The Best Travel Headphones for 2016
There are plenty of “Best Headphones for Travel” lists out there. Most of them aren’t all that great – so we’ve tried to write a better guide. We’ve listened to tons of headphones available today and we’ve written a brief summary for each of our favorite picks.
Our goal is to showcase each headphones individual strength and weakness. Because music is important, and as you’ll probably be spending a good amount of time listening and relaxing with your headphones it’s critical you get the right advice.
Why is this Guide to the Best Headphones for Travel Better?
We get it. Your headphone’s play an important roll in your music enjoyment. And listening to music while traveling is great for killing down time.
Choosing a pair of headphones is an extremely personal decision though– it’s not just the sound that matters but the ergonomics, build quality, and to some degree, appearance. Purchase headphones that aren’t great, and you’ll be left wanting.
With all that said, it’s important to vet the advice you get before deciding on your future headphones.
Here’s why we believe this guide is better than others online:
- We explain what makes each headphone great. You may not have heard of all these headphones, that’s because they’re either newer or are hidden gems. Most guides just list a few headphones without much rationale.
- We evaluate which headphones are best for different needs. Everyone has different requirements; knowing who each headphone is designed for makes it easier to find the perfect match for you.
- We genuinely want you to be happy with your purchase. We know how hard it can be to pick out the right gear. Countless hours and meticulous research can still leave you scratching your head. Take comfort in knowing, we’re here to help.
Who is this Guide for?
This guide is written for anyone looking for guidance in selecting a pair of headphones for travel. Much to this sites demographics, young adults are our intended target and budget-friendly picks are preferred. This means that while we’ve compiled this list to include top choices at a variety of price points, we are err on the more affordable spectrum.
Like most purchases, you generally get what you pay for with headphones. That means, what’s said about a particular headphone is relative to its price point. Don’t expect a $100 headphone to compete effectively against a $500+ model. Every product has it’s own unique offering and intended buyer.
All the headphones are this are either on-ear or over-ear models and we included a mix of open-back and closed-back models. Generally speaking, open models will have a more natural, neutral sound at the cost of isolation. This makes them arguably less favorable for use during travel as their sound will spill into your environment.
We’ve also taken specific care in choosing headphones that are low impedance – so that the can be driven by a variety of mobile devices without compromise.
Key Features to Look for in a Travel Headphone
- Price: More expensive offerings will sound better. But, if you’re traveling there’s always an increased risk of damaging your headphones due to the nature of bouncing around. A more affordable pair of headphones gives ease of mind. Even more so if you lose them.
- Portability: Some headphones aren’t designed with portability in mind – if they’re big, clunky, or difficult to pack they’re not a good choice.
- Sound Quality: You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality pair of cans. There are plenty of awesome choices under $100.
- Noise Cancellation: Some headphone models offer a neat feature which cancels out certain loud sounds in your environment. They’re awesome for use on planes, trains, and buses. Learn more about the technology on Wikipedia.
The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 headphones are Sennheiser’s second attempt at creating a full size, style driven headphone. They’re also our favorite full sized headphones for travel. They’re simply all around great. They offer excellent comfort, high quality sound that’s fun to listen to, and look good.
The headphones are closed and offer great isolation for use during travel – the headband also folds in on itself making them easier to stow away. Even the cable is removable.
We really like Sennheiser’s sound signature as you get an exciting and powerful bass that headphones like Beats market about without all the muddiness of Beats.
There are four things that matter most to us when traveling: sound quality, portability, comfort, and noise cancellation/isolation. Although we think the above Sennheiser’s sound better than the Bose QuietComfort 25, we can’t overlook how incredible these headphone are at noise cancellation.
Bose has always marketed itself as a noise cancellation expert and we’re inclined to agree. If you’re flying with the QC25s they’ll reduce the fatiguing engine roar to a whisper. It’s astounding how well the technology works. Every time we find ourselves in a loud environment we’re left in awe of the engineering it took to make this happen. The QC25s are the leading full sized noise cancelling headphones available today.
Beyond noise cancellation, sound quality is solid – the mids and highs are specifically clear and crisp. The bass isn’t as deep or well rounded as the Momentum 2.0, but it’s a sacrifice worth making if noise cancellation is a priority.
The Bose 20i aren’t the cheapest earphones on the market but they offer fantastic noise cancellation and very impressive sound for their price. In fact, we’d say these are one of the best commuter headphones we’ve ever tried. Their noise cancellation technology makes them a wonderful pair to use on planes, trains, buses, and even through hectic city streets.
We like the Bose 20i aren’t in ear monitors (IEMs) – meaning they don’t require stuffing an earphone deep into your ear to obtain sound isolation. By rely on noise cancellation, the Bose buds can rest gently in your ear and maintain environment isolation.
If you’re looking for a cheaper earphone style headphone, the MEElectronic M6 Pro is an IEM that offers the best bang for your buck when considering sound quality and noise isolation. However comfort will take a noticeable dive. Again, IEMs are designed to lay deep in your ear canal and this tends to be uncomfortable for many people, especially for extended periods of time.
That said, the sound is very impressive and well balance – the low end extends nicely with a solid tone; the mid range presents itself as slightly forward but is very clear; and the higher ranges are crisp – we never encountered any harshness.
If you’re only looking to use your headphone during travel down time and if you aren’t worried about sound isolation these are the best value for your money headphones. A simple Google search will reaffirm that. The PortaPro’s have been an audiophiles budget choice since their release in 1984.
The PortaPro’s have a timeless design from the eighties which can be hit or miss depending on your tastes but they’re comfortable and their sound signature is one of a kind – in a good way. The sound quality is simply outstanding for the – with vivid mids, crispy highs and deep open low end the sound is full bodied. The only ding here is these are open headphones so they’ll leak your music out.