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Active Noise Cancellation in Headphones: Explained!

If you’re traveling, working in a noisy environment, or just want to listen to your favorite music without being disturbed – noise-canceling headphones are the perfect solution.

Whenever you shop for headsets or headphones, you’ve probably heard the term “noise cancellation.” However, you may not have known what that means exactly. I understand: Noise cancellation is a confusing term that can mean a number of things depending on the context. Companies aren’t consistent in how they use it, so it isn’t your fault.

Active noise cancellation (ANC), is one of the most effective and useful technology upgrades in the audio market in recent years. ANC is not a new idea, but it has been regularly used in the aviation and military worlds for many years. In recent years, ANC made the jump to consumer headphones, which will become increasingly prevalent in the future.

If you aren’t sure, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about what is active noise cancellation in headphones and how it works.

So, let’s get started without further delay!

What Is Noise Cancellation?

Noise cancellation is simply a way to cancel out ambient noise. In Headphones, Earphones, and Mobile phone systems, noise cancellation technology reduces external noise to a great extent so the sound of work can be heard clearly within the device. 

When we are listening to something through a headphone, we also hear some ambient noise. Likewise, when you are talking on a mobile phone, the person on the call is hearing your voice along with the ambient noise. Noise Cancellation Technology reduces this type of noise.  

With the help of Noise Cancellation Technology, you can enjoy your favorite songs in a quiet environment without any distracting noise around you. When a phone or smartphone is equipped with noise cancellation technology, the person in front of the call hears less background noise, and the person speaking is heard better.

However, it’s important to understand that noise-canceling headphones cannot completely eliminate noise; they can only reduce the noise significantly, giving the illusion that the noise is canceled. When the term active is used with noise cancellation, it means that the headphones are actively seeking out the noise to cancel it. 

Types Of Noise Cancellation Headphone

Nowadays, almost every headphone manufacturer offers noise-canceling headphones. However, not every headphone that is advertised as “noise-canceling” delivers what it promises. It is because noise cancellation comes in two types – active and passive. There are two main types of noise cancellation headphones: Passive and Active noise cancellation headphones.

What Is Passive Noise Cancellation?

Passive noise cancellation is what the headset itself offers, whether it’s rubber tips in an in-ear or padding in an over-the-ear design. Simply put, it’s the amount of noise cancellation that the device offers, or how well the headset works like an earplug. To block unwanted noise, passive noise cancellation uses ear cups that are well designed. In other words, your earbuds isolate you from ambient noise rather than actively using technology to reduce it.

Typically, this is used with over-ear headphones as well as in-ear earphones where the earbud itself will block outside noise. Passive cancellation will typically work effectively before electronics are applied, but it is often limited to canceling frequencies above 1 kHz.

Passive noise cancellation is a technology that allows a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to reduce ambient noise without using any technology. It is completely different from active noise cancellation (ANC).

What Is Active Noise Cancellation?

Active Noise cancellation is a technology that reduces background and surrounding sounds using microphones and speakers. In ANC, a microphone detects environmental noise and creates anti-noise that is mixed in with audio playback to prevent sounds from entering the ear canal. 

This is the most popular type of noise cancellation and is most commonly found in over-ear headphones. In modern technology, it is can be used in truly wireless in-ear headphones since it has become so small and energy-efficient. 

There are two types of active noise cancellation: feed-forward cancellation and feedback cancellation, as well as hybrid cancellation. Generally, great active cancellation can significantly improve headphones with good passive cancellation, but it can’t make up for bad design.

Active noise cancellation is a great feature that can block out background noise and help prevent hearing damage. If you are interested in active noise cancellation, keep reading.

How Does Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Work?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a process where microphones listen to the ambient sounds and then use an inverse sound wave to cancel out the noise.  

The microphone on the earpieces picks up all the sounds including the desired audio and the noise. Then, the microphone generates an inverse sound wave that cancels out the ambient sound. This process does require power, which is why most ANC headphones require a battery.

