Noise Reduction Headphones and Earphones

Enjoy music with less interference from external noise. Noise reduction headphones, earbuds, and earphones. Noise cancelling and noise isolation technologies.

What better way of coping with a noisy environment than to enter your own private world filled with your favorite music? It's as easy as slipping on a pair of headphones, or tucking a pair of earphones into your ears. Not only does this let you mask the noise in your surroundings with the much more pleasant sound of music, but many headphones and some earphones also help physically block out noise.

Noise Cancellation

Certain headphones and earphones come with one more feature to help you deal with noise — they have electronic circuitry to actively cancel noise out. This feature is called active noise reduction (ANR), or simply noise cancellation. Noise-cancelling circuitry dynamically creates a sound wave that is the inverse of the sound wave coming from the environment, and the two cancel each other out by destructive interference.

It sounds almost too good to be true, and in some ways it is — noise cancellation unfortunately cannot achieve perfect cancellation of all external sound. It works best on continuous low frequency sound, like the droning background noise of an airplane, subway, or train. Intermittent or high-pitched sounds, such as people's voices or a baby's cries, will still come through.

For dealing with the background noise of an airplane, noise-cancelling devices are ideal; this is where they really shine. Airplane noise may not seem terribly annoying, but it actually does tire the mind to have to deal with that steady roar for hours at a time. If you use noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones during a flight, you'll notice the difference in your energy level when you arrive.

Noise Isolation

Another form of noise reduction for listening to music is passive noise isolation, which is offered by in-ear headphones, also called canalphones. These sit more deeply in the ear canal than regular earbuds. Because of their snug fit and acoustically engineered materials, they physically block out external noise, without the use of electronic circuitry.

Passive noise-isolating canalphones are good for blocking any type of noise, not just the low-frequency drone of an airplane. When properly inserted, they are extremely effective at reducing noise, and are preferred by professional musicians as in-ear monitors because they do not distort the music as noise cancellation circuitry necessarily does.

You don't hear as much about passive noise isolation; it doesn't have the same pizzazz as noise cancellation technology. But it offers some distinct advantages over its more well-known cousin, and is an alternative well worth considering.

An Added Benefit: Hearing Safety

When listening to music through headphones or earphones for extended periods of time, it's easy to damage your hearing without realizing it. An advantage of noise reduction headphones, earphones, and canalphones is that because they reduce the competition from outside noise, it's natural and comfortable to play your music at a lower volume, thus helping preserve your hearing.

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