Have these things changed my audio expectations?

Kill The Travel Noise

May 18, 2011
1 min read

How did I ever live without noise cancelling ‘phones? Travel just isn’t the same when you actually have to listen to either the machine that you’re traveling in, or to the chatter and crying of your fellow travellers.

I travel solo most of the time and while I may occasionally want to have a yak with an interesting individual in transit or to get acquainted with a single-serving friend, generally I’ve found it best to just drop out and tune in to some kind of entertainment on the bus, plane or train.

Between the iPod, iPhone, laptop computer, in-flight entertainment system or just a book or my Kindle, there’s plenty to do but it only comes together if I can get rid of any annoying drones, which is where the noise cancelling ‘phones come in. I started off with a set of Bose QC3 headphones; on the plus side, they were exceedingly comfortable, well made and did a reasonable job of cutting out the noise. On the down side, they weren’t all that brilliant sonically, needed two fully charged batteries (supplied) for long trips and were a bit of a pain to drag around with their carry case.

Since then, I’ve moved to passive in-ear noise cancelling ‘phones from Shure or Ultimate Ears and I never travel without them. There are no batteries to charge, no need to turn them off during take off and landing and they pack up into a tiny carry case.

Long trips are definitely easier when you can just ignore the distractions and relax; I get to my destinations feeling less fatigued and more alert. I often find myself exploring new music, which I can listen to at a moderate volume level and still hear most of the detail I’d get in a quiet area with normal in-ear ‘phones. With the addition of an airplane adapter, the ‘phones can do double duty with in-flight movies. In addition, they sound far better than the recycled ten cent numbers that the airlines grudgingly hand out and as someone who has an aversion to prolonged exposure to loud noise, some quiet time just has to be a good thing.

Some users may have comfort related issues with this type of in-ear ‘phones but it’s worth persisting because the benefits for frequent travellers are marvelous. It’s important to choose models that are specifiably designed to cut noise levels; many in-ear ‘phones that slip lightly into the outer ear don’t do much in this regard at all. Compressible foam or silicon sleeves make all the difference.

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