The 7 best noise-canceling headphones for flying 2024


Flying was never the most stress-free way to travel, but thanks to never-ending airline delays, unruly passengers, and the incredible shrinking airline seat, it’s become a nightmare. If you’ve decided it’s finally time to invest in a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones for flying, we’ve got you covered.

The good news is that plenty of headphones, from over-ear headphones to wireless earbuds, offer active noise cancellation. And in 2024, it’s not too hard to find ANC headphones cost under $100.

Even so, if you want to find the best noise-canceling headphones for airplanes, you should be prepared to pay closer $200 to $500 (exempting our budget pick from Anker Soundcore). Premium headphones offer improved active noise cancellation and transparency modes that allow you to hear those all-important gate announcements.

Let’s not forget that ANC on its own won’t save the day — otherwise, we’d just direct you to our review of the best noise-canceling headphones. For long flights, comfort is also key. It won’t matter if your headphones block sound if you only want to wear them for two out of five hours of your flight. A few extra features — like balanced sound and spatial audio — can’t hurt either.

With all that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best headphones for flying based on our extensive research and hands-on testing.

Because shopping for headphones shouldn’t be as stressful as heading to the airport, we’ve answered every question you need to know before purchasing. Read on for essential info as well as the very best noise-canceling headphones for flying in 2024.

Does paying more really get me more noise cancellation?

Generally, yes. Many cheap headphones claim to offer “noise-canceling” features, but a $50 pair of over-ear headphones will never compare to Sony noise-canceling headphones. Typically, the more you pay and the better known and regarded the brand is, the better the noise cancellation. Brands like Bose and Sony offer multiple levels of noise cancellation so you can choose to be completely blocked off from the world or opt to allow some environmental noises to come in while flying. 

Paying more can also get you some nice features to supplement your ANC, like voice assistant support, expansive battery life, advanced codec support for better-sounding music, or better call quality. If you’re a frequent flyer, the cost is almost certainly worth it.

What are the best noise-canceling headphones for flying?

Noise-canceling headphones are at their most useful on airplanes. While flying, it’s difficult to find a moment’s peace when so much is going on around you. Frequent flyers may prefer to rest or work, and the best way to do this is by using the best noise-cancellation methods to block out the chaos. 

With that in mind, some headphones’ ANC works best on blocking out people talking more than ambient engine sounds, and vice versa, and people will have different preference levels for how much ANC they actually like. In addition, for long-haul flights, you may also be interested in the best noise-canceling headphones for sleeping

With all that in mind, we’ve included the best ANC headphones for every traveler. So, read on to find the best noise-canceling headphones for airplanes in 2024 — all based on Mashable’s in-depth research and hands-on headphones reviews.

How we tested

Five out of six of these headphones have been hands-on tested by Mashable staff, including past and current tech reporters, senior tech editors, and our deputy reviews editor.

The remaining headphones, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20, were selected after extensive research into specs and customer reviews. In addition to premium headphones from Sony, Bose, and Apple, we also wanted to include some of the best budget noise-canceling headphones for airplanes. We selected these headphones based on our research and the reliability of Anker.

As of Nov. 2023, we’ve added the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones to our list of recommendations.

The other headphones featured here, including the Bose QuietComfort 45 and the Apple AirPods Max headphones, were hands-on tested by Mashable.

All of these headphones were chosen with the following criteria in mind:

  • Comfort: As we mentioned above, the quiet of active noise cancellation becomes much less enjoyable if the headphones delivering it squeeze your head for the entirety of your flight. Any headphones that weren’t favored for long-term wear didn’t make our list.

  • Battery life: If your headphones’ battery is going to die 30 minutes into your flight, they’re not going to cut it for even the shortest of trips. Our picks were typically in a higher price range that have better battery life and quick charge options for the times when you forget to juice up your headphones the night before you leave.

  • Active noise cancellation quality: There are lower cost options for ANC, but not all active noise cancellation is delivered the same. That’s why we focused on picks that either offered multiple levels of ANC, or delivered a strong level of ANC on its own, that didn’t require music to make a noticeable difference.

  • Portability: Over-the-ear headphones are going to deliver the best noise cancellation possible, but they are bulky. To keep these picks travel-friendly, we looked for headphones that fold up or that come with sleek carrying cases.

  • Durability: Taking your headphones with you through TSA lines just opens them up to more wear and tear, so we went for higher-cost picks that are likely to survive the journey. Plus, we made sure to choose headphones that will last you for years, so the upfront investment is worth it.

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