What is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), Anyway?

How does Active Noise Cancellation Work?

When it comes to headphones for any kind of travel, be it air travel, or commuting on a train, everyone knows that Active Noise Cancellation is a must, but..what does it actually do?

The vast majority of people think that ANC turns down the ambient sound, allowing your content to come through crystal clear, devoid of the racket created by your environment.  Makes sense, right? Not quite.   

Believe it or not, ANC actually layers MORE sound on to what you’re hearing.  It works by using an external microphone that is measuring your environmental ambient noise, and generating a soundwave that is the exact opposite, or negative, of the environmental noise, so it, quite literally, cancels the sound out.  

So - how did ANC come about?

We’re all uber-thankful for our ANC headphones while we’re on planes, relaxing while they swallow up the engine drone.  It serves as a testament to the history of ANC technology, which is intrinsically linked to aviation. It came from the brilliant mind of Dr. Lawrence Jerome Fogel, who created it to help pilots communicate in the cockpit.  

The cockpit of a plane - both commercial jets and military aircraft, is a significantly more utilitarian environment than the passenger cabin, so the noise can be much more of a hindrance.   Communication in the cockpit, though, is absolutely critical, so ANC went a long way to facilitate smooth tandem operations between pilots and co-pilots.  

What’s next for ANC?

ANC has been particularly effective with low-frequency sounds (like plane engine drone) for decades, but commuters and travelers will be happy to hear that new technology is emerging (available in our Calm Headphones) that takes on more mid-frequency sounds like traffic noise and conversations. 

Now if only there was a technology that could move that poor crying baby about 10 rows away from you…