A Quiet Flight

When it comes to an enjoyable flight, silence is golden.

By: By the TravelAge West Staff

When it comes to an enjoyable flight, silence is golden. Airplanes are often filled with sounds of screaming children and chatty passengers. In an effort to keep things quiet, the TAW staff tested several noise-canceling headphones, priced from modest to extravagant — we even tested a kid-friendly version. While the technology is already popular, if in-flight cell phone use gets approved, the headphones here could sell like hotcakes.



Sounding off
The JVC HA-NC80 noise-canceling headphones offer a less-expensive price tag, along with high-quality sound and up to 75 percent noise reduction. While the over-the-ear headphones feature a cushioned band for your head, the padding on the ear pieces leaves something to be desired. My ears were sore by the end of the in-flight movie. The headphones take AAA batteries and fold up into a black pouch that easily stores in purses or small handbags. $59.95.

— Jamie Wetherbe, Assistant Editor



Noise busters
While value is one of the Pro Tech NoiseBuster’s positives, in this case, a reasonable price doesn’t mean skimping on performance. The headphones themselves are very good at ambient noise reduction, but the sound quality when used with my iPod is even better. The downside? Even though they fold up into a convenient size, the drawstring travel pouch is useless. And the over-the-ear-style headphones look a bit geeky. Comes with one AAA battery and a dual-prong adapter for airplanes. $69.

— Kenneth Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief



The sound of silence
The Sony Noise-Canceling MDR-NC60 2 claim to shut out up to 85 percent of the ambient noise around you, including jet engines and airplane chatter, and they did just that — almost too well. In fact, I missed a few in-flight announcements. But if you want to pay attention, the built-in monitor switch allows you to hear surrounding sound without taking the headphones off, and the ear-conscious design offers premium comfort. $199.99.

— Ana Figueroa, Senior Editor



Kid stuff

The Pelter/AOSafety Junior Ear Muffs claim to be ideal for all kids from babies to teens, a growing niche according to one retailer who cited everything from “NASCAR to concerts to noisy airplanes” as reasons to protect young eardrums. After placing the kid-sized headphones on my 2½-year-old, she actually stayed seated on the sofa while I vacuumed. Normally, she would be running for the hills crying. Next family airplane trip it’ll be the Junior Muffs for her, and a couple hours of peace for daddy. $18.95.

— Kenneth Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief 



The Bentley of quiet comfort

The Bose Quiet Comfort 3 are truly the Bentley of noise-canceling headphones — if you can afford them. The headphones dramatically fade background distractions, and advances in Bose technology make what you do want to hear sound even better. The ergonomic design allows for a comfy fit and the cushy foam earpieces are softer than an airplane pillow. QC3 headphones fold up for storage in a black carrying case and are powered via rechargeable battery with about 20 hours of run time. (Battery and wall-socket charger are included.

— Jamie Wetherbe, Assistant Editor 



Sound shields

The Brookstone Sound Shield 501 headphones don’t reduce ambient noise as much as I expected (the chatterbox seated behind me on a recent flight was clearly audible), but still make for a good buy. Engine noise is substantially diminished, and the audio quality is good. I like the buttery-soft padding on the over-the-ear cuffs and sleek design on the carrying case. The palm-sized control box is easy to use and clips onto a waistband, but I usually forget to power off at the end of a flight, so the two AAA batteries drain with each use. $199.

— Anne Burke, freelance writer