn’t like how much space they take in my carry on. So I got the Beats Fit Pro. They work with Android too. (I use with iPhone)

I have a pair of Sony headphones. They are classic, over the head/cover the ears headphones and work really well There is an ambient setting that will allow some additional external sound, and you can turn noise cancelling on and off.

I am not a fan of earbuds They are uncomfortable for me and fall out all the time.

They aren’t cheap, but work SO well on flights. You can use Bluetooth or a wire. I use Bluetooth for my phone, but use the cord when listening to my digital Walkman.

This is a newer model than mine… (I have a “2”)

I will add that my dh is a bicycle guy (he has three bikes and rode 62 miles yesterday) and he swears by bone conduction headphones.

He has to hear what is going on around him when he rides, but still wants to listen to music. If you are interested in them at all, I can get the model from him he likes to use.

I agree completely.


Thank you all so much! I bought a pair of the newer Sonys. I was glad that I was able to try several different ones at Best Buy and that one had the level of noise cancelation that I wanted.

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I will be a nay sayer on the Bose. I own a pair for work. They sound great, actually…but there are a ton of technical glitches I run into with them when using Bluetooth, and the voice passthrough feature is terrible when using them for calls. For just straight media audio, they are good…but for the price, I expect better.

I use some relatively inexpensive earbuds that sound great for a fraction of the cost. I also got the Airfly Pro so that I could use them with the plane’s audio jack without needing wired earbuds.

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For noise-cancelling, you can’t beat Bose. Back when I used to take flights all the time I tried several different brands because I just couldn’t imagine paying the Bose price. But the others just weren’t cutting it, so I bought Bose and wish I had from the beginning. That said, they were exclusively for flights. Maybe because I didn’t want to add extra wear and tear on something so expensive.

For normal use, I prefer something that completely covers the ears without sitting on the ears. I like the low-tech addition of extra stuff around the ears to block the other noise.

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So, I personally haven’t used these, but my wife and my kids have them, and love them. (The ones I have are no longer sold.) They are inexpensive, but work well, and block out sound well enough.

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In-ear headphones don’t work for me. They don’t stay in, they are uncomfortable and I don’t like sealing up my ears.

I have Apple’s ludicrously expensive AirPods Max, obviously. They are over-ear and delightfully comfortable. The noise-cancelling makes a huge difference and makes me feel like I’m in splendid isolation. They have a transparency mode so I can talk to flight attendants and hear both them and myself.


I just did this as I was working out on the treadmill!

I took one out to make sure the sound was only in my ear (that trick doesn’t work well :joy:)!

But the distancing of the actors on the screen somehow gave me the impression that the noise was further away as well (His Lordship was speaking from the doorway at the back of the room), even though it was crystal clear.

I did have them for my Chicago/Philly trips and they were perfect! They cancelled everything except the ding that the pilot’s about to speak so I had notice to take them out for announcements, and the screaming kid in the back. But even she was much more muted than she was when I took them off.

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Also, what @mousematt said. I’m bringing mine for next time because the in-ear versions were a bit uncomfortable towards the end of a 4 hour flight.


Side side note, as someone who sometimes goes on walks alone, transparency mode makes me feel safer.


Just gonna add that the over ear vs. in-ear is a very individual consideration. I had a pair of Bose several years ago and the over-ear design caused me to get a headache if I wore them too much and also started to irritate my ears.

AirPods have three different size earpieces you can try, and for me they are very comfortable and I can wear them for hours without getting irritated or uncomfortable.

It’s good to try both options to see which you prefer if you can do so before making an investment.

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