Everything you need to know about Noise Cancellation Technology
Leaving home without headset calls for instant personal disappointment. How this device has become a 21st-century necessity!
The most important feature in headphones & earphones these days is “Noise Cancellation Technology”. This allows for any sounds generated within the headset to be perceived more clearly for an enhanced experience of music, radio, communications, etc. Simply put, noise cancelation technology is all processes that help to reduce or eliminate noise for the user. So how does this functional technology work?
Firstly, there are 3 types of variation in this technology based on the way it performs- Active noise cancellation, Passive noise cancellation, and a fairly new technology Adaptive noise cancellation. Let's dig deeper into this.
ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION
Aka ANC is a process that detects noise and neutralizes it before it reaches the ear. As the name suggests, the entire process happens in real-time and instantly, resulting in real-time enhanced output. This is a 4 fold process-
- Picks the noise from your immediate environment through microphone
- Analyses the noise to break it into machine-readable parts called sound waves
- Produces an anti-noise sound wave of equal magnitude but in an opposite shape
- Feeds this anti-noise into the earphones to cancel the ambient noise
ANC works on the principle of elimination instead of blocking sounds. The intensity of cancellation is dependent on many factors, the chip used in hardware, the processing power of the server, sensitivity & ability of microphones to catch ambient noise, etc. This brings us to the conundrum, what is the optimal placement for the microphone, inside or outside, or both sides of the earpiece. According to the placement, ANC can be implemented in three ways- Feedforward, Feedback & Hybrid ANC.
A feedforward format is the simplest of the lot. Mic is placed on the outside of the earpiece which is convenient for earbuds as there is limited space for the mic inside the user’s ear. But it can prove problematic in the situation of headset not worn correctly or when the noise is coming from a weird angle.
Feedback format is just the opposite of feedforward. The mic is placed on the inner side of the earpiece which aids in the capture of noise that the user actually hears. But there is a possibility of accidentally processing the low-frequency bass of music the user is listening to.
The hybrid format offers the best of both the worlds of the previously discussed two setups by placing the microphones on the inside and outside of the earpiece. So you get advanced output and avoid problems from the earlier setups. But the trouble is that it’s overall expensive due to more than one mic, powerful processing hardware requirement, and high energy usage.
In ideal conditions, this technique should be able to eliminate noise entirely and that is what it aims but rarely are real-life situations ideal, hence, you will notice a significant amount of cancellation but probably not 100%.
PASSIVE NOISE CANCELLATION
This is the simplest method of noise cancellation, by blocking out the sound/noise via physical barrier from entering the ears. In headphones & earphones this can be interpreted as foam based earbuds that snugly seal the ear opening or the acoustic padding that sits on top of the outer ear. Both examples thereby hindering sound waves from reaching the ear canal. The intensity of cancellation depends on the strength of the seal between the ear and the physical barrier. You can see a combination of Active as well as Passive noise cancellation technology utilized together in headsets to provide a better listening experience.
ADAPTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION
This is a fairly new concept in comparison to the earlier two. It is basically elevated Active noise cancellation with the ability of customized noise cancellation using an advanced algorithms to detect the noise around you and produce near-perfect noise cancellation to best match your environment. It is primarily fine-tuning the cancellation process depending on type, intensity, angle, etc. features of the noise.
How revolutionary does this all sound! But no! Noise-canceling headphones at first were created for airplane pilots in 1980s to protect their hearing capacity from damaging. So the growth in the number of brands providing this feature and making it mainstream is good news for the populace aiming to preserve their ear health to steer clear of NIHL (Noise-Induced Hearing Loss). It also addresses the need to listen to music on higher volume to be able to comfortably hear your music above the noise around you which leads to permanent and progressive damage to your hearing ability. But noise damages more than just ears, long-term noise exposure can cause an increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke, difficulties with sleeping, and concentrating. Daily exposure to it for several hours can have adverse effects on mental and physical health, resulting in irritation, anger, and low mood. Noise cancellation technology can aid in improving mental health & reducing stress caused by sensory overstimulation. Reducing stress and ear damage can make a significant difference to the quality of the user’s life.
With growing noise pollution, it is no more a luxury but a requisite for the community!