Ah, the holidays. Peacefully traveling through the air with the greatest of ease, with only the occasional stench of vomit, screaming of infants and general inability to hear anything you want to hear (movies, music) combined with the ability to hear at great volume the things you don't want to. No more!
This time I used the Bose QuietComfort 20i noise cancelling headphones. I know, "Bose, the overrated and overpriced company? That Bose?" Yes, thems. I've owned a few Bose products over the years, including their original over-the-ear noise cancelling cans that eventually crapped out on me, but I have to admit… these are almost worth the price.
Three hundred clams is a lot to spend on a headphones, noise cancelling or not. Unfortunately I travel a lot year-round, and I've found NC sets to be a requirement. In general I've found Able Planet to be a great value, almost as good as the Bose at noise cancellation and less than half the price. But, over-the-ear cans take up a lot of space and being an ultralight traveler I always find myself weighing – OK, not so much weight as space – the pros and cons. So I took a flyer on the QuietComfort 20i. Note: the i is for, you guessed it, Apple products, with a non-i version for Android, Windows et al.
So, bottom line: the 20i is fantastic. Noise cancellation is top notch, and audio quality right up there as well, with ample but not overpowering bass. The earbuds are not exactly "in" the ear, but the little wing – wings! – let the nozzle part sit directly on top of your ear. It's very comfortable, and even if you're the type – you know who you are – who doesn't like little rubber fingers sticking in your ears, you should give these a chance. The result is excellent passive noise cancellation before you even flip the switch. Once you do, all kinds of sounds are blocked out, not just low-end engine noise. It really does give you your own little piece of peace in the sky. So, comfort and performance, check and check. Other features are very nice as well, such as the in-line mic – did we mention the 20i is a great phone headset? – and volume control that also fast-forwards/reverses through playlists, and a button that lets in external noise without having to remove an earbud.
Downside? Price, obviously, but also the fact that the micro-USB chargeable battery is not replaceable. The specs say you should get many years of use out of it before it is tango uniform, but still… Anyway, if you're not put off by the price, the QuietComfort 20i is a big improvement in noise cancellation, saving a lot of space in your carry on and doing a heck of a job.