Difference Between Noise Canceling and Noise Isolating Headphones

The concept of sound can be mindboggling and you can see that quite well when it comes to noise-canceling vs noise-isolating headphones. It doesn’t have to crazy complicated, however, which is always good when money is concerned. Buying the right headphones could be a purchase you cherish for the rest of your life. They could also end up being a tremendous waste of time and money. Missing out on what you are looking for because you don’t know what to look for is the worst. With technology consistently advancing it can be incredibly hard trying to keep up. Here you can find out all you need to know for controlling the noise you hear when you listen to music. Because who wants to hear everything else around them when they’re trying to jam?

The Birth of Noise Cancellation

While Amar Bose is often credited for starting to bring the noise-canceling headphone onto the market in 1978 the technology has much older roots. The Bose story goes he was trying to enjoy music on a plane ride when he wrote the design on a napkin. Definitely a sweet little story for parties but noise cancellation actually began in Germany. In 1933 doctor of philosophy and medicine Paul Lueg made a tremendous discovery. He realized he could cancel out sounds by using phase advancing waves to cause interference at certain points in space. While a brilliant idea at the time. Dr. Lueg was sadly prevented from demonstrating the idea to the public due to insufficient equipment. He would never get to experience the battle of noise-isolating headphones vs noise canceling. It wasn’t until 1986 that noise-canceling headphones were introduced to aircraft pilots.

What is Noise Canceling?

The noise-canceling you’ll find in headphones labeled as such uses a technology called active noise cancellation. How it works can be described in a complicated manner or one more like this. Active Noise Cancellation or ANC will detect the sound profile of the sound of your environment. It will then break this down with its internal processor into sound waves. From these sound waves, it then produces anti-phase sound waves of equal magnitude in the opposite shape. These waves effectively cancel out the ambient noise. A simple way to think of it is with negative numbers. 1 plus negative 1 equals 0 and the sound is canceled out. Since they only listen for external noise all you hear is what you’re listening to on your headphones. The difference between noise canceling and noise isolating is very important.

Pros and Cons of Noise Canceling

  • Listens to exterior noise to cancel it out for clear listening experience
  • Doesn’t greatly affect the sound quality of the music
  • Often included with wireless headphones
  • Safe and doesn’t limit headphone design
  • Often cost more than isolated noise-canceling headphones
  • Doesn’t always work with every sound, quality scales with price
  • Drains battery and requires charging

What is Noise Isolation?

Noise isolation was for a long time the only way we could cancel out noise. The simplest method of noise elimination is also known as passive noise cancellation. You might see PNC in the debates on noise-isolating headphones vs noise canceling. You can find a variety of different implementations of passive noise cancellation. However, the basis is always a physical barrier to prevent exterior noise from reaching your ears. The science of figuring out how to stick you fingers in your ears with comfort and rhythm. You can find these as headphones or earphones always designed to create a seal. The strength of the seal is the main determiner of their noise-canceling efficiency.

Pros and Cons of Noise Isolation

  • Often much cheaper than noise cancellation headphones
  • Provide a snug fit some people enjoy
  • The design doesn’t inhibit sound quality at all
  • Snug fit can be uncomfortable over extended listening periods
  • You won’t be able to hear any exterior noise, unsafe
  • Less extra features

What is Adaptive Noise Cancellation?

Recently this new term has risen as another option for controlling that unpleasant extra noise. The natural evolution of active noise cancellation adaptive attacks its job on a much more personalized level. In essence, they do the same thing listening to exterior noise in order to cancel out the sound. Adaptive technology, however, uses advanced algorithms that detect the noise for superior noise cancellation. This computer language is able to match up with your environment and change to the most radical circumstances.

The best adaptive noise cancellation headphone can adjust for altitude, glasses, head shape, head movement, and even hair leakage. The final touch is an ability to do this while adjusting to what you are listening for premium audio quality. Who cares about the difference between noise isolating and noise-canceling when there’s something better?


Which is better noise canceling or noise isolating?

It can largely depend on your preference as both are quite capable of getting the job done. You might not want to invest in noise-canceling to the point that they outstrip noise isolating. Though noise-canceling often comes with many more features. Finding the right balance between quality sound and noise-canceling can be quite difficult.

The wide variety of noise isolation style headphones also makes it a viable option. At the end of the day if money isn’t an issue adaptive is always the best way to go. Noise-isolating headphones vs noise canceling are quickly turning into a new battle.

Do noise-canceling headphones block out voices?

Yes, a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones should be able to block out voices. This will, of course, depend on how loud they are and their proximity. Bringing someone along to test headphones with you is never a bad idea.

This aspect of headphones can sometimes make them annoying or even dangerous. With this in mind, many active noise-canceling headphones offer a transparency feature to faintly hear the external sound.

Is it bad to sleep with noise-canceling headphones?

The simple answer is no, as long as you are comfortable there shouldn’t be an issue.  Noise-canceling headphones are completely safe for use when you’re trying to sleep. Noise-canceling headphones are actually more comfortable to sleep with than earplugs with the right purchase. For this reason, they are often used as an escape route to deal with aggravating snoring. Look earplugs for hunting