In our increasingly noisy world, it's more important than ever to have a good set of noise cancelling headphones. But how do they work? Let's take a look at the science behind noise cancellation.

How Noise Cancelling Headphones Work

Noise cancelling headphones work by using microphones to pick up on low-frequency sounds (like the hum of an airplane engine) and then playing a sound wave that is the opposite of that low-frequency sound. This sound wave cancels out the low-frequency sound, leaving you with peace and quiet.

There are two types of noise cancellation: passive and active.

Passive noise cancellation in headphones uses baffles to physically block incoming noise from reaching the ear. This is typically accomplished by isolating the ear cups from the head, though some over-ear designs use a seal that rests on the outside of the ear.

The result is a significant reduction in ambient noise, which can make it easier to focus on music or other audio content. Passive noise cancellers are often less expensive than active noise cancellation headphones, and they do not require batteries.

However, they are less effective at blocking out low-frequency sounds, such as the rumble of an airplane engine. In addition, passive noise cancellation can cause "headphone clamping force," which can be uncomfortable for some users.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) in headphones strives to reduce distractions by using microphones to pick up on ambient noise and generate a cancelling sound wave. The algorithm is complex, but it starts with knowing the waveform of the ambient noise. That signal is then used to create a "mirror image" of that noise, which is 180 degrees out of phase with the original. When these two sounds mix together, they ideally cancel each other out, allowing the user to better focus on the audio coming from the headphones.

ANC-equipped headphones can be very effective at reducing low-frequency sounds like the rumble of an airplane engine, but they often struggle with higher frequencies like human speech.

Additionally, ANC can introduce a slight hissing sound as it works to cancel out the ambient noise. While this may not be noticeable inquiet environments, it can be quite distracting in noisy ones.

Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by using multiple microphones to more accurately identify and cancel out ambient noise. Others have introduced "hybrid" ANC systems that use both active and passive noise cancellation techniques to provide more effective results.

The level of noise cancellation will depend on the quality of the headphone and how well it fits.  Active noise cancellation is generally more effective than passive noise cancellation, but it requires batteries to power the noise cancelling mechanism.


Noise cancelling headphones are great for travel, work, or anytime you need some peace and quiet. Regardless of whether you're an audiophile or just looking for a new pair of headphones to replace your old ones, you'll want to check out the selection of headphones under $200. There's never been a better time to upgrade your audio experience, and with so many great options available, there's sure to be a perfect pair of headphones for everyone with noise cancellation feature. So what are you waiting for? Click the buttons below and find the best headphones for you!

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