Active and Passive Noise Cancellation both use advanced technology to offer an amazing sound experience, but one just beats the other in several aspects. Here is a detailed guide for you.

Active Noise Cancellation is a noise-cancelling technology available in headphones or earbuds to reduce background noise. It makes use of the system’s microphone to listen to the outside noise and generate sound waves to neutralise the sound before it reaches your ears.

On the other hand, Passive Noise Cancellation is when your earbuds or headphones block the background or outside noise naturally by isolating you from the ambient noise. Unlike ANC, it does not cancel the external sound. That’s why this noise cancellation technique is also known as Passive Noise Isolation.

If you still need clarification on this topic and want to learn more about ANC and PNC technology, you should continue reading below.

Active Noise Cancelling Vs Passive Noise Cancelling

Active Noise Cancelling Vs Passive Noise Cancelling

You need to consider multiple things when you want to buy a perfect headphone for yourself. One of them is to choose between ACN and PNC. Though the main goal of both these technologies is to block unwanted background noise from reaching your eardrums, there is a lot of difference between them.

In the case of Active Noise Cancellation, it uses the built-in microphone to pick up the outside sound and uses a noise-cancelling system to produce neutralising sound waves to cancel the sound before reaching your ears. Usually, earbuds or headphones with ANC do not last long when the ANC feature is on.

Passive Noise Cancellation is totally different from ANC. Unlike ANC, it does not cancel the outside sound but blocks it by isolating you from ambient noise. This is made possible by moulding your earbuds or headphones to the exact shape of your ears. It prevents unwanted noise from reaching your eardrums and allows you to listen to your favourite music or podcasts even at low volumes in a noisy environment. You also do not require additional battery power to use this feature, which is helpful.

Also read Best Gaming Headphones Under 2000 Rupees.

Noise Cancellation Types and Settings

Your noise-cancelling headphones or earphones may work in many different ways depending on your chosen settings, mode, or noise-cancellation system. Let’s check them out.

  • Passive Noise Isolation uses your headphone’s shape and design to block unwanted noise from reaching your ears. It is used in over-ear and in-ear headphones, where the earbuds work to prevent surrounding noise from getting inside your ears.
  • Active Noise Cancellation headphones use the built-in microphone and speaker to eliminate the background noise before reaching your ears. Thanks to its battery efficiency and compactness, it is highly used in over-ear headphones and earbuds.
  • Adjustable ANC allows you to change how much background noise should reach your ears.
  • Adaptive ANC headphones automatically use microphones and speakers to change the noise cancellation levels depending on your surrounding noise.

Benefits of Noise Cancellation

Usually, the most common reason to choose noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds is to listen to music, songs, podcasts, or whatever you like without any unwanted background noise. This technology also enhances your listening experience to another level. Although there are quite good reasons, the best reason to go for ANC or PNC earbuds or headphones is that they promote a healthier and safer listening experience and can prevent hearing loss.

As you know, listening to music above 60% volume is not good for your ears and can lead to serious problems. However, people who use low-quality headphones that lack noise-cancelling technologies are often required to turn the volume up in order to listen to the music properly. This directly affects their eardrums and can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Despite all these, there are a few more reasons why people appeal for noise-cancelling headphones, which include improved concentration as it blocks outside noise, a better conversation experience over a phone call and many more.

What Is Active Noise Cancellation – How It Works, The Pros And The Cons

As you read earlier, headphones with active noise cancellation feature a microphone that actively listens and analyses the background noise. Like all other types of waves, sound waves also have peaks(+) and valleys(-). Maths taught us that positive and negative numbers could cross out each other if their total sum equals 0. This same principle applies even to audio connections and is used to eliminate unwanted interference.

So, after the microphone picks up the sound and analyses it, the headphones or earbuds use a noise cancelling system to generate sound waves, which are exactly the opposite of the background noise. Both the background noise and headphones-generated soundwaves enter your ears together and ideally cancel each other completely, leaving only the part of the sound you wanted to hear. This phenomenon is known as destructive interference.

However, for starters, the antiphase sound waves generated by the noise cancelling system of headphones are not perfectly opposite of the background noise. If the highest peak(+) of any background noise sound wave is 10, the opposite soundwave should be at least -10 for perfect silence, but, in reality, it is usually around -8.


  • It can help you boost your concentration by blocking the background noise.
  • Improve the conversation experience while having a phone call.
  • Help you to avoid hearing damage by allowing you to listen to what you want at low volume levels.
  • You have the option to choose whether you want active noise cancellation or not.
  • Offers a better audio experience in a noisy environment.


  • Headphones with ANC technology are quite expensive.
  • It brings down the overall sound quality of the headphones.
  • ANC headphones won’t last long if the ANC feature is on.
  • It makes you totally unaware of the surroundings.
  • Product Feature 5

What is Passive Noise Cancellation?

Passive Noise Cancellation, better known as Passive Noise Isolation, is when your earbuds or headphones use their natural shape and material to block the background noise and offer an enhanced sound experience. Unlike ANC, they do not have any built-in microphone to pick up the ambient noise and destroy it using antiphase soundwaves.

Interestingly, they don’t need to be charged or powered by batteries as they do not involve any technology requiring energy. Anything that physically covers our ears isolates our ears from the noise.

Active Vs Passive Noise Cancellation: Which Is Better For You?

Now that you have learnt the difference between active and passive noise cancellation, you may ask which is better for you. Well, it depends on your requirements. For example, if you are a musician, music pursuits or someone who requires minimal noise cancellation and enhanced sound experience at an affordable rate, passive noise cancellation is for you. Otherwise, going for active noise-cancellation headphones would be your right decision.


1) Which type of noise cancellation is best?
It depends on your budget and requirements. For example, passive noise cancellation headphones are a perfect option if you have a low budget and want an enhanced sound experience. On the other hand, if you don’t have any budget issues and want to improve your concentration level while working, go with headphones with active noise cancellation.

2) Which is best ANC or ENC or PNC?
ANC is the best option among all three as it would help you avoid ambient noises and improve your overall sound experience.

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