Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Airplane: Bose QC35 Bluetooth Earphones




We suggest the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless active noise cancelling headphones as the best noise cancelling headphones for airplane riders.  They are a yet another revised and improved version of the QC15 earphones, and indeed a step up from the QC25 wired phones.



Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Airplane Travelers

While these cost even more than most other around-ear headphones, you’ll get your money’s worth in the QC35s. We played with these at a local brick-and-mortar audio store.  We tested them around loud fans, to get sounds like jet engine airplanes.

The result?  We found their music sound quite moving.  The QC35 had rich-but-not-boomy bass, flowing mid range, and well-reproduced treble. The fidelity in these QC-35 Bluetooth headphones rivals that of the older, wired headphone models.

Also, as expected, these QC-35 earphones, like their predecessors, actively cancel surrounding noise, quite well. They blocked out the fan white noise amazingly well.  Indeed, they’re far more effective than the simpler passive noise cancelling earphones of the 1980s and 1990s.  Plus, the fact that they’re Bluetooth does not degrade their active noise canceling performance.

Further, the QC-35s really cut the outside noises at the shop, like stereos and home theater systems blasting, doors slamming, smart speakers thumping, and people gabbing. The best example of active noise control we’ve ever tested since the QC15s, this Quiet Comfort 35 headset uses outer noise sensing mics both inside and outside of each earphone cup.  This means that they need battery power; a single AAA cell which lasts many hours. Each ear has its own separate mics for better noise control for that ear.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Airplane: QC-35 Advantages, Pros, Benefits, and Features

Yep, They’re Wireless!

The first Bluetooth headphones in the QuietComfort series, though you can still connect them via a supplied audio cable should the battery run out, or the device you wish to play through them doe snot support Bluetooth.

Work with Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Mobile Devices

The Bose QC35 headphones can play content from iPhone, iPhone, and iPad devices with ease.  They also work with Android tablets and phones as well. You can pair them with your phone and conduct hands-free talks through the QC35 too.  This is one reason these are indeed the best noise cancelling headphones for airplane riders.

Closed Air Design

With the exception of the ports, this wireless QuietComfort offering, like both of its earlier models, has all-closed backs on each earcup. This helps not only keep unwanted airplane noise out of your ears, but also keeps the music inside. That way, you won’t disturb your seatmate.  Unless you play your music at top volume, any escaping sound is unheard.



Little Pressure on Ears Felt

Some flyers bring up feeling a pressure on their eardrums when working the noise reduction circuit in these headphones in noisy surroundings; a situation in which the QC35 earphones must produce lots of anti noise in order to cancel out the outside noise.

But we felt no pressure, even with subwoofers blasting around us while listening.  The QC35s are indeed comfy enough that you can easily fall asleep with them on your head on the airplane.

Plenty of Loudness

The dynamic range of the QC35 does not suffer due to the Bluetooth connection. In fact, these headphones sound better with their wireless connection, than did the QC25s with their wired one. The circuitry and drivers can still play at ear-splitting volumes, if that’s what you like.

But long-term exposure to very loud sounds may hurt your hearing, the user’s guide says. Yet if high volume is your desire, you’ll still get it in these Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones.

You won’t need that extra volume on the airplane though.  Why?  Because the noise cancelling circuitry in the QC35 lowers outside noises to the point that you don’t have to turn up the volume to overcome that outside noise.

Side Speaker Function

This allows you to hear your own voice in these earphones while talking via your cellphone.  According to CNET, the side speaker reduces the feeling that you need to shout to assure that the person on the other end can hear you.  So, you won’t disturb as much your fellow travelers.

Wear Them Comfortably While Sleeping on the Airplane

If you ride taxies, trains, or airplanes, you’ll love the advanced active noise cancelling feature of the Bose 35, even when not listening to anything. Like with the earlier versions in the QuietComfort series, we wore these while playing nothing through them, but with the power switch still turned on. This enables the noise control processors.

The result?  We found that the QC35 earphones work just as well to cut outside sounds (like snoring and airplane cabin noise) as a decent pair of beeswax earplugs. They still drain the battery however, any time they’re turned on, even with no audio playing.

Like the Bose QC25s, the QC35s work well when wearing while leaning back in your airplane seat and facing forward.

Yet another reason these are indeed the best noise cancelling headphones for airplane travelers.



No Bigger or Heavier than Non Noise Cancelling Headphones

Lightweight, although a bit heavier than the QC25s. In spite of the battery and additional circuitry for Bluetooth operation, the QC-35 earphones seem no more imposing than the many passive closed ear headphones we’ve sampled, and even the older active cancelling ones we’ve tested.  So in terms of comfort, the Bose QC35 earphones are indeed among the best noise cancelling headphones for airplane riders.

Deep, Soft Ear Cups

The Bose QC35 ear cushions, completely surround each ear, with enough depth to prevent the back of the can (the speaker) from touching the ear. They’re flexible enough that they quickly molded themselves around our eyeglasses (the temple pieces), without noticeable loss of fidelity or noise reduction effectiveness. They rarely become uncomfortable, even on the longest airplane flights.  You’ll get tired of listening before tiring of wearing the Bose QC35 earphones.

The ear cushions also create an effective noise barrier to both outside noises coming in, and inside program sounds leaking out.  This further enhances the noise reducing qualities of the QC35 headphones.

