The trending, popular headphones of today are built with a host of cool features that make all other ordinary headphones pale in comparison. They don’t just thump out sweet sounds into your ears. They can also listen for and reduce, or even block out any unwanted background noises so that nothing filters through to what you’re listening to.
WHAT IS ANC?
ANC stands for “active noise cancellation”, which is a feature that is an increasingly common must-have feature on headphones and earbuds. It’s a clever piece of technology that uses microphones to “listen” and tune out ambient sounds so you can enjoy your music, movies, and podcasts without any distractions.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
ANC headphones have tiny microphones that are built-in to pick up sound—everything from the hum of the air conditioning unit, to the sound of a passing car, and people chatting around you. The ANC technology then inverts these soundwaves, and a speaker located inside the earphone cancels them with neutralising, “anti-noise” soundwaves.
There are different ways to which Active Noise Cancellation can be applied. The three most common implementations are:
1. FEEDFORWARD ANC
A feedforward ANC system has microphones installed on the outside of the earphone, so noise reaches the microphones before the user’s ear canal. While it is the simplest type of ANC, feedforward technology has its share of pros and cons.
The external microphone has the best noise sensitivity, so it’s great for mid-frequency noise cancelling and can be used to isolate specific sounds like speech or traffic.
Feedforward ANC is more sensitive to wind howl and other forms of incidental noise that might get amplified instead of cancelled out. Noise cancelling properties also differ between wearers; how you wear your earphones, and how the earphones fit on you. A loose fit, for instance, may allow high-frequency noises to bleed through which the processing cannot account for.
2. FEEDBACK ANC
A feedback ANC system has microphones placed on the inside of the earphone.
A major benefit of feedback ANC is that noise is captured by the microphone more accurately, regardless of the positioning and fit of the headphones. As a result, this allows it to adapt better to variations, and correct the signals if necessary. It’s also more resistant to wind howl and other incidental sounds, and is most effective against low-frequency noises.
The drawback is that as with all feedback systems, runaway amplification can occur, which results in an increase in the amount of noise or a ringing feedback sound. This happens when the system picks up its own anti-noise signal and increases the level of amplification in an attempt to cancel it out.
3. HYBRID ANC
As the name suggests, a hybrid ANC is a mixed approach. It offers the best of both worlds by combining feedforward and feedback systems, which means the microphones are positioned on the inside and outside of the earphone. This makes hybrid ANC the most effective because both methods of processing are used, thus covering all the bases.
The hybrid use of both ANC systems works together to reduce a broader spectrum of noise, so you are able to drown out more noises than a pair of headphones sporting just Feedforward ANC or Feedback ANC.
Headphones made with hybrid ANC technology are typically on the higher end when it comes to prices, because they are built with two (or more) microphones, and these microphones need to be of higher quality so as to avoid causing or introducing any additional noise.
WHICH NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES SHOULD I GET?
Depending on the extensiveness of “noise cancellation” you’re after, Creative has a selection of headphones with ANC capabilities.
For in-ear headphones with feedforward ANC, check out our fan-favorite Creative Outlier Air V3 True Wireless earbuds. These lightweight earphones come with Ambient Mode, are certified IPX5 water-resistant, feature customisable touch controls, and an extremely long battery life of up to 40 hours of total playtime.
On the other hand, if you’re constantly on the move with daily long commutes, you’ll probably appreciate quieter spaces, even if it’s just for your ears (and mind), and the Creative Outlier Pro does just that.
Built with hybrid ANC technology, these in-ear True Wireless earphones sport insanely long-lasting battery life (up to 40 hours total with ANC on) to complement your long commutes, and Ambient Mode so you can tune back into the world around you without switching off your music. The Creative Outlier Pro also boasts better mics for quick work-calls wherever you are, customisable touch controls, and is certified IPX5 water-resistant.
Prefer a snug fit over your ears? Sheathed in premium leather finishing, comfortable ear pads, and an adjustable headband, the Creative Zen Hybrid over-ear headphones cancels up to 95% of your background noise so you can #FindYourZen.
Built with hybrid ANC technology and Ambient mode, this pair of headphones provides up to 27 hours of battery life even with ANC enabled (37 hours with ANC disabled), and a noise-cancelling mic for any impromptu calls you need to take while on-the-go. A quick charge of five minutes gives you five hours of listening time, so you can easily keep your Zen wherever you go.