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What are the Best Luxury Headphones for Traveling?

Ready to resume traveling? Then you need an excellent pair of travel-ready headphones. Known by serious audiophiles as “cans,” headphones are a must for an optimal air travel experience, whether you’re flying commercial, sharing a private jet with a number of other people, or kicking it mogul-style alone on your own jet. No matter how luxurious your plane, it’s still going to be noisy. Our correspondent Julie Chang Murphy has rounded up the most stylish headphones, the most expensive headphones and the most durable headphones. All in all, these are the best luxury headphones for traveling.

the best luxury headphones for traveling

What are the best headphones to bring with you on your next trip? We went shopping, and discovered an overwhelming number of choices.

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We asked some our Road Warrior friends to help us narrow the field based on performance and comfort. Then the Style Council did a sharp edit for the most sophisticated and stand-out design. Our curated Dandelion Chandelier list follows (and if you’re looking for home sound systems and speakers, click here).

what makes for an excellent pair of travel headphones?

Let’s start with some basics about what makes for the best travel headphones and why (themasterswitch.com is an excellent site to learn about all of this in even more detail).

When selecting a pair of expensive headphones that are fit-for-purpose for being on the road, in addition to comfort, look for these key features:

the driver

The driver is the mechanism by which sound gets to your ears via your headphones. There are three types: a “dynamic” driver is the most common; a “planar magnetic” produces more delicate sound but requires more power; and an “electrostatic” is extremely expensive and used only by professionals.

For travel purposes, either a dynamic or a magnetic planar will be fine, but you’ll get more battery life from a dynamic driver.

The best luxury headphones for traveling.

closed back

“Closed back” (as opposed to open back) means that all of the components in the ear cups are completely sealed off, hiding the inner workings and keeping the sound contained.

Many of the way-cool headphones you see in ads are “open back:” that means that the inner workings are exposed, usually protected by a mesh grille. Open back cans sound much better than closed, because they allow air to circulate more freely around the driver. The sound is far more natural. The problem is that with an open back, the sound leaks out (the technical term is “bleed”). Meaning that everyone around you can hear what you’re listening to. Not a problem when you’re alone in your man cave or she-shed, but a huge issue on an airplane or in any communal setting.

So for travel, it’s closed back only.

The best luxury headphones for traveling.

The best luxury headphones for traveling.

low impedance

“Impedance” refers to the electrical resistance of the headphones (it’s a measure of how much voltage and current they need to operate properly). High impedance means you need a lot of power, which means you need an amp.

When you’re on the go, you want impedance of less than 32 ohms (there’s a grey zone between 32 and 100 ohms).

a sturdy carrying case

Never underestimate the annoyance you’ll feel if you have a really expensive set of headphones but have to tote them around in a cheap canvas case. You need something light but durable to protect your investment.

So what would we buy if we were you? Here’s our list, sorted by the hierarchy of need.

For Road Warriors: the most durable

If you’re indifferent about design, and rate noise cancellation as your primary goal, there are a number of options that will get the job done reliably. These are the most durable luxury headphones we found.

1. Bose

Bose is a no-regrets choice. The question is which one to buy: the QC35 II or the latest model, Noise Cancelling Headphones 700?

The Bose QC35 II is known industry-wide for its superior active noise cancellation and crystal-clear audio quality. Equally important is its snug and comfortable fit, delivered via glass-filled nylon with a leather-cushioned outer headband. It has a 20-hour battery life (enough to get you from New York to Singapore) and can connect to Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa.

The best luxury headphones for traveling

BUY NOW: $299.

The Bose 700 is almost $100 more expensive. And certainly looks it with a sleek, modern design. But the main improvement is in the headphones’ revamped microphone technology consisting of eight mics, six of which are designed to mute your surroundings. The mics are also better tasked with voice recognition and industry insiders rate it as more fluid than previous models.

BUY NOW: $379.

2. Sony

The Sony WH-1000XM4, released this year, is the latest upgrade from the Sony WH-1000XM3. Stylistically it looks similar to the previous model but has markedly improved noise-cancelling capabilities. Sony has improved its battery life up to 30 hours and integrated a motion sensor for smart gesture controls.

