noise cancelling headphones
With the rise of digital media, smart TVs, in-home theatre systems and gaming setups, headphones have become a must-have accessory. While noise cancelling headphones are a popular choice for many, it’s important to understand that not all of them are created the same. In fact, there are two different types: passive and active. But which type is right for you?

What are noise cancelling headphones?

Noise cancelling headphones are designed to eliminate ambient noise, reducing the need to turn your music up to drown out unwanted background sounds that can distract you from what you’re listening to. If you’re looking for the best headphones you can buy to pair with your home theatre system, gaming setup or general media use, noise cancelling headphones can be a great choice.

Active noise cancelling headphones

Active noise cancelling headphones (ANC) use built-in technology to eliminate ambient sound. They do this with small battery-powered microphones set into each earpiece. These actively listen for ambient noise using antiphase soundwaves – essentially negative noise, which offsets the frequency being registered – to counter and mute background sound. Noise cancelling headphones won’t cancel all noise though; they’ll reduce low-frequency droning sounds, but higher frequency, fast and irregular noise won’t always be blocked as effectively.

The pros

  • ANC headphones are great for improving your concentration by removing distracting background noise, whether at home or when travelling
  • They pair well with home theatre and gaming systems when you have a noisy environment or are listening to others speak via your headphones
  • Taking calls using them can be much easier in noisy settings like airports, cafes or offices, as they enhance your listening experience

The cons

  • The in-built microphones create vibrations as they offset ambient noise frequencies, which can cause pressure against your ears. This can be an unpleasant sensation in some situations and can give cause head or ear aches for some wearers
  • ANC headphones can reduce the sound quality of what you’re listening to, which is detrimental when listening to music

You’ll find that many brands have an on/off switch to turn active noise cancellation off. This way, you can use ANC mode when you need to reduce the distraction of ambient noise around you, and turn it off when sound quality is more important.

Passive noise cancelling headphones

Passive noise cancelling headphones, by comparison, work differently and more simply. They seek to isolate noise using design; the headphones are instead shaped to thickly wrap your ears, blocking noise without the technology that ANC headphones use to eliminate ambient sound. Passive noise cancelling headphones work much like ear muffs do, blocking sound naturally using shape to create a barrier between your ears and the sounds around you.

The pros

  • Passive noise cancelling headphones can be preferable if you listen to a lot of music and sound quality is more important to you
  • They don’t create the same pressure that ANC headphones create, making them the better choice if you find that wearing ANC headphones give you a head or ear ache

The cons

  • Because they don’t use antiphase technology to reduce ambient noise, you’ll find that some background noise will seep through
  • Passive noise cancelling headphones can be thicker, as they often use more densely padded ear cushions to create a physical barrier between your ears and background noise

Which is best for me?

This will depend entirely on what you’re using your noise cancelling headphones for. ANC headphones are great for travelling, commuting and even in the office when you need to block ambient sound from distracting you from what you’re listening to. However, as mentioned above, they can reduce sound quality and be uncomfortable for some people, which is where passive noise cancelling headphones can have the advantage.

If you’re pairing your headphones with your smart TV or home theatre system, passive noise cancelling headphones may be a better choice unless the environment around you is distracting you from your viewing. But, overall, which type of headphones are best for you will depend on what you want to use them for.

Not all brands are created equal either, so it’s important to do your homework or talk to someone experienced before purchasing the most expensive set of headphones on the market. This is especially true if you’re looking for a noise cancelling headphones to use with your home theatre or gaming set up at home, where you need to balance sound quality with focus.

Need home theatre or headphone setup advice and assistance?

If you’re looking for advice or help with hardware and app choices, and configuring your home theatre, gaming, smart TV or computers, give us a call on 1300 553 166 or fill out our contact form.  We’ll help you get the ultimate sound experience to suit your budget and needs.