Digital Noise cancelling headphones and how it differs from active and passive noise cancelling

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, oftentimes we find ourselves needing a little peace and quiet. Our lives can be very stressful; from balancing work and social life, to making time for loved ones and personal hobbies, while also finding a way to prioritize our health, sometimes we need a little break from the chaos that is (or can be) life. One method of tuning out the rest of the world is through the use of noise canceling headphones. As a relatively new and groundbreaking technology, noise-cancelling headphones reduce unwanted ambient sounds using noise controlling technologies. Whether you are an audiophile, a music lover, a podcast listener, or you simply like the comfort of being in your own world, there is a reason why anyone might like to find some much-needed “me-time” and get themselves a pair of noise cancelling headphones. 


Did you know there are actually different types of noise cancelling? While many are already familiar with ANC (active noise canceling) as well as the lesser-known passive noise cancelling (PNC), another type of noise cancelling technology to be familiar with is called Digital Noise Cancelling (or DNC). These three types of technologies all reduce unwanted ambient sounds, but there are several distinctions between them that are important to consider when searching for the perfect pair of noise-cancelling headphones for you.



The most well-known and popular type of noise-cancelling technology is active noise cancelling. ANC technology consists of microphones that "listen" to noises both inside and outside the earphone or headphone, working alongside an ANC processing circuits that inverts the phase of soundwaves, and the speaker drivers within the earphone or headphone generate the inverted phase soundwaves by the circuits to cancel out the outside noise. The two sound waves virtually cancel each other out when they clash with another sound wave of the same frequency but opposite amplitude. It is comparable to adding +1 and -1 to get zero.


ANC is an excellent choice for frequent travelers as the active noise cancelling feature is more effective in reducing low, lingering sounds, such as an irritating air conditioner whir, or other unpleasant sounds generated by motors, subway and airplane engines. However, if your goal is to filter out crying children or barking dogs, perhaps look towards passive noise cancelling technology instead.


On the other hand, passive noise cancellation doesn't rely on any electrical components. Instead, it depends on the actual characteristics of the earbuds or headphones to physically filter out undesirable sounds. This is frequently accomplished by using applied thick cushioning or ear tips the headphone or earphones, which reduces outside noise. It can be quite successful in obstructing outside noise, especially in the higher frequency range, and this kind of noise cancelling is frequently found in less costly headphones and earbuds.


PNC headphones require a tight, personalized fit suited to your specific ear shape, which can make your listening experience more comfortable. In order to block out undesirable noise, whether it be mid- or high-frequency noise, PNC headphones employ well-designed ear cups and ear pads. The PNC technology in your earbuds or headphones stops ambient noise from entering your ear canal by precisely molding them to the shape of your ears, so your ears are physically separated from the noises that you don't want to hear by passive noise cancelling. As a result, you can listen to music at lower volumes because you don’t have to counteract the sounds of your environment as much as you would with ANC.


Digital noise cancelling (often referred to as digital noise cancelling or DNC) uses a technology called digital signal processing (DSP) to remove unwanted noise. It operates by evaluating the incoming audio signal and then creating an "antiphase" of the noise, which is subsequently removed from the original audio signal. This kind of noise canceling is often found in high-end headphones and earbuds. As a result, the audio experience is significantly cleaner, crisper, and has less background noise. DNC works by capturing background noise and adding antiphase noise that cancels sounds like the roar of a powerful V8 engine, the buzzing of an aircraft engine, or even the background noise of a busy city street. Digital noise cancelling can somewhat tweak the sound quality and effects to make for a more enjoyable audio experience.


DNC headphones feature some of the most precise and accurate noise cancellation technology on the market. It is perhaps the most effective technology for reducing unwanted background noise, although it can be fairly pricey. By using both the outside (feed forward) and inside (feedback) microphones for superior noise cancelling technology, it helps to experience clear audio quality like no other without being disturbed by ambient noise.

Ultimately, whether you’re flying at 30,000 feet, riding the subway or walking through a noisy street, you’re going to want your personal audio or entertainment experience to be a seamless, crisp, and enjoyable one. Noise-cancelation can eliminate almost undesirable droning sounds so it’s important you choose the best fit for you. Each type of noise-cancelling technology has distinct benefits and drawbacks of its own. Your personal tastes, budget, and the kind of noise you want to block out will determine the kind of noise-cancelling technology that's right for you.


Being surrounded by so much background noise makes it challenging to enjoy music while navigating the environmental chaos of daily life. These types of noise cancelling technologies are great at lessening the noise around you, so whichever kind you opt for is going to greatly reduce ambient noise, as well as bring a comfortable listening experience and exceptional sound quality. Phiaton strives to deliver innovative technologies for its audio products that fuse unparalleled sound quality with a modern design for today’s fast-paced lifestyles, so take your pick and drown out the commotion of everyday life with a pair of your very own noise-cancelling headphones.

By Claire Barnett 

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