I fly regularly and have had bose noise cancelling headphones in my bag for almost a decade; they are great for listening to music in peace or just for peace and quiet when travelling (planes trains and subways.) When my original sets headphones perished after years of use I switched to QC15s which were a notable step up from the original. Both sets of over the ear headphones came in a big hard case that took up an enormous amount of space in my carry on bag. The sound from them was alright; far better than included ear buds but miles away from my Bowers & Wilkins P5s
. Over those 10 years my laptop has shrunk from something you carry only when necessary to a 1kilogram sliver of aluminium and silicon; but my headphones stayed enormous.
A few of travelling contacts have recently raved about the qc20's saying the noise cancellation was as good as the qc15's but they were 1/10 the size. So on my latest trip i cashed out my Heathrow rewards (sorry amazon) and got a set at the airport. As they charge via usb my first task was to plug them into my laptop to charge them up for a 13 hour flight. The box includes a USB charging cable but not a power charger; as hotels as they upgrade seem to be rolling out USB power sockets that might not be as bad as it sounds. More importantly missing from the box; an aircraft twin audio adaptor something that refuses to die -if you intend to use them with the planes entertainment system make sure you get an adaptor before you board. The battery on the QC20 lasted all of that 13 hour flight to Singapore and the NC was on pretty much the whole time
After an hour or so of charging i slipped them into my ears; finding them very comfortable on the medium tips that were fitted in the box; there are other sizes in there too. Flipping the power switch the noise cancellation is nothing short of astonishing; once activated there is almost no outside noise - it sounds almost unnaturally quiet with a faint hiss if you aren't playing any music or video through them. When you do connect them up to a sound source the sound is tonally flat; it may be because they are still new. I am not into heavy bass in my music but it feels lacking on and off the plane; the treble and mid tones are good. On the plane the small size of the phones made sleeping with them much more achievable though still not as compact as ear plugs they work better.
These are headphones for travellers; the sound quality is a vast improvement on included ear buds; but lacks depth. The noise cancellation function though is years ahead of anyones (better even than the QC15); when its on the sounds of air conditioning and engines just goes away. Further up the cable is a microphone / volume / select button switch - this has a button that temporarily removes the noise cancelling the idea being you can use it to speak to the cabin crew; I'm a bit old fashioned and thing its polite to remove them from your ears though.
Only 4*s because the musical ability is behind the times; but 4*s because the noise cancellation is way ahead of its peers and with this new design Bose have freed up an enormous amount of space (and a bit of weight) in my carry on bag