As any traveler who’s ever sat behind a screaming infant will tell you, noise-canceling headphones are a must. Gone are the days, though, when you used to have to drop a mint for bulky earphones which took up valuable packing space. Those do still exist -- and yes, a few of them are the best -- but there are some innovative new options that are both smaller and less expensive. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites across all budgets and features, all with the frequent traveler in mind.
Bose has been the leader in noise-canceling headphones for awhile now, and with good reason: The QuietComfort 35 has advanced noise reduction technology that’s capable of overpowering everything from the aforementioned crying infant to airplane engine noise. Less bulky than previous models, the headphones also come with a compact carrying case. $349
A more budget-friendly offering than the Bose, Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC7B claims to reduce environmental noise by 90 percent. The ATH-ANC7B also works with the noise-canceling functionality turned off, and it functions in passive mode without batteries. The closed-back design means that you’ll get the best sound possible — and your seatmates won’t have to hear you watch “The Princess Bride” for the 20th time. $99.95
Sony’s MDRZX110NC prove that good things come in small — or at least inexpensive — packages. This model doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of the previous two, but if you don’t need your headphones to make phone calls and don’t mind the lack of a fancy case, this model will suit you just fine. A whopping 80 hours of battery life ensures that this model won’t let you down on even the longest of trips. $38
Most the best noise-canceling headphones are over-ear, closed-back models, but there are a few good options for those who prefer lighter, smaller in-ear headphones. One frequent traveler notes that while Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC23 won’t eliminate voices, crying kids, or loud noises, the earbuds do successfully dampen airline engine noise and other intrusive ambient sounds. $45
If you’re looking to splurge and look stylish doing it, Sennheiser’s Momentum 2.0 wireless headphones are among the best on the market. Bluetooth 4.0, touch control, and voice prompts are just a few of the features that set the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 apart from other noise-canceling models—in addition to the sleek stainless steel and leather design combo. $497.68
As a reliable mid-range wireless option, Samsung’s Level On Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones offers many of the same features of the Sennheiser, but in a more classic leather and plastic construction. This pair is also available in blue, red, or white. $168.65
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