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swervyn

Noise cancelling headphones for travel

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Hi all, I have pretty much read most threads re: the topic and have done plenty of googling! Seems most threads are getting on a bit and wondering if people have thoughts on what is currently available?

 

I have an upcoming long flight (10ish hrs) and the last time I did it I vowed to get decent headphones for the next trip, the constant drone of the planes engines did my head in.

 

Would prefer to be spending no more than $300-$400

 

From the research I have done, seems like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the pick of the bunch for that price range?

 

Comfort is a big plus, so prefer something that can be worn for a long period without being too uncomfortable

 

Would like to hear others views/opinions etc and what I should be looking for

 

Cheers

 

 

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The Sony 1000xm3 would be my choice, the noise cancelling and  SQ leaves the Bose 35II wanting....  you can get the Sony 1000xm3 around the same as The Bose if you make an effort in bargaining.....

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My pick is the QC25. Cheaper than the QC35 and both have noise cancelling second to none. When flying, noise cancelling should be the primary criteria and comfort comes next. 

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Compare different ones at a shop to see how effective NC and comfortable it is. Bose is very good although there others with better music reproduction from an audiophile sound perspective. Get a wireless one as cords get in way.

Edited by Al.M

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7 minutes ago, Al.M said:

Compare different ones at a shop to see how effective NC and comfortable it is. Bose is very good although there others with better music reproduction from an audiophile sound perspective. Get a wireless one as cords get in way.

Make sure to bring the cord and airline adapter just in case they forbid bluetooth.

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+1 to bose qc25.

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I bought the Sony XM3's. Lightweight, great battery life and much better sounding the than the Bose QC35 IMO.

Edited by Smoovie
Correcting my atrocious spelling

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Thanks guys, found this review and I think I am sold on the Sony's

 

 

 

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Sony's great BUT I found the Bose much more comfortable, and on a very long flight that was worth much more to me.

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16 hours ago, Addicted to music said:

The Sony 1000xm3 would be my choice, the noise cancelling and  SQ leaves the Bose 35II wanting....  you can get the Sony 1000xm3 around the same as The Bose if you make an effort in bargaining.....

Agreed.  I just went through the same dilemma and looked at a couple of headphones and the Sony came out tops for my requirement and bang for buck value.  The bose was a bit more comfortable and the noise cancellation a bit better than the Sony, but the soundstage was much more narrower and the bass had a bit more of that duff duff quality.  The Sennheiser momentum 2's were good but ear fatigue came in after listening for an hour.  

Edited by Porkbuns69

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I used to fly a lot and at 30,000 ft with the engines roaring, audio quality differences found while listening on the ground did not matter.   Noise cancelling matters most and if flying longer distances, being comfortable with wearing the cans is a close second.   Have a look at people wearing noise cancelling headphones on the plane and Bose is ahead by a long way.

 

It amazes me that many reviewers of noise cancelling headphones focus on audio quality as much as noise cancelling.   Fair enough if the headphones were multi purpose and used in various situations.  But if the primary purpose is flying,  then any perceived audio quality is lost because it is such a noisy environment. 

Edited by Snoopy8
Typo

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Another vote for the Sony - I've had or have the QC35, Senneheiser 550's B&W PX, and the Sony's - the Sony was my pick of the bunch - bets balance of comfort, sound quality and NC.

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Just now, Snoopy8 said:

I used to fly a lot and at 30,000 ft with the engines roaring, audio quality differences found while listening on the ground did not matter.   Noise cancelling matters most and if flying longer distances, being comfortable with wearing the cans is a close second.   Have a look people wearing noise cancelling headphones on the plane and Bose is ahead by a long way.

 

It amazes me that many reviewers of noise cancelling headphones focus on audio quality as much as noise cancelling.   Fair enough if the headphones were multi purpose and used in various situations.  But if the primary purpose is flying,  then any perceived audio quality is lost because it is such a noisy environment. 

That was exactly my reasoning and point; this isn't primarily about sound quality but about noise cancelling for long periods. I've had 3 pairs of noise cancelling headphones. All except the Bose become uncomfortable on long trips. The Bose is the clear winner to me for that purpose and I wouldn't use anything else.