And of course, the headphones still check all those must-haves in audio quality: a nice treble, warm, natural mid-range and a satisfying bass that is deep but also defined.

 

BUY NOW: $278.

3. apple airpod max

For Apple devotees, these hotly-anticipated headphones with an instantly recognizable and iconic design deliver exceptional audio performance via a powerful Apple-designed H1 chip in each custom cup. Its noise cancelling capabilities have been judged by techies like SoundGuys as better than Sony’s and Bose’s headphones and it has a transparency mode to let users hear what’s going on with the click of a button. Looking at the large ear cups, you’d be correct in assuming the sound is spacious, warm, and immersive.

 

BUY NOW: $549.

4. sennheiser

Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 headphones ranks among the most highly-rated over-ear noise-cancelling headphones for casual use currently on the market. They’re compact and comfortable with memory foam padding and offer excellent Bluetooth compatibility. These cans have touch controls, effect modes, and single-button voice assistant integration.

They’re noteworthy for their sound quality and speech clarity, a serious plus when you’re on a business call. They also have a built-in limiter that avoids sudden and extreme sound level peaks (e.g. when you are connected to an in-flight entertainment system that is also used for crew announcements).

BUY NOW: $329.95.

5. bowers & wilkins

If you’re willing to pay up for superior performance, these British-made headphones receive outstanding marks for sound quality, construction and comfort. The latest succession to their PX line, the PX 7 headphones bring sophisticated noise-canceling and a custom fiber composite headband which makes these light and elegant.

The most noteworthy feature is a first in class aptX codec, aptX Apdative technology which improves stability between the headphones and your devices. It helps automatically adjust the streaming content, overcoming potentially disruptive glitches so you’re always synced up.

BUY NOW: $323.93.

For Jet-Setters: the most stylish

If you’re in pursuit of cans that are both functional and stylish, have a look at these:

1. MEZE

Meze 99 Classics are designed in Romania, and have hand-carved ear cups that are made of walnut or maple, with silver or gold hardware (there are three over-ear colorways to choose from). They’re quite beautiful, look a great deal more expensive than they really are, and deliver excellent sound quality. One reviewer compared them to the highly-acclaimed and coveted Sennheiser HD800’s – a $1,400 pair of headphones – and said their sound quality is almost that good.

BUY NOW: $309.

2. Master & Dynamic

Master & Dynamic MW60 wireless foldable over-ear Bluetooth headphones are good-looking and high-performing. What’s not to like? They have four times the average industry signal range, a 16-hour battery, a noise-isolating microphone and rich, warm sound. The aesthetic is industrial-chic and urbane, and there are six color options, all with stainless steel and aluminum hardware. The headband is made from premium cowhide, and the ear cups from lambskin. They’re marketed by their manufacturer as a “modern mobile thinking cap.” Love that line. We’re in.

 

BUY NOW: $249.

3. beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic T5p (2nd Generation) sleek silver and black headphones receive excellent reviews for use on-the-go or at home. Lightweight and durable, they’re hand-crafted in Germany. They’re closed back, but many audiophiles report that they “sound open-back” (a good thing!) The sound is described as clear (as opposed to warm) with deep bass. They come with a good-looking hard-shell carrying case, and a 5-year warranty. The only downside? There’s more bleed on these than others you might choose – so if you’re the boss, go for it. If people hear your tunes, so be it. But perhaps make a different choice if you’re not in a position to exert your authority over your travel companions.

BUY NOW: $999.

4. audio-technica

The luxurious Audio-Technica ATH-AWAS are made with rare Asada Zakura (Japanese cherry) wood. The wood is renowned for its use in high-end audio speakers due to its fine acoustics and durability. In headphones, it suppresses unwanted resonance for a outstanding clarity. The design is lightweight, yet strong with sheepskin leather padded ear cups for comfort the entire flight.

 

BUY NOW: $1,399.

5. klipsch

For retro lovers, the Klipsch Heritage HP-3 is our go-to for nostalgic joy. Rest assured there is nothing vintage about its technology. Solid wood ear cup chambers come in 3 finishes: walnut, ebony, and oak. Copper hardware and beautiful detailing like contrast stitching along the leather band elevate these standout headphones. As for sound, the drivers are designed in the model of Klipsch loudspeakers rather than traditional headphones, giving it more color and plenty of power. They are a semi-open design, though, so keep that in mind.

