Which Type of ANC Headset is Good for You?

By Akshara Bala Feb 28, 2021

Active Noise Cancellation technology is not a 21st century invention. Paul Lugen patented it in the 1930s to suppress noise in space through interference. By 1986, Bose Corporation developed the first two prototypes of active noise-reducing headphones. ANC headsets today have become a staple with a global market forecast expected to grow at 14% CAGR during 2018-2024.

How do new-age ANC headphones work?

All modern ANC headsets create a shield of silence or anti-noise through microphones and speakers that detect as well as block the external hum. But, such a pair does not come with randomly positioned microphones to generate an anti-noise signal for harsh frequency removal. In fact, any headphone pair with an ANC circuit will come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on how the microphones are utilised to identify and block the noise frequencies.

ANC technology: The fundamentals

On ANC headsets, the implementation of blocking ambient noise actively is based on three fundamental concepts.

  1.   Feed-forward active noise cancelling headphones

With this type of setup, a microphone is placed on the exterior cup of both channels of an ANC pair. This microphone detects the ambient noise, while the ANC circuit creates an anti-noise signal before the signal of audio playback reaches the ears.

Pros of feed-forward ANC headphones

  • Since the external microphone detects the noise before noise reduction, the audio playback is never affected.
  • These headphones can detect noise at higher frequencies such as 1-2 kHz making it easier for speech detection during calls.

    Cons of feed-forward ANC headphones

    • If the headphones with this type of ANC technology are not properly designed, an incorrect placement of them will result in amplifying the noise signal.
    • Feed-forward ANC headphones are only useful indoors, as the microphones on the exterior cans are unable to detect low-humming frequencies created by winds.
      1.   Feedback active noise cancelling headphones

      A pair with feedback ANC technology will have microphones on both channels inside the ear cups. The microphone on either side picks up the audio signal as well as the noise signal. Then the ANC circuit corrects the noise signal.

      Pros of feedback ANC headphones

      • As the microphone is inside the ear cup, external noise in the mid and lower frequency ranges including wind cannot enter.
      • Unlike feed-forward headphones, the noise is still blocked even when the feedback ANC headphones are worn incorrectly or the design does not properly fit the ears. There is no noise amplification.

        Cons of feedback ANC headphones

        • As the microphones inside the cups detect the audio and noise signals, some low audio frequencies are lost while reaching the ears.
        • These headsets also are not able to suppress higher frequencies due to which feedback noise can be generated causing massive discomfort.
          1.   Hybrid active noise cancelling headphones

          Using the best of both feed-forward and feedback ANC technologies, a hybrid ANC headphone pair features two microphones on either sides – one on the exterior and the other, inside.

          Pros of hybrid ANC headphones

          • Noise is detected all across the frequency spectrum by both the microphones, with zero chance for feedback noise and low frequency hums.
          • The fit of such headphones do not affect the listening experience.

            Cons of hybrid ANC headphones

            • As these headphones use two different technologies, they are expensive.
            • Unless hybrid ANC headphones come with high-quality hardware and microphones, they won’t be able to block static white noise caused by two microphones when placed nearby.

              Why use a high-quality Hybrid ANC headset?

              A good hybrid ANC headset with optimal noise cancellation is also determined by the design, materials used and supplementary tech integration. PLAY’s BH70 Hybrid ANC headphones feature Bluetooth 5.0 for seamless connectivity, excellent microphone sensitivity for call clarity, AI integration for clear sound output and signature driver – Enhanced Bass Extra Loud measuring as large as 40mm. All of these features exist in this pair without being too relatively high on the price.

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