What Is Noise Cancelling In Headphones?

what is noise cancellation

Introduction

Noise cancellation is that one term that is almost always associated with headphones. Noise cancelling headphones are very popular among music lovers and is one of the most popular types of headphones on the market. This popularity is mainly due to their performance in environments that have background noise. Though there is a lot of talk and marketing(by different headphone companies) about Noise Cancellation, very few people actually understand what it is or even how it works under the hood. So if you are that kind of a person who wants to know the reality about noise cancelling headphones then this post will help you tons.

Types Of Noise Cancellation

There are two different types of Noise Cancellation – Passive and Active.

If you’re at like a big-time gaming convention a concert or a sporting event it might be part of the experience but the incessant sound of a jet engine when you’re on a plane or that annoying co-worker in the next cubicle who won’t shut up about the missing stapler can drive you out of your mind. So how do we control unwanted environmental noise without strapping pillows to our heads? Enter active noise control a technology for reducing irritating background noise.

Active noise-cancelling makes use of a power source to block the background noise and is more effective at lower frequencies. They are usually more expensive because there’s more technology implemented in the headphone. On the other hand, passive noise cancelling uses insulation and some absorbing tiles and is typically more effective at frequencies above 2000 Hertz and does not need a power source.

The active noise cancelling technology seems to cancel out the background noise instead of trying to physically block it. Sound travels through the air in the form of waves each with a particular shape. Now, this is where the active noise-cancelling technology comes in. It has small microphones that detect the frequencies in a given environment. The digital signal processor then determines which sound waves are required to cancel the unwanted sound wave and then amplifies it through the headphones.

To put it simpler imagine a positive sound and a negative sound created at almost the same time. These sounds cancel each other out and bring a listener closer to a level of total silence.

The Noise Cancelling Technology

The technology behind it aims to get rid of the excess ambient or background noise that prevents us from fully enjoying our music, in other words, it makes the noise level inside the headphones much quieter so the music can be heard much more clearly.

If you take the Active Noise Cancellation, what it basically does is, try to block the unwanted noise with just more noise. Before you scratch your head, thinking that it’s just crazy or maybe it is the thing called White Noise, I would like to tell you that it is not exactly like that.

The technology relies on what’s actually a pretty straightforward principle of physics. Even if you slept through your classes as you probably know regardless of what kind of student you were, sound travels in waves and waves have peaks and troughs or valleys like you would see if you were hanging out at the beach.

noise cancellation

If two waves combined, they create a resulting wave that is basically the sum of the original two. So if you have two waves that meet so that the peaks of one wave end up exactly with the peaks of another, it will actually dramatically increase the amplitude. On the other hand, if the peaks line up exactly with the troughs of the other then we say they are out of phase and the waves can cancel each other out completely.

So noise cancelling headphones use this principle by listening to the background noise with a dedicated microphone or microphones and producing out of phase sound or anti-noise that literally destroys incoming sound waves before they reach your ears. Combine this with special noise absorbing material built into the headphone cups in some models and you’ve got some pretty serious sound isolation.

Know These Before Purchasing

If you want to pick up a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus at work or just block out the screaming kid that lives above you, there are some things that you should consider before forking over your cash to Bose or any other company. One of the biggest concerns with this kind of headphone is battery life.

Unlike regular headphones which usually just run off the power provided by your PC or smartphone, headphones with active noise control need a separate power source usually a battery.  So pay attention for this when you’re looking through reviews especially as some models won’t mention at all how long it takes for the battery to die and whether you can continue to use them when they’re not powered.

You should also consider how comfortable your new noise cancelling headphones will be because the extra electronics needed to mask outside sound does add extra weight and bulk and a poorly designed pair of heavy phones may not be comfortable for extended use.

Finally, for you audiophiles out there don’t expect the same kind of expansive soundstage as you would have expected from the open-backed headphone as noise cancelling sets are closed to keep out as much ambient sound as possible still though many headphones with active noise control do offer solid sound quality.

Noise cancelling headphones do tend to be more expensive than their passive counterparts. So don’t be completely put off with it even if it is not the kind of thing you would sit in your easy chair and listen to. But then what if you don’t want to have to wear headphones to block out distracting sounds. A number of companies are actually now making speakers that feature the same active noise control system.

So why should you continue living your life in a hectic environment pick up a pair of noise-cancelling headphones today and let your ears listen to some amazing audio in peace.

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