Choosing The Best Active Noise Cancelling Headphones For You
| Reuben Howe
Headphones and Earphones have become daily staples for many of us. Walks to work, trips to the park and getting to sleep are all headphone-compatible now. Wireless headphones and earphones let us enjoy music and other media almost constantly. New technology like Bluetooth, Charging Cases to make True Wireless Earbuds, and now ANC Active Noise Cancelling have all contributed to bringing you the best audio experience possible wherever you are.
When choosing a set of headphones or earphones there are a lot of factors to consider. Let’s break down what goes into making a set of headphones suit you, and how ANC can be incorporated into them.
Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones
Firstly, simple passive noise cancellation. Compared to Active Noise Cancelling, the older passive variant is far less effective. One thing that passive noise cancelling did excel in was simplicity and comfort. The idea of noise cancellation is to break up and distort sound waves from outside the headset, maintaining the ones emanating from the speakers themselves.
There’s a lot of clever engineering in analogue noise reduction, but you can only distort or block sound wave travel so many ways before more technology is needed. Having a huge or intricate headset just to accommodate the design needed is inconvenient and ANC solves that problem.
Maintaining the structure and comfort, ANC headphones support ear-covering padding and ergonomic spines to maximise comfort and immerse your ears fully in the sound. This passive noise cancelling from the padding is combined with the ANC tech to create the best noise-cancelling experience available.
Now, the ANC system itself. ANC stands for Active Noise Cancelling, and is a form of noise cancellation that does not rely on physical cushions or specific volumes. Instead, ANC headphones are equipped with directional microphones. These microphones aren’t used for your voice and phone calls though, these microphones face outwards.
By facing the outside world, these directional microphones actually pickup background ambient sounds. When the sounds of running water, traffic, wind, neighbour’s music and more hit the outward-facing microphone the headset immediately creates a counter-sound. Essentially, the headphones generate a sound that is exactly opposite in amplitude but identical in frequency to the outside sound. The waves then cancel each other out, and you are left only hearing the intended audio from your device.
The removal of all ambient sound through this active process is far superior compared to passive noise cancelling, which involves simply blocking the sound rather than countering it. The August EP735 uses this technology, combined with aptX Low Latency Bluetooth, to bring you the best of sound quality, wireless technology, and noise reduction.
A smaller solution – Dual Microphone Noise Cancelling Earphones
ANC, while technologically advanced and involving multiple microphones, has even been condensed into Earphones. The extra tech needs power to operate, but modern earphones like the EPG500’s have their own dedicated charging case. The case carries charge with you so you can recharge your earbuds on the move and increase their total playback time even when using advanced features like Dual-Microphone Noise Cancelling. These earphone alternatives to a headset still sound great, and benefit from effective noise cancelling techniques.
Earphone Weight and Structure
With similar technologies available for noise reduction in both over-ear headphones and smaller, lighter in-ear buds, making the decision can be hard. A pair of headphones will be more suitable for those who have access to a home or work PC at a desk, as plugging the headset in will allow them to easily switch roles.
Headsets will also charge while in use in this way, as the PC provides them a power source. However, wireless earphones are always wireless. This means that even though their charging case is portable and incredibly useful on-the-go, they are less useful if you know you will need audio for long periods with no charging breaks.
Sport and motion are another factor. A pair of wireless earphones can be light and slim, like the EP675’s. A customisable silicone tip on a pair of earphones will provide a subtle, less intrusive way to listen while you exercise.
If you are likely to use the earphones on the move then a pair of earphones will still reduce ambient sound while also being lighter than pairs of headphones. Examine your usage and decide whether switching from stationary/casual listening to sport/working out listening is important for you.
The other side of the coin
While focusing on noise cancellation is certainly justified, one other way in which headphone technology has affected our audio experience is sound bleeding. You’ll have been on a bus and heard someone else’s music blaring from around their ears, or from around their neck if they lower the headphones to chat. It can be incredibly disruptive at the best of times.
Noise cancellation technology uses microphones to limit outside noise coming in, but ANC headphones are also exceptional at keeping your music to you. Earphones in particular provide an incredibly private way to enjoy sound even in public, with little fear of sound bleeding to nearby people.
If you want to flip the rules and look for a headset that gives you full awareness of sounds around you while still playing you music, then Bone Conduction might be more for you. Bone Conduction Headphones like the EP400’s deliver sound incredibly locally, needing physical contact to fully create music.
Anyone not in contact with the headset will at most hear small vibrations like a phone buzzing, as the sound is directly delivered to the bones in your ears via bone conduction. This also means your ears are uncovered, unpadded, and you are free to hear and engage with the world as normal. August provides both of these audio solutions, full ANC noise cancelling or none at all, so that you might choose the best audio solution for you.