Toss up: noise-cancelling headphones
Sennheiser PXC 450, $699.
Whether you're riding the train across town or flying around the world, noise-cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver.
Noise-cancelling headphones listen to the world around you, invert the sound and play it back to you. This cancels out the noise of the world, creating your own cone of silence. You can simply enjoy the peace and quiet, or you can plug them into your music player.
They're not 100 per cent effective, but these Sennheiser and Audio-Technica headphones promise to eliminate up to 90 per cent and 95 per cent of noise respectively. They work best on constant drones, such as engine noise, rather than spasmodic noise such as voices and music, so we tested them on a Boeing 747.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9, $349.
Both are very comfortable, although the Sennheisers have larger cans that are more likely to sit around your ears rather than on them. Both have a power button on the side, but the Sennheisers add volume controls and a bypass button that lets through outside noise when you need to speak to someone.
One advantage of the Audio-Technicas is the inclusion of an in-line microphone for hands-free phone calls. You can also pause, play and skip tracks on compatible music players (including the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III). Both headphones come with solid carry cases, but surprisingly only the Audio-Technica case includes a little internal pocket to hold your audio plugs and adaptors.
The Sennheisers shine through when it comes to sound quality, offering a full and rich but natural sound, whereas the Audio-Technicas are bass-heavy (which means they're more likely to aggravate sensitive ears when flying).
They're expensive, but the Sennheisers' larger cans and superior sound quality makes themthe better option for well-heeled travellers.
Sennheiser PXC 450
Audio-Technica ATH -ANC9