How do noise cancelling headphones really work?

Apple Music

The idea to cancel out noise is brilliant considering the future of tech and how headphones not only provide the simple feature of producing noise but in today’s era they also act as a buffer for unwanted noise.

Developed by Amar Bose noise reduction technology group.

The idea came during Amar Bose’s flight to Europe while listening to music.  The idea to listen to music and not have background noise came as Bose was troubled by the constant engine noise.

The idea came as he dedicated his time to formulating a concept of building headphones that canceled out unwanted noise.

Problem, solution

In the 1950s other ideas to cancel out noise in the cockpit for pilots were underway. Bose merely structured a plan to improve an already available system of reducing noise while aiding communication and making it easier.

While Dr Lawerenc Jerome Fogel was considered the inventor of active noise cancellation for creating the systems, fast-forward to around 1978, the founder of Bose Corporation Bose gathered together a research team for building the noise-reducing technology.

How do they work?

Noise-canceling headphones use a combination of hardware and software to reduce and eliminate external sounds.

They work through a principle called active noise cancellation where the headphones have a built-in microphone on the outside that capture ambient environment sounds.

The environment sounds captured are then analyzed by the headphone’s internal processor.

The headphones then generate sound waves that are the exact opposite of the incoming noise or sound waves.

The anti-noise waves are combined with the original noise to effectively cancel out specific frequencies or sound patterns through a process called destructive interference.

The result is reduced noise.  

When you factor in a music track playing it sounds like there is no background noise over the remaining sound.

Noise-canceling is effective only for low-frequency sounds, such as an airplane engine or the hum of a train.

When you factor in high-frequency noise like someone shouting it may seem less effective as the headphones may not have sufficient time to generate the appropriate anti-noise response.

Today’s upgraded noise-canceling ear pods or earphones combine both passive and active methods to provide the best overall noise reduction with better sound quality.

The design of the headphones or earpods plays a major role as well.  Over-the-ear headphones with well-padded ear cups can create a physical barrier to ambient noise.

Also read: Spotted gap between growing trend of remote, hybrid work – survey 



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