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Headset/headphones for air travel
Old 04-28-2019, 01:38 PM   #1
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Headset/headphones for air travel

Going on vacations, I find myself taking long-haul flights several times a year. In Economy, the airlines provide a pair of cheap in-ear headphones that plug-into the seat-back screen that are not only uncomfortable, they are also incredibly ineffective (at least with the amount of ambient flight noise present). While watching a couple videos on a flight recently, to hear the dialogue, I had to crank-up the volume to about 90-95% of the max. And even then I was straining to hear. I finally quit.

I don't have hearing issues IRL nor problems with hearing the TV at home.

As travel is a passion of mine which I hope to do for years to come, I'm wondering if it might make sense to buy a headset? I notice that many travelers and even their kids are traveling with their own headphones/headsets.

So, I'm looking for suggestions for headphones/headsets that sound good (I'm not an audiophile by any means), don't need to be played at 90% volume, and aren't terribly expensive. I am concerned, though, about buying ones that are too big and bulky, as I'm not planning on using them at any other time than when flying. (Space and weight are so critical these days when traveling.)

FWIW, I recently read an article that said that airline companies are noticing how many travelers have their own media players (laptops, tablets, phones, kindles, etc.) that are of very recent vintage, whereas the video players generally onboard are not. As a result, the airline companies are planning to phase-out the seat-back units. This will result in cost savings in not needing to buy and maintain thousands of video screens that are put through heavy service daily, plus saving weight and space (much of the space under the seat is filled with 'stuff' for the video screens). They may decide to allow passengers to have free WiFi which will greatly expand the entertainment selection for passengers vs the limited menu of video and games today. So, knowing that this is in the works, by getting something decent to plug into my tablet, I might be ahead-of-the game.

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Old 04-28-2019, 01:43 PM   #2
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When travelling for business, in business class or higher, I was usually loaned a Bose Noise reducing headset. If I flew more often now, I would definitely get a pair of these. Even with no sound playing, when they are on, the airplane is Soooo much quieter.
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Old 04-28-2019, 01:47 PM   #3
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I got the Sony WH H900N noise cancelling headphones on sale at Costco for under $200 (I think) last year. Noise cancelling is great on planes, except for the size. They fold up, and come with a soft pouch, but you have to be careful you don't crush them. Or you can get a more protective harder case, but they are big and take up a lot of space in your carry-on.

I like those headphones but liked the Bose better--just not enough for the price difference. Maybe I should've blown the dough because the Bose seemed more comfortable too, as well as sounding better. If I flew more, or had more uses for them, I would've.

For shorter flights or if I have less room I have a much smaller ear plug set that I think they call "noise isolating" or something like that, or I just use my running ear plugs, and they work well enough.
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Old 04-28-2019, 01:50 PM   #4
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Four million miler here: Bose. Sony as a second option
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Old 04-28-2019, 01:50 PM   #5
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Not sure how you define "not terribly expensive" but I've been using Etymotic Research in-ear earplugs for years and am very happy. They plug into my iPhone, go anywhere, don't take up space.
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Old 04-28-2019, 01:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I got the Sony WH H900N noise cancelling headphones on sale at Costco for under $200 (I think) last year. Noise cancelling is great on planes, except for the size. They fold up, and come with a soft pouch, but you have to be careful you don't crush them. Or you can get a more protective harder case, but they are big and take up a lot of space in your carry-on.

I like those headphones but liked the Bose better.
I used to have a pair of Sony NC headphones and liked them until I tried Bose which was far superior, so I switched.
But I've recently read a couple of reviews that say the newest Sony model is even better than Bose. Here's one:
David Pogue Reviews Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones 2019
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Old 04-28-2019, 02:22 PM   #7
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Bose noise reduction headphones. Over the ear preferred. Won’t fly without them.
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Headset/headphones for air travel
Old 04-28-2019, 02:25 PM   #8
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Headset/headphones for air travel

Bose Quietcomfort 3 served me well (that’s a pretty old model but still works). They’re over the ear and I agree that’s preferable. The provided case packs well too.

