All about noise canceling headphones

Science

16 May 2019

What are noise canceling headphones? Do you need them?

If you ever tried buying a decent pair of headphones or in-ear earphones, you may have noticed that some of them come with noise cancellation capabilities.

It is a pretty common term for headphones but the real question is - what does it really mean and is paying extra for a pair of earphones with active noise cancellation really worth it?

Let's find out.

Meaning

First up, what is noise cancellation exactly

First up, what is noise cancellation exactly

For the uninitiated, noise cancellation does exactly what it says: it cancels out unnecessary sounds and noises for improving the quality of music/sound a person hears.

The tech comes in microphones and headphones and reduces background noise for different parties.

In mics, it weeds out unwanted audio for the person you are talking to, while in headphones, it does the same for you.

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Type #1

Noise cancellation in microphones

When you buy a pair of headphones with mic-based noise cancellation, you get a tech that helps others hear you better.

These earphones capture your voice with the noise in the background, and then, remove the latter using digital algorithms or signal processing.

Some headphones even have two mics, one closer to the mouth than the other, to capture and delete ambient noise.

Go for mic-based noise cancellation for cleaner calls

Having said that, if you are the sort of caller who always prefers talking to their friends, we recommend going for a headset or smartphone with noise cancellation in mic. This would ensure they hear you loud and clear.

Type #2

Headphones also have noise cancellations

Headphones also have noise cancellations

The second variety of noise cancellation comes in the headphones themselves (not in their mic) and serves as a way of weeding out unnecessary noise from the wearer's surroundings.

Put simply, if you are looking for uninterrupted music or conversational experience, you should go for a pair of headphones with built-in noise cancellation.

They come particularly handy on flights for weeding out engine noise.

Important

Headphone-based noise cancellation can be passive or active

Before you go ahead and get a headphone with noise cancellation, note that they come in two types: passive and active.

The former includes those headphones that achieve noise cancellation solely with their design and materials; they are particularly helpful in killing irregular, high-frequency sounds.

Meanwhile, active noise cancellation revolves around detecting sounds and then, generating a mirror sound to cancel them out.

Active noise cancellation is slightly expensive

Due to the involvement of advanced tech, headphones with active noise cancellation are a tad costlier. However, if you pick the right one, they can be a real boon, weeding out all low-frequency sounds, be it a fan, engine, or an annoying colleague.

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