What is Active Noise Cancelling? ANC how does it work?

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What is Active Noise Cancelling? ANC how does it work?. How Active Noise Cancellation Works in Headphones and In-Ear Headphones Many of today’s best headphones can not only send beautiful sound to your ears. They can also hear outside noises that may interfere with their listening time, which can be reduced or even completely muted.

But what is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and how does it work?

In this guide, we will explain how noise works. -Headphones and earphone cancellation reduce the volume of ambient noise, explore whether you should pay more for the technology, and see which models are best at active noise reduction. Take a look at the best wireless headphones.

What is Active Noise Cancelling?

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is a combination of hardware and firmware that softens external noise when you listen to certain content through headphones. Different from passive noise isolation, passive noise isolation only covers these sounds by forming a seal with the earmuffs or earphones, and ANC will listen to these sounds and then use the smart audio function to filter them out.

The working principle of ANC is this: your headset has a small microphone for listening to ambient noise. These are not the microphones you like on the best headsets for voice and video calls, but they are still built-in. The sound they pick up can be anything, from the sound of passing cars to the sound of hitting a keyboard. By capturing these sounds, the ANC system records the sound waves they produce. It can then generate its own sound wave, a sound wave with the same amplitude but the opposite of the original wave.

This creates interference, where two waves cancel each other out and produce a flatter (quieter) wave. The resulting waves will play along with your music, and since the whole process is completed very quickly, the original noisy sound waves will never reach your ears. If all this sounds a bit complicated, imagine two boxers hitting a bag. Boxing from the opposite direction.

At the same time with the same force-the bag won’t move anywhere, will it? Just as the sound waves from the outside are suppressed by the equal but opposite “anti-noise” waves reproduced by the ANC system. The simple truth? However, ANC has some limitations that make it less effective than others in suppressing certain types of sounds. This process is fast, but it cannot happen physically in real time, so ANC works better when dealing with consistent low-frequency sounds than when dealing with louder and inconsistent sounds (such as human speech).

The buzzing car engine and air conditioner can easily be turned off. However, the short wavelength of high-frequency sounds, such as the sudden explosion of a horn, makes it difficult for the anti-noise wave from ANC to fill the gap perfectly. However, if you use noise-canceling headphones, all sounds will at least be softer, and even with some budget options, many sounds can be completely muted.

The cheapest wireless earphones can of course have some ANC models for noise reduction and settings.

Noise Cancellation and Settings

Your earphones can suppress sound in many ways. Choose the noise reduction setting, mode or type that suits your environment.

  • Passive noise reduction uses carefully designed headphones to block unwanted sounds.This can be used for ear-hook hearing aids and in-ear hearing aids, where the hearing aid itself can isolate external noise.
  • Active noise reduction uses microphones and speakers to reduce background and environmental noise. This is the most famous type, mainly used for in-ear headphones.The technology is now very compact and battery efficient, and can be used in true wireless in-ear headphones.
  • Adaptive active noise reduction uses the microphone and speaker to automatically adapt to the surrounding environment. This is the most advanced type of ANC in which the noise cancellation level is digitally adapted to the environment.
  • Adjustable active noise reduction allows you to control the amount of background noise you hear by manually adjusting the noise reduction level. This is useful if you want complete control.
  • Transparent mode allows you to easily adapt to the world around you without having to turn off the music or remove the headphones from your ears. Want to let in without turning off the music.

Traveling with ANC

Whether you want to catch up with podcasts on the go, listen to your favorite albums, or just want to block the noise around you so you can enjoy your journey quietly, ANC headphones can help you do that. Please always remember that enabling ANC on the headset consumes more battery power. Therefore, if you don’t mind too much noise during a long trip, you can turn off ANC to save battery life.

The best choice for flying is headphones with hybrid ANC, because they can respond to low-frequency sounds (such as the deep rumble of an airplane) and higher-frequency sounds (such as human voices), allowing you to hear yourself in a crowded environment Sound plane.

Your own personal space Do I need noise-canceling headphones? It is worth noting that active noise reduction does not directly improve the sound quality of headphones, although it does indirectly improve the clarity of music and podcasts by eliminating interference. Therefore, almost anyone can enjoy the benefits of ANC headsets, which are especially useful for commuters and long-distance travelers, because aircraft engine and train noise are exactly the kind of noise constant that ANC can well suppress.

During night flights, ANC can also help you fall asleep, even if you are not listening to music. The most common problem with noise-canceling headphones is that they are usually more expensive than headphones without noise-canceling, and ANC also shortens battery life.

However, ANC is now included in affordable headphones such as JLab Epic Air Sport ANC and Urbanista Miami. These two pairs also have excellent battery life in their respective categories, so you can still find a set of durable ANC headphones or earphones at a discounted price. Another potential problem with ANC is the reduced awareness of the situation.

For example, when trying to cross a busy road, reducing traffic noise can be a risk. When someone tries to talk to you, it is usually difficult to see. (If you want to ignore someone, this may be an advantage haha) However, these are not necessarily reasons to avoid using ANC headphones.

Be careful in situations where your hearing loss may be a problem, such as when you run and cross the road, or just use your transparency or environmental mode. Most ANC headsets have these modes and switch the built-in microphone to amplify ambient sounds instead of filtering them. This is useful for quick conversations or to raise your own awareness. You can switch between ANC and Ambient Mode at will.

Which headphones have a good ANC?

As for over-ear headphones, our current top pick is the Sony WH-1000XM4. It has it all: highly effective ANC, great overall sound, a comfortable fit and long battery life. It’s also cheaper than our next favorite, the Bose 700 – although the latter makes up for its higher price with noise cancellation that’s even more powerful than the WF-1000XM4. There’s a reason the 700 ranks high on our list of the best wireless headphones and best over-ear headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM4: One of the best headphones overall, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is definitely one of the best noise-cancelling headphones and currently equals its lowest price ever.


Bose 700: Bose has the best noise-cancelling technology on the market and the Bose 700 is the best over-ear headphones. Together that is an almost essential combination.


These are both in the sub-luxury range, but there are much cheaper alternatives, such as the aforementioned Urbanista Miami and its excellent 40-hour battery life. The older Bose QuietComfort 35 II is also a great choice if you want high quality without the price of a more recent set.

Urbanista Miami: For just under $125, few headphones offer as much as the Urbanista Miami. This is a nice sounding set of over-ears with great looks, monstrous battery life and a pretty effective ANC.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II: These noise-cancelling headphones are every bit as comfortable as the name suggests, and with Bose-quality ANC and a drastically reduced price, they convince for many more reasons.


Bose also makes what we believe to be the best pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Again, this is a bit pricey, but the ANC is impressively adept at removing difficult noises. The Jabra Elite Active 75t is another excellent all-round choice, while the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro offer options to the budget end of the market.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: While the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds don’t have the secure fit of the best running headphones, they successfully squeeze out top-quality sound and offer ANC effectiveness in a compact pair of true wireless earbuds.


Jabra Elite Active 75t: The Jabra Elite Active 75t did not start with ANC, but was later enabled via a firmware update. Not that you can tell the difference: Jabra’s noise-cancelling technology works so well you’d think it was there from the start.


JLab Epic Air Sport ANC: Active noise cancellation, water resistance and a secure fit make the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC a respectable pair of headphones for running and workouts. Add to that the fact that it only costs around €85 and it gets even better.


Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Another affordable option for ANC earbuds is the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. In addition to offering different noise cancellation modes to suit your environment, it can tailor the sound output to your personal hearing.


To learn more, check out our article on the best noise canceling headphones and earbuds you can buy right now.

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