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kvndoom
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Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:29 am

"I have had it with these MF'in noises on this MF'in plane!" - Sam Jack

My BFF just landed a job that will have him flying cross country almost monthly. He asked me about headphones, because he knows my um, history with audio equipment.

I love the isolation and quality of my Audio Technica ATH-M50x. I wear them for walking, lawnmowing, exercising, etc. But I'm hesitant to recommend them on a flight without having used them that way myself.

I've never used noise-canceling headphones at all, but I've also never used headphones of any type while flying. Would it be best for him to go with noise-canceling, or would a good pair of low impedance sealed cans work just as well?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:31 am

Absolutely love my Bose noise canceling headphones. I've had them for about 14 years now. There are some really crappy noise canceling headphones on the market. Don't buy those.

Sure, any over-the-ear headphone sealed type headphone is going to be better than ones that let ambient noise in. I guess it's a matter of how much noise isolation you're looking for.

I would be willing to try the Beats noise canceling headphones, if I had piles of spare cash laying around, because I may like the sound even better. But I don't, and I'm happy enough with what I have that I'll keep using them.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:38 am

kvndoom wrote:
Would it be best for him to go with noise-canceling...
Yes.

Sure, a good sealed model will get you a lot, but airplanes are one of the cases where noise cancelling really does offer a huge benefit, and Bose are good at NC. Check out Inner Fidelity's Wall of Fame for recommendations. You can also hop over around to other sections for IEM and full-size sealed options.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:41 am

Some good noise canceling ones would be the way to go on a plane IMO. They'll probably be smaller/lighter than sealed (but non-noise-canceling) ones with comparable isolation.

You'll want to go wired, as some airlines may not allow use of Bluetooth in flight.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:50 am

Planes are a perfect use case for active noise canceling headphones. The reason is that they do a really good job at canceling out low tones and not such a good job at higher pitches. If your friend will be traveling in business class or first class, a good pair of isolating headphones is totally sufficient. The low roar of the engines usually isn't loud enough in the forward parts of the cabin for the noise canceling to shine. However, if he's going to be traveling in coach where he may be just a few feet from the turbine, he'll really appreciate the difference! Personally, if I'm near the engines for more than a 45 min flight, I'll put on my ANC headphones even if I'm not listing to audio. If I'm up front, I'll leave them off unless I'm listening to something.

Something else to note is that even the best ANC headphones will slightly distort the audio while the ANC circuitry is on. Sometimes, the noise reduction makes the audio sound better overall anyway, but it's something to be aware of if your friend is an audiophile. Also, the quality of the noise canceling varies quite a bit and it doesn't always get better with higher price tags so do your research.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:17 am

My thoughts.... Noise cancelling tech adds a feeling of pressure. I personally find that feels worse or more off putting than wearing IEMs. Therefore I recommend skipping headphones and buying IEMs. Much more convenient to travel with as well. If for some reason IEMs are not acceptable... I don't know man. Bose is the best in terms of NC tech and comfort. I think they don't know how to tune something to sound right to save themselves but whatever. Otherwise Sennheiser's stuff is pretty decent. Audio-Technica does make a decent ANC headphone as well.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:29 am

I use standard iPod/iPhone headphones underneath shooting range earmuffs. Those earmuffs are large enough to accommodate most earbud headphones and they provide 40 db of noise reduction. This is a really inexpensive option, especially if you need the earmuffs for other reasons. And it works really well.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:37 am

slowriot wrote:
My thoughts.... Noise cancelling tech adds a feeling of pressure.

I've experienced this, albeit the Sony set I use are nearly 15yo at this point, so newer signal processing tech might be better-behaved. Flying coach near the engines, though, sometimes I'll use them the same way as dextrous: to cut the drone even without actually listening to another source.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:58 am

I'd recommend the pair I have, the Audio Technica ANC9s. They can be had for about $150 or less and they work really well and still have excellent sound quality.

For absolute best noise cancelling, go Bose, but the consensus is their sound quality is not very good on their noise cancelling headphones.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:20 pm

Never tried noise cancelling headphones but used in-ear ones on eight hour flights. They were Panasonic ErgoFit. I tried others but they were either uncomfortable or would fall out. Apple standard earbuds? Forget that! Can't wear them. But these Panasonic ones were super comfortable and had good sound quality. I felt pretty separated from the noise but then again I like sound of machinery so it didn't bother me as much in the first place. I guess it depends. I was happy with those but noise-cancelling might be better for someone else.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:49 pm

Second on the in ears. I'm using shures 100 dollar option and couldn't be happier.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:13 pm

I fly intercontinental ten times a year and I love my M50x's I really like the way they fold up into my bag and I like that the cable comes out so I'm not worried about breaking it off. The government pays for my ticket so i'm in economy and it keeps the noise down good enough for me.

