One thing that will make any solo traveler’s heart sink, is scoping a fresh flight deal, snagging that ticket, then spotting the dreaded middle seat numbers. Tough break! A bit of optimism never hurt anyone, but digital nomads know that you don’t tempt fate, and you sure as heck never board a plane without a pair of the best travel headphones.
Rather than risk enduring a symphony of screaming babies, snoring travel companions, and that person two rows behind you that won’t stop hacking up a sticky lung, a simple fix is to board the plane sporting the best travel headphones for digital nomads. And sure, there are a number of items that make a lengthy flight more bearable, but the one thing that consistently floats to the top of every digital nomad’s list of “must-haves,” is a pair of the best headphones for travel – even more often than alcohol, believe it or not.
Wireless phones, over-ear headphones, wireless headphones for air travel… with new technology, comes nuances, new products, and more choices. The market for travel headphones is overwhelmingly saturated. A quick search for the “best travel headphones” will return literally thousands of results with various features, perks, and drawbacks.
So, we knocked a few hours of research off of your to-do list by compiling this swanky list of what we consider to be the best headphones for travel.
Travel Headphone Buyer’s Guide
Between comfort, size, sound quality, battery life, in-ear, or over-ear, wireless, or wired, travel headphones can be a surprisingly tricky item to purchase. It’s like shopping for a good pair of shoes online. You can’t try them on, you just have to know what you’re looking for, read reviews, and dive in.
That said, before you pick through the list of the best headphones for travel, consider these three questions:
- What features are important to you?
- What feels most natural to you?
- Last but certainly not least, what’s your budget?
By identifying the key components of what you want and what you are willing to spend, you can rule out hundreds of options, even before you start the search.
There are literally thousands of different travel headphones – why? Because there are so many features that make each product distinct. Some people swear by in-ear, wireless headphones for air travel, while others are ride-or-dies to the cushioned over-ear headphones for travel. Either way, understanding your own unique preferences and anatomy, will help you select the perfect fit.
Take a look at these features, as this will help you define your idea of the best travel headphones that suit your needs and style:
Comfort – In-ear headphones vs over-ear headphones for travel.
In-ear headphones are best for those that want a sleek look, or that have a more active lifestyle. This is simply an opinion, but jogging with studio beefers on, looks a bit ridiculous. These little nubs snug up into the user’s ears, just like ear plugs. They’re rather effective at reducing external noise, as they gently whisper sweet nothings directly into your earhole. Make sure the in-ear headphones you select come equipped with multiple sized earbuds to suit the shape of your ear.
Over-ear headphones hug the outside of that big ‘ol cranium. Look for soft, but durable padding that doesn’t get overly hot when pressed up against your head. Have you ever had sweat slowly trickle into your eardrum? It feels even more strange than it sounds.
Quality – Transducer & noise-cancelling capabilities.
Sound quality is one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best travel headphones. If you want your flight to feel like a rock concert, you’ll likely be hunting for a more expensive pair than someone that just wants to listen to an audiobook. Either way, think about your music preferences and how you’ll be using your travel headphones. If you keep an eye out for buzzwords like, “adaptive EQ,” “midrange tonality,” or “perfect for bass-driven beats,” you can then cater your selection to the build of the headphone diaphragm!
Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones do the best job at reducing the deep rumbling of bus or plane engines, but some in-ear headphones act as earplugs, and block out most noises when they snug into your ear properly.
Portability – Classic headphones vs wireless headphones for travel.
Wireless headphones offer more flexibility and a cleaner look, but owners must keep the battery charged in order to use the headphones. If you’re a seasoned digital nomad, that’s no problem, but for nomad newbies, it can be an irksome adjustment. Another thing to consider is keeping track of the earbuds. Most wireless travel headphones come with a case, but for those that have a tendency to fumble or misplace small gadgets, classic headphones may be the way to go.
Classic headphones have a cable, so there’s no need to worry about battery life or charging! Wired headphones plug right into your device; however, not all smartphones, tablets, or laptops have auxiliary cables, so users might run into compatibility issues.
Rad Travel Tip: consider wireless headphones, as a cable could present the awkward scenario of getting caught on door handles and arm rests in confined spaces, or when moving swiftly. Minimalism is key when on-the-go!
