The audio industry has been growing in India, with the rise of neckbands and truly wireless earbuds taking over from the generic wired earphones which are usually cheaper in comparison.
One feature that has been making the rounds in recent times on these two new products is ANC or Active Noise Cancellation. A feature that, until very recently was limited to flagship-grade products, it seems that it is now available in even budget options, with TWS offerings under and around Rs 3,000 offering the same.
But, with all such features, there arises a question of gimmick or realistic use, so, is ANC overhyped or is there really something worth noting with this feature.
What is Active Noise Cancellation?
ANC or Active Noise Cancellation is a method of keeping the ambient noise away from your audio listening experience. Most earbuds or headphones do make use of some noise-cancelling technique, usually in the form of eartips or ear cuffs that reduce the outside noise by some amount, via a method dubbed passive noise cancellation.
In comparison, ANC is a feature that is present on specific earbuds and is far more complex than the rather usual passive noise cancellation. Workings wise, earphones with ANC support make use of specific microphones built to cancel the external noise present in your surroundings to make the experience noise-free for the listener.
Don't get too confused, since some believe it to be a barrier of sorts, but in reality, it is a method that in layman's terms hears the external noise and cancels it out by giving off different sound waves, thus cancelling out the earlier noise.
It works quite well and at times, it can really make a difference in your listening experience. If you own a costly pair of headphones with ANC support, you could listen to music even in scenarios where people are shouting or the TV is blasting off, since certain pair of headphones do support crazy amounts of noise cancellation.
Do not let this trap you into the hype cycle though, since it is a belief of many that ANC is a mandate for proper audio quality and, for better or for worse, it is time to burst that bubble of lies and tell you that in reality good sound is not guaranteed via ANC.
Why Does ANC Not Result in Good Sound?
ANC, as mentioned earlier is a method to improve the audio experience in noisy situations by reducing or eliminating the external noise that is usually present. This has no relation whatsoever with the sound quality produced by your earphones. It is rather a method to bring parity to the sound experience in a specific situation.
The sound quality in a pair of earbuds is determined by things such as frequency, quality of drivers, size of drivers etc. ANC is not counted as one of the differentiators, since it is, as a concept, a tool to help the user focus on the sound in a noisy or unpleasant situation wherein a normal pair of earbuds might fail to allow the user to listen.
ANC also packs in its negatives, such as a higher than usual price, reduced battery life and at times a compromise in sound, at least in certain situations. Don't get us wrong, it is a great feature, but, unless and until you travel a lot or have a lot of noise in your surroundings on a regular basis, it does not make sense to splurge on ANC earbuds or headphones just for the sake of it.