Six Best Headphones of 2020 – Noise Cancelling Not Just for Travel

by Miles Jackson

Six Best Headphones of 2020 – Not Just for Travel

Like most people, I am missing travel. We have all had to adjust our normal routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is one thing I find occupying my time; that is thinking about future travel and even planning hypothetical trips. Hand in hand, I am looking to add items that I believe will offer value for these trips. When I find a great value, I have been snapping up travel gadgets and necessities from Amazon. At the top of my list has been getting new headphones. That brings me to my review of the Six Best Headphones of 2020 – these are headphones not just for travel. My point is you’re going to get value right now even if you are grounded or in self-quarantine. You can enjoy an Amazon Watch Party – A New Prime Member Benefit!

Buyers can find many different kinds of headphones in the marketplace. Choices should be based on how you plan to use your headphones, with quality and price comparative to your perceived value.

Travel Friendly – Best Headphones of 2020

For a long time, Bose has been considered the gold standard for noise-cancelling headphones. This technology blocks out most ambient sounds and much of the background noise for audio listeners. Bose seemed to lead the list of most reviews of the best headphones. However, the technology is widespread in the industry and competitors have caught up to Bose. As a result, the headphone category is now a competitive marketplace with several compelling noise-cancelling offerings at various price points. Today, whether you plan to use your noise-cancelling headphones to listen to music, enjoy videos or simply block out unwanted noise, there are plenty of great noise-cancelling best headphones of 2020 to select from – and more on the way each day.

Best Headphones of 2020 – Active Noise Cancelling

When you consider purchasing new travel-friendly headphones, you should consider ones that offer noise-cancelling. That’s because in many situations, you will encounter engine and traffic noises. In addition, where there are many people (like an airport) you’ll want a headphone that limits those ambient noises and deliver quality audio. Remember, it’s not just airplanes, but any form or transportation offers its own unwanted noise sources. Any of them are loud enough to potentially disturb your enjoyment while listening to music, videos or your online conversations.

Noise-cancellation technology works as microphones ‘listen’ to sounds outside the listening headphones. In response, the headphone’s noise-cancelling technology attempt to reproduce sound waves which negate the sound waves of the ambient (unwanted) noises.  Noise-cancelling technology is fairly common in a wide range of headphone offerings. In short, you should be able to find some high-quality products that are in your budget.

Pan Am Airlines Vintage Headset

As a kid, I grew up flying on planes where the headsets were those cheap plastic air tubes. I could take the ends (meant to plug into the airplane’s ‘port’) and talk to myself. I would make noises which only I could hear in my headset – often recreating airplane engine noises! That actually defeats the intention of noise-cancelling technology. We’ve come a long way since then…

So let’s take a look at the six best headphones of 2020 you should consider buying now:

  1. Sony WH-1000XM3 
  2. BOSE QuietComfort 35 II
  3. BOSE Quietcontrol QC30
  4. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i
  5. Anker Soundcore Life Q20
  6. Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3

This headphone makes the top of the list for travelers. It seems that two brands (Bose and Sony) truly dominate this segment for the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

The latest Sony version which leads the pack is their Sony WH-1000XM3. This model claims to be more than four times better than the previous model!

Features: Now with up to a 30-hour battery life with Bluetooth and noise canceling on. Features a 10-minute quick charge providing you with 5 hours of battery life. Charging is made available through a USB-C charging cable/port. The Sony WH-1000XM3 features their new HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1.

Battery Time: With up to 30 hours of battery life, users can confidently board a long-haul flight and know their headphones won’t give out mid-flight!

Quality: Ranked as one of the best, these headphones deliver the best high-resolution audio. Its excellent quality sound surpasses many other similar devices.

Noise-Cancelling: As mentioned, Sony is one of the leading brands in this market. Therefore, it’s no surprise that their noise-cancelling technology delivers with this model. Sony’s noise cancelling relies on the ‘current distinctive pressure’ which makes them work even better.

Final Conclusion: This is the best noise-cancelling headphone model for traveling.

Recent Price: $278 & Free Shipping – You Save: $71.99 (21%)

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

For a long time, Bose has been considered the champion of noise-cancelling headphone. One advantage over the Sony WH-1000XM3 is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is lighter.

It delivers a top notch quality noise-cancelling feature.

Features: I’m wishing Bose offered a USB-C charging port on the QuietComfort 35 II, but Bose at least still kept a headphone jack, for home audiophiles. The QC35II offer three power settings along with ultra-boosting the sound quality.

Battery Time: At an estimated 20 hours battery life, it’s only 67% the life of the Sony headphones. Still, that’s more than enough time to make it through a busy work and travel day.

Sound Quality: Bass tones still get priority emphasis with these headphones, and overall a quality tones are evident.

