Reducing the roar of jumbo jet engines to a whisper, the Sony MDR-1000X and B&O Play H9 Bluetooth headphones offer first-class noise-cancelling for travellers with deep pockets. But which one is best? We pit them against each other to find out.
Whether you’re crammed into cattle class or sipping champagne up the front of the plane, the ever-constant engine noise can get on your nerves. Noise-cancelling headphones don’t quite provide you with a cone of silence, but they certainly make long-haul flights more bearable.
These headphones both support Bluetooth connections, for streaming music wirelessly from your computer, smartphone or tablet. They also feature a detachable cable for connecting to any device with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, plus they come with a two-prong adaptor for connecting to in-flight entertainment systems.
Both sets of headphones run on rechargeable batteries, with the B&O lasting for around 14 hours while the Sony extends this to 20 hours. They recharge via a micro-USB port, plus the B&O features a removable battery so you can slip a spare in your travel bag. Thankfully if the batteries run flat in either headphones you can still listen to music via the cable, but you lose the advantage of noise-cancelling.
SONY MDR-1000X (RRP: $699)
The Sony headphones offer several ambient sound settings for times when you need to hear what’s around you, and the headphones offer spoken feedback so you know which mode you’re using. Sony’s noise-cancelling reduces the background noise on an aeroplane more than the B&O headphones, plus Sony blocks a wider range of frequencies. When you need to talk to someone, placing your hand against the right ear turns down the music and lets in noise from the outside world.
Sony’s MDR-1000X headphones also support the LDAC enhanced wireless audio format, offering better sound quality than standard Bluetooth streaming. LDAC is designed to do justice to 24-bit hi-res audio files, as well as upscale lossy compressed audio formats like MP3. Unfortunately, LDAC is a Sony proprietary format so you’re limited to using it with a handful of Sony Walkman music players and Sony Xperia smartphones.
B&O PLAY H9 (RRP: $799)
The B&O headphones fall short in terms of noise-cancelling, letting through more ambient sound than the Sony headphones including more mid-range hum from the engines. In return they’re slightly more comfortable to wear for extended periods, as they don’t clamp quite as tightly on your head. Unlike the Sony headphones, you can use the B&O app to adjust the sound quality when listening to music via Bluetooth from your smartphone or tablet.
The Sony headphones are the clear winner here – even though they’re cheaper, their noise-cancelling is substantially better. The Sony headphones are also easier to carry around in your travel bag, folding up to fit into a sturdy case whereas the B&O headphones only come with soft carry bag.