So exactly how do noise cancelling headphones work you ask? It can be vaguely summed the following way. Noise cancelling headphones are headphones that can reduce unwanted sounds by way of active noise control. This is achieved by having more than one microphone near your ear with an electronic circuitry that uses the signal from the microphone to produce a kind of anti-noise signal. When this anti-noise signal is made by the speaker driver that is in the headphone, destructive interference cancels out the ambient noise as heard within the volume of the headphones.
To make a visual thought of how these headphones work, think how a wave rushes to the beach and runs over your feet and then recedes. When this is interrupted by a wave artificially set to move towards that wave, they will crash before reaching you and never hit your feet. These headphones work in a similar way allowing you to hear just what is intended and block out the rest.
The two types of headphones that are designed to block out the outside interfering noise are the passive noise and the active noise headphones. The passive noise headphones use the natural muffling characteristics given by circum-aural headphones. This is a cup shaped design that has a rim that surrounds your ear. This rim is made of a high density foam and sound dampening material. With a soft feeling that creates an acoustic seal to block upwards of 20 decibels of noise. The active noise headphones can actually produce about 20 decibels more noise reduction than the passive noise cancelling headphone. They have the advantage of using the circum-aural sound dampening design that the passive noise cancelling headphone has but also uses phase cancelling technology.
The phase cancelling technology is the main feature in the active noise cancelling headphones. It uses a microphone that is inside of the headphones that actually pick up the external noise that the circum-aural cushions are not able to block out of the headphones. The phase cancelling circuit evaluates the loudness and pitch of the noise coming in and then the circuit makes a mirror image of that noise that is 180 degrees out of phase.
With the noise cancelling headphones, the speaker plays the bad noise along with your music or wanted sound. With an artificial anti-noise that is exactly the opposite of the external noise that got past the cushions meets up with wanted sounds then will cancel each other out. This is what then makes it easier to hear exactly what you bought the headphones for. Compared to the headphones that were available to us 20 years ago, there is absolutely no comparison from then to now. Hopefully we have answered the question of how do noise cancelling headphones work.
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