Best Noise Canceling Headphones for International Travel
I travel a lot, mostly in and around Asia. This means two things: Long flights over the Pacific Ocean with screaming babies and hotel stays in developing nations with crowing roosters and constant, ceaseless construction. I knew that if I was going to get any work done and eliminate all the stress I was getting from noise pollution, I needed to block out the noise. What I needed was a set of premium Bose noise canceling headphones.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Pair of Noise Cancelling Headphones
First, if you’re seeking a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones, it probably means you are often in situations where outside noise and distractions are nearly impossible to block out with your existing set.
Many people commute daily, and those who do often bring their headphones along with them so that they’re not subjected to the litany of obnoxious sounds and noises coming from those around them. You only need to take a bus or train once to know that you’re most likely going to encounter nearby passengers talking loudly on their phones, to their friends, or just being noisy and distracting in general.
If you’re one of these people, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones are going to be ideal for you.
That said, noise-canceling headphones aren’t for everyone. If you spend a lot of time walking in busy areas, you’ll want to be able to retain partial hearing of your surroundings in order to keep clear of potential hazards.
Those who have young children at home will also probably find that noise-cancelling headphones aren’t their best bet. There are several pairs that produce excellent sound quality without restricting all of your outside hearing.
Before you purchase a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll probably want to consider the following:
- How often will you use them?
- Will you get enough usage to justify the price tag?
- How much are you willing to spend on a pair?
These headphones are Bluetooth wireless but come with a hardline for optionally wired connectivity. They are of the “around ear” design and use Bose's signature noise-canceling technology to make sure you only hear what you want. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery comes with a USB charging cable and a carrying case to keep it all organized.
These Bose headphones are great for travelers or commuters that are put off by noise pollution and are willing to pay for the freedom of Bluetooth and the silence of noise canceling technology. If you like your headphones to be in-ear, cheap or wired, then these aren't for you.
- Excellent sound quality and noise canceling functionality from a trusted brand
- Bluetooth wireless capability, with added NFC pairing feature
- Built-in rechargeable battery and included charging cord
- Optional wired mode with included 3.5mm wire
- Relatively expensive
- Battery life only 20 hours in wireless mode
- Not water or sweat proof
- Somewhat heavy
The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) Noise Canceling Headphones are chock full of features and technology designed to give you a good listening experience. Some of them can be a bit technical so let’s go over each of them to find out what they do for you exactly.
Noise Cancelling Technology
First off, the major draw and primary reason to choose these headphones over others: the noise canceling. Bose helped pioneer and popularize noise canceling technology for the masses, so you know they do it right. Their system works by creating the headphones with padding to reduce incoming noise. For the noise it can't block out, the headphones actively listen for intrusive soundwaves and fire an opposing soundwave. This "anti-sound" erases or severely weakens the sound, so it doesn't bother you.
The result? You’ll hear a lot less of the outside world when listening to music, video or other audio. Not only that, but you won’t have to jack up the volume to hear your audio, which can damage your ears. It will be like there’s no one else around; just you and what you want to listen to. Bose put together this video so you can see what it’s like putting these headphones on (teleportation to music festival not included, as far as I could tell).
The downside to all of this is that because the noise cancellation system is "active," it requires power to work. The electricity it needs, of course, comes from the battery which is also powering the Bluetooth system. Therefore, the battery life is significantly reduced when compared to non-noise canceling wireless headphones. However, Bose's technology is still one of the best, and 20 hours isn't exactly a short amount of time. Plus, you can jack in and use the headphones in wired mode without the noise canceling effect if the battery dies on you.
Noise-Rejecting Dual-Microphone System
The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) also has a noise-rejecting dual microphone system that allows for even crisper audio even in windy conditions. A great feature for receiving phone calls. The person on the other end of the call (or Siri, or Cortana or any other robot that helps you do stuff) will be able to hear you even if the wind is blowing and the people around you are talking.
