Updated

Best Headphones for Commuting - Winter 2017
Reviews

Headphones that are ideal for commuting, block or cancel the ambient noise of moderately loud environments, like being in a metro, train or bus. They don't leak much so other commuters can't hear what you are listening to. They're also comfortable and portable enough, to not be cumbersome to use while traveling. Below are our recommendations for the best headphones for commuting we have tested so far.

Best Headphones for Commuting $300+

Commuting headphones in this price range deliver superior noise isolation, typically through the use of proprietary active noise-cancelling technology. They have a good sound, are comfortable, sturdy and not too cumbersome. Additional features like wireless audio and efficient or unique control schemes are often provided on these models.

Usage Rating
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.

The Sony MDR-1000x are sturdy and comfortable headphones that are excellent at canceling ambient noise. They have a better noise isolation performance than the QuietComfort 35 and they're slightly better built but aren't as comfortable. They also have a great wireless range and a battery life that last up to 24 hours of continuous playtime. Unfortunately, they struggle a bit with some aspects of their sound quality which might not be ideal for pure critical listening.

See our review

Alternative

The Bose QuietComfort 35 are incredibly comfortable wireless headphones with a good sound and excellent noise canceling, which makes them ideal for commuting. They have a good set of active features and great battery life. They're pricier than the QuietComfort 25 and offer a slightly sturdier build, but like the QC25 they leak quite a bit at higher volumes.

See our review

Best Headphones for Commuting $150 to $300

In this price range, commuting headphones will not be as feature-packed as the more premium models. They still deliver a good sound and great active noise isolation, capable of blocking the noise of a loud commute or flight. They're also comfortable and relatively compact. However, their build quality is a little less durable.

Usage Rating
7.3Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.

The Bose QuietComfort 25 are comfortable over-ear headphones with an above-average sound quality. They cancel ambient noise amazingly well, which is more than enough for regular commutes. However they do leak quite a bit, and the people around you will be able to hear your music at high volumes, unlike the QC20.

See our review

Alternative

The Bose QuietComfort 20 are a great set of comfortable earbuds that isolate listeners really well. They will easily block the noise of a daily commute and are extremely quiet to the people around you even at high volumes. However, they don't have the best sound quality.

See our review

Best Headphones for Commuting $75 to $150

Headphones for commuting in this price range are a little less sturdy and comfortable than the higher-end models. They still provide a decent sound and good isolation, efficient enough for loud environments. However, they may also be passively isolating, which lets a bit of rumbling, low-frequency noise seep into our audio.  

Usage Rating
7.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.

The Jaybird X2 are surprisingly good for commuting. They have an above-average sound and block a high amount of ambient noise for passively isolating headphones. They're compact and can be carried around everywhere you go. Sadly, the in-ear fit is uncomfortable for some.

See our review

Best Headphones for Commuting below $75

In this price range, commuting headphones most likely have a passively isolating design. Good active noise canceling usually makes the headphones more expensive. They will still be enough for loud environments, like being on a train but won't be as efficient at reducing ambient noise as the higher-end headphones on this list. They're also not as durable or comfortable and struggle with audio reproduction.

Usage Rating
6.9Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.

The SoundPeats QY8 have very low leakage and block a sufficient ambient noise to be used while commuting. They deliver a stable and wireless in-ear design and an above-average sound. However, the in-ear fit is not comfortable for everyone.

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for commuting, to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of headphones for commuting that didn't make the cut:

  • Sennheiser PXC 550. Well-built, versatile headphones. Isolation is weaker than the QC 35 and the Zik 3.0. See our review
  • Parrot Zik 3.0. Excellent build quality and versatile active features. Mediocre battery life and a bit tight on the head. See our review
  • Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless. Sturdy build quality and decent sound. They don't leak much but are a bit pricey for what they have to offer. See our review
  • Denon AHGC20. Great isolation and low leakage. Poor sound quality and too pricey for what they offer. See our review
  • Samsung Level Over Wireless. Good sound and decent build quality. Slightly bulky and cumbersome. See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones that are good for commuting. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones for commuting. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection, especially if you listen to audio at high enough volumes to drown the ambient noise of your commute.

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Questions & Answers

3 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
2
Can you compare and contrast the Bose QC35, the Sony MDR 1000X, and the Parrot Zik 3.0? I am especially interested in which one has the best microphone for use in noisy environments. 2nd priority would be the most isolation from noisy environments.
We haven't reviewed the MDR 1000X yet, and we haven't started testing microphones yet either. However, in terms of isolation, the QC35 should outperform the Zik 3.0 by a small margin, but the ANC in Zik 3.0 will most likely be more comfortable than the QC35. That's because it adapts to the environment and doesn't overly isolate in quiet environments.
1
I noticed your commuting headphones are largely noise-isolating. However, I find that when commuting I need to be able to hear some of what is going on around me. Therefore I need headphones that give me detail without having to be too loud, but that don't completely isolate me. They also need to be able to be driven by a phone rather than a high end DAC. I currently use 1st generation Sennheiser Momentums and am very happy with everything except the ear cup size. Are there any phones you can recommend along these lines?

At the moment our Commute score favors headphones that can achieve the most amount of noise-cancelling. We agree that this may not be the choice for everyone and are thinking of ways to improve this.

We find the Bose SoundLink/SoundTrue over-ears perform similarly to the Momentums, but with more comfortable ear cups. They tend to be a bit leaky though. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is also a great sounding headphone, but not as comfortable as the Bose.

0
Will you be reviewing any of the Bowers and Wilkins line of headphones? My friend swears by them for comfort and fidelity, would love to get your take!
We have just placed our order for the P7, and are planning on reviewing it sometime in July. Update: we have the review up!
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