What is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)?

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What is Active Noise Cancellation?

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology is now a staple of the headphone industry. This high-end feature uses noise-canceling speakers to block out unwanted external noises in an environment. 

Listening to your music playlists while traveling can be difficult especially in possible noisy vehicles such as airplanes, buses, or cars.

Noise cancellation technology helps us enjoy our music in peace and even makes it plausible for us to get some sleep while traveling in any vehicle by canceling out the noises from the engine and other such low humming sounds. Active Noise-Cancelling headphones let us enjoy travel in silence.

For more information on how this technology works, read on below.

How Exactly Does Active Noise-Cancelling Work?

So, what is active noise-canceling (ANC)? Well, ANC is based on the principle of wave phase cancellation. Sound is a pressure wave that consists of fluctuating periods of rarefaction and compression. Sound waves that are inverted from one another cancel each other out when they are combined together. 

A noise-canceling speaker does so by analyzing the sound waves and emitting the same amplitude with an inverted “anti-noise” signal. Then the sound waves fuse, canceling each other out in the process. So the anti-noise signal blocks out the external noise before you hear it. 

Basically, active noise canceling is a system that produces anti-noise waves that eliminate external noises. This system of sound elimination, though not always 100%, still allows you to have an uninterrupted listening experience.

Noise Canceling Headphones

ANC headphones come equipped with fancy microphones, not for speaking, but for measuring and analyzing ambient noise.

Brand, of course, determines how effective the active noise-canceling system works. The level of technology, quality, and microphone placement determines the overall efficiency of sound elimination.

ANC equipped headphones effectively block out constant noises of a lower range such as airplane engines, traffic, and other such lower humming sounds. 

Pros and Cons of ANC

All forms of technology come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

With the following, we’ve listed some of the most common pros and cons of ANC equipped headphones.

  • ✓ Cancels ambient noise
  • ✓ Listening at lower volumes is sufficient, no need to put the volume up
  • ✓ Helps boost concentration while studying and working
  • ✓ Protects your ears from excessive noises which could be detrimental to your health
  • ✓ Clearer phone conversations with people in public settings
  • ✓ High-quality audio, sound, and music experience
  • ✓ Very ideal for travelers
  • Struggles to block out midrange sounds such as people’s voices
  • Hissing sounds common with electronic circuitries 
  • High power usage
  • Need for a power source and/or batteries
  • Weight due to built-in components
  • Expensive cost due to high-end features


It can be easily understood why ANC has grown a staple of today’s headphone industry. 

Though there are some issues associated with this type of technology, there have been recent advancements that help make your ANC experience more comfortable, such as hybrid noise cancellation, which is equipped to block a wider range of noises.

So, overall active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones prove for a great must-have gadget for frequent flyers and travelers. 

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