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6 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

That was exactly my reasoning and point; this isn't primarily about sound quality but about noise cancelling for long periods. I've had 3 pairs of noise cancelling headphones. All except the Bose become uncomfortable on long trips. The Bose is the clear winner to me for that purpose and I wouldn't use anything else.

I had 3 or 4 pairs of noise cancelling non Bose headphones, plus a few bud earphones.  Reviews said the cheaper ones  (half to one third the price of Bose) were 80-90% that of the Bose in audio quality and noise cancelling, slightly less comfortable.   My mistake for believing them...  :shocked: 

 

Glad to know there are at least 2 of us on SNA who puts less emphasis on audio quality  while flying with noise cancelling headphones...  👍   

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You mentioned an upcoming 10 hour flight only so it appears you are not flying a lot and that might tip it in favour of other choices with audio quality if you are going to spend time in other situations where this might matter more such as on train commutes, at home, driving cars or as a passenger. 

 

I had an over-ear Bose QC 35 in the past and NC was incredible, perhaps 95% reduction and very comfortable, audio was good enough but it just lacked something when listening in quiet situations when even compared to a minimalist on-ear compact $130 Audio Technica ATH ANC1 (no longer made) 75% reduction. I agree on a noisy plane even with good NC audio quality doesn’t make a difference.

 

I also have an over-ear wireless $200 Sony MDR ZX770BN that I got used condition but very clean for $130 with about 60% NC effect and even that has better audio than the Bose. I used this for flying perhaps 1-2 times a year to Japan and across Aust, but extensively commuting on the train 2 hours a day and find this quite satisfactory for the spend.

 

I have used similar $300 Beats and they are very average and heavy.

 

Beware some products can have very ineffective NC as low as 25% so it’s important to try before buying. Various review sites mention this against models.

 

If you are only using it for the 10 hour upcoming flight and perhaps once a year in future with no purpose in between, I would consider cheaper alternatives because although a 95% NC Bose or similar is nice, it may be wasted if you are not using it. Any reasonable NC (not below 50%) headphone will make a difference than not having any no matter the price and quality.

 

Incidentally, I find listening to NC with good audio quality quite nice as it creates a very black background for instruments to really stand out and reduces extraneous external back noise dramatically. 

Edited by Al.M

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+1 for Sony. I didn't like the Bose sound at all

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For the lonely few who can handle deep insertion Etymotics

  • the noise isolation significantly betters most noise reduction strategies
  • the sound quality is excellent
  • the combination of the above features makes for a wonderful listening experience even on planes with a crying kid behind
  • they are small and light for travel convenience
  • less restrictive then cans on your head for sleeping or neck comfort

Data and anatomical reasoning below. 

 

Comfort
Comfort has always been an issue with Etymotic's deep-insertion IEMs. It's not their fault really, it's the nature of the beast. Deep-insertion IEMs seal the entire front half of the ear canal, ideally to the bony section of the ear canal. There, the skin of the ear canal grows directly on bone. Sealing the IEM there does a couple of good things:

When an IEM seals at the entry of the ear canal, it creates a volume of trapped air between the entrance and ear drum. Because the first half of the ear canal is fleshy it can vibrate with mechanical input—like with foot-falls or chewing on something crunchy. As the ear canal vibrates it slightly changes shape, and with changing shape its volume changes slightly, which causes the ear drum to move in and out to compensate for the changes in air pressure with volume change. This is called the occlusion effect, and it is why you hear your voice louder when you plug up your ears.

With a deep insertion earphone having a tip that seals at the bony section, you don't have as much change in ear canal shape with vibration resulting in a significant decrease to the occlusion effect. With an Etymotic earphone properly inserted you get less noise from your heart beat, breathing, foot-fall, or your own singing along...if you're into that sort of thing.

It also improves isolation from outside noise. Related to the occlusion effect above, when you plug the outside entrance of your ear canal outside sound will still vibrate the flesh around the ear. This vibration will be coupled to the ear drum through the occlusion effect. With a deep-insertion earphone sealed at the bony section, isolation from outside noise is essentially at it's maximum possible. There does remain some sound that gets to the ear through bone conduction, but there's nothing you can do about that short of clamping your skull in a vice.

