I understand the appeal of active noise reduction headphones, especially when I've got a crying baby beside me and whiny toddler behind me on a flight. But devoting that much space in my bag to a bulky single-use item doesn't fit into my packing light plans. While those headphones are certainly nice, I feel like I've jumped back into the 1970s when I wear them, like I should be listening to the new Foghat album.
I've been trying out some earbuds that come close to duplicating that noise reduction headphone experience though---but at a tenth of the size. The Comply NR-10 Noise Reducing Earphones look much like normal earbuds, but have the kind of foam used in expanding earplugs that light sleepers and people who work around a lot of noise (like machinists and rock bands) often use. You just pop them in your ears like you would normal earbuds, but they block out 48 decibels of outside noise, so you hear very little besides your music.
According to the company who puts these out, Hearing Components, these Comply earphones use the same patented technology adopted by U.S. army helicopter crews and special forces. The earphones produce a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz, so you're going to hear much more of the music at the high and low end than with plain vanilla earbuds.
In my tests on two recent long flights the Comply NR-10 Earphones performed very well. As soon as they went in my ear the airplane engine noise was cut down dramatically and the whoosh of the airplane cabin ventilation system was almost imperceptible. I forgot about the crying baby two rows away and just soaked in the tunes.
They retail for $80 at the Comply Foam site or at Magellan's (link below), which includes one additional pair of smaller foam tips and a nice handy travel pouch that's smaller than the Altoids box you've been using to carry your earbuds around. There's a volume control on the cord itself too, which is a nice touch, but no batteries required.
Comply Earphones at Magellan's
(P.S. - I've been a traveling parent with both a crying baby and a whiny toddler, so no flaming comments about how I'm insensitive and just don't understand how hard it is to travel with a child, okay? I'd just rather not listen if I can help it.)