Glossary

Active noise cancellation (ANC)

Active noise cancellation (ANC)© 2020 Shutterstock

What is noise-canceling?

Noise-canceling headphones work to reduce noise by generating an opposite sound that cancels the external noise out.

How do noise-canceling headphones work?

Sometimes called active noise-canceling headphones, these sought-after gadgets work by processing the sound around the headphones and wearers and creating the opposite sound to cancel out the ambient noise actively.

Usually, noise-canceling earbuds work best at reducing noises heard at lower frequencies. This is why they’re popular for activities such as train rides, airplanes, and even busy workplaces. However, because they’re not eliminating noise nor creating silence and instead simply canceling out the low-frequency droning sounds, they’re not as effective in settings where there are extremely loud noises or high-pitched sounds. Even the best noise-canceling headphones won’t wholly eliminate surrounding noises.

Don’t get noise-canceling headphones confused with noise-isolating headphones, which don’t use technology to block out noises but reduce noise by merely creating a seal in your ear canal. This means that noise-isolating headphones are usually in-ear models that lock into your ear canals. In contrast, you’ll find noise-canceling headphones are mostly over-ear headphones with a few in-ear headphones beginning to enter the market.

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