The Best Travel Headphones
What are the Best Headphones for Travelling?
I absolutely love to travel. As a kid we would move every couple of years, and part of that involved plane rides to new places I’d never seen before. And we got to stay in hotel rooms in new cities. This was always an adventure for me: I loved hotels, and I loved planes. I guess I’ve never really tired of it. When I was offered this sweet coupon code from Hotels.com, I basically couldn’t resist. I booked a hotel room at the Marker hotel in Dublin (still my favorite all-time hotel) and hopped on a plane.
I was on a flight to Ireland last month and I saw a fellow tech-savvy gentleman who was working on his MacBook. As night descended and everyone started falling asleep, he pulled out his headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50’s. Now these are great headphones, and they are comfortable….
But they aren’t good travel headphones.
Here’s why: Those headphones are heavy. And they don’t breathe. Anyone who’s been on an airplane knows the dangers of living in a small compartment with other people. It tends to get warm in there, and if you have big, bulky headphones on your ears for more than a couple of hours, things are going to get moist in there. And painful.
I would say that I saw this gentleman take his headphones off and try to sleep while in visible discomfort, but I didn’t. I put on my Bose QC15‘s, and slept away.
Qualities of Good Travel Headphones:
For an electronic device that’s designed to fit over your head, headphones need to be flexible and adjustable to fit the unique contours of your head. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that they can be crushed. Which leads us to the first quality:
Quality #1: Durability – Regular headphones will get crushed if they are put into your luggage. You need headphones that can withstand being tossed around a bit. Now this doesn’t mean you need super-tough military grade headphones. What you can do instead is buy headphones that come with a super-durable case that will keep your headphones safe.
Bose is an example of this: they come with a flat, hard-shell case that is specially designed to fit your headphones. The case is long, but it’s thin enough to slide in and out of luggage. It has taken a beating, but the Bose headphones so far don’t have a scratch.
Quality #2: Weight – On flights (especially long ones) you will be wearing headphones for extended periods…sometimes four to six hours at a time. Can your head handle that? You’d be surprised. Our gentleman is the example above probably couldn’t stand more than two hours with the M50’s on. But if you have light headphones, you can wear them for hours and hours without having to take a break. That little difference in weight can make all the difference.
Quality #3: Noise-Cancellation – We aren’t talking about noise-isolation, where headphones naturally dampen external noises. We’re talking noise-cancellation: headphones that actively generate ‘anti-noise signals’ that cancel out external noise. These headphones were initially created for airline pilots to cancel out the sounds of jet engines (exposure for long periods can cause permanent hearing damage). This tech is expensive, so you can expect to pay at least $150 for noise-cancellation technology, but on an airplane it is invaluable.
Here’s how it works: instead of you cranking up your movie to drown out the engine noise (and creating more overall noise for your ears to process), the headphones will cancel out 90% of the jet engine noise, leaving you to watch the television at your desired volume level. Or nothing! you can turn on the noise-cancellation and close your eyes and enjoy a snooze in peace. I prefer using a white noise app to help me zone out.
Cronuts at The Marker Hotel:
Remember how I mentioned that The Marker Hotel was my favorite all-time hotel? Well here’s part of the reason why: artisan cronuts. I can’t eat too much gluten at once, but just having a few bites of this was enough to send me into a happy la-la land….