 

BUY NOW: $1,199.

6. hifiman

Hifiman’s HE-R10 Dynamic Version comes with a sculpted wooden ear cup design that looks like it could belong in a museum. For closed cans, the R10 impresses with its sound: dense, intimate and precise. One reviewer describes them as “mini cathedrals for your ears.” The drivers also use a rare earth magnet that gives the headphones its high sensitivity so your music (and style) is on full display.

BUY NOW: $1,299.

Supersonic: the most expensive

If money is no object, and you want something that makes a true design statement and delivers audio quality commensurate with the quality of your suitcase and its contents (and the private jet you’re probably going to be taking), here’s the top of the line:

1. fostex

Fostex TH900 are attention-grabbing and seriously luxurious. The ear cups are a gorgeous deep red, and the housings are made of Japanese cherry birch wood (which has a rigid and dense texture to facilitate maximum acoustic performance). The housings are finished using a traditional “Urushi” lacquer applied by a group of artisans in Japan.

The ear pads are made of advanced synthetic Japanese leather derived from eggshell membrane. And the company’s logo is applied to the housing in platinum foil. They come with an elegant desktop stand for storage. Reviewers rave about their comfort and sound quality (the company used to make headphones for Denon, and only in recent years launched its own brand of cans). They’re not for shy and retiring types, but alphas will love them.

 

BUY NOW: $1,599.99.

2. mr speakers

Mr Speakers Ether C headphones, designed and manufactured in San Diego, are extremely hard to find and highly beloved by insiders. They’re award-winning, and you’ll have instant audiophile street cred if you show up at the terminal with them. They employ planer magnetic technology, and they’re ultra-lightweight. Finished in sleek silver, they come with a brown leather hard-shell carrying case.

BUY NOW: $1,759.

3. ultrasone

Ultrasone Edition 8 (€1299) will be loved by aesthetes the world over; they’ve been described as “Mercedes-class.” Hand-crafted in Germany, they have a number of features not found elsewhere, including ear protection from magnetic field radiation via ULE technology.

The company’s S-Logic Plus Natural Surround Sound technology reflects sound off the outer ear to create a more enveloping listening experience. The technology also provides a lower dB output with the same perceived loudness (meaning that you can hear well at lower volume levels, which may reduce the risk of hearing fatigue).

The ear pads and headband are made from Ethiopian sheepskin leather. The finish is a sleek brushed silver, and is totally private-jet ready. The headphones come with a carrying case crafted from Madras goatskin, and there’s a 5-year warranty. Want even more? The Edition 15 Veritas are among a small handful of closed-back ultra-expensive headphones. With patented S-LogicEX technology, the listening experience feels incredibly natural- like listening to music on luxury speakers. – that will cost you €2.999.

BUY NOW: €1299.

4. audeze

Audeze LCD-XC headphones have ear cups made of equatorial African Bubinga wood, leather ear pads, and either lambskin leather or micro-suede headbands. They employ planar magnetic technology and deliver clean, accurate sound (one reviewer said it was the best closed-back he’d ever heard). They’re understated luxury at its best.

 

BUY NOW: $1,299.

5. final audio design

Final Audio Design Sonorous X ($5,000) are described by one reviewer as “the last pair of headphones you’ll ever need.” They arrive in a fur-lined wooden box, the drivers are titanium, and the ear cups are made of stainless steel and aluminum, finished in gold leaf. They’re really large, and they block environmental noise quite well.

These Japanese-made cans were a bit too bling-y for some members of the Style Council (they’re BRIGHT gold), but the experts say that the sound quality is impeccable. They’ve got swagger to spare, and they might be perfect for how you roll.

 

BUY NOW: $4,998.99.

the best luxury headphones for traveling

It’s almost wheels up, so we have to stop here. However you manage take-off, we hope this helps you bring your music into the wild blue yonder. Which pair is your dream travel companion?

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This article contains affiliate links to products independently selected by our editors. As an Amazon Associate, Dandelion Chandelier receives a commission for qualifying purchases made through these links. 

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