ANC or Active Noise Cancellation technology has become the staple of the modern headphone industry. Though it is not considered a basic feature, the technology is no longer reserved for expensive headphones. Most recent headphones, earbuds, or wireless products pack noise cancellation technology in some form.
Technology is increasingly ubiquitous in the audio industry in the modern day. With technological innovation, the integration of ANC into platforms has become nominal, hence the rapid progression. Since its inception, active noise cancellation technology has come a long way.
As the name suggests, the technology can cancel out the surrounding noise, leaving the world a bit quieter. In simpler language, noise cancellation shuts out ambient noise.
However, noise-cancelling headphones cannot remove all background noise, rather reducing the amount significantly, creating the illusion that all noise is cancelled. But when the term active is added, the headphone or app is actively trying to neutralize the noise.
Evolution of the Noise Cancellation Technology:
Initially, the digital technologies were not advanced enough to utilize noise-cancelling technology to reduce noises. As a result, analog circuitry was integrated into the electronics of a device.
However, active noise reduction requires a fast response to surrounding noise to be useful, and the analog circuits were not accurate at cancelling the noises. With the analog circuits and filters, only a small amount of noise reduction could be achieved via transistors, but it didn’t produce accurate results when unobtrusively listening to music.
Believe it or not, that was the initial consumer application for background noise cancellation technology. Fortunately, digital technology made revolutionary advancements in reducing background noises over time, enabling miniaturization to the point where we see ANC technology today.
Today, we witness the abilities of ANC because it was made possible to move ANC processing into DSP or digital signal processor chips running custom algorithms.
How does ANC Technology Work?
In a nutshell, ANC is based on the principle of phase cancellation. More simply, sound waves that are 180-degree out of phase or the inverse cancel out each other when summed up.
The basic idea behind the technology is to record the surrounding noise, invert the signal to build ‘anti-noise, and then add it to the output signal. The anti-noise signal neutralizes the background noise. The concept dates back to the 1930s, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
In practice, noise cancelling is challenging since different sounds have different frequencies. The technology is easier to put to use with constant noise as compared to loud noises. The idea is implemented in the headphones, and today, different types of headphones use different modes of noise reduction. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate the needs before integrating a noise cancellation app or investing in a noise-cancelling headphone.
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