Bottom line: With Etymotic deep insertion IEMs you get the lowest noise floor and highest isolation possible.

The down side is sticking something that far into your ear can be quite uncomfortable. Fortunately, Etymotic has over the course of the last 20 years developed numerous tips; spend some time trying them all out and you'll almost certainly find one that's reasonably comfortable. The best solution, however, is to get some Custom Fit Earmolds, which provide a significantly more comfortable fit than generic tips.

 

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I was in JB today looking for a pair for my daughter (see other thread re $100).

 

Anyhow,  to me the Bose win hands down. Sound was good, but streets ahead in terms of comfort.

 

Now I'm at a loss what to do. Everything else pretty much sucked by comparison, comfort wise. Sony and M50xBT aside.

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57 minutes ago, Nada said:

For the lonely few who can handle deep insertion Etymotics

  • the noise isolation significantly betters most noise reduction strategies
  • the sound quality is excellent
  • the combination of the above features makes for a wonderful listening experience even on planes with a crying kid behind
  • they are small and light for travel convenience
  • less restrictive then cans on your head for sleeping or neck comfort

I agree with the dot points but my ears could only put up with in-ear buds for less than 1 hour before they became painful.  Definitely for the few...

7 minutes ago, Peter the Greek said:

Anyhow,  to me the Bose win hands down. Sound was good, but streets ahead in terms of comfort.

 

Now I'm at a loss what to do. Everything else pretty much sucked by comparison, comfort wise. Sony and M50xBT aside.

Like all things audio here, there are differing opinions.   Go for what you think is best.  And if Bose, the QC25 is better value for money at $250 or less, assuming you do not mind the chord.

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7 minutes ago, Peter the Greek said:

I was in JB today looking for a pair for my daughter (see other thread re $100).

 

Anyhow,  to me the Bose win hands down. Sound was good, but streets ahead in terms of comfort.

 

Now I'm at a loss what to do. Everything else pretty much sucked by comparison, comfort wise. Sony and M50xBT aside.

Pete, I bought my daughter who travels to China  four or five times a year from Bleak City a pair of Bose QTii after researching and researching and she just loves them. Wears them around her home while cooking and doing whatever she does. Money well spent I think.

 

I on the other hand researched and researched for my sub $100 noise C cans and picked up a pair on US amazon delivered for 65 bucks at my front door. Bloody good actually but chalk and cheese when I compared them to her Bose.

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1 hour ago, Snoopy8 said:

I agree with the dot points but my ears could only put up with in-ear buds for less than 1 hour before they became painful.  Definitely for the few...

Like all things audio here, there are differing opinions.   Go for what you think is best.  And if Bose, the QC25 is better value for money at $250 or less, assuming you do not mind the chord.

QC25 doesn't require a cable, does it?

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For me the QC25 lacking wireless would be annoying. When I changed from wired to wireless I was surprised how much more the freedom of not being tethered added to comfort and convenience, not getting caught on things and pulling etc.

 

https://www.themasterswitch.com/best-headphones summarise the Sony 1000 as combining the best of battery long life, better sound and respectable NC. The review quotes the QC 35 sound quality as iffy is a major put off for me as the 95% of the other times I would use it away from flight times need that.

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24 minutes ago, dalethorn said:

QC25 doesn't require a cable, does it?

Yes it does, but sitting on a plane is not a problem.  If you want to get up, you can detach the chord at the headphone and still have noise cancelling when you move about.

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I’ve owned the Bose, latest Sony’s and the Nuraphones. I work in an extremely loud environment, the Nuraphones are the only ones to date that can completely block out outside noise while music is playing, and I mean completely. 

Edited by Sime V2

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Can't comment on other brands as I have only ever owned the Bose and am extremely happy with the NC. As far as sound quality is concerned, they are fine for music and movies but I agree with Snoopy. NC is the most important factor if used for flying. I had a five hour flight back from Sydney last week and used them mainly while reading and working. Sound quality was not an issue for that trip.

BTW, you only really get the effectiveness of these when you take them off.

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