Passive Noise vs Active Noise: Which one should you choose?
We encounter noise all throughout life. Construction outside your window, noisy passengers on the bus or train, the turbulence of an airplane engine. Sometimes we just want to tune out the rest of the world and listen to our own devices. To limit environmental disruptions, many turn to noise canceling headphones. 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 for everyone why one may choose to purchase headphones with noise canceling technology.
Did you know that there are different types of noise canceling? Most are already familiar with ANC (active noise canceling) but few have heard of passive noise canceling (PNC). While both PNC and ANC reduce unwanted ambient sounds, there are several distinctions between the two. In this article, we'll go through the differences between passive noise and active noise, and we’ll find out why, even though ANC is more well-known and popular, many are now opting for PNC headphones on the basis of comfort, sound quality, ambient noise reduction, and more.
To eliminate unwanted background noise, active noise cancellation utilizes a noise cancellation technology. The technology consists of microphones that "listen" to noises both outside and inside the earphone, an ANC processing chip that inverts the soundwaves, and a transmitter inside the earphone that negates the outside sound using neutralizing soundwaves. When a sound wave collides with another sound wave of the same frequency but opposite amplitude, the two sound waves essentially cancel each other out. It’s like taking +1 and -1 to equal zero.
Active noise canceling headphones are an excellent pick for frequent flyers or those who wish to block out an unpleasant air conditioner hum because ANC is better suited to low, persistent noises like those produced by motors and aircraft engines. However, if your goal is to filter out crying children or barking dogs, this is when passive noise canceling comes into play.
Passive noise is a physical barrier between your ears and the sounds you don't want to hear. PNC headphones use well designed ear cups and earpads that are intended to seal out unwanted noise, whether that be mid or high-frequency noise, all while keeping you comfortable. This is used for both over-ear headphones and in-ear earphones where the earbud itself will keep the surrounding noise out. When your earbuds or headphones are molded to the exact shape of your ears, like with PNC technology, it prevents outside ambient noise from entering your ear canal. 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.
So if you’re in a noisy coffee shop or taking a stroll amongst a loud construction site, barking dogs, or other irritating disturbances, passive noise canceling may be the right fit for you. Active noise is considerably simpler to implement in earbuds and headphones than passive noise canceling. Manufacturers of earbuds frequently use ANC to provide some amount of noise reduction without having to customize the fit of their products. To prevent ambient sounds, great PNC demands a tight, personalized fit as it is essential that your PNC earphones suit your specific earprint
Many manufacturers try to strike a balance between custom ear molding, which can get pretty pricey, and some kind of noise cancellation with a type of ear cup or ear tips that provide a tight seal when properly worn. With PNC, most external audio is kept out because the ear cups are designed to create a solid enclosure around the ear.
Which has better sound quality?
If two pairs of earbuds with comparable build and tuning quality are set side by side, those with greater PNC will sound better than the earbuds that rely on ANC to block out ambient noise.
Because ANC earbuds emit noise to block surrounding noises, the music may sound a bit distorted as a result of this, and therefore, passive noise sounds better. While also preventing outside noise, PNC provides a more accurate representation of your music.
Which is more comfortable?
Because PNC demands a tight, personalized fit suited to your specific earprint, PNC headphones are all custom-molded and custom-fitted, whereas earbuds and headphones with ANC typically aren’t custom-fitted to your ears. Because you're putting greater pressure on specific portions of your ear than others, your ANC earphones will exhaust your ears faster. You won't need to worry about pressure points with a tailored fit earbud with PNC.
Which is safer for your hearing?
While there are no threats to your hearing with ANC headphones, because of the continual hiss created by the sound waves that the headphones utilize to cancel out ambient noise, several users have reported feeling dizzy or uneasy when using ANC headphones.
While both PNC and ANC allow you to listen to music at lower volumes than earbuds without noise canceling, passive noise is healthier for your hearing in general. Active noise cancels out outside noise by creating an equal and opposite noise. So, while you won't need to turn up the volume to hear your music as well, you'll still be exposed to higher decibels of noise than you would with PNC at the same volume level.
Which consumes more power?
Even though PNC earbuds do not require Bluetooth to work, this supports the earbud in using less power than the ANC earbuds would typically use to reduce noise. This is because ANC earbuds and headphones require extra power to create the sound that eliminates ambient noises before they reach your ears.
So which one should you get?
Whether you decide to purchase ANC or PNC headphones, both offer noise canceling technology, both are portable, and both can be pretty affordable, depending on the brand. No matter which technology you opt for, with noise canceling headphones you will be able to tune out the hustle and bustle of the world and experience an immersive sound quality and unprecedented comfort.
By Claire Barnett
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