On the other hand, a few of my coworkers use the Bose quiet comfort cans and like them. I like the bigger flatter style of the M50x. I even wear them without the cable as ear muffs!

I have flown with my nicer set of earbuds that do a good job at blocking out noise. However, i've found that after 30 hours in transit I can't stand to put them in my ears. I can wear them fine for an hour or two, but after that it is over. Maybe custom IEMs would do better on that point?

Main points in favor of M50x
Long term comfort
Folds nicely
Removable cable

My cons
Not a tight fit (on my head)
Looks bulkier than the Bose
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:17 pm

I can wear my shures for days with no problems. Iirc I use the medium sized foamies but they're stock.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:54 pm

I would go with IEM's too. The Panasonic 120 model of IEM's that are about $10 are actually a fine place to start. Yes, $10 can get you a decent start. Buy two pairs if you feel like spending more.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:26 pm

Etymotics FTW. I own the MC5 and HF5 and love both of them. Planes, subways, blocking out co-workers... they shut out just about everything.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:30 pm

I've always wondered if my earplug like foamies or those multilayer plastic cups reduce noise more. If I had to guess the foamies are better but probably less comfortable for most people.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:33 pm

I use Bose. The current models are much better than the old ones when it comes to comfort, sound pressure, and the like. The batteries last the entire flight (which is good because the current models do not have replaceable batteries, like the old ones. I heartily recommend them! More than that, the number of them you see on a business traveler flight these days is a recommendation in itself.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:14 pm

Heiwashin wrote:
I've always wondered if my earplug like foamies or those multilayer plastic cups reduce noise more. If I had to guess the foamies are better but probably less comfortable for most people.

I find the foamies quite comfortable on the Shure SE500s. Those triple-layer rubber/plastic things seal all too well and I have to be really careful not to just pull them out like the foamies or I will SERIOUSLY pop my ears. It bloody well hurts and, at my age, my ears don't need additional beatings.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:37 pm

Bose is insanely good at active noise cancellation, especially where there is ambient white noise like on airplanes. Having said that, the M50s are better in every other way when not on the plane. So there is that to consider.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:20 pm

mirQtio wrote:
Etymotics FTW. I own the MC5 and HF5 and love both of them. Planes, subways, blocking out co-workers... they shut out just about everything.



Yup.

-particularly good if you convolve to binaural.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:25 pm

..isolation with good memory foam inserts (which provides about 27db noise reduction with the Etymotics) beats active cancellation for noises that aren't continuous - like the dynamic range of multiple passengers on a plane. Continuous prop-noise from the cockpit of a small aircraft might favor really good active cancellation.)

http://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearin ... n/hd5.html
Last edited by CScottG on Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:32 pm

As previous posters and innerfidelity suggest, Bose is the king of NC. Myself I went for the Polk Audio Ultrafocus 8000. Slightly weaker NC, but way better audio and good old AAA batteries that last forever (29-35 hours on fully charged Eneloop Pros) and can be quickly swapped out when they run out of charge (vs most USB-rechargeable cans that last 10-12 hours).

For a plane any active NC will be better than passive sealed headphones, in my experience.

Stay away from the cheap stuff, though. Or you might end up like this unfortunate lady:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-n ... mid-flight

I guess lithium ion can be a real bitch on flights. I take some comfort that the rechargeable Eneloop AAAs I bring along are still good old NiMH.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:45 pm

I used M40x's in the office, but I consider them too bulky for flight travel, even though they do fold up nicely. I carry a decent set of isolating ear-buds for the airplane. I use a soft-rubber pair of tips for comfort though they do lose a bit in isolation, being only a single layer. But, they are also extremely comfortable and fit my ears very well. If I'm not flying first class, I actually sit at the back of the plane by choice and, with music playing, they are sufficient to address engine and cabin noise, at least for me. They do a good enough job that I have to have to take them out to have any hope of hearing an in cabin announcement. I can usually hear the "bing" that precedes it, probably because I fly enough that I'm tuned in to listening for it.

