How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

Nowadays, headphones and earphones don’t just play music, sound engineering has come a long way from just the standard headphones you used to get with a walkman. You can now find headphones that can mute outside noise so that you’ll be able to Solitude XCS Active Noise Canceling and Amplifier Headphones Caseenjoy your favorite music in relative peace. Noise cancelling headphones has long been used in aviation but it’s only recently that it has become available for personal use.

Bose’s QuietComfort series is currently the most popular line of noise cancelling headphones but it’s not the only option in the market today. JVC, Sennheiser and Sony are brands that also have lines of noise cancelling headphones that compete with Bose. Each brand and model has its own strengths and weaknesses and when looking for noise cancelling headphones, be sure to do your research as some of the best models don’t come cheap.

How it Works

Noise cancelling headphones use what is called digital signal processing or DSP technology to identify and then cancel out ambient noise. These headphones have internal, built-in microphones that pick up external, environmental sounds and feed it toJVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones an audio processor.

The audio processor determines the different levels and frequencies of the external sounds. Through a process called wave interference, opposing frequencies are played in order to cancel out the ambient sounds. The biggest difference between noise cancelling headphone brands and models is in the quality of their audio processors.

Some models have more advanced and sensitive audio circuitry that allows the headphones to cancel out more sound of varying frequencies. While other factors such as ear cup or ear bud shapes, designs and sizes do contribute to the quality of noise cancelling, it is the audio processor that does the brunt of the work and largely determines how much sound is cancelled.

A common problem among noise cancelling headphones is the presence of a hissing sound when noise cancelling is turned on. Some headphones do a good job in preventing this hiss from happening while in others, it is hard to ignore. It’s important to test out the headphones for the amount of hiss present if you want to own a pair that you’ll enjoy. If testing them out is not possible, try to read as much user reviews for that particular model as possible.

Noise Cancelling vs. Noise Isolating

You may also come across head and earphones that are noise isolating. These types of products are different from noise cancelling.

Noise isolating headphones do not have audio processors or internal microphones so they are not able to cancel sound. What they do is to block out sound using the ear cups or ear buds. In other words, noise isolating headphones simply block out sound using hardware while noise cancelling headphones tries to eliminate sound.

Why Use Noise Cancelling Headphones?

Noise Cancelling Headphones on anAirplaneNot all people need noise cancelling headphones. Manufacturers usually market their noise cancelling products to frequent travelers, commuters, businessmen and women and urbanites because they’re the ones who typically search for headphones that would allow them to listen to music despite the noise in airports, train stations, a busy street and even at the office.

If you are always on the go and still need to be able to listen to your music without hums and whirrs getting in the way, investing on a good pair of noise cancelling earphones is the way to go.


Please see my Reviews of Top Rated Noise Cancelling Headphones

Over Ear Headphones:

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony MDR10RNC Premium Digital Noise Canceling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony MDR-NC100D Noise Cancelling Earphone


-Robert Walsh

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About Robert Walsh

I travel internationally on a frequent basis for work and the only way I have found to be able to rest on a plane is by using noise cancelling headphones. I have used quite a few over the years and have reviewed the ones I like best here.