Noise cancellation in headsets: What is it, and how exactly does it work?

Photo of Morten Floee Knudsen
June 28, 2017
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2 minutes

Noise cancellation is very much the tech expression of today – at least in the audio world. Every headphone producer seems to be speaking about Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which pleases us greatly at Jabra because we have a long history of engineering such sound solutions.

We started developing ANC two decades ago, and have today enhanced and improved this technology along with the digital signal processing (implemented via a two-microphone solution) now found in the Jabra Evolve 75.

But what is noise cancellation? How does it work, and how can it help you work? The first thing to note is that there are two types of cancellation – passive and active – and both are important features of the Evolve 75.

Passive Noise Cancellation

This refers to noise cancellation achieved by the headset’s physical features, such as design, a superior fit, and the materials used. It’s really just a fancy term to describe the effect you get from simply wearing the headset – covering your ears helps to block out noise. Although relatively simple, Passive Noise Cancellation is extremely good at filtering out irregular, high frequency sounds, such as a nearby colleague in a busy open office.

Active Noise Cancellation

ANC is all about generating ‘anti-noise’ to cancel ambient noise (the technical term for this is ‘destructive interference’). ANC detects and analyzes the sound pattern of incoming noise, and then generates a mirror “anti-noise” signal to cancel it out.

The end result, in good ANC, can be dramatic – you’ll clearly notice a drastically reduced level of noise. This type of noise cancellation works best for steady, low frequency sounds, like air conditioning or engine noise.

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The Holistic Approach

But getting ANC to work well is about more than just assembling ready-made tech inside the headset and putting “Active Noise Cancellation” on the box. There are many other components required to make a world-class ANC headset. For maximum results, you need to take into account a headset’s physical design, the proper integration of Passive Noise Cancellation, speaker excellence in relation to music quality, and much, much more. And for those topics, we’ll dive a little deeper in upcoming articles.

Jabra’s engineered-for-purpose thinking makes sure that the technology you work with, works for you. Great sound should be engineered with the purpose of transforming the way you work, the way you listen, and the way you enjoy. ANC, like everything we do, is more than just the sum of its electronic parts.

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