At least, that's the theory. While the microphone system does work better in loud conditions than others, it is by no means perfect. It is built into the earpiece of the headphones and isn't designed to replace a lead in microphone. It's best suited for receiving the odd phone call without having to remove the headphones and ordering around a digital assistant.
Bluetooth Connectivity and NFC Pairing
So, to get that sweet wireless functionality, the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) of course uses Bluetooth technology; a short-range wireless communication system for devices. It requires electricity to operate necessitating a battery, but it allows you to move while you listen to your audio and not get tangled up in a cord.
The range is on this headset is pretty impressive, with some users reporting that they can stand up to 70 feet away and still stay connected provided there's nothing in the way. Of course, if you are in a different room or on a separate floor you might experience reduced range, but it's still impressive.
Pairing the device is easy, hit the Bluetooth button and the headphones will tell you with voice prompts when it's ready to be discovered (coy little devil that it is). Downloading the special Bose app to your smartphone will help you to discover and switch between devices quickly and easily. If you find it to be a hassle holding down buttons and waiting for things to discover each other, Bose has an answer for that.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) has NFC pairing technology built in to make connecting via Bluetooth faster and simpler. NFC (which has nothing to do with the NFL) stands for “Near-Field Communication. “ In a nutshell, you can turn on both devices and their Bluetooth functions, then just tap them together and they connect. Voila. The technology used is the same used with smartphones and “phone pay” systems that turn your phone into a credit card.
Superior Bose Sound Quality
Bose achieves its famed sound quality using superior construction of their headphones and a system called Volume Optimized Active EQ. This function, which also needs electricity to work, actively balances the volume of the different sounds you are listening to. The result is a more balanced audio in which you can better hear the nuances.
All of this noise quality control will give your music life as though you heard it through a physical connection; not an easy thing to do over Bluetooth. Users report deep bass as well as rich treble and midrange.
What People Are Saying
Bose has a lot of fans, and there's a lot of love for these headphones out there for these headphones in particular. Here are a few people I found who loved their Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) Noise Canceling Headphones.
Now, the reviewers up there and I love these Bose headphones, but they aren't for everyone. Here are a few different headphones that might suit you better.
These headphones are a great alternative if you are more budget conscious. They are significantly cheaper than the Bose model and has many of the same functions. All of the main features are there, but what you don’t get is the quality. The noise cancellation, sound quality and battery life just to name a few are below the Bose standard. Still, it does the job well enough and won’t break the bank. Give them a look if you aren’t looking to drop too much money on headphones or if you just need something that functions and you don't require studio quality sound.
- Much cheaper
- Has many of the same features and functions
- Extras like optional wired mode and built-in microphone present
- Much shorter battery life; only around 8 hours with noise canceling active
- Quality of sound and noise cancellation not up to Bose standard
- No paired Bluetooth app or NFC pairing
These headphones are a great option if you the active type. They are water and sweat proof and attach to your ear, so they don't fly off while you are running. They are also the in-ear style if that's your thing. They are quite cheap, but you get what you pay for. You won't find nearly the same quality with these as you would with the Bose model. Check them out if you wear your headphones while exercising and put them in dangerous conditions (for electronics).
- Extremely cheap
- Water and sweat proof
- Unobtrusive design still stays on your ears when active
- Poor noise cancellation quality
- Short battery life
- Sound not nearly as clear
If you still want the Bose quality but wished they weren’t quite so expensive, the older QuietComfort 25 model has that with a couple of fewer features. These headphones are wired so they don't have Bluetooth capability, but on the plus side, less charging. Give them a shot if wireless isn’t your thing or you want the Bose quality for less.
- Cheaper than the quiet comfort 35 model
- Same great audio and noise cancellation
- No Bluetooth means longer life and less charging
- Wire is reported to be somewhat fragile
- Wire can get in the way so you are less mobile
- Microphone is standard variety
The Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Noise Canceling Headphones block out all that nasty noise pollution you hear while traveling or just walking down the street. Stress and distractions from loud noises are preventable, so why not? These Bose headphones do that and more, providing excellent audio quality and the freedom and ease of Bluetooth with NFC pairing. Click here to check them out!