Amazing lightweight, compact, great-sounding headphones for travel. For under $20.


Wireless headphones are all the rage these days, as they should be. There’s delightful freedom in being able to start your music, podcast, or audiobook and roam about the house unteathered. Working out without wires is a true step up in terms of the quality of the experience. Add to this wireless freedom active noise canceling that can quiet ambient sounds like air conditioners, airplane engines, and the neighbor’s lawn mower, and you have a recipe for audio technology that deserves as be ubiquitous as it is. Bose, Beats, and Senheiser all deserve their place in the high-end headphones landscape.

However, these kind of headphones start at about $200 for a great experience. You can find some brands like Cowon selling similar headphones for about $50-$80, which can provide a good (though perhaps not great) experience. I have been pretty happy with some wireless, noise-canceling headphones in that price range. The thing is, wireless, noise-canceling headphones aren’t necessarily the best headphones for travel in every situation.  I found myself looking for something different for a recent trip I took. Why?

In travel, I'm mostly using my over-the-ear headphones on the airplane and waiting in the airport, or sitting in the car. The increased mobility of wireless in this situation isn't as important of an advantage. What about active noise-cancelling? I've found that it's a "nice-to-have" for me, but not a "must-have." Now, if I was going to be in noisy airport all day, every day, or if I was regularly doing long international flights, that would be one thing. But for my 2-3 four-hour flights per year, I've found that good noise-isolation is enough.

So, I found myself on the hunt for a compact, lightweight, wired pair of headphones that offered good sound, decent noise-isolation, and acceptable comfort. I had a budget of $25. I wondered if it was even possible, but then I found exactly what I was looking for in an unassuming pair from Sony.

Sony has distilled the essence of over-the-ear headphones into their MDRZX110 model, a minimalist marvel of sonic wonder. 

It comes in one color (black), and has only the features you need in a solid pair of headphones. Everything you need, nothing you don’t. Here’s why I ended up loving my Sony MDRZX110 headphones:

Headphones have come a long, long, way. In today's age of Bluetooth enable wireless headphones costing at minimum $50 or so for any kind of quality, I expected sub-$20 headphones (even wired ones) to have really weak, subpar sound. However, I am glad to say my expectations were totally wrong. Sony MDRZX110 headphones are legitimately good headphones and are a great choice for every day use and travel if you are ok with being wired in.

Get the Sony MDRZX110 headphones on Amazon.