Sound Isolating vs Noise Cancelling: How to Pick the Best Headphone?

Sound Isolating vs Noise Cancelling: How to Pick the Right Headphone?

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Sound isolating and noise cancelling do sound a lot similar, right? You are not the only one if you agree. The topic of sound isolating vs noise cancelling is pretty hot in the headphone and earbuds community. And like you, people who look into the matter are generally confused regarding which one they should pick.

In short, despite sounding similar, they have a lot of things that make one a lot different than the other. They have a lot of things that make one stand out from the other. When it comes to which is better, it will mostly depend on the use case. Want to know all about the basics of noise isolating and noise cancelling headphones? Consider sticking till the end!

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What Is Noise Cancelling?

Otherwise known as Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), noise cancelling is a technology that utilizes active circuitry to cancel or counteract the noise that might interfere with the sound inside the headphones or earbuds.

Sound Isolating vs Noise Cancelling: How to Pick the Right Headphone?
Noise Cancelling headphones; Source: Bose

Take Bose noise cancelling headphones, for example. It will have extra components within the circuitry, which will help it to digitally process a counteractive signal. And that signal will cancel out the outside noise.

What Is Sound Isolating?

Sound isolation for headphones and earbuds is also known as passive noise cancellation. However, it does not rely on any components or digital processors to do its work. Instead, a sound isolating headphone or earbud will physically block out the noise from entering the ear.

Sound Isolating vs Noise Cancelling: How to Pick the Right Headphone?
Sound isolating headphones; Source: Audio-Technica

For doing so, the sound isolating earbuds or headphones will try to create a seal outside your ears. This seal will act as a physical barrier and hinder unwanted sounds from entering your ears. As a result, your ears will be blocked entirely from the background or outside noise.

Sound Isolating Vs Noise Cancelling: What is Better?

A couple of things drive the topic of active noise cancelling vs passive noise isolation. First of all, consider the efficiency. Noise cancellation utilizes mics and a digital processor to cancel out the outside noise. And usually, it is more effective than passive noise cancellation in terms of blocking outside noise.

Now, before you opt for the best noise cancelling headphones, you need to understand that the audio processor and microphones require power to operate. So, you might not get a high overall run time out of the headphones if you run it in the ANC mode all the time.

On the other hand, noise isolating headphones do not require any battery. And even the lower-end models do not suffer from the hissing sound that some of the lower-end ANC models offer. So, the sound quality will remain consistent on the passive noise cancelling headphones.

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Final Thoughts

When it comes to sound isolating vs noise cancelling, you need to consider your preferences and budget. If you want to get a proper sound blockage on a budget, opt for the passive noise cancellation headphones. And if you like to enjoy a high-end music-listening experience while commuting, pick the noise cancelling headphones.

Slava is a man of mystery and no-one seems to know exactly where he is at any point in time. When he isn't enjoying writing about all things audio and technical he can be found researching his next project of interest. The man never rests.

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