Technology has revolutionized every field of human life. Today nothing can escape the penetration of technology. One such manifestation is active noise-canceling headphones. Undoubtedly, the breakthrough feature of noise cancellation has radically transformed the market. Pioneered by Sennheiser and Bose, active noise-cancellation (ANC) headphones are mostly wireless speakers. Some of the most famous in the market are Bose QuietComfort 45, Sony WH-1000XM4, Airpods Pro, and Sony WF-1000XM4. They are all splendid manifestations of tech. On the other hand, wired noise-canceling products are the rarest beast.
In addition, some of the best in the market have the feature of on and off noise cancellation. In other words, they feature “ambient aware” or pass-through toggles that allow to sound in and you to briefly listen to your surroundings. How is it possible? To your surprise, this technology has been in existence since the 1070s. However, it was first used for headsets made for pilots. Get ready to be amazed more because we are going to tell you everything about these beasts in this article.
Before knowing about active noise-canceling works, let’s first get to know more about types of noise cancellation.
Types of Noise Cancellation
In more than one way the noise canceling headphones work. Choose the mode, setting, or type of noise cancellation that suits your needs. Following are some of the types and settings of cancellation.
1: Active Noise Cancellation
ANC uses speakers and microphones to reduce surrounding noises and background. This is the most common type and is widely used in over-ear headphones. With technology came the small and battery efficiency that true wireless in-ear earphones come with this technology.
2: Passive Noise Cancellation
Passive cancelation uses well-designed ear cups to block unwanted noise. Both in-ear and over-ear headphones use this type of technology. In this, the headphones keep the surrounding low-frequency noise out.
3: Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation
With the use of speakers and microphones, these headphones automatically adjust the sound to your surroundings. Undoubtedly, adaptive ANC is the most sophisticated type of ANC. To the surroundings, the levels of noise control digitally adapt.
4: Adjustable Active Noise Cancellation
In this technology, you can manually adjust the noise levels you want to hear from the background. If you want to have full control, then this is useful.
5: Adjustable Own Voice
This type of noise cancellation lets you adjust your own voice that you want to hear during calls or conferences while using Active Noise-cancellation.
6: Adjustable Transparency Mode
With this technology, you can cancel the outside noise how much you want to. For this, you need to switch off your music.
7: Transparency Mode
This type of technology gives you the option of turning back to the world around you. There is no need to take your headphones off of your ears and switch off your music.
Why Should You Want Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones?
Imagine: Tuesday morning – at your “home office” simply the table at home. Your brother has to attend a Zoom meeting at 10 am and an online self-defense class at 11 am. The neighbor next door is furnishing his kitchen for around two weeks. Currently, your nephew upstairs is watching Tom and Jerry on Disney Plus for the sixth time since Saturday afternoon. Use active noise-canceling headphones; your savior and your silence. These small size earbuds ensure that your headspace just is exclusively yours to fill with whatever podcasts or music you want to hear. Moreover, you can turn the ANC off when you want to go back to the room.
These revolutionary products are ideal for travel too. Because they let you remove the chatter in the train carriage or thrum of the bus engine by just touching the button. To make them more appealing, the latest models come with a pass-through and ambient-aware feature that blocks occasional noise. At the touch of an ear cup or the flick of a switch, you can reenter the real world. With them, you can become aware of the traffic when you are cycling around or listen to all the important train announcements.
Now turn to the most important part of the article; how these headphones work and block the noise. The latter section will turn to this.
How Do Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?
Simply saying, the two or more tiny microphones on the outer surface of the speakers that “hear” the noise around you quickly develop a mirror image of the rarefaction and compression of the air.
Too complex too soon? Don’t worry, let’s explain. Ignore the sound of your headphones that is going into your ears. Focus on the sound of the real world that is around you. Due to excessive noise around, you can think of the soundwaves as ripples, troughs, or peaks in a pond. As a classic example, the noise of an airplane engine is relevant when the constant soundwave of amplitude makes you hear the thrum in the cabin. Moreover, the depth of the troughs and the heights of the peaks are largely continuous.
If you generate another sound wave with an opposite phase and similar amplitude with the peak when the sound of the engine does have a trough and vice versa, what you get is called antiphase. When added together, the two sounds prove antithesis to each other because both cancel each other. The consequence? Shouting silence. You can listen to your music exclusively in calm and peace.
You may get confused about getting nothing by adding two things. To your surprise, the answer is yes you get nothing by adding them together. Let’s make it easy for you. Think about your school time. The math teacher told you to add a number to a minus number leaving you with nothing but zero. So, -11+11 is equal to 0. The same is the case with these noise-canceling headphones.
Understood? Good. Now back to your earbuds that silence your background noise. When you on ANC toggle, the tine microphones that come with your headphones capture that irksome engine thrum. Then the internal electronics of the headphones quickly measure this and create an opposite sound. This is what your ears hear. If the technology does a good job, what you hear is nothing but the chug of the train fading into nothingness.
Turn the ANC on and it will be a matter of a second to cancel the outside noise levels. The time it takes, a second or so, is the time it takes to listen to the noise, process it, and then produce the appropriate “anti-wave.”
Besides that, more advanced earphones come with a large number of these tiny microphones that pick up external noise exposure. They are well-equipped to determine what should be canceled and which you should be hearing. By using them, you can hear nothing but the sound of your music.
Some noise-canceling headphones also accompany their own app. For example, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 customizes the external noise levels and sounds that you want to hear. This very model is equipped with “city”, “flight”, and “office” environment filters to customize the sound for you. It also has a “voice pass-through” slider to personalize how much you want to hear from the outside of the person sitting beside you. What is more, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 come with 11 levels of noise-canceling intensity that best suit your requirements.
All is done with antiphase calibration technology. And you know what it is really amazing.