[ADDED] I learned over time to put them on before boarding, which avoids a lot of in-seat fumbling around. Not necessarily in place, just hang them around your neck.

I used them on several flights only for the noise reduction (big difference!) while doing some Kindle diving for in-flight entertainment.
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Old 04-28-2019, 02:50 PM   #9
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I just got a set of Skullcandy earbuds and speakers. No wires. Just a simple neck piece (very light) and the earbuds. You can walk and talk without getting the phone out of your pocket. They reach 30 ft. If you're listening to a podcast or music and someone calls, you just reach up and tap a button on the neck piece and talk away. Then re tap back to music. The battery lasts 8 hours.
Edit: High quality comfortable earbuds for walking through airport or in waiting area. Nice elimination of exterior noise on plane.
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Old 04-28-2019, 03:00 PM   #10
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Bose Quietcomfort 3 served me well...
+1

However, the on/off switch and battery compartment door (on my older model at least) were made very cheaply and it's a major PITA to get the things to work at times. I also had to replace the cable when it broke due to a lack of reinforcement where it attaches to the headphones.

BUT, they were well worth the money on the very first trip I took from Washington DC to Kuwait City, with a wailing baby a few rows in front of me for many many hours. Additionally, my little home airport used to have a lot of flights using turboprop planes that would rattle your eyeteeth out. The NR headphones were well worth it just for those flights.

Hopefully, the hardware issues have been fixed in the newer headphone models. When DW and I start flying overseas again I think I'll replace the old pair.
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Old 04-28-2019, 03:04 PM   #11
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Some years back I bought a set of Audio Technica noise cancelling ear buds and they take up minimal space, have worked well and held up nicely. While over the ear may be better, I don't care to deal with their bulk when traveling.
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Headset/headphones for air travel
Old 04-28-2019, 03:06 PM   #12
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Headset/headphones for air travel

Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaxyBoy View Post
+1



However, the on/off switch and battery compartment door (on my older model at least) were made very cheaply and it's a major PITA to get the things to work at times. I also had to replace the cable when it broke due to a lack of reinforcement where it attaches to the headphones.



BUT, they were well worth the money on the very first trip I took from Washington DC to Kuwait City, with a wailing baby a few rows in front of me for many many hours. Additionally, my little home airport used to have a lot of flights using turboprop planes that would rattle your eyeteeth out. The NR headphones were well worth it just for those flights.



Hopefully, the hardware issues have been fixed in the newer headphone models. When DW and I start flying overseas again I think I'll replace the old pair.

Hmmm, maybe I lucked out with a later version of that model. I did/do treat them very gently, maybe that made a difference, I’ve never had a problem. As you say, maybe more recent similar Bose products are improved.

I recently bought and love some Bose wireless earbuds but I don’t think they’re best for air travel (no noise reduction). They’re my choice over AirPods for everyday use while earthbound.
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Old 04-28-2019, 03:11 PM   #13
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OP - I know how you feel.
2 yrs ago we were on a flight, and they give us these cheap over the ear earphones, well I could hardly hear anything as they don't seal to the ear.
Part way through, I remembered I brought my mp3 player with in the ear plugs, so I changed to those.
Even though they were not noise canceling, they do fill my ear very well, and suddenly I could hear the movie.

Maybe it's time I upgrade too...
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Old 04-28-2019, 03:24 PM   #14
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I have had Bose QC over the ear headphones for years. They work great, but you have to carry batteries, and they are not small by any definition.

At the recommendation of a friend, I recently got Bose QC 20 earbuds. I am really surprised by how well they work. They can be charged with the same charger I pack for my phone, and they take up much less space.

