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May 13, 2019

WTF are Noise Canceling Headphones?

Are noise canceling headphones just super expensive earplugs?

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Noise-canceling. From that aspect that is a valid question. The headphones that claim to cancel out the noise around you are getting higher and higher in price. Does a traveler even need those? Do they just block out the sound?

Another question that I have heard is why do they need batteries?
Just about every wireless over-the-ear headphones need to have batteries. These are needed as the headphones would need a power source since they are not connected to anything else. Since most of these, at least for now, do not come with rechargeable batteries, you have to take AA or AAA batteries with you.
There are a few models available that have rechargeable batteries such as the COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones and Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones

In-ear wireless headphones are the opposite. Since they are small and have no space for batteries they all have rechargeable once inside. And for these, you would need to take along a portable charger, such as the Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger, to keep them going.

Most frequent travelers make the below comment when asked what are some of the essentials they bring on the trip:
Pack a neck pillow, some noise-canceling headphones, and an eye mask to make falling asleep easier. Distractions are inevitable on planes, but being able to block out the worst of the noise and bright lights can help put you in the right frame of mind.

How do noise-canceling headphones work?

To cancel the lower-frequency portions of the noise, noise-canceling headphones use active noise control. They incorporate a microphone that measures ambient sound, generate a waveform that is the exact negative of the ambient sound, and mix it with any audio signal the listener desires.
Inside each pair, there are multiple processors and different sound technology that effectively produce the waves. A microphone in the headphone takes the outside sound and then sends a signal to the headphone to create a specific frequency wave that cancels out the incoming sound. This is known as an inverse wave. The microphone picks up the incoming sound pitch and its decibels, sending a signal to the processor to create an inverse wave to cancel it out.

A pair of noise-canceling headphones is going to only be able to block specific sound waves, not all sound waves. The technology varies from one headphone to another based on what the manufacturer is using and considers more important, or sellable, to them. So when you are looking to buy a pair, make sure it is able to block the type of noise that you come into contact with most often. When traveling the noises that might be around you are the roar of the engines, loud passengers, babies crying, and other distracting background noise.

These headphones are not magic in terms of blocking out every sound that you like. They are best at canceling out steady noise that is consistent over some time. Sudden or erratic noises would be harder for the headphones to negate with the waves created.

Wireless headphones not only block out extraneous noise, but they also provide extra freedom on a trip. It is a lot easier to maneuver around the airport and the town without a wire being in the way and getting caught or pulling.

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