Best 5 Travel Headphones for Digital Nomads
Our Favorite – Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3
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Expect your headphones to deliver a soundproof experience and a superb soundstage? Then get the Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones. From televisions to gaming consoles, nearly everything Sony produces is a banger – and these headphones are no different. A comfortable fit, extended battery life, customizable sound, and the best noise canceling headphones we’ve come across thus far, landed this pair at the top of our list of the best headphones for travel.
Using industry-leading noise cancellation technology, these offer a virtually soundproof experience. They’re so effective at reducing external noise, that Sony didn’t even try to come up with a creative name because they didn’t have to. Plain and simple, these are the best headphones for travel, as they are powerful enough to block out shrieking infants in confined spaces.
The HD noise cancelling processor (QN1) dramatically improves the sound quality of whatever you choose to listen to, blocking external noise, while delivering audio with incredible clarity. Ambient Sound Mode caters your music or calls to your environment. For audiophiles that crave a bit more control, a downloadable app lets you adjust the EQ settings. Crave a more bass-driven thump for hip hop or funk? Or do you want a cleaner timbre for those EDM tunes? Open the app and customize your sound.
The built-in microphone allows you to swap from jamming out, to taking calls with ease. Quick Attention Mode features an easy-to-use touch and motion control panel, that enables users to adjust volume and control playback. Cover the right ear cup to turn down music or simply speak up activate your voice assistant– yep, these are compatible with Alexa.
Another facet that makes these the best headphones for travel, is how comfortable they are! The lightweight design is ergonomically shaped to not only fit your head with soft, pressure-relieving ear pads, but the speakers are adjustable, allowing you to fold the headphones and stow them away in the solid carrying case that comes with each purchase. The case also comes stocked with an adapter plug and a charging cable for in-flight listening that won’t drain the battery.
- Industry-leading Active Noise Cancellation
- Up to 35 hours of continuous playback & optional cable
- Extremely comfortable
- Ambient Sound Mode & an optional app in which users can manually customize EQ
- Reports of poor call quality
- Cannot connect to more than one Bluetooth device at a time
The Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones deliver those top-notch features for $278. This set of headphones is perfect for digital nomads that are often on-the-move and want a soundproof experience. That’s why we’ve selected this pair as our top pick for the best headphones for travel.
Most Portable – Apple iPods Pro
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If you’ve got a long flight coming up and need something portable, lightweight, and comfortable, get the Apple AirPods Pro. These are some of the most widely used headphones in the world right now – and with good reason (seriously, check the 21k+ reviews).
Hands down, the features packed into these wireless travel headphones, make these expertly crafted for digital nomads and the best wireless headphones for air travel. The Apple AirPods Pro wireless headphones offer Active Noise Cancellation technology, Transparency Mode, and Adaptive EQ. The advanced ANC technology detects noise both outside and inside the ear. AirPods Pro then counters external noise with “anti-noise” which might sound a little bit like something out of a sci-fi movie, but don’t knock it until you try it. The noise cancellation is well-suited to counter the low rumbling of a bus or plane engine, making these little buds the absolute best headphones for air travel. Transparency Mode allows users to control the ANC technology with a simple switch. When users swap the ANC feature off and shift to Transparency Mode, users can clearly hear and interact with their surroundings.
The sound quality of the Apple AirPods Pro is crisp, clear, and dynamic. Adaptive EQ will have you blasting your beats, then swapping right over to your favorite podcast afterwards – and sure enough, it’ll still sound stellar! The ANC technology paired with the Adaptive EQ creates a totally immersive experience.
If you’re working on that latest project and coffee shop hopping, the Apple AirPods Pro is a superb choice. Each purchase comes with a Wireless Charging Case that has more than 24 hours of battery life. The earbuds themselves pump out the jams for more than 4.5 hours. So, pop them in and zone out, or into your workflow!
Easily get that “just right” feel with the customizable set of tapered silicone buds. The angled design rests comfortably in most ears, and vents in the tips keep pressure equalized on both sides. The sweat and waterproof materials allow you to use these headphones at the gym, without fear of getting them wet and ruining them with your steamy hot bod.
These travel headphones feature so many design perks, that even the most bitter Android-user will salute these suckers. But, if you’re an iPhone-user, you get even more benefits. Once paired with your Apple phone, use “Hey Siri” for hands-free commands on your device.
- Excellent sound quality
- Sweat & water-resistant silicone bud set for maximum comfort
- Easy setup for all your Apple devices
- Battery only lasts for around 4.5+ continuous playback, so users must be sure to keep their case charged and ready.
