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September 20, 2020

What’s the Difference Between Passive and Active Noise Cancellation

Increased use of android phones and other music listening devices is giving greater weight to noise cancellation features. But the question is how do device developers decide their best choice for noise-cancellation to effectively distinguish their products and yet attract discerning customers?

In order to boost the listening experience of users, the word "noise cancellation" embodies a variety of different methods to reduce unnecessary or unusual background noise. With so many terms, such as active noise cancelation (ANC) technology, ambient noise cancelation system, and adaptive noise cancelation algorithms, defining the optimal noise cancelation technology can become overwhelming for a user or device developer.

What is the active noise cancellation (ANC)?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) or active noise reduction (ANR), is a system to cancel the environmental noise coming from your surroundings. In the modern headset industry, ANC or ANR technology is the most desirable feature that utilizes the superposition principle to cancel the noise. This solution thus helps improve speech, reduce fatigue, and decrease hearing loss. A great active cancellation can significantly improve a headset with good passive cancellation, but can’t make up for bad design.

Passive Noise Cancellation

For passive noise cancellation, The headset itself provides, be it rubber tips in an in-ear design or comfortable padding in an over-the-ear design. In short, it's the amount of noise cancellation that the actual system offers, or how well the headset/headphone works like a foam earplug. Although a well-designed headphone can provide strong passive noise cancelation (PNC) before electronics are applied, passive cancelation is always restricted to frequencies above 1 kHz. With limited passive cancellation, even the best active electronics can't compensate for poor acoustic design. Even high-quality active electronics can not compensate for a bad design with minimal passive cancellation.

How do active noise-canceling headphones work?

Noise-canceling headphones can not completely block out any noise. When you wear active noise-canceling headphones that automatically creates a perfect barrier that blocks sound waves of high frequency. Their structure is restricted to lower frequencies (below 1 kHz) and they also add a specified level of noise reduction (NR) by actively eliminating lower-frequency sound waves. They can help reduce the noise of the jet engine, making them suitable travel headphones for frequent fliers.

Which one is better, active, or passive noise cancellation headphones?

From passive noise-canceling headphones, you can expect everything as active headphones can offer you. Active and passive, both use the same materials that are produced to block the noise to manageable levels but active noise-canceling headphones go a step further by generating its sound waves.

Passive noise-canceling headphones cost considerably less than active noise-canceling headphones, but they offer less cancellation than active noise-canceling versions. For using passive noise cancellation headsets, you have to turn up the volume to balance the noise that can damage your ears. With the active noise cancellation, you will be better equipped to protect your ears.

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Kaysar Rahman


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