active Noise Cancellation

Active Noise Cancellation In Headphones (2023)

A technology that cancels out background noise so you can listen to music with complete peace and quiet is noise cancellation.

One of the major selling points of established brands’ headphones and earphones is noise cancellation.

Before we could only use this technology in large, expensive headphones, but today other headphones and wireless earbuds feature this technology as well. 

Noise cancellation has become so popular that now almost every headphone or wireless earbud has some variation of this feature.

Here, we will talk about active noise cancellation in headphones, so that you’ll understand how it works and whether it’s worth the premium.

Currently, in the market, noise cancellation techniques come in two main categories, namely:

  • Noise Isolation
  • Noise Cancellation

Noise Isolation

During use, the headphones or earphones isolate noise by virtue of their design.

Closed-back headphones cover the entire ear inside the earpad cushion, forming a barrier that prevents noise waves from entering or exiting the ear canal.


When it comes to earphones, noise isolation effects are most prevalent in canalphones, in which the earpiece is fitted into the ear canal for better sound isolation.

Noise isolation products have the advantage that they aren’t as expensive as active noise cancellation devices. This feature is available with most budget headphones and earphones.

Headphones and earphones with noise isolation work well for the price, but the physical design in itself may cause ear fatigue.

Additionally, some of the background noise is blocked by these devices but not all of it.

A cheap headphone/earphone cannot deliver pin-drop silence outside if you want to enjoy noise isolation.

Active Noise Cancellation

This is a technique in which the noise is effectively canceled through the use of microphones, sound processors, and related noise cancellation circuits.

An extra sound is designed specifically to cancel out the unwanted sound (noise).


The following components are included in a noise cancellation system:


Provided your gadget supports hands-free calls, your headphones come with a microphone.

In the case of a wired device, microphones are built into the inline remote, while wireless devices have microphones built into the earpiece.


However, active noise cancellation systems come equipped with multiple microphones specially designed for capturing ambient background noise.

In the noise canceling circuit, which includes a sound processor, background noise is captured and fed into the noise cancellation circuitry.


In this processor, the processed noise is analyzed for its amplitude and frequency, and a new wave is generated that is 180 degrees out of phase with the outside noise wave.

The entire process of capturing, analyzing, and creating an out-of-phase wave occurs in real-time, with only micro-second delays.


Speakers convert electrical signals into sound in headphones and earphones.

In addition to playing back audio, the speaker also feeds back the noise wave and the out-of-face wave.

When the noise waves cancel out, the music can be played uninterrupted.

How Efficient is the Active Noise Cancellation?

Currently, there is no technology on the market that provides 100% noise cancellation.

ANC is usually advertised with some numbers, but in most cases, a consumer will not find them useful.

Yes, the ANC technology helps reduce background noise to large extent.

Low-frequency sounds are blocked very effectively, but high-pitched sounds cannot be attenuated as well.

If you are inside an airplane, in a train, near a generator, or even at the office under a loud air conditioner, ANC headphones/earphones will work best.

  • Definitely worth the money if you are a frequent traveler and enjoy listening to music on long trips.
  • Definitely worth the money if you are a frequent traveler and enjoy listening to music on long trips.
  • Definitely worth the money if you are a frequent traveler and enjoy listening to music on long trips.

Advantages of Active Noise Cancellation Gadgets

  • Reduces background noise to a great extent
  • Provides a more immersive experience for music listening
  • At work, it can help you stay focused without being distracted

Disadvantages of Active Noise Cancellation Gadgets

  • It is very expensive to buy ANC devices
  • If you use ANC headphones, you will lose your spatial awareness

Noise cancellation and the surrounding environment

An open workspace is the perfect setting for noise-canceling headphones with ANC. 

You will be able to focus on your work because there is no noise around and you will have quiet to help you do your best.

Since most of us spent the majority of 2020 in a quiet, relaxing environment, it can be exhausting to come back to the daily humdrum of work; this is when noise-canceling headphones prove to be a great savior. 

You simply need to put them on and turn on the noise-canceling mode to use them. Even if a quiet corner is difficult to find, this is still very effective.

Traveling With ANC

If you want to enjoy your journey whilst listening to a podcast, listening to your favorite album, or simply blocking out the noise around you, then headphones with ANC are a perfect choice. 

It will use more battery power to enable ANC on your headphones. 

If you are not too concerned with noise, you may want to turn ANC off to conserve power whenever you’re on a long journey. 

For flying, headphones with active noise cancellation are a smart choice, as they will filter both low-frequency noises – like the thick rumble of the aircraft – and higher-frequency sounds such as human voices, allowing you to immerse yourself in your own world.


What does Active Noise Cancellation do?

Active Noise Cancellation reduces background and surrounding noises using microphones and speakers. This type was mostly used in over-ear headphones.

Technology made it possible to use true wireless in-ear earphones now that they are so small and battery-efficient.

It is perfectly safe and not bad to use noise-canceling headphones because they are an excellent alternative to earplugs, which can be harmful when worn during the night. 

You can still use noise-canceling headphones as a way to relax when traveling or to catch some much-needed rest when sitting down.

Which One Is Better Active Or Passive Noise Canceling?

It depends on what you want. It is best to use active noise cancellation if you want to reduce low frequency sounds like the humming noise from trains, buses, airplanes, or generally crowded areas. For some people, active noise cancellation can produce a vacuum/nausea feeling.

If you just want to reduce the surrounding sounds, passive noise cancellation should work for you.

Does ANC Affect Sound Quality?

Yes, they produce a little distortion in the sound quality. You might hear a hiss in the background of your audio. When you turn off active noise cancellation, you will notice a significant improvement in sound quality.

We have completed our explainer article providing information about noise cancellation technology found in headphones and earphones.

Our goal was to provide you with some information that will help you when you purchase a headphone/earphone in the future.

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