Bose stores, including the outlets, will let you try the technology on the spot. Definitely worth taking a listen.
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Old 04-28-2019, 10:37 PM   #15
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....
Bose stores, including the outlets, will let you try the technology on the spot. Definitely worth taking a listen.
Good idea, but I hope to hear nothing
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Old 04-28-2019, 11:52 PM   #16
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You may want to look at getting both over the head and in-ear headphones.

I’m not a fan of the Bose sound so I haven’t gotten those. I have another brand of noise cancelling over the ear phones which are good but they are bulky and I find I can’t wear them too long because they don’t cover my ears completely and pinch down on a part of my ear lobes.

Due to the bulk, I usually don’t take them with me. One thing I have to admit is that Bose does a good job of folding down to a pretty compact form.

However my go to are wireless in-year headphones, which do a great job of blocking out cabin noise. I have Beats X which last about 6 hours on a charge so I also have a pair of Anker Sound Spirit pros, also wireless, rated about 8-10 hours a charge.

Wireless is great because you don’t have long cords dangling out, which can be a pain moving around the cabin or even getting through security at the airport.

But you do have to mange battery life so I have charger cables handy, especially on long or international flights.

Also, wireless is pretty good but not as good as wired for sound quality. So I mostly listen to podcasts on a daily basis so not an issue for me b7t for people listen8ng to music, they might notice the difference.
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Old 04-29-2019, 12:09 AM   #17
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I never tried them on a plane, but as has been mentioned, you might want to try some better in-ear headphones. I have a pair that fit very snug in my ear. Think earplugs that you use for swimming. They block out a lot of noise and I'm sure they didn't cost more than $40. If I had extra money, I'd go ahead and get the Bose over the ear headphones. My daughter let us borrow hers on a trip and they were great. I just don't fly enough to spend that kind of money which would be double since DW would get a set too.

Something like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Skullcandy-Bl...gateway&sr=8-1

The non-Bluetooth (wired) ones are under $20.
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Old 04-29-2019, 03:01 AM   #18
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Great job, OP. Been wondering about this topic for awhile. Thanks.
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Old 04-29-2019, 06:17 AM   #19
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Got the Bose in ear noise cancelling. I'll admit they are bit difficult sometimes to keep sealed in, but I bought for two purposes; air travel and the gym. Didn't want to load up over the ear with all that sweat. The two ladies that always were next to me talking Facebook recipes is what drove me to buy them. I find the compactness of the in ear an advantage when traveling. We previously had over the ear non cancelling and they were a bit bulky.
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Old 04-29-2019, 09:21 PM   #20
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I got the Sony WH H900N noise cancelling headphones on sale at Costco for under $200 (I think) last year. Noise cancelling is great on planes, except for the size. They fold up, and come with a soft pouch, but you have to be careful you don't crush them. Or you can get a more protective harder case, but they are big and take up a lot of space in your carry-on.

I like those headphones but liked the Bose better--just not enough for the price difference. Maybe I should've blown the dough because the Bose seemed more comfortable too, as well as sounding better. If I flew more, or had more uses for them, I would've.

For shorter flights or if I have less room I have a much smaller ear plug set that I think they call "noise isolating" or something like that, or I just use my running ear plugs, and they work well enough.
I have the earlier version of the Sony - what I like about them is they use AAA batteries and they are wired. The Bose and newer versions need to be plugged in to charge up for the noise-canceling and are wireless. My headphones can last up to three trips on one battery.

To the OP, most of the posters here are correct - Bose is the best, but also the most expensive (and you must charge them); next up is Sony. I don't have the foldable ones, I have the over the ear. The noise-canceling and the ability to hear the entertainment info is so much better with these noise canceling headphones and truly worth the $100+ or so.

There is another thing I notice. When you are flying long-distances, the lower frequencies of the plane wear you out physically. My father mentioned that when he flew for the Air Force, the engine drone and lower frequencies acted as long-term wearing friction on your hearing and your energy. Bottom line, if I don't wear my noise-canceling headphones on long flights, I am much more tired when I arrive and my jet-lag is worse (although, I have noticed as I've gotten older it does take longer to recover).
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