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Core Differences on Noise Cancelling vs Regular Headphones - Headphone University

What is the Difference Between Noise Cancelling and Regular Headphones

by Josh Koop | Last Updated:   2 months ago
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Most of us use some type of headphones or earbuds to listen to music, a favorite podcast, or participate in a Zoom session. However, when purchasing a new set of headphones, would regular headphones or noise-canceling headphones be a better choice?

The biggest difference will be in the noise cancelling feature which actually plays negative noise to counter the outside sounds and basically mute them. This can allow you to listen in places you otherwise couldn’t with ease, like an airplane, after owning both I will never go back again!

Let’s compare standard headphones to noise-canceling ones. This may help individuals make a choice between the two before purchasing.

What Are Regular Wired Headphones?

Standard wired headphones are known for providing better sound quality than the currently popular wireless headphones. However, with advances in technology, wireless headphones are rapidly closing the quality gap between wireless and wired listening devices.

Most listeners tend to not notice a big difference between the sounds that they produce.

The digitalized files that are now commonly produced, whether they are podcasts, music, or school lessons, have come a long way and show the quality of compression.

In general, whether wired or wireless, high-quality headphones can be found to provide the listener with an enjoyable listening experience.   

What Are Noise-Canceling Headphones?

Noise-canceling headphones use active noise control to reduce or eliminate outside interference and unwanted ambient sounds in the area where they are being used.

This noise-canceling ability makes it possible to listen to music, your favorite podcast, or attend a class without outside noise distractions.

Pros and Cons of Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones help the listener to be able to isolate the sounds of the music, podcast, or class lesson, eliminating outside sound interference and lessening distractions for the length of time you are listening.

Outside Sound Reduction

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This sound-deafening ability allows the wearer to listen uninterrupted to whatever they choose. How does it work? Noise-canceling technology works due to the transmission of waves by the microphones that are contained in the headphones.

This counteracts the outside sound waves that are approaching the ears. This technology dramatically reduces or completely blocks sounds that can be distracting to the listener.

Ability to Turn Off and On

Noise-canceling headphones usually have an on-and-off switch so that the listener can toggle the noise blocking ability on or off as the situation requires.

This is useful when users need to be aware of surrounding noises such as when out for a run and looking out for traffic or waiting on an important phone call.

When outside interference needs to be blocked, the listener can switch the noise-canceling switch on to concentrate on work or to just shut out the outside world.

Wearers can have a more enjoyable listening experience when wearing noise-canceling headphones because external sounds are blocked.

Keep the Volume Lower

Frequently, listeners turn up the volume on their earpieces to try to drown out the surround sounds and distractions. With noise-canceling headphones, the wearer does not need to turn up the volume, because the headphones prevent the outside sounds from leaking in.

This noise cancellation, and the resulting effect of being able to keep music at a low volume, can help prevent long-term hearing damage. In noisy situations such as a crowded subway train or bus, a busy coffee shop, or anywhere else the surrounding sound volume may be high, noise-canceling headphones can prove to be very effective.

They are also great for travel. Since they are noise-canceling, these headphones can be worn in noisy areas such as airplanes, on trains, or anywhere that a quality listening experience is necessary, without any interference. 

Cons of Noise-Canceling Headphones

Although there are many advantages to noise-canceling headphones, there are also cons to be taken into consideration.

Noise-canceling headphones tend to be on the heavy side as far as their weight goes. Most noise-canceling headphones contain internal batteries, which cause the headphone set to weigh more.

Internal components that are crucial to creating true noise-canceling can also add to the overall weight of the headset.

Distortion of Sound

Since noise-canceling headphones require the production of sound waves to counteract any outside interference and sound, audio quality may suffer as a result.

A lack of crispness of sound, or a bit of muffling may result, which may be unnoticeable except to the most discerning audiophile.

The higher the quality of the headphones, the less noticeable the distortion will be. You get what you pay for.

Power is Necessary

Whether the noise-canceling headphones are wireless or wired models, they will need to be charged. The technology required to reduce outside noise needs to be charged to function.

This charging cannot be completed without a power source; therefore, they must be charged on a frequent basis to maintain the noise-canceling ability. They also contain batteries that may need to be replaced occasionally.

Damage to Hearing

Possible hearing damage can occur due to the tendency of wearers to turn the volume high. When listeners are exposed to high sound decibel levels, the result can be long-term hearing damage or loss.

However, with noise-canceling headphones, users do not need to turn their headphones to a high setting since outside sound and interference are reduced to a minimum, or completely. 

High Cost

When compared with regular headphones, noise-canceling headphones can be pricey. Since they contain many top-of-the-line components and hardware, they have a higher price tag along with those components.

Their construction, design, and features are highly sophisticated and sought after. The higher the quality, the higher the cost.

Conclusion — Making an Informed Decision

Noise-canceling headphones are great for greatly reducing or completely eliminating outside distractions, sounds, and interference. When looking to purchase noise-canceling headphones, all pros and cons should be carefully weighed. They are a big purchase, with a high price tag.

Noise-canceling headphones slightly lower the quality of sound listeners hear, and require consistent charging. However, the benefits for users with the elimination of outside noise for an uninterrupted listening experience, outweigh the negative aspects.

Potential purchases of noise-canceling headphones may be looking to reduce outside distractions, enjoy a listening experience to its fullest, or prevent damage to hearing.

Listeners who need noise-canceling headphones should research and make an informed purchase of headphones that are exactly the right choice for their listening needs.

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