Although, it’s challenging to use noise technology perfectly as different sounds have different frequency waves. When it comes to consistent noise like airplanes and traffic, noise cancellation technology works well, but when it comes to loud or inconsistent sounds like people talking or announcements, it may not be as effective. 

During travels, noise cancellation headphones are widely used to drown the ambient noise and create a relatively quieter environment for you to relax. Headphones come in a variety of noise cancellation levels. Therefore, pick the one that best suits you and listen to the audio in whatever manner suits you.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of ANC Devices

It goes without saying that everything has pros and cons. This is also true for active noise cancellation devices. The following are a few advantages and disadvantages of Active Noise cancellation:


  • Active noise cancellation reduces background noise so that you can concentrate, sleep, or just unwind.
  • It enhances the music listening experience more immersive.
  • It can help you stay focused at work without being distracted.


  • The cost of ANC devices is very high.
  • Wearing ANC headphones will lose your spatial awareness.

Noise Cancellation And The Surrounding Environment

It is ideal to use noise-canceling headphones with ANC in an open workspace. No noise around will allow you to focus on your work and you will have quiet to help you do your best.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve spent a lot of time in a quiet, comfortable setting, and returning to the daily grind of office life can seem exasperating at best, or irritating at worst. In this situation, noise-canceling headphones would be extremely helpful.

All you need to do is put on the headphones and turn on the noise cancellation mode. It is even more effective if you cannot find a quiet corner to yourself.

Traveling With ANC

Throughout the day, constant honking, people talking, construction noise, and even metro trains can take a heavy toll on our ears. In such situations, noise-canceling headphones are a good option.

For flight, active noise-canceling headphones can prove to be a smart choice, as they will filter out low-frequency noises – such as the thick rumble of aircraft – and high-frequency sounds such as human voices, allowing you to view your world. 

The ANC feature on your headphone will also consume more battery power if you use it. However, whenever the battery of your headphone is low, you can also turn off ANC while traveling if you enjoy listening to podcasts and listening to songs.  This will save your battery life.


Are Noise Cancellation Headphones Bad For Your Ears?

Obviously, no. noise-canceling headphones are not bad for your ear. It is completely safe to use noise-canceling headphones, and won’t cause any harm or damage to you. 

However, these devices can still damage your hearing if the volume is not kept at a reasonable level. When you listen to music at high volume through noise-canceling earbuds or headphones, you run the risk of hurting your ears without even knowing it. 

No matter if your headphones have noise cancellation or not, high volumes can damage your ears regardless of whether your headphones have noise cancellation.

Is It Worth Spending The Premium On ANC Headphones/Earphones?

Yes, it is worth spending the premium on ANC headphones or earphones. It is definitely worth the money if you frequent traveler and love listening to music for hours.

Which Is Better Active Or Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones?

It depends on your needs and preferences. If you need to reduce low-frequency noises, such as humming noises from trains, buses, planes, or in crowded places, you should choose active noise cancelation headphones. However, active noise cancellation may cause some people to feel a vacuum or nausea.

But if you only want to reduce the noise from the surroundings, passive noise cancellation headphones should work best for you.

Does ANC Affect Sound Quality?

Yes, ANC affects sound quality, but only a little. They produce a small distortion in the sound quality. You may hear a background hiss in your audio. You will notice a significant improvement in sound quality if you turn off active noise cancellation.


As you can see above, we have explained ANC in headphones and we hope that you now have a better understanding of what ANC is and how it works.

The ANC technology is highly useful in helping you enjoy your music without having to worry about any other sound that you may not want to hear. The ANC technology cancels out all external noise, so it is perfect for listening to your favorite music or podcasts without distractions. 

If you want to block out any kind of noise while you are working, studying, or simply relaxing, the ANC headphones will be a good option for you. The headphones provide amazing sound quality and are designed to fit almost anyone. 

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this topic, please let us know by dropping them in the comment section below.

Thanks for visiting our website and have a nice day!

Yuvraj kore

Welcome to our blog! My name is Yuvraj Kore, and I am a blogger who has been exploring the world of blogging since 2017. It all started back in 2014 when I attended a digital marketing program at college and learned about the intriguing world of blogging.

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