What’s The Difference Between ANC And Noise Cancellation? | Headset Advisor

If you use a headset, or are planning to use one soon, having the ability to reduce unwanted background noise may be an important thing to consider if you want to sound your best while on your calls. 

This subject elevates in importance if you work in a noisy environment. Maybe you’re one of the many who have found themselves working from home, or as it’s now referred to as WFH.

Working from home can be challenging when it comes to maintaining a professional image. After all, there are some unique challenges at home that aren’t common to an office environment.

Things like dogs barking, or children crying or fighting. You might be in the middle of a call and the neighbor fires up the lawn mower just outside your home office window. The list is lengthy as to the many distractions that can degrade the quality of your call. 

Working in an office doesn’t make you immune to unwanted noise either. Coworkers are a big cause of distractive noise. Consider all the sounds that stem from talking and typing for example. Or, consider the sounds that stem from office equipment, heating/air conditioning units, fans blowing and more.

All this can really add to the rise in decibels, and carry over to your important calls. Not an ideal situation for sure, but the good news is there are solutions that can help to put a lid on that unwanted noise, and keep your calls clear and noise free. 

In this blog, I’ll attempt to explain the headset solutions that can help tame the noise in your work environment, and in the process, explain the differences between, noise cancellation, and active noise cancellation, or ANC for short. 

But, before I begin, I wanted to let you know that we covered this subject on a recent Youtube livestream. Me, along with my two brothers, discuss noise cancellation. You might want to check that out too. I’ll post it below, so you’ll have quick access to it. 

If you’re still reading, then come along as I help to break down the differences between noise cancellation, and Active Noise Cancellation.

There are two categories of noise cancellation

  1. Reducing or eliminating unwanted noise you, the headset wearer hears, allowing you to better concentrate in the midst of the noise going on around you. This refers to Active Noise Cancellation. 
  2. Reducing or eliminating the noise your callers hear. This speaks to the headset microphone, and its ability to eliminate noise. 

Let’s go over the first one, Active Noise Cancellation. What is it? 

Going back a few short years ago, you never heard, nor saw ANC in any headset common to the business work space. You only saw headsets that touted their ability to remove unwanted noise so your callers had a better listening experience. ANC is slowly finding its way into more and more brands and models of commercial grade headsets. Customers want it, and the manufacturers are listening. 

ANC is an electronic feature that’s designed to filter out background noise which minimizes or eliminates the sound that the person wearing the headset hears. For those models that have it, you typically have the ability to activate it, or deactivate it. And some models, such as the new Orosound Tilde Pro, which has several stages of ANC allowing you to regulate how much of the surrounding noise you can eliminate. 

Here’s a brief description of what Active Noise Cancellation is as per Bang & Olufsen, a well respected, Danish audio manufacturer: 

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) uses a noise-cancelling system to reduce unwanted background noise. The system is based on microphones that “listen” to the sounds outside and inside of the earphone, an ANC chipset inverting the soundwaves and a speaker inside the earphone cancelling the outside sound by the neutralising soundwaves. A bit like taking +2 outside and adding -2 inside to make zero.” 

The first generation of ANC headsets allowed you to turn on this feature, and turn it off. Since then, more and more models have come out that allow you to adjust how much of the background noise is eliminated. This is perfect for many, who prefer not to feel like they’re in a vacuum or silence bubble. This suggests to me that this technology is evolving, and evolving in a good way. 

ANC is a tremendous aid for many who work in an office or at home, or when traveling. It enables you to stay focused on your work without being distracted, or even have a

better musical listening experience with background sounds being minimized. Improving concentration through distraction avoidance can also help to increase worker productivity which is an added bonus. 

What about noise cancellation? What the heck is it? 

This feature is what you’ll find on just about any make or model of business grade headsets. Though the manufacturers of various headsets claim to have a noise cancelling microphone, not all of them perform the same. As you might imagine, some do a better job at removing unwanted background noise over others. 

A noise cancelling microphone is designed to help eliminate noise from your environment. This means the person you’re speaking with shouldn’t hear much of what’s going on around you. That said, this feature is designed for the benefit of those you’re speaking to, and not for you. That is, unless you consider giving your callers a better listening experience a benefit to you, like it probably does for many people. 

Not all microphones are created equal 

  1. You have non-noise cancelling microphones which will not remove any background noise. These are best used in quiet areas, or private offices.
  2. Noise cancelling microphones are designed to remove background noise, and by far, the most common type of microphone found on business headsets today.
  3. Ultra noise cancelling microphones are advertised as providing a higher level of noise reduction. In our tests, we haven’t found those to remove any more background noise than a standard noise cancelling microphone. Hype? Maybe.
  4. Acoustic Fence and Sound Shield technology by Poly and Yealink claims to enhance the noise cancelling ability. In our tests, they both performed very well, and for sure better than standard noise cancelling mics. We felt that the Yealink brand outperformed the Poly model that had their Acoustic Fence technology.

    That said, both were pretty amazing as to how much they both eliminated loud background noises. For sure, Acoustic Fence and Sound Shield are at the top of the food chain when it comes to reducing unwanted noise. You simply won’t find a microphone