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How Noise-Cancelling and Isolating Headphones Work

Headphones have come a long way when you speak of innovations ranging from wired earphones through wireless types to best earbuds that cut out noise. Speaking of the latter, you should think about owning such a pair of devices if you are the type of person who enjoys music but hates city noise as much as anyone else. These gadgets can block out any background noise and provide crystal clear sound at the same time.

Today you might be wondering how noise-cancelling and isolating headphones work. Before you dive deeper, know that headphones with noise-cancelling technology reduce unwanted background sound in two ways: active and passive. So to feed your curiosity further, take a look at the comprehensive details on their inner workings below.

  1. Active Noise-Reduction Technology

Active noise reduction is a complex innovation merged into more sophisticated equipment, including headphones designed specifically for pilots. These elaborately designed headphones contain a tiny microphone engineered into their case. Sometimes dubbed as a reference microphone, it samples the background sound continuously and then feeds it to an electronic circuit located in the headphone case. This electronic circuit reverses (inverts) the unnecessary noise and plays it into the loudspeakers covering the ears.

A few manufacturers, however, go the extra mile with their product design. They integrate several reference microphones into their headphones to achieve a higher level of active noise reduction.

Other headphone companies take advantage of a separate microphone to incorporate into their products. This particular microphone samples the final sound output and sends feedback to the noise reduction circuit. Whenever the sound output emits too much noise, the circuit adjusts its noise-cancelling functionality to boost its overall performance.

The general idea behind this complicated technology is that the inverted or reversed noise cancels out the noise you usually hear, thus leaving you with only the music you want to listen to or sometimes near-silence.

  1. Passive Noise-Reduction Technology

Passive noise reduction is a less-complicated headphone innovation mostly found in noise cancelling earbuds. Another phrase for this specific technology is noise isolation.

To achieve this simple yet practical technology, manufacturers design their products intricately so that the earpieces fit snugly into the ears. As a result, any background noise within earshot cannot get in, and the sound that you hear alone does not bother people nearby.

Suppose noise cancelling earbuds can form a tight seal with the ear canal to block out external ambient sound. In that case, noise isolation can work almost flawlessly. Using this concept and knowing that people have different-sized ears, a few earbud manufacturers have managed to solve this problem with the supply of many different tips for excellent noise reduction.

Final Words

Choosing between active and passive noise reduction in your headphone of choice ultimately boils down to your preference. For instance, active noise-cancelling headphones can minimize expected regular noises that include the hum of an airplane engine. Still, it cannot reduce various complex sounds such as voices. For passive noise-cancelling headphones, though, put a pair of foam earplugs into your ears and place the headphones on top so that you can somehow manually get rid of background noise that you cannot cancel.

Gina Farley

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