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Difference Between Noise Cancelling and Noise Isolating

Noise Cancelling vs Noise Isolating

Noise can be pretty annoying when you just want to have some shut-eye or if you want to listen to your favorite tunes. To reduce the amount of noise you hear over your headphones, manufacturers have adapted two very different approaches; noise cancelling and noise isolating. The main difference between the two is how they reduce the noise. Noise cancelling is an active process that requires power while noise isolating is a passive process that is always functioning.

Noise cancelling headphones have a mic located on the outside that listens to noise. It takes this noise and creates its exact opposite, which is then fed into the drivers. Once the noise and its opposite meet, they cancel each other out. Noise isolating isn’t as complex. What it tries to achieve is a total seal in your ear canal via soft gel like materials that would mold itself to your ear canal. The seal would prevent the noise from entering your ear. Both methods are not perfect and some amount of noise would find its way inside your ear.

Because it needs power, noise cancelling headphones often have their own batteries. This can be a downside since there is the possibility that you forget to charge them or you do not have spares. There is also the possibility that you run out of charge during your flight or in circumstances where you can’t get fresh batteries. There is also the issue of cost. Noise cancelling headphones have sophisticated electronics that process the noise and create its inverse. This, added to the extra components like the mic, increase the overall price of the headphones. Noise isolating headphones don’t stray that far from ordinary headphones aside from the choice of material. Different types of material achieve different levels of seal and noise isolation.

Still, noise cancelling headphones are the best available since they have the best noise reduction ability. Not to mention the fact that their design already provides a slight noise isolation factor. But as always with commercial products, price plays a major factor. A top-end noise isolating headphone can probably beat a low-end noise cancelling headphone.


1.Noise cancelling is an active approach while noise isolating is a passive approach
2.Noise cancelling headphones need a separate battery while noise isolating headphones don’t
3.Noise cancelling headphones are more expensive than noise isolating headphones
4.Noise cancelling headphones are more effective than noise isolating headphones

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