Everyone at some point or the other likes a bit of quiet and may have heard about Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), But given the kind of world we are living in, there is a fat chance that we would find that readily available around us.
This is where technology comes in noise-cancelling technology. As the name suggests, it cancels out the surrounding noise, leaving our world a little quieter. This kind of technology was earlier available around us only in big, expensive headphones but with advancements in the field of audio, it is now readily available in other headphones and wireless earbuds too. This feature has become incredibly popular, so much so that now every headphone or a wireless earbud has some kind of variation of noise cancellation.
What is Noise Cancellation?
In layman's terms, noise cancellation means to shut out the ambient noise. But let's get one thing clear, no noise-cancelling headphones can completely remove the sound; it can only reduce the surrounding noise significantly, giving the illusion that the noise is cancelled. But when the term active is used with noise cancellation, it means that the headphones are actively looking for noise to neutralise it.
How Active Noise cancellation (ANC) works?
With the help of microphones that listen to both inside and outside noise of the earphones.
Imagine sound as waves. In active noise-cancelling headphones/earphones, one of the mics listens to the noise outside, captures it and creates opposite sound waves that neutralise it, leaving you with just the audio that comes out of the headphones.
However, in practice, using noise technology perfectly is hard as different sounds have different frequency waves. Noise cancellation technology is easy to use with consistent noise like the hum of aeroplanes and traffic as compared to loud or inconsistent sounds like people talking or announcements.
Precisely why noise cancellation headphones are extensively used during travels to drown the ambient noise and provide you with relatively quieter surroundings so you can relax.
Different types of headphones come with different types or modes of noise cancellation levels. So pick the one that suits your needs best and enjoy the audio the way you like.
Passive noise cancellation
This kind of noise cancellation is found in well-designed earphones that seal the ears leaving the surrounding noise out. They are found in both earphones and headphones. They need to fit perfectly preventing the sound from entering from outside and are best suited to filter out high-frequency sounds like a chatty co-worker.
Active noise cancellation (ANC)
They use both microphones and speakers to reduce or drown out the surrounding noise. There are majorly 2 types of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) which involve the basic placement of the microphones.
Feedforward Active Noise Cancellation -
Here, the mic is outside the ear cup and hears the outside noise before you can. It then processes the intrusive noise to create the anti-noise waves to cancel or neutralise the former so you can enjoy the sound. However, due to its outside placement, it is more in-tuned with the outsides and may not deliver the right sound to the listener, especially if the headphones or the earphones are not placed properly and can actually amplify the noise outside.
Feedback noise cancellation -
In this type of cancellation, the mic is inside the ear cup and in front of the speaker, so it gets to hear the resulting signal in exactly the same way the listener does. As the mic hears the sound just as the user does, it can cancel out the noise. And if the headphones or earphones are worn incorrectly, it does not drastically affect the sound cancelling. But since it clubs the sound and noise together, if this is not taken into the design account, you may lose out on the sound that makes your favourite music click.
Point to be noted here, ANC alone cannot do much, if other factors like design, music quality and material quality are not considered.
Hybrid noise cancellation
Hybrid noise cancellation is a combination of feedforward and feedback mics and placing them both on the inside and outside of the ear cup. This kind of combination works to deliver the best result without drawbacks. It adapts and adjusts to the frequencies and delivers just the sound. Sometimes these earbuds come with an additional mic to capture additional sound and deliver it to the other party making it the perfect companion in workspaces.
Environmental noise cancellation
As the name suggests, environmental noise cancellation neutralises the surrounding noise. Dependent on the technology inside the earphone/headphone, they detect the environment's noise and stops it from entering the headset.
Transparency mode is handy in busy settings where you want to enjoy your music without losing touch with the surroundings. It does that by manually adjusting the noise cancellation level to let the outside world in. In this mode, you don't have to turn off the audio or take out your earphones, just adjust the settings from your earphones and you are good to go. Nowadays, you also find an adjustable transparency mode that lets you choose how much of the outside world you want to let in.
Noise cancellation and the surroundings
Noise-cancelling headphones with ANC are your best support system in an open workspace setting. They eliminate the chatter around and provide you with the much-needed quiet so you can focus on your work and get it done. Considering that most of us spent a large part of 2020 in a quiet, comfortable setting, coming back to the daily humdrum of workspace can get exhausting at best and annoying at worst; that's where the noise-cancelling headphone unleashes itself as the true saviour. All you have to do is don them and just turn on the noise cancellation mode and you are good to go. This is even more effective when you can't find a quiet corner to yourself.
Constant honking, people chattering, construction noise and even the sound from metro rails can take a heavy toll on our ears on a daily basis. This is where noise-cancelling headphones are really useful. You can use them to silence out the background noise and be in the quiet or just turn on the music and get the full blast of it. And with the transparency mode, you can let the surrounding sound in and not be completely oblivious to what's happening around you.
At homeHomes are supposed to be a safe space but year 2020 showed us that when all household members are present at the same time in close quarters, things can get really stressful and especially when there is work involved. You may not be able to physically get away from people but you can certainly drown out the noise and do your own thing with noise-cancelling headphones.
Defy is Noise's first Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) overhead headphone. It promises to deliver pure, unadulterated sound with active noise cancellation technology. With soft, plush material encapsulating the earcups and the headband, this headphone is meant for long-term usage and a playtime of 30 hours in basic mode or the 20 hours in ANC mode doesn't hurt either. To make matters even better, the 40mm speaker driver delivers exceptional sound. Plus, it also has a 3.5mm jack for when the juices are about to run out so you can plug it in and listen to your favourite tunes.
Noise Buds Solo
Buds Solo is Noise’s first Hybrid Active Noise cancellation (ANC) technology truly wireless earbuds. These lightweights, ergonomically-designed earbuds are discreet and come with a triple mic system that neutralises the noise and captures your sound so you are heard clearly every time. On a single charge, it delivers 7 hours (in basic mode) and a total of 36 hours with the charging case & 5 hours (in ANC mode). Plus, it also has in-ear detection so you never miss out on a thing and with transparency mode, you are always aware of your surroundings.
Why use Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)?
Unwanted noise can affect a lot more than just our productivity. It causes irritation, feels like an invasion of our spaces, causes lack of sleep, raises our stress level and ultimately affects our mental health. Noise-cancelling headphones were first invented for pilots and later went on to include travellers. But given the current situation - constant human presence and lack of private corners, at times, even in our homes, has made owning and using a pair of noise-cancelling headphones a necessity rather than a luxury.