What Are Hybrid Noise-Canceling Headphones?

By Kartikeya Rokde Aug 31, 2020

When you are looking for headphones, without a doubt you would want to look for noise-canceling ones. After all, who would want to be disturbed by ambient sounds, when all you want is to croon to your favourite music? What is noise-canceling really though and are there different forms of noise-canceling? It will be worthwhile to know it in some detail, to attain that perfect audio nirvana.

How Noise-Cancellation Works

Up until now, noise-canceling headphones came in two forms- active noise-canceling and passive noise-canceling headphones. How noise cancellation works with passive headphones is that the shape of the ear cup blocks out ambient sounds. These are really over-ear headphones that fit snugly, and to an extent block outside sound. 

The answer to what is active noise-cancellation, on the other hand, simply put, is that these headphones have a way to create sound waves to clash with the ambient sound and thereby neutralize the unwanted sound. The component that technically removes the noise is the ANC controller, which, in turn, is supported by microphones. The interfering frequencies are stored in the controller as a filter and these frequencies are in turn cleared from the audio signal before it reaches the ear. This is done through the process of creating an “anti-sound”, whereby the microphone creates a counter-noise and drowns the unwanted sound.

This can be done in one of the two-ways:

Feed-Forward ANC

With feed-forward ANC, the microphone is placed outside of the ear cup. What this means is that the microphone hears the sound before the ear does and creates a counter-noise to cancel the unwanted sound before it reaches the ear. 

While it works well with loud sounds, the one downside of these headphones is that the “ anti-noise” created to drown the external loud sound, can sometimes interfere with the sound quality.

Feedback ANC

As opposed to the feed-forward ANC, in this case, the microphone is placed inside the ear cup and receives the sound along with the ear. 

The one issue with these headphones is that it isn’t too effective for loud ambient sounds.

How noise-cancellation works

Hybrid Noise-Canceling Headphones

Hybrid noise-canceling headphones draw their name from the placement of the microphones. 

They come with both internal and external microphones. What they, therefore offer, is the best of both the worlds- effective noise cancellation as well as good sound quality. 

When you are adjusting the noise-canceling levels on your hybrid noise-canceling headphones, what you are effectively doing is switching between the internal and external microphones. If you opt for low noise-cancellation you are using the internal microphones, while at the high setting the external microphones are being used so that the surrounding sound can be fully drowned.

Additionally, high-quality hybrid ANC headphones also come with the following useful features:

  • Multiple microphones integrating feed-forward and feedback Active Noise Cancellation technologies.
  • Digital Signal Processing, which works together with the noise detecting microphones to reduce different levels of noise, by mapping the frequencies of sound.
  • Spatially adaptive noise reduction system, which accounts for differences in air pressure in filtering out unwanted sounds.

So go ahead and chill out with the best noise-canceling headphones. That you would be transported into a different world isn’t just a turn of phrase but a reality! It’s a given that you wouldn’t have to worry about what is noise-canceling; after all, you would be experiencing it, first-hand!

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