This kind of thing is a very personal decision, just like headphone in general. As other people have noted, I have heard many people say good things about the higher end Bose active noise cancelling headphones. To this point, I haven't need to make the expenditure. If I flew distances longer than the normal Texas to California I do, I might investigate. For you friend, if they are used to over the ear, and especially if they have a pair, and if they are ok with the extra size, I'd start there. Otherwise I'd start with a reasonably priced set of earbuds. If they aren't "audio picky", save a bit on the buds themselves and try out some different tips to optimize for comfort and isolation. My tendency would be to move to ANC as a final option.

If they want to try the ANC, it might be worth checking out one of the "rent me for the flight" places in the airport. It would be a relatively cheap way of trying out a set of headphones, assuming they had some decent models.

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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:28 pm

Heiwashin wrote:
Second on the in ears. I'm using shures 100 dollar option and couldn't be happier.

If you mean the Shure SE215s, I have them and they're great. I use them as stage monitors. The foam tips do a nice job keeping out the sound and letting you just listen.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:56 pm

A friend of mine, a frequent traveler, has the Bose QC 35 noise cancelling headphones. He loves them.

I wanted the noise cancelling of the QC 35 and the audio depth of the Sennheiser PXC 550 so I went with the Sony MDR-1000X. I am in love with the MDR-1000X.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Thu Apr 13, 2017 12:34 am

I've used my Sennheiser HD-25's on planes before, they isolate very well but the drone of the engines is still present. But isolation is different from active noise cancelling, and as far as I know air travel is where active noise cancelling works best. You can forget about very high fidelity with that much background noise anyway, so I think your BFF should try getting headphones that focus on getting that background noise level down by any means
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:15 am

kvndoom wrote:
"I have had it with these MF'in noises on this MF'in plane!" - Sam Jack

My BFF just landed a job that will have him flying cross country almost monthly. He asked me about headphones, because he knows my um, history with audio equipment.

I love the isolation and quality of my Audio Technica ATH-M50x. I wear them for walking, lawnmowing, exercising, etc. But I'm hesitant to recommend them on a flight without having used them that way myself.

I've never used noise-canceling headphones at all, but I've also never used headphones of any type while flying. Would it be best for him to go with noise-canceling, or would a good pair of low impedance sealed cans work just as well?

Thanks in advance!

As a satisfied owner of M50x's, I have to wonder what kind of insane volume levels you must be subjecting yourself to if you're using M50x's while mowing the lawn. Yeah, they're closed back but they really don't cut out that much noise. Even with my noise cancelling earmuffs I use at the gun range, my lawn mower is still quite loud.

Anyway, to beat a dead horse, Bose's active noise cancelling headphones are probably his best bet, though they aren't cheap.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:47 am

For active noise cancellation, Bose does seem to be best. QC35's or whatnot if you can afford the cost and bulk.

I think Sony and Audio-Technica are competitors, Sony's MDR1000X/B I believe is close, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b is a lot cheaper but not as good-- that said I know people with thousands of hours on earlier Bose QC's as well as the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b's who are happy with both.

I personally don't like the bulk and prefer IEM's myself. Quite a few quality ones out there if you can do $100 or more, for a little less I think Costco has some iMore ones around $80 that are pretty well regarded. If you can replace the stock tips with foam ones from Comply (assuming there's a model that works for your IEM's) on most IEMs you can improve the isolation a bit. OTOH if you are buying Etymotic IEM's, those tend to go pretty deep in your ear (deeper than most other IEMs I've used) and hence already provide outstanding isolation.
 
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Thu Apr 13, 2017 2:41 am

The Audio-Technica ANC-9's are nice enough, I picked them up in Singapore for a flight back to DFW, but I'll note that the ear cups are very small and can be uncomfortable.

For comfort, Bose all the way. The AT's might have better sound (and they do sound good), but that's not what I'd be concerned about on flights.
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Re: Headphones on a Plane

Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:17 am

Thanks for all the suggestions! I wrote him this morning and told him if he wants superior cancellation go with the Bose QC25's (wired so he won't have any issues with using Bluetooth on a flight). But if he wants to sacrifice some NC and get better SQ, then let me know and I'll dig a little deeper.

Budget isn't too big a deal. His exact words were "I'll pay up to $500 if it can scratch my back too." :lol:
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