What is active noise cancellation? Understanding Bose technology

For enjoying your favourite tunes and podcasts, nailing those work video calls, and keeping out the distractions with the clarity you need, you’ll need to clear out any audio obstructions. Properly fitting wireless headphones and earbuds can go a long way, but it takes active noise cancellation technology to truly eliminate distractions and distortions.

But what is active noise cancellation, exactly? The technology uses microphones and speakers in headphones and earbuds to get rid of all the background noise, leaving just you and your music.

What does active noise cancellation do?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) effectively removes many of the outside noises that impact your audio experience, including the roadwork outside your window, the roar of a train or plane engine, and the office chit chat. Today, this technology is a popular feature in many audio products, and for good reason.

ANC headphones have two microphones that read and analyze the sounds around you and emit opposite signals to cancel noise when the sound waves collide.

The transfer of noise between these two microphones is called the primary path. The result is sweet, sweet silence with an astonishing level of clarity and intimacy. You might even think the world has come to a standstill with a single swipe.

But here’s the thing: ANC generally works best for steady low-frequency sounds, like the hum of an air conditioner or passing traffic. It still reduces mid- and high-frequency sounds but not as effectively, especially against sudden and sharp background noise, like a dog barking or horn beeping. For the best protection from all frequencies, active noise cancelling needs to work alongside passive noise cancelling to reduce outside noise.

Gentleman waiting for train listening to QuietComfort Earbuds II and holding bag with Carrying Case attached

What's the difference between passive noise cancelling and active noise cancelling?

Let’s break it down. For starters, ANC makes a significant advance from traditional — or passive— noise cancellation, which merely muffles external sounds by physically covering or filling your ears. Its effectiveness depends on how well your headphones fit and what they’re made of. If both are high quality, fewer high-frequency sounds will invade your listening space. However, passive noise cancellation headphones can only achieve a fraction of the noise isolation that ANC headphones can; plus, they can degrade quickly.

Plus, with passive noise cancelling headphones, you might end up cranking up the volume, which isn’t great for your hearing in the long run.  ANC headphones pretty much eliminate that need. You can keep the volume safe and comfortable — and maybe even lower. Effective passive noise cancellation may also require thicker and heavier headphones to fully cover the ears. Active noise cancelling headphones can stay light, because they get their power from the technology inside, not the physical product.

Getting the best out of active noise cancellation

Headphones and earbuds range in quality, and so does ANC. Some versions are simply better than others; that's why it's important to find the best noise cancelling products to experience the full effect. As one of the pioneers of active noise cancellation technology, Bose is the best place to start. Our noise cancelling earbuds (Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds), QuietComfort Headphones, and QuietComfort Ultra Headphones all feature unrivaled active noise cancellation and high-fidelity sound.

Bose also levels up the effect — starting with personalization. Bose noise cancelling earbuds, for example, adjust the level of noise cancellation according to your unique ear shape through CustomTune technology.  It works by playing a chime through the earbuds. Then, the inner microphone measures the sound of the chime in your ear canal and adjusts it to create a balanced sound for your eardrums.

Next is flexibility. Bose ANC is adjustable, allowing you to control how much noise cancellation you want in different situations. For example, "Aware Mode" allows a certain level of ambient noise to help you maintain awareness when jogging along a busy road, and the Bose Music App lets you fine-tune it even further.

Person wearing QuietComfort Ultra Headphones outside

And there’s even more to love about Bose earbuds and headphones. The QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds come with three sizes of soft silicon eartips and stability bands so you can secure them snugly. And the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones cup the entire ear with protein leather cushions at a 15-degree tilt to fit the anatomy of the head and ears, making them some of the best noise cancelling headphones for airplane travel.

How active noise cancellation can level up your life

When you need quiet, active noise cancellation can get you into that space faster and better. Whether it's to center yourself for stress relief, focus your attention at work, maintain clarity on video calls, or simply experience your favourite music in a more intimate way, Bose noise cancelling headphones are your go-to.

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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II tdt
2022 Model
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones tdt
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
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