How Noise-Canceling Headphones Work?

Technology has given us a specialized piece of equipment designed precisely for reducing ambient noise, thus enhancing the experience of listening to music without compromising the quality of your tunes. 

Headphones, specifically noise-canceling headphones, are a boon to today’s audiophile. This article will discuss how noise-canceling headphones work and how they came about, as well as some of the top new headphones in the market.

How Noise-Canceling Headphones Work?

How do noise canceling headphones work?

With ANC, or Active Noise Control, modern noise-canceling headphones lessen acoustic noise and other types of ambient sounds. 

The ANC process is facilitated by a small microphone. This microphone is placed adjacent to the ear, and houses circuitry which electronically produces a sound wave opposite the polarity of the sound wave the microphone, receives. 

The ‘anti-noise’ effect causes the phenomenon of destructive interference, which works in the confines of the headphones to negate the ambient noise. 

Essentially, a programmatically generated signal is created that is 180 degrees opposite of the sampled external noise and thus "negates" the effect of outside noise.

Noise-canceling headphones sold for consumer use are built around the ANC technology which cancels low-frequency noise. 

The headphone cups themselves, and the materials these are made with, cut out the high-frequency sounds. 

This technology is still used with today’s headphones due to its many advantages.

  • ANC diminishes the need to use complex circuitry.

  • Since active noise negation is not as effective for high frequencies, canceling noise at these levels requires an emitter and sensor for the negating sound wave to be right next to the headphone wearer’s eardrum. Suffice to say, this is technically impractical.
  • Reactive isolation methods are more efficient, as high-frequency sounds have shorter wavelengths.

Different Manufacturers

However, noise-canceling headphones from different manufacturers also have their drawbacks.

  • A replaceable or rechargeable battery is needed to power the ANC mechanism, aside from the player’s main battery.
  • These headphones can only reduce, and not entirely eliminate, all ambient noise. The signals may be garbled by a large amount of pressure and waves from lower frequencies. Constant noise, such as sounds in-flight or the droning of a car engine, can be negated by noise-canceling headphones, although this same equipment may not work well versus audio signals that change at a faster rate, such as human speech.
  • Hisses may be heard, produced by the ANC apparatus itself.
  • Although conventional headphones were typically lighter than the initial noise-canceling headphones, the latter models usually integrate the batteries into the design of the headphones. This may streamline the entire pair of headphones, although significant reductions in their weight have yet to be made.

How Much Noise Can They Reduce?

Claims have been made by manufacturers and researchers suggesting that noise cancelling headphones can reduce up to 80% of all noise. 

It's very likely that such are based on laboratory tests on a single consistent low pitch hissing sound, which active noise cancelling headphones are especially good for. 

Total noise reduction is still not quite possible. Why?

Because some noises, such as the crying of a baby or quarrelling between 2 individuals are basically very irregular acoustic waves and can be quite tough to remove even with active noise canceling. 

Regardless, with the consideration of passive noise cancelling elements designed into these noise cancelling headphones, they're now significantly much better when it comes to reducing such external noises.

Top 10 Noise-canceling Headphones 2021

Noise-canceling technology for today’s headphones can help a user listen to music at relatively lower volumes. 

They can also be used for other purposes, such as simply reducing the amount of external noise. 

Numerous companies constantly develop and promote new headphones, which may make it difficult for the average Joe to select one for his listening pleasure. 

The remainder of this article talks about some of today’s best and most popular noise-canceling headphones.

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

2. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

3. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

4. Sony WF-1000XM4

5. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

6. Shure Aonic 50

7. Sony WF-1000XM3

8. Marshall Mid ANC

9. AKG N60NC Wireless

10. Apple AirPods Max


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