Noise has become one of the most constant aspects of modern life, aside from day to day change. Noise is everywhere, whether it's the sound of your chaotic office chatter or the noise of your air conditioner, and maybe a few hours of quiet can now seem more valuable than anything.
Nevertheless, when you consider the headphones to buy, you'll likely come across "noise-reduction (isolation)" and "noise-cancelling" headphones that claim to fix your problems. If you're wondering if the two are identical, the answer is no.
The process of blocking noise by the use of physical barriers is known as noise reduction (passive noise cancellation). Noise reduction in headphones works by creating a seal with the pads of the ear cups just in the same way that covering your ears with your hands reduces noise.
The barrier “isolates” your ear from noise, or at least tries to, in order to reduce background noise. However, depending on how it fits on your ears, nature, and components used, sound can still leak through, even if they are partly successful.
It's also known as "Active Noise Cancellation" (ANC), and is a method of blocking out background noise using a series of elements housed in the headphones' ear cups.
Firstly, the tiny microphones “listen” to the ambient noise. The sound waveform data is then sent to a built-in chipset, which uses algorithms to create an opposing soundwave (180 degrees out of phase) that is played through the speakers that help in cancelling out the incoming background noise.
To make it easier for you to understand, basically if the outside world creates a +1, the headphones produce a -1, giving your ear a 0. The perfect zero of silence. When done correctly, the results are stunning. The best noise cancelling headphones will greatly minimise those noises. They work best with droning, low-frequency sounds.
Difference between Noise Cancelling and Noise Isolating Headphones
A consumer is likely to believe that noise cancelling and noise isolating headphones are the same thing. In truth, there are a number of factors that set them apart, and understanding them will help you make the appropriate decision if you're considering purchasing one.
Active Noise Cancelling headphones are the clear winner when it comes to noise reduction. However, since passive noise isolation excels at reducing mid-high frequencies and active noise cancellation excels at low frequencies, when paired with a good ANC system, you'll get better noise-reduction results.
When it comes down to audio quality, clarity, and precision, most audiophiles prefer noise-isolating or reduction headphones. Some of the best ANC headphones, on the other hand, will certainly match in terms of audio quality.
Because of the technology involved, expect to pay more for ANC headphones. Also remember that the price you pay will vary depending on the model and the headphones' specifications (passive or active).
Since you'll have to charge your ANC headphones on a regular basis, the power demand can be a minor annoyance. A standard noise isolating headphone, on the other hand, uses less battery and is ready to use at any time.
Comfort and Safety
Both noise-reduction and active noise-canceling headphones are comfortable to use as long as you know when you'll be using them. In reality, it aids in the prevention of hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels. It's a very subjective case in terms of comfort, but it's possible that ANC-types depend less on having a good seal and therefore are more relaxed.
And as noise isolation headphones depend on the fitting and seal of the headphones, some could be uncomfortable, and even annoying to wear for long durations if the fit isn't decent.
Decide where you'll put these to use. Cancellation is useful if the noise you want to eliminate is persistent (such as trains). If you're going to go running with these, then active noise cancellation may not be the best option because you won't be able to hear traffic or other essential noises. Consider it.
Ultimately, you must decide what is best for you. Also be sure to think about your expectations and budget before choosing one of these two choices.