Great Fidelity

Though other wired noise cancelling headphones often suffer from fidelity loss, due to their inferior noise cancelling circuitry, we noted no such loss in the QC-35 earphones. Bose has indeed overcome these perennial setbacks of typical active noise canceling headphones in this offering.  They made the wireless medium as transparent to the sound signals as the wired earphones with the audio cords.  So airplane travelers need not compromise great sound for great noise cancelling.  You get both in these Bose noise cancelling headphones.

Better Outside Noise Detection

The QC-35 features at least two microphones in each ear unit; one senses external noises directly (there’s a grill-covered opening on the back of each driver).  Plus, there are microphones inside the driver case, closer to your ear. This improves cancellation of higher frequency noises from jet engines and clinking silverware from other passengers eating.

Also, newer and faster audio processing in the QC35 better reduces outside noise. We could tell that noise cancellation worked well, by stopping the music, and then covering the noise sensing microphones with a finger. As we covered more and more of the mic’s grill, the external noise we could hear increased markedly.

Both Low and High Frequency Outside Noises Cancelled

The noise you’re likely to hear on an airplane is diverse.  Everything from slamming overhead bins, to many conversations, to roaring or whistling engines.  The QC-35 phones are designed specifically to cut these sorts of noise.  Bose builds them with awesome noise isolation.  Plus, their state-of-the-art active noise cancellation circuitry adds to that noise cutting in a huge way. ALL external noise frequencies are impressively lowered; especially with the earphones running.



Works with Today’s Mobile Audio Sources

So long as your device supports Bluetooth, the QC35 will pair with popular mobile players and phones, including Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, as well as Android devices from Samsung, Google, Amazon, et al. These earphones are quite useful thus for airplane passengers.  Why?  Because peole who fly a lot usually carry such devices with them.

Wired Option if the Battery Goes Dead

If the rechargeable battery goes dead, or you wish to drive the phones from a device that does not provide Bluetooth, you can still plug in the QC35 via an audio cable.

But if you’re planning a trip though, be sure to fully charge the earphones before taking off.  You’ll want all the noise cancelling ability the QC35 headphones have to offer, to best enjoy your flight.

Thus, you can Still listen Should the Battery Run Low

Keep the battery well charged, since without a fresh battery, you will lose any active noise suppression.

But unlike the QC15, you can still listen to you music; you just won’t get the enhanced experience that comes via the active noise cancellation circuit, which requires battery power to operate

Level LO / HI switch

Functions as an audio attenuator, that allows you to lower the output volume when listening to airplane audio sources, whose volume may be too high for your liking.

Affordable for Serious Airplane Travelers

The QC35 costs roughly $300 US, although for the best price, we suggest checking out online resellers and second-hand sites like Amazon and eBay. WE found them as lost as $150. However be careful paying too little, as the headphones you buy might be fake. Buyer beware of exceedingly low prices.



Even the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Airplane have some Problems, Cons, and Disadvantages

Though the Bose QuietComfort QC-35 noise cancelling headphones are indeed, we feel, the best noise cutting earphones for airplane travel, they nonetheless have a few minor drawbacks we wanted to tell you about.

They are Pricey

At around $350 for a new pair, the QC-35 comprise a decidedly substantial purchase. Although their overall quality likely justifies three and a half c-notes, these are best kept out of reach of children. Even adult novice listeners might not appreciate that workmanship and advanced performance the QC-35 offers. So, we suggest making sure your tastes for high fidelity have grown into these phones before buying them. If you can’t appreciate the difference in sound between these and much cheaper models, then you’re better off buying cheap.

Ear Cushions Make Ears Sweat

Given the closed air design of the QuietComfort series of headphones, while wearing the QC35, you get little to no air moving around your ears to cool them. The result is sweat that can quickly soil the ear cushions. So we suggest wiping the ear cups after each long flight.

They Cancel Outside Noise So Well, that they Could Create Hazards

The active noise cancelling hallmark works so well, that even with your music set to lower volumes, you’ll probably not hear someone approaching from the rear. You may not even hear when they call out to you. Plus, these earphones also seriously reduce traffic noises, horns, squealing tires, and other warning sounds that you’re likely to encounter while driving or walking. Thus we recommend not using the QC-35 headphones when driving or walking near busy streets.



All That Considered, Still the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Airplane

These QC-35 wireless headphones continue the progression of many years of research and development, based on tried-and-true audio reproduction principles, coupled with active digital noise cancelling methods. We find that this effort is well applied.  It has come to fruition for Bose, embodied in their best wireless noise canceling headphones for airplane so far. Indeed, these are the best sounding Bluetooth headphones we’ve ever tested.

Further, all the parts appear durable, easily cleaned, and of superior grade construction as compared to the earlier renditions in the QuietComfort headphone series. While we’d prefer waiting to buy a refurbished set in order to avoid the high-end retail price of nearly $350, we see this price as the only limiting factor of the QC35.

Even if you don’t fly much, the high-grade active noise cancelling performance means that you’ll likely need less volume from the music, as you’ll have less outside noise to overcome by turning the volume up. We therefore, rate this audio accessory product at 97 out of 100. Expensive yes, but worth the money.

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Revision History

  • 2018-06-08: First published.