Music on an iOS or Android device loses close to half of its audio fidelity when heard through inexpensive earbuds. With the variety of products available in the online marketplace, selecting the best headphones for traveling can be tricky, especially for busy bees already trapped in meetings or airport terminals.
Professional audio engineers invest thousands of dollars into their studio-grade headphones, but their needs are different from that of consumers: In order to deliver an exceptional aural experience to their listening audience, an engineer must have access to the full spectrum of sound to eliminate unwanted noise and enhance the audio they like.
Most people looking to buy travel headphones are chiefly focused on its “price-to-performance ratio”, or how much “bang for the buck” their purchase nets them. Styles such as in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear offer varying levels of long-term listening comfort and experiences but not all are practical for travel.
Today we look at some of the features found on the best headphones for traveling and discuss their individual uses for audiophiles on the go.
Noise Cancelling vs Noise Isolating – What’s the Difference?
Headphones featuring noise cancellation actually listen to your surrounding environment for low-frequency noise and eliminate it from your audio. These headphones digitally fill out low-frequency sound waves rendering them inaudible. Noise cancellation is an important feature to reduce these airplane low-frequency noises:
- Airplane Cabins
- Automobiles on the Road
- Disruptive Wind Noise
- Electronic Humming
Conversely, noise isolating headphones provide a snug fit on the ear that offers a physical barrier against outside sounds contaminating your audio. This is a more cost-effective noise reduction feature primarily found with in-ear and over-ear styles of headphones.
Some people complain that the tight fit of noise isolating headphones (primarily earbuds) can cause irritation for listeners. To address this, some manufacturers include additional size ear tips that can be interchanged to ensure a comfortable fit. If you have your heart set on the in-ear form factor, make sure your purchase includes these bonus ear tips.
Wired vs Wireless – Is Bluetooth In?
The latest evolution of portable headphone technology is all thanks to Bluetooth – the wireless communication protocol supported by iOS and Android devices alike. All of the major brands offer Bluetooth headphones of all styles and designs. Finding one that matches your personality is easy!
Unlike their old school hardwired counterparts, Bluetooth headphones require an additional power source to function. Most Bluetooth sets require a single AAA battery though some wireless portable headphones have appeared on the market with built-in rechargeable batteries. Be sure to think about your available access to an electrical outlet before considering which type of wireless headset is right for you!
While there is no denying the allure of wireless technology, Bluetooth is a protocol that was created in the 1990s and as such, their performance is a bit stale. The worst wireless portable headphones sound little better than taking a cellular phone call. Even the best wireless headphones can’t compare to a hardwired set.
Comfort Considerations – How Long is Your Trip?
If you’re going to be taking long plane flights and plan on using headphones for the duration of the flight, the comfort of the headphones is something you do not want to neglect. Although super portable, using in-ear earbuds for long periods of time can cause sore ears. Opt for a pair of over-ear headphones that have soft ear pads with plenty of cushioning. Also, check the fit of the headphones to ensure they aren’t too snug on your head.
Storage and Portability Options – Size Doesn’t Matter!
Whether you like in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear headphones, there are many options for storage and portability available. Most manufacturers will include a traditional hard plastic case with your purchase, but there are many third party accessories on the market. These third party accessories feature cable management systems and additional storage compartments for items like your music player and extra batteries.
Tip for packing gurus: If space is tight in your luggage, but you really don’t like the in-ear form factor headphones, be sure to look at “foldable headphones.” These are designed to fold the large earpieces into the gap your head typically occupies, allowing larger headphones to shrink in profile for tidy storage!
As always, when in doubt, read the customer reviews! Pay careful attention to the most common complaints and decide if it’s a risk you’re willing to take. Some of the more expensive portable headphones for sale also include extended manufacturer’s warranties – excellent to keep on standby should your gear get crunched in transit.