Noise-Cancelling: Bose delivers an outstanding noise-cancelling product. This model actually features an active noise cancellation toggle, so users can switch it off if needed on the fly.

Final Conclusion: Their recent model, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, adds ‘voice assist’ with a great product. It works great with Google Assistant and for iPhone users, it’s as simple as downloading the Google Assistant app on your iPhone. The QC 35II also work with Amazon’s Alexa.

Recent Price: $299.00 & Free Shipping – You Save: $50.00 (14%)

Bose QC30

Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones

If you are seeking a lightweight option, these noise-cancelling earphones are the best choice. Travelers prefer this product for its traveling light features. It weighs in at just 63.8grams (~2.25 ounces.) Since these headphones are more lightweight, they allow travelers to sleep better on long trips.

Because of their unique headband design they can be used as sports headphones. The Bose QC30 is suitable for a work headset as well.

Features: Sweat-resistant, which adds to its appeal as a sports headset. One drawback for home users is the Bose QC30 does not offer a wired option to plug into airline (or home) entertainment systems. If you want to use a Bluetooth option to allow this, you should look at the TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver.

TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver Using this device you can stream audio to any Bluetooth-enabled device

Using that device, you can stream audio over Bluetooth, as it plugs into an audio port and then transmits the signal to your wireless headphones.

Battery Time: The lithium ion battery provides up to 10 hours of wireless listening enjoyment per charge. That’s about enough for two transcontinental USA flights, or more than three feature-length movies.

Sound Quality: The sound quality and the ANC technology are both up there with the best of headphone offerings.

Noise-Cancelling: As you would expect with Bose, the noise cancelling technology is brilliant. They are pricey, but deliver a top-notch noise-cancelling experience.

Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones Mobile App

Bose Connect app: Bose designed a free app to make it easier to connect and switch between your connected devices. “An intuitive interface and product tips let you personalize your settings, so you can power your workday.”

Final Conclusion: When you place these headphones over your ears, you will notice an immediate improvement in the sound quality. Its audio performance rivals that of the Bose QC35. The price may cause some to pause and weigh the benefits over price.

Recent Price: $229.00 & Free Shipping -You Save: $70.00 (23%)

Beoplay H9I (Bang & Olufsen)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i

If you looking for style, then the Beoplay H9I may be your traveling companion. It is a comparatively light at just 285 grams (10 ounces.)  I’ve found these headphones to be incredibly comfortable on my ears.

From a noise cancellation standpoint, they’re not up to par with Bose, which sells the Bose QuietComfort 35 II for $150 less.

Features: Stitched cowhide headband and lambskin cushioned ear pads make a style and comfort statement for the most discriminating audiophiles. They look great wherever you take them and are sure to make heads turn.

Battery Time: Expected battery life of 18 hours, which is largely due to the fantastic sound quality generated.

Sound Quality: From an audio standpoint, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i headphones are fantastic, although a bit pricey.

Noise-Cancelling: They feature a highly active noise cancellation sound technology and a pioneering touch interface sure to make your listening easier.

Final Conclusion: Bang & Olufsen covered the headband with cowhide leather and aluminum. Wearers will discover the ear cushions as truly soft and offering ultra-comfort, these headphones are great for long trips. Your ears won’t hurt even after the longest flights! I wore these on a very long Eurail Pass trip for hours on end and they felt great the entire time.

How would you find a stylish pair of traveling headphones?  Originally, these came at over $500 and now we consistently see prices at more than 40% off that ticket cost.

You will experience a highly active noise cancellation sound and pioneering touch interface.

Recent Price: $299.92 & Free Shipping – You Save: $200.08 (40%)

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

In all honesty, the Anker Life Q20 doesn’t sound as good as I find in the premium noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3. At the same time, if budget is a priority then the audio quality is pretty good. Likewise, it is probably the best for noise-cancelling headphones within this less than $80 budget price point.

Features: For a budget-priced headphones with all the technology of the big brands, this is my pick in the budget category.

Battery Time: Up to 40 hours of listening time in wireless active noise cancellation mode; 60 hours in standard music mode. The company claims a 5-minute charge provides 4 hours of listening time!

Sound Quality: The Q20’s feature a 100% Stronger Bass. Anker utilizes its exclusive “BassUp technology conducts real-time analysis of low frequencies to instantly strengthen its bass output.” Users can activate the feature by double pressing the play button when listening for an amplified listening experience.

Noise-Cancelling: Anker claims it reduce ambient noises by up to 90%. This experience is the result of utilizing 4 microphones and a digital ANC algorithm to detect and cancel out low and mid-frequency noises such as cars and airplane engines.

Final Conclusion: With enhanced comfort and noise Isolation the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 active noise cancelling headphones feature memory foam ear pads. These are covered in protein leather that mold around your ears. Further adjustments allow them to adjust the angle to fit perfectly to your ears.

