As much as I stared at them, the price on the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones wasn’t coming down. I had returned to my local Best Buy in Utah to debate this purchase for the umpteenth time to debate whether the costly headphones would be worth buying for a year of travel.

With a price tag of $300—don’t tell my parents—and the fact that I couldn’t try them on in store, I was obviously hesitant. But considering that price might be a worthy investment in limiting damage to my hearing in the busy year—and years—to come, would it be worth it?

I’m a music addict and there is almost a constant soundtrack to my life no matter what I’m doing–working, working out, skiing, mountain biking, cooking, relaxing, reading and especially traveling. In the past I simply plugged my noise-isolating headphones in tighter and turned the volume up to compete with the excessive ambient noise of planes, trains, buses, air conditioners… etc. 

That’s something I already regret as I’m sure my hearing paid dearly and I knew that I needed some active noise-canceling intervention for this year of travel. Also having owned a pair of Bose OE2i Audio Headphones, I was already spoiled by the sound quality of Bose and with limited luggage space only in-hear headphones would do. Thus I had narrowed my options down to one, but seeing that sticker price in store as like hitting a brick wall and doubts kept creeping up.

Would the noise canceling technology really make a difference? Was the sound-quality still Bose quality? Would the battery last? Would they even fit comfortably in my ears?

Then after returning home and re-reading reviews on various websites, it seemed clear that everyone was blown away by the sound quality and noise-canceling ability in a product of this small size. They all agreed the technology was worth the price and now, after several months of use while traveling the world, I can gladly say the same.


Bose Quiet Comfort 20i Noise-Canceling Headphones

Right from the start of our journey I was grateful for the headphones as we took a 13-hour flight from LA to Tokyo. Throughout that time my wife and I found ourselves perusing a massive list of films and TV shows available on our personal entertainment screens aboard Singapore Airlines. While Britnee struggled to hear dialogue over the roar of the plane’s engines, I listened comfortably at a much lower volume thanks to the noise-cancelling technology.

*An airplane adapter is not included with the headphones so be sure to pick one up separately before you travel.

The same can be said for several weeks spent on trains traveling through China and on the Trans-Mongolian Railway to Moscow. When activated, the noise-canceling headphones blocked out all the clamor of the moving carriages, air conditioning and even the voices of neighbors, allowing me to escape to music or film in relative peace.

The silicone Stay Hear+ ear tips—of which the headphones come with three sizes—fit comfortably for hours and do a decent job of isolating other noise. There is an inline mic/remote allowing me to easily control my iPod/iPhone that is also equipped with the “Aware mode” button, allowing the listener to shut off the noise canceling when needed. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 16 hours of use–a USB charging cable is included–and sound quality remains high even when the noise-canceling feature is turned off.


It was tough to make such an expensive purchase, but after several months of travel–with five more to go–the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones have proven their worth. While I was unable to stare the price tag into submission, my ears are still grateful for the volume relief and beautiful sound these expensive headphones have provided. 

My Bose headphones proved to be invaluable and graduated to my revised round-the-world packing list. Check out what else I recommended.

Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones cost $300 but if you're traveling for an extended period that's a good investment for the sake of your hearing.
  • Top of the line noise-cancelling performance
  • Great comfort for long-time listening
  • Saves your hearing!
  • Pricey (but probably worth it)
4.5Overall Score