Noise-Cancelling Vs.Noise-Isolating Headphones What’s the Difference

Noise-cancelling and noise-isolating technologies have led to significant improvements in headphones. If you want to tune out all distractions, then there are plenty of options for you to consider. However, many people get confused about the similarities and differences between noise-cancelling and noise-isolating headphones.

Before you decide which headphones fit your needs best, you should learn about your options.

How Noise-Isolating and Noise-cancelling Headphones Work


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While the names may sound similar, noise-cancelling and noise-isolating headphones actually use different technologies to improve the listener’s experience.

Most noise-isolating headphones block outside sounds by creating a seal around your ears. The more secure the seal is, the more sound they can keep out.

Noise-cancelling headphones use more sophisticated technology. They have microphones that register outside sounds, which makes it possible for them to counter those sounds so you don’t hear the background noise.

Pros and Cons of Noise-Isolating Headphones

In a lot of ways, noise-isolating headphones aren’t that different from regular headphones. Instead of offering advanced electronics, they take a simple, low-tech approach called passive noise reduction. This is similar to using earplugs when you want to protect your ears from construction noise or other loud sounds.

While there isn’t a lot of technology involved, they work surprisingly well at blocking certain types of sound. In order to get good results, though, you will need to find a pair that fits your ears snugly. The tighter they fit, the more sound they can block.

The bad news is that tight noise-isolating headphones may become uncomfortable over time. Unless they fit perfectly, you can expect some discomfort after wearing them for an hour or more. You’ll have to try on the designs to make sure they fit well. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to order them online confidently.

Pros and Cons of Noise-cancelling Headphones

Unlike noise-isolating headphones, noise-cancelling designs actively prevent intrusive sounds from reaching your ears. Instead of just blocking noise from your ears, they create sound waves that cancel unwanted sounds.

The quality, however, differs greatly among the various designs. Most of the headphones do a good job of blocking low drones, which is why they work well on airplanes. Poor designs, however, can create an annoying hiss that makes them practically unusable. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get quality headphones with the features you need. Although the best noise-cancelling headphones have such features as Bluetooth connectivity and digital noise reduction, there are plenty of options that range in price.

No matter what kind you buy, though, you will need to make sure that the batteries are charged. Noise-cancelling headphones need electricity for their microphones and algorithms to work. If the battery dies, then they will only work as well as regular headphones. Be sure you have plenty of batteries on hand, or you can invest in rechargeable batteries.

Which Headphones Are Best?

Either type of headphone could match your needs. It just depends on what you want from them.

If you are looking for headphones that just limit the amount of background noise you hear, then you will probably be satisfied with noise-isolating designs. Most of them will let some sound reach your ears, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Joggers, for instance, may need to hear their surroundings while listening to music.

If you want headphones that can eliminate background noise, then you have to choose noise-cancelling designs. That’s the only way you’re going to find peace and quiet while sitting in the back section of an airplane. Since some companies make better headphones than others, though, you should read some reviews before placing an order. You don’t want to waste money on designs that don’t cancel noise well.

Noise-cancelling and noise-isolating headphones give you some of the most convenient ways to enjoy music. Noise-cancelling models are also particularly good at blocking outside sounds when you just want to relax in silence, even without listening to music. Review your options to help you decide whether noise-cancelling or noise-isolating headphones are best for you.

About Author
Osho is Tech blogger. He contributes to the Blogging, Gadgets, Social Media and Tech News section on TecheHow.