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The best earbuds for travel can all but eliminate the stress – and boredom – of long travel days, allowing you to tune out the noise and relax with music, podcasts and movies. And while over-the-ear headphones offer comfort, earbuds have the significant advantage of portability. Unlike headphones, earbuds can be slipped in a pocket when not in use, and don’t take up any valuable space in your bag.
Luckily, there has never been a better time to invest in some high-quality, noise-cancelling earbuds for travel. The best earbuds offer effective noise-cancellation technology, reliable wireless connectivity and premium sound quality. In short, this small piece of tech can make a huge difference when flying, road tripping or commuting.
What Are The Best Earbuds For Travel?
Earbuds come in many styles, and while it’s easy to fit a pair of good earbuds online, without a bit of research you can easily wind up with an ill-fitting or under-performing pair. Below are a few key features to keep in mind while shopping for the best earbuds online.
Battery: All the best features are useless if your earbuds are dead. Because earbuds should last at an entire day of travel (even long-haul flights) we’ve given battery life extra weight in our ranking. Most wireless earbuds will last about 15 to 30 hours in total, with about five to seven hours battery before using a charging case.
Wireless vs. True Wireless: Wireless headphones don’t need to be connected to anything, but the two buds are linked with a cord. True wireless headphones, on the other hand, are two individual buds not connected by a cord. We’ve stuck to the latter — true wireless — as we think any cords can get in the way while you’re on-the-go.
Noise Cancellation: When a brand says that their headphones reduce noise, they don’t always mean the same thing. Some earbuds simply cancel more noise with better technology, while others offer more adjustability. This means you’ll be able to customize noise-reduction to outside noise levels, and avoid total (sometimes unsafe) disconnection from the world.
Comfort: Because you’ll probably have your earbuds in for most of the day while traveling, comfort is very important. Look for ergonomically-designed earbuds, as well as options with multiple-sized tips to fit your ear.
1. Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds
Sony is one of the current leaders in the headphone market, and they’ve been able to downsize the same noise-cancelling technology in their headphones into these compact WF-1000XM4 earbuds.
Using newly-designed noise sensing microphone in each earbud, the WF-1000XM4s pick up outside noise and block as needed. For such a small device, they’re quite impressive noise-cancellers. They also automatically switch to “ambient mode,” which lets in more sound, when the earbuds sense activity (say, when you’re walking down the street). All of this technology is powered by Sony’s custom-made V1 processor, which handles the noise cancellation flawlessly.
The WF-1000XM4s are designed with long-period comfort in mind, but they’re also engineered for security. To wear the earbuds, you place the tip in your ear and then twist backwards to secure in place. Using the structure of your ear, the headphones stay locked in place yet comfortable. You also get four differently-sized silicone tips for a better fit.
And, thanks to industry-leading sound quality, you won’t want to take out these comfy buds. The WF-1000XM4s use 6mm drivers and 24bit audio signal processing to render an expansive soundstage. Whether you’re listening to rock, hip-hop or podcasts, expect full, balanced sound.
Battery life is very good with the WF-1000XM4s with eight hours on a single charge with noise cancelling on, and 12 hours when it’s off. The earbuds’ battery case adds an additional 24 hours of playtime. If you’re a frequent traveler, you won’t find a better pair of noise-cancelling earbuds than Sony’s WF-1000XM4s.
2. Edifier NeoBuds Pro
Edifier’s NeoBuds Pro are the best noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tried for under $150, and a great pick for travelers who want to save some money for their trip.
The NeoBuds Pro have three microphones, which results in excellent noise cancelling performance, and very clear sound when making video calls. In our testing, these earbuds block out an impressive amount of noise. You should expect to completely eliminate the sound of an airplane’s engine if listening to music at roughly 70% volume.
Edifier says the Neobuds Pro last five hours with active noise cancellation turned on and six hours when it’s turned off. Their battery case adds an additional 15 to 18 hours depending on your settings.
We liked the way the NeoBuds Pro sounded out of the box, but appreciate that you can adjust their EQ to suit your preferences using Edifier’s Connect app. Music won’t sound as clear as it does on some high-end earbuds, but the difference isn’t substantial.
Overall, we’re impressed at Edifier’s ability to create a great all-around pair of noise cancelling earbuds without cutting corners.
3. Klipsch T5 II ANC
If you’re a traveler who prefers to have a first-class experience every time you fly, Klispch’s T5 II ANC earbuds are our top pick.
They sound incredible, and come in a premium battery case that puts Apple’s AirPods to shame. In our tests, the T5 II ANCs provided a surprising amount of depth when listening to music from any genre. We never adjusted the earbuds’ EQ, but Klipsch gives you the option to inside its Connect app.
Frequent travelers will appreciate the fact that the T5 II ANCs come with six sets of eartips, and stayed in our ears better than any gummy-tipped earbuds we tried. Trusting that these earbuds wouldn’t fall out made it a lot easier to fully enjoy music.
When it came to noise cancellation, Klipsch’s T5 II ANCs did an excellent job. We could block out most ambient noise when listening to music at about half volume. If you’re on a plane, listening at a volume of 60% should be enough to neutralize the sound of an airplane engine.
Klipsch says the T5 II ANCs last up to five hours with noise cancellation turned on, and seven when it’s on. We eeked out a little more than that in our tests. The T5 II ANCs get an additional 15 to 21 hours of playback with their battery case.
The Kipsch T5 II ANCs are an excellent travel-friendly pair of earbuds that’ll help you focus on your music and upcoming trip instead of noisy passengers.
4. Apple AirPods Pro
Like most Apple products, there is a heated debate as to whether the AirPods Pro are great or not. But the truth is, if you use an iPhone and/or a Macbook, the AirPods Pro are fantastic – especially for traveling. Unsurprisingly, AirPods’ integration with other Apple products is seamless, as you can instantly connect to iPhones, iPads and Macbooks and easily switch between multiple devices. Plus, you can activate Siri by saying “Hey, Siri,” which comes in handy while cycling or driving.
The AirPods Pro also get top marks for portability, as they’re smaller and lighter than the competitors. They take up less pocket space, which always seems to be in short supply while traveling.
Active noise-cancellation in the AirPods Pro is quite good, cutting out most ambient noises. They also feature Transparent Mode that brings in outside noises to sound like you’re not wearing earbuds. After using the AirPods Pro for about six months, I’ve found that, in noise-cancelling mode, they do a good job of cutting out traffic noises, mechanical humming in my office and the majority of that airplane engine drone. However, they aren’t too good at eliminating conversation-level noises.
Battery life with the AirPods Pro is good, although not the best. You get about four and a half hours on one charge, and the charging case brings total battery life up to a solid 24 hours.