How Do A Noise Canceling Headphone Work: Active Vs Passive Headphones

Noise Canceling Headphone

The headphone is the best way to listen to your favorite music but hearing in the crowdy area can make your experience bad due to unwanted louder noise and to overcome those noise you can take help of the noise-canceling headphone.

Have you ever thought how do noise-canceling headphone works and how they are different than the conventional headphones?

There is a story behind the invention of noise-canceling headphone, in 1978 the founder of Bose corporation Mr. Amar bose was traveling from the USA to Switzerland.

In-flight, he was offered by flight crew a headphone to listen to the music but he could barely hear it and not able to enjoy the music due to the constant noise coming from the airplane engine.

He tried to overcome those noise using a napkin and started calculations on how this can be minimized and then the new era of noise-canceling technology started.

After he landed back from Europe trip he started a noise reduction group to work on noise-canceling technology and invention of new headphones take place which was first used on December 14, 1986.

The noise-canceling headphone is having the ability to cancel out the unwanted noise while you listening to the music but this could be of two types such as active and passive noise-canceling headphones.

Here this guide is to learn you everything about noise-canceling headphone types and how do they work?

Why Do We Need Noise Canceling Headphone?

In earlier days while you listening to music the sound quality was a mixture of actual music and surrounding noise which cause you won’t be able to enjoy the music.

Because soundwaves generated by headphone got mixed with soundwaves coming from unwanted sources like machinery noise, crowd cheers, traffic noise, etc.

Soundwaves are in a wave pattern which needs a medium to move, it works in a way where it originated from a source and displace the pressure from one place to another.

Once reach to ear it strikes to the eardrum and this pressure being sensed by the mind and in result, the human can hear the sound or voice.

But what if that actual sound waves got mixed with unwanted irritating soundwaves, in result, you won’t hear the actual soundwaves and that is called noise.

To learn more on noise vs Echo it is better to learn from our detailed guide.

Noise is a kind of frequencies which could come from different sources hence it is a mixture of more than one frequencies which not having its defined pattern and not easy to reproduce and that is why called Noise.

There are few ways to overcome noise such as using Brown Noise, Pink Noise and White noise if you not aware of these make sure to learn the type of noise.

Noise can also trouble you while you are in sleep but few people start using earplugs, which are not recommended for a longer period hence there are few alternatives to earplugs.

One of the alternatives which you can use to overcome those noise is using the noise-canceling headphones.

Noise-canceling headphones are classified into two types such as explained below.

Passive Noise Canceling headphones

Ideally, every headphone is the passive noise-canceling device. Such headphones are made of high thick sound insulating materials like foam, which block the outer noise to come in by covering the whole ear.

It is more sort of blocking outer noise by adding insulating around your ear which prevents noise to come in, but such headphones are bulkier in weight.

Passive headphones are capable of reducing the noise up to 15 decibels to 20 decibels only but what if the noise level is up to 75-80 decibels which you can experience inside the flight due to engine thrust.

This can’t be handled by the passive noise-canceling headphones hence to solve this problem new solution came into picture call active noise-canceling headphones.

Well, the decibel is the unit of measuring the intensity of any sound which is measured in a logarithmic dB scale. 

Active Noise Canceling Headphones

An active noise-canceling headphone can do all the job what passive noise-canceling headphone does but it also helps to overcome the additional noise using its own mechanism.

These headphones create their own soundwaves to mimic the incoming noise waves and cancel out the noise using its own waves with the concept of destructive mechanism.

Which means now you have left with the original music only and all other noise waves are canceled out but active noise canceling headphone requires the continuous power supply.

If still confused not to worry let me discuss how do active noise canceling headphone works.

How Do Active Noise Canceling headphone works?

Active noise-canceling headphones require a continuous power supply to do his job. Where passive one can be created by any own DIY mechanism or with any random trial.

To learn on the basic mechanism on how noise-canceling headphone works make sure you aware of the basic component every headphone has, such as.


The microphone is mainly used for the purpose of talking with other people as it is kind of mic to allow your soundwaves coming into headphone then pass to the cellphone or any source you are using.

In technical term, it is a system which converts soundwaves into electric waves to be transmitted at another end.


Speaker is close to your ear where the actual soundwaves coming out and enter into the ear. These soundwaves are mainly delivered by the circuitry or music system used by you while listening to the music.

In technical term, it is a system which converts back the electric waves into sound waves either transmitted from a mobile phone or any other sources.


It the main power supply for a wireless headphone as it has no power connectivity and in case of wired headphone power supply will be provided by the music source such as mobile or any console.

Noise Circuitry

But in the case of active noise-canceling headphone, there is one additional circuitry which is set in the earcup. Its main job is to sense the incoming noise and create antiphase sound waves to cancel that out.

All the above components are added in the noise-canceling headphones and here these all work in a combine.

Whenever you are listening to a piece of music and if there is any surrounding noise that noise will be entered into headphone via the microphone.

Where the electronic circuitry senses the input noise waves from microphone other than actual music and now its job is to create another soundwave close to noise waves only.

But the created soundwave pattern will be 180 degrees in the opposite phase (Anti Phase) and will send this noise along with the actual soundwaves.

Hence now in the earcup close to the ear, we have three waves.

  • Actual soundwaves of the music
  • Actual Noise soundwaves
  • Noise circuitry created 180 degrees opposite soundwaves

Now, this will be the concept of physics if you overlap two wave patterns in a 180 opposite phase that creates a destructive pattern means one will be canceled out with other. Here is soundwaves pattern.

From the above picture, you got a clear idea of what happens if we are able to generate 180-degree opposite phase of any wave and mix that with original wave.

In such a way by having this noise-canceling circuitry in the headphone, It cancels the unwanted outer noise and increases the capability of canceling the noise intensity more up to 20-30 Decibels as compared to the passive noise-canceling headphone.

Well, this sort of noise-canceling headphone only works well if you are dealing with a constant type of noise but let say what happens if multiple people chattering together.

In that case, it is hard to create antiphase of all different frequencies and the chances of full noise cancelation could get reduce.

I hope you got a good idea on how do such noise-canceling headphone works?

My Best choice on the noise-canceling headphone

Well, it always feels better to hear good quality song or music and once you start to experience the quality of music you hear from the noise-canceling headphone.

I bet, you won’t switch this back to your conventional headphone as due to its mechanism of noise-canceling and lightweight headphone.

I have been using the best quality noise-canceling headphone such as given below.

You can check the price on Amazon by clicking their link to get best customer overview and seller review.

They are well tested and verified products which accurately differentiate in between the actual sound and background noise and create cancelation accordingly.

The active circuitry reduces the audio quality and adds the high frequency which in result hiss sounds rises which will be compensated with the noise so the audio quality will be great.

Before purchasing any noise-canceling headphone make sure to aware of below points.

  • Yes, noise-canceling headphones are bit expensive as compared to passive headphone but the quality always matters.
  • It requires a continuous power supply either from the wired USB cable or wireless battery charge.
  • Due to the battery and additional circuitry, it may be possible that headphone could be a bit heavier.

I imagine you got the best understanding of what is noise-canceling headphone and how it works and if in a hurry don’t miss to check out the product from Amazon.

Let us share your experience with the headphone so that could help our reader to purchase the best available product.

Hey, I am Kirtish Vyas a YouTuber and believer in making life peaceful, a couple of years back I started soundproofing my house, bedroom, studio, and Car to reduce the unwanted noise, and the same experience I am sharing on SoundProofidea. Read More