Best Active Noise Canceling Headphones 2020: How Does ANC Work?

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Active noise cancellation (ANC) used to be a reserved feature for a high-end pair of headphones, but in the last five years it has become increasingly common. The ability to block out unwanted noise so you can focus on your music while traveling, or muffle the sound of airplane engines while traveling, is a major improvement over turning up the volume, which can affect your hearing over time .

How do active noise canceling headphones work?

It all comes down to microphones and physics. All sound can be broken down into sine waves, which have peaks and valleys depending on their volume and frequencies; The sine wave of loud and low sounds will look different from that created by a soft, high-pitched noise. Before active noise cancellation, the headphones would try to block all sounds from the outside world by placing a physical barrier inside your ear. For headphones, that meant using rubbery tips that created a “seal” inside the ear canal. For ear and ear headphones, the best option was to make larger ear cushions with foam material that cushions the sound. This is known as passive noise cancellation.

Active noise cancellation works differently. Instead of muffling external noises, the microphones on the outside of your headphones “hear” them and create a sound wave that neutralizes the sound coming from the outside world. The sound you hear when active noise cancellation is on, but you are not playing music, is the sound of these two sine waves canceling each other out. When you listen to music at normal volume, this sound is not audible.

What are the pros and cons of active noise canceling headphones?

It’s hard to deny the benefit of uninterrupted listening to music for unwanted sounds, but active noise cancellation has a couple of drawbacks. First, both the microphones that listen to the outside world and the technology that filters it require energy. That means your headphone battery has to be bigger, or you have to settle for a shorter playback time per charge. Considering that noise-canceling headphones are usually wireless (Bluetooth chips also need electricity), you have two large assortments on a limited power supply. The result is to have other gadget to charge daily (or every few days).

Second, add active noise-canceling hardware and a wireless chipset on top of the drivers, padding, and other parts needed to make a good-sounding pair of headphones increase their weight. This is one of the reasons that active noise cancellation has traditionally been found in headphones, which are heavier to start with. Heavy headphones can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, especially if you are used to wearing a really light pair.

What are the best features of active noise canceling headphones?

The popularity of smartphones and tablets has led big tech companies to invest heavily in manufacturing smaller, more durable batteries and more energy-efficient wireless technology. Recent Bluetooth versions have better range and lower power demands. The introduction of custom DSP (digital signal processors) and the miniaturization of battery technology has allowed active noise cancellation to reach the internal and external headphones, although the internal models tend to have the best audio and battery quality. lifetime.

These are the active noise canceling headphones you should get

Active noise cancellation is becoming a common feature, but not all headphones that sound good or feel comfortable. We recommend a pair of headphones in each main style (headphones, in-ear and over-the-ear) that are really worth your time.

1. AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro


Apple’s AirPods were the first conventional fully wireless headphones, and the Pro version released in 2019 supports active noise cancellation.

The pocket headphones have two microphones to cancel noise and get 4.5 hours of battery life per charge. Its charging case adds an additional 18 hours of playtime, so you can get over a day of listening time with minimal pauses. Each button weighs 0.19 ounces each, making them the lightest active noise-canceling headphones we recommend by a wide margin.

I have been using these headphones as my daily headphones for a few months now, and the active noise cancellation has been very impressive. It blocked most of the sound of a New York City subway trip and crowded streets. The rubber tips Apple includes with the AirPods Pro (available in four sizes) create a tight seal around my ear, so both passive and active noise cancellation work at the same time.

The sound quality has been equally excellent. Podcasts and music of all genres sound fairly well balanced and distortion-free at high volumes or wheezing (a shrill sound when artists speak or sing the letter s).

If you’re a fan of headphones, or want a pair of noise-canceling headphones you can take out and take out of your pocket, AirPods Pro receives our recommendation.

2. Marshall MID ANC

Marshall MID


Marshall is best known for supplying amps used by bands like AC / DC, but the company’s line of Bluetooth headsets is a hit. I’ve tried several pairs, including the MID ANC, and I love how they sound.

In-ear headphones have two microphones for noise cancellation and offer 20 hours of continuous music playback with settings enabled. The headphones weigh 7.3 ounces, putting them between our headphones and our headphone picks.

Marshall used a pair of custom 40mm drivers on his headphones, and the difference is easy to hear. Initially I believed that the MID ANC would be tuned for rock music, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth I heard when listening to jazz, pop and Motown. Instruments and voices in the midrange sound particularly good.

The active noise cancellation of the MID ANC is very good, but the in-ear headphones will always have problems with the function more than headphones or earplugs. The headphones create a seal around the ears, offering excellent passive and Active noise cancellation, and over-the-ear headphones have thick ear cushions that fit the entire ear. MID ANC pads are extremely luxurious, but they don’t create the same kind of barrier between you and the outside world.

If you prefer in-ear headphones for their balance of lightness and audio quality, the Marshall MID ANC are the noise-canceling headphones you should get, just be sure to understand the drawbacks inherent in this style of headphone before doing so.

3. Bose 700

Bose 700


The Bose QC25s were the first pair of active noise-canceling headphones that most people heard, and they basically functioned unopposed for several years. Competition has intensified, and Bose recently responded with his 700 series headphones.

The Bose 700 have six dedicated microphones for active noise cancellation, and lets you switch between 11 different levels at the press of a button on the right earcup. They weigh 8.6 ounces, which isn’t much more than the Marshall headphones we recommend, and they get 20 hours of battery life per charge. Bose says the headphones can deliver 3.5 hours of plugged-in music playback for 15 minutes.

Bose has a proven track record in producing great-sounding audio hardware, from speakers to sound bars and headphones. The company says the 700s have a custom equalizer (equalizer) designed to make your music sound good at any volume. It is also compatible with Bose AR, a custom audio technology designed to work with augmented reality glasses.

We recommend the Bose 700 over other over-the-ear headphones because of their impressive active noise canceling hardware, but they also have some nice designs. The headphones have Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in, which you can use to play songs from different streaming services, get answers to questions, and control smart home accessories. The right earcup is also touch-sensitive, so you can adjust the volume and play or pause songs by simply swiping or tapping.

If active noise cancellation is the number one feature you’re considering when looking for your next pair of headphones, the Bose 700 is delivered.