- Users report only about 80% of external sound gets blocked
- Device controls are located directly on the AirPod stem, making it awkward to locate and control in a quick pinch.
At $229, the Apple AirPods Pro certainly doesn’t break the bank. For all of those incredible reasons, that’s why we’ve included them on this list of the best wireless headphones for travel, and also selected them as our top choice for the best headphones for air travel!
Best Quality – Audeze LCD-3
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If you’re not prepared to spend a pretty penny on travel headphones, then keep on scrolling! But, if you happen to be in the market for the best travel headphones and, more importantly, if money is not an object, please call 321-… ah, forget it. You’re here for the swanky travel headphones.
The Audeze LCD-3 is not just a pair of over-ear headphones, these travel headphones act as an elite status symbol. The elegant design is sure to turn heads and invite admiring stares. The earmuffs are padded with plush lamb skin leather, and the gunmetal metal grate is framed with luxurious flecked wood.
The LCD-3’s sound is astonishingly spacious and natural, with powerful bass, an immersive midrange, and clean top end. The vibrant timbre features a deep soundstage and reveals music with a hypnotizing transparency that will make you feel immersed in the music.
And get this: the Audeze LCD-3 travel headphones use the same flexible circuit technology that was developed for NASA rockets! Planar magnetic technology delivers a dense, yet spacious depth of field that unveils commonly missed nuances. The space-age materials that form the ultra-thin diaphragm deliver an encompassing tone, fast response times, high resolution, and reduced distortion. The diaphragm is built with Patented Fazor Elements that guide soundwaves and avoid resonance, making the LCD-3 travel headphones remarkably clean.
From looks, to feel, to sound, the Audeze LCD-3 is a luxuriously high-quality product. The wood, leather, and metal materials, albeit high-class, do tend to run a bit heavy when compared to traditional plastic headphones. This focus on quality makes the LCD-3 travel headphones an ultra-durable product, and an ideal purchase for digital nomads that prefer immersing themselves in music while working in the comfort of their hotel rooms or remote office.
- Gorgeous design
- High-quality materials
- Superb sound quality
- Weight makes it difficult for long periods of use
The stunning, hand-crafted build, advanced technology, and overall sound quality is what landed the Audeze LCD-3 on the list of the absolute best travel headphones. While these may not be ideal for quick stints across town on a commuter bus, they offer some of the most incredible sound quality on the market.
And let’s be real, with a price tag of $1,945 and such a sturdy build, you probably won’t want to wear them to your next desert excursion or rain forest trek, but they’re a worthy investment if you’re a digital nomad that has the highest standard for the best travel headphones.
Best Over-Ear – Master & Dynamic MW65
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Crafted with unrelenting attention to detail, the Master & Dynamic MW65 is an elegant and affordable option for frequent fliers that prefer over-ear headphones for travel. Made of anodized aluminum, massaged lambskin leather, memory foam ear pads, and weighing in at only 245 grams, the MW65 is a must-have for those that want the flexibility of wireless headphones, and the comfort of over-ear headphones.
No need to sacrifice acoustics for convenience or price, the MW65 features 40mm beryllium diaphragm produces tones with shockingly clean definition. The MW65 travel headphones capture details in everything from modern, pumping, bass-heavy riffs, to classical recordings where you might crave a bit more detail and ambient space. MW65’s offer the perfect balance between gutting bass, crisp mid-range notes, and high tones that will have you dancing a little too hard in your hotel room.
Dual Active Noise Cancelling technology allows you to shift the auditory experience to suit the environment. Use “High” mode while roaming city streets or busy airports, swap to “Low” mode for quiet coffee shops and cozy workspaces or turn off for passive noise isolation.
The MW65’s also boast an unheard of connection range, so they won’t leave you high and dry while you mull about your business. These travel headphones feature three times the average Bluetooth range – that’s 65+ feet of wiggle room!
Not only can you roam about and not lose connection to your tunes or your calls, but these over-ear travel headphones boast a healthy 24+ hours of battery life in one charge. They also charge up to 12 hours of battery life in only 15 minutes! This makes them the best over-ear headphones for travel – especially for you trailblazing audiophiles.
