What is Active Noise Cancellation? How does it work?

Using headphones to shut out the world around you

  • Atreya Raghavan
  • Last Updated on Feb 23, 2024
What is Active Noise Cancellation? How does it work?

Noise cancellation in headphones has always given a little barrier to dampen the outside noise by creating a physical barrier between our ears and our surroundings. The next progression in the evolution of noise cancellation has been around for quite some time now, but it is only in the last couple of years that we have started adopting it. ANC is the new buzzword that has been going around in audio listening devices. Let’s try to know it a little better.

What is ANC?

ANC stands for Active Noise Cancellation. It is a step above Passive noise cancellation, which some brands may also call Environmental Noise Cancellation. It is a technology that is found on audio listening devices such as truly wireless earbuds (TWS) and headphones.

ALSO READ: What are the types of noise cancelling headphones available today?

Active Noise Cancellation makes sure that the noises and sounds in your immediate surroundings don’t reach your ears when you are using these ANC headphones/earphones and ruin your audio listening experience. Interestingly, the idea behind ANC dates back to the 1930s. Now though, the technology has become fairly common across brands and price points these days.

How does ANC work?

To understand how ANC works, you need to understand one simple principle, i.e., frequencies of equal magnitude but opposite phases cancelling each other. Now the earphones/headphones with ANC feature works with a combination of microphone, speakers, and some nifty little processing that is happening on the earbuds/headphones.

A microphone is located on the exterior surface of your earbuds/headphones. This microphone detects or “listens” to the noises and sounds in your immediate surroundings. After that, the ANC chip analyses the sounds and breaks them into different machine-readable sound waves.

Once this is done, an anti-Phase sound wave of equal magnitude but the opposite shape is produced inside your ears to drown out the exterior noises.

Now that you know how Active Noise Cancellation works, you’ll be glad to know that while ANC used to be a premium feature a few years ago, you can get some good noise cancelling earbuds even in the budget segment these days. Check out our list of the best ANC earbuds under Rs 5,000 to get yourself a pair of affordable earbuds with ANC.

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Atreya Raghavan

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