How Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?

MakeUseOf | 5/21/2019 | Simon Batt
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If you want to drown out the outside world while listening to your tunes, noise-cancelling headphones are a great purchase. But how do they work, and what should you look for when buying a pair?

Let’s break open noise-cancelling headphones and see how they work.

Headphones - Types - Passive - Names - Headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones come in two different types: passive, and active. As you can tell by the names, passive headphones block out the sound without doing anything extra; all of the sound-cancelling “technology” is within the headphone’s construction and material choice.

Active headphones, on the other hand, actively work to cancel out the sound using sound cancellation.

So, how do they differ, and which one should you buy?

How Do Passive Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?

Course - Headphones - Kind - Headphones - Pair

Of course, what the headphones use depends on the kind of headphones you’re buying. A pair of in-ear headphones, for example, may use different sound cancelling materials than over-ear.

In general, over-ear headphones come with the best passive cancelling. In-ear headphones can only do so much with their small size and proximity to the eardrum.

Course - Method - One - Headphones - Methods

Of course, this passive noise-cancelling method won’t be as efficient as an active one. Active noise-cancelling headphones typically use passive methods on top of the additional features. However, there’s still plenty of reason why you should get them.

For one, they’re cheaper. If you want a pair of headphones that can block out soft ambiance noise, you may not need to spend extra on active headphones to achieve this. As a result, you can get passive headphones and save yourself some money.

Headphones - Power - Mechanisms - USB - Cable

Also, active noise-cancelling headphones require power for their mechanisms to work, via a USB cable or batteries. If this sounds like a hassle to you, you’re probably better off with the “dumber” passive headphones.

How Do Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?

Headphones - Work - Effort - Sounds

Active noise-cancelling headphones work by making a constant effort to mute the sounds around you. To do...
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