Twenty-four hours battery life doesn’t cut it? The MW65 headphones come with a removable cable so you can plug in, jam out, and prolong that groovy workflow without wearing on the battery.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Bluetooth technology that spans 3x the normal reach
- Purchase includes optional cable for longer listening
- Built-in microphone for easily swapping from talk to listen mode
- 24+ hours battery life and charges up to 12 hours in 15 minutes
- Noise cancelling is mid-range and does not block out all external audio
- Reports of subpar microphone when placing calls
If you’re looking for a dynamic and customizable pair of travel headphones that look slick, the Master & Dynamic MW65 is the way to go. At $499, they’re not for everyone, but the features alone tick nearly every digital nomad’s must-have list for the best over-ear headphones for travel.
Best Budget – VANKYO C750
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For those that are looking to snag a pair of the best wireless headphones for travel, but also thrive on thriftiness, get the VANKYO C750 wireless travel headphones. Featuring Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, soft protein earpads, an adjustable headband and rotating speakers, the C750 is a comfortable and practical choice for digital nomads that prioritize efficiency over luxury.
The sound profile is steady, and well-balanced given the price. Fans of bass-driven music may be left in the lurch, as the low-end tones are lackluster. However, highs and mid tones do come through crystal clear, and the cVc 8.0 noise reduction microphone makes for crisp, hands-free calls.
These budget-friendly wireless headphones provide a Bluetooth connection range of up to 33ft and can sync to two devices simultaneously. The Active Noise Cancelling might not isolate sound as well as the Master & Dynamic MW 65 or Apple AirPods Pro, but they do a respectable job at cutting out the rumble of a plane engine.
Battery life is yet another aspect that landed this pair on the list of the best wireless headphones for travel! With 30+ hours of continuous playback, these headphones are best suited for digital nomads that may not have access to charging stations for prolonged periods of time. They also come with an optional cable that prolongs the battery life. If the C750 headphones are disconnected from a device and there is no activity for five minutes, the auto-off function kicks in to help preserve the battery.
- cVc 8.0 noise reduction microphone for clear calls
- 30+ hours continuous playback with option cable for extended battery life
- Slow to charge; it takes 3 hours for a full battery
- Bass is subpar
The VANKYO C750 wireless travel headphones are a great fit for digital nomads that are on a budget, want loud and clear calls, and the freedom to enjoy long journeys with 30+ hours of non-stop playback. The sound profile and noise cancelling capabilities may not leave you feeling like you’re at your favorite concert, but for $60, you really can’t beat the C750’s features. So, just turn up the volume and rest easy, knowing that you saved a good chunk of money and still got a pair of the best wireless headphones for travel at a great price!
Travel Headphone Frequently Asked Questions
That wraps up our top picks for the best travel headphones for digital nomads. If you’re still unsure as to which headphones will suit your needs, take a look at these commonly asked questions:
What are the best value travel headphones?
What is the best choice for blocking out sound?
The Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones have the best noise cancelling features. Sony is the industry leader in active noise cancellation, and the WH1000xM3 lives up to the reputation.
What kind of accessories are important for wireless headphones?
For wireless headphones, consider getting a case or skin with a D-ring or clip, so you can attach it to your belt loop, purse, or backpack. It can be easy to misplace or loose some wireless headphones! For some products like Apple’s AirPods, a chargeable dock is included making this a little easier.
What kind of accessories are important for over-ear headphones?
If the purchase does not come with a case, consider buying a solid body carrying case for over-ear headphones, as it will preserve the lifespan and offer a place to store cables. As you’re lugging headphones around, those with wires can get beaten up and shred over time.
Travel Headphone Conclusion
No matter where you are in the world, or how you get there, investing in a pair of quality travel headphones is something you’ll never regret. Every traveler is different, but every preference can be matched to the perfect headphones.
Noise cancellation seems to be a priority with digital nomads, as sleep and work are often interrupted when subjected to noisy environments. The Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones block out nearly all external noise and offer high-quality, customizable EQ for music, movies, or podcasts. They can be used while working, traveling, or sleeping, as they can be used as earplugs on planes or in crowded bus stations. The long battery life is of the highest caliber, the pressure-relieving ear pads allow for all-day wear, and the flexible speakers fold with ease so they can be packed away. However, if you’re not privy to over-ear headphones for travel, then revisit the Apple AirPods Pro.
Traveling can be equally exciting and stressful, but the perfect pair of headphones always makes the journey more enjoyable.
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This content was last updated on 2021-01-11. Contains partner affiliate links and images via Amazon Product Advertising API.