In Need Of Headphones That Travel

I tried earbuds from the iPod. I can’t keep them in my ears unless I’ve jammed them into my ear drums and the covers always come off. I’ve tried my old over the ear cheap-o headphones. Yeah, they’re small and portable, but the sound quality sucks. I have a pair of noise-reducing headphones, but they’re so large that if they’re in my backpack, nothing else is in my backpack (think old-school studio headphones).\
So, frequent travelers, what do you use? Have you found a good pair of (ideally noise-reducing) small non-earbud headphones that have good sound quality and are small enough to fit in a backpack side pocket with your iPod?\
Oh, interweb, help me solve my dilemma before I spend 12 hours in a plane!

Categorized as music, travel

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


  1. RichF drums says:

    Think again on the earbuds – but not those lame, craptacular-sounding ones that come with the iPod. Instead, check out the “in ear” varieties. They sound soooo much better than the normal earbuds, and they do a pretty good job of eliminating external noise (without all that expensive Bose noise-cancelling technology). I guess this is because they snugly fit IN your ear, kinda like earplugs.
    The cheap $40 ones that Apple makes are plenty good enough. Also, Sony makes some good ones. There’s also some far more expensive ones made by Shure. Try em!

  2. Geoff says:

    Dude, if you wanna shell out the cash – I think Sennheiser’s are the best phones out there. Especially “these”:, and maybe “these”: are more budget concious and still kick-butt. I think you should buy both, actually.

  3. Etymotics ER-6, I purchased them just before Kate and I went to France, and they got me through a cumulative 24 hours on the plane with no sound leakage or real discomfort. They ARE buds, you will be jamming them up against your skull, and moreso making a seal between the bud and your ear canal, but the sound is stupendous, it cancelled EVERY sound without having to blast my mp3 player, and if I removed it once every three hours or so, I avoided all but minor discomfort.

  4. dansays says:

    If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Ultimate Ears in-ears are far more comfortable than Shure’s buds. They sound fantastic.
    If you’re willing to spend a ton more, UE will fabricate a custom set of in-ear phones, made from a mold of your inner ear. They seal out the outside world, to the tune of -26db, and they sound orgasmic.

  5. Kevin says:

    I have larger Sennheiser’s at work, and I love them (they’re what I compare everything else to, and before that, my gigantic Ministry of Sound pair). I really really really don’t want ear buds. I’ve had one too many ear infections.

  6. M-D says:

    The ER-6’s, as previously mentioned, or the Shure e3. I bought the e3’s before my last trip to CA, and they worked like a charm – I couldn’t hear a thing around me. Crying babies – GONE. That pervasive airplane hum – GONE. Incipid overhead announcements – GONE. Well, you get the idea.
    They’re expensive, but if you’re traveling a lot, they’re worth it.

  7. Heather says:

    I’ve had these for years and I loooove them. They go into the ear, but aren’t at all like earbuds. Looks like other people here love them too.
    “link text”:

  8. ditto on the in-ear variety. I swear by mine. I have a pair of Sony’s that had varying sizes of silicone covers — the smallest size was juuuuust right.

  9. MistaKeyst says:

    Here is the budget solution: Get a pair of decent ear buds such as these ( Then wear standard hearing protection ($20) over top. A little dorky but very silent. You must get all black hearing protection or it will look very dorky. There are two drawbacks to this solution: 1) to have a conversation, you have to take off both the hearing protection and the ear buds, 2) ear buds get tiring after a few hours if they don’t fit just right.

  10. I have a cheap version of the kind that Heather mentioned, and they work great. I love ’em. The over the ear part means they don’t have to rammed in, but they’re as small as buds.

  11. I adore my Sony MDR-EX71 earbuds. They come with three different sizes of silicon surrounds. On a plane, i wear them under my huge chainsaw ear muffs which proudly read “Husquavarna”! on the side. I look like a total dork but it cuts out 27dB of engine and wind noise.

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