Headphonic - Blog

Noise cancelling vs Noise Isolating · Marcus May 30, 09:16 AM

Did you know that Noise Isolating products work a lot better than Noise Cancelling products do?
For example: The Etymotic ER-6i offers up to 35dB of reduction of ambient noise levels, whereas the best Active models offer up to 20dB. Furthermore, noise Isolation blocks all kinds of sounds across a wide frequency range, whereas Active headphones only cancel out regular recurring background sound, like engine noise.
If you want even more isolation, the Etymotic ER-4P offers up to 41dB!

This means if you’re using a model like the ER-6i on an aicraft, you don’t hear the engine noise, or the person next to you snoring, or the person behind you talking, or the kid running up and down the aisle screaming. All you hear is your music.
On the other hand, with the Active models you don’t hear the aircraft noise, but you can often hear all the other noises going on (unless you crank your music up, which will probably damage your ears).

It gets better too!

Passive noise isolating products don’t require batteries to work and are low profile. There’s no on/off switch, they just cancel everything as soon as you stick them in your ears, and because they are low profile you can use them comfortably while resting your head on a pillow. Ideal for long flights, and when you’re done you can stick them in your shirt pocket.
On the other hand, with Active models you not only need batteries for the isolation technology to work, but in many cases you need batteries just to listen to your music. Also, because they’re bulky they can be uncomfortable to use while sleeping, and there’s no way they’re going to fit into your shirt pocket!

But wait, there’s more!

In terms of value for money, when you buy a pair of Noise Isolating canalphones you get exactly what you pay for. So a pair that costs $200 sounds as good as most $200 headphones, a $50 pair sounds as good as $50 headphones and a $500 pair sounds as good as $500 headphones. You’re not paying for any extra technology.
On the other hand, when you buy Active noise cancelling headphones you’re paying for the extra technology, so a ~$250 pair of Active noise cancelling headphones does NOT compare in sound quality to standard models, in fact you might find a certain $64 headphone sounds better than a certain $229 Active noise cancelling product.

“But I don’t like earbuds, they’re uncomfortable”
Canalphones are NOT earbuds. Earbuds use a hard plastic shell to stay in place, canalphones use soft tips, and they usually come in a range of shapes and styles. In some cases you get 9 different tips to try out, so you’re bound to find one that suits your ears, also different brand have different styles of tips, and as a final resort you can always get custom tips made up!
By the way, if you’ve used foam earplugs before you will have no trouble with canalphones.

So why are Active models so popular?
Because they’re easy to demo. When you head down to your local Buy Other Sound Equipment store to test out their Active product, they often have a “jet engine noise” simulator, with the flick of a switch on the headphones the engine noise disappears and your friendly sales guide says “works well, doesn’t it” to which you reply “yes it does!”.
But wait a second…. you heard him clearly through these “noise cancelling headphones”? Interesting!

If you were to demo canalphones, you wouldn’t hear the sales rep, or the engine noise. In fact if you play some music softly through your average noise isolating canalphones, you’re not going to hear a phone ring right next to you, or someone yelling to try and get your attention.

The next time you’re going on a long flight, it’s well worth considering some canalphones ;)

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Headphonic was established in 2002 and is responsible for bringing brands like Etymotic, Alessandro, Talisman and Meier Audio to the Australian market. Not only do we have the largest range of headphones and related accessories in Australia, we are TRUE experts and know just about all the products we sell inside out!

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