Recent Price: Price: $69.99 & Free Shipping

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Plantronics Backbeat (Pro 2)

If you are seeking your best competitor to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones on price, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is perhaps your best pick. These noise cancelling wireless headphones allow you to enjoy listening whether you are at home, outdoors on traveling.

Features: A better price than the Bose QC II, offering good comparisons in audio quality and noise-cancellation. However, the noise cancellation isn’t quite on par with Bose. The exterior components are largely made of plastic, with a soft leather-like material covering the top of the head band. The ear pads are formed of comfortable memory foam, making these comfortable to wear for relatively long periods. The BackBeat Pro 2 also features a red mute button for handling calls. It also has a 3.5mm jack, along with a micro USB port for charging.

Battery Time: You get 24 hours of continuous listening time and up to 21 days on standby mode.

Sound Quality: Audio is well-balanced. You won’t find the deepest bass tones of higher-priced models, but overall these are a great pair of headphones. Mid-frequencies are excellent and I really like the balanced spectrum of the audio overall.

Noise-Cancelling: The left side features a slider switch which activates and de-activates the active noise-cancellation and the ambient noise pass-through microphones. The right side provides your Bluetooth pairing slider, which also serves as the power switch.

Final Conclusion: An overall good choice, the BackBeat Pro 2 offers a lot for a decent price point. Despite their plastic composition, these headphones are  sturdy and are quite comfortable to wear – even for extended periods of time.

Coupled with a wonderful collection of features, ease of use and overall decent audio quality, they’re a very good pair of headphones.

Recent Price: Price:$143.80 & Free Shipping – You Save: $55.20 (28%)

Which Credit Card for Amazon Purchases

The links to the items featured in the post are all found on Amazon. So you want to use the credit card which gives you the best rewards for purchases on Amazon.

If you’re not an Amazon Prime member yet, you should consider signing up. As far as a credit card, if you want to get a good return on your Amazon purchases you should go with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card provides 1.5% cash back on all purchases. That’s a decent return; however you could potentially do better.

You can actually double the value of your earned rewards by matching the Freedom Unlimited with a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. If you do this, you can redeem your cash back as transferable Ultimate Rewards points. Those points are worth at least two cents each, in my opinion.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited provides 120-day purchase protection plus an extended warranty that extends eligible manufacturer warranties by an additional year. Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee.

If you’re looking to hit a bonus spend target in your first days of having a new card, you should look into the two new (Limited Time) bonuses currently being offered by Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy cards; up to 100K Bonvoy points! Read more about those two cards here.

Final Thoughts

Like many, I am currently without travel in my immediate calendar. That doesn’t stop me from planning. I have been looking at travel to the Caribbean, even the Barbados 12 Month Welcome Stamp Visa for remote workers. One thing I still do is put on my best travel friendly headphones and listen to my favorite playlists. It brings me closer to my memories of past trips, while planning my next ones.

If you are looking for your next travel headphones, which can also be great home companions, consider the models I have presented. Consumers have many choices available to them.

However, when it comes to music quality, Sony is the number one pick. That’s why people may prefer Sony over Bose. As I already mentioned that Bose and Sony are two major brands that have all the best products. Still, I have included a few other options and even a budget-friendly Anker model. If you are looking for a battery pack for your travels, Anker has the most and best-priced options.

Pan Am Airlines Vintage Coffee Mug Pan Am Airlines Coffee Mug

So, grab yourself a beverage (mine is served in my favorite Pan Am coffee mug, queue up some great tunes and sit back and listen on your new headphones. Travel and new adventures are just around the corner for the persistent traveler.

What’s your best recommendation for your travel headphones?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Alex H July 29, 2020 - 4:00 pm

I have the Sony WH 1000XM3’s and I saw a sneak peak to the XM4’s that allow more time and even multiple bluetooth devices which would be great for switching to phone to laptop. Not sure I want to shell out another $300+ but we’ll see 🙂

Bill Shuman July 29, 2020 - 7:33 pm

Great article Miles! I bought a pair of headphones for travel/playing poker last year after listening to several and settled on the Sony WH 1000XM3s myself. I like the noise canceling features, comfort and the fact that it was a USB-C charge which meant I only have to bring one type of charger for all my electronics. The added bonus was the ability to place a hand over the ear and stealthily be able to hear what people are saying at the poker tables. Needless to say they’ve paid for themselves many times over with that small feature. I’m already debate about upgrading when the new ones come out, but that will depend on the status of the pandemic by then

Miles Jackson July 29, 2020 - 10:52 pm

Thanks so much! That’s a great tip on the poker angle. I’m a huge poker and Survivor fan. I was lucky enough to sit near a table one time where ‘Boston Rob’ was playing! I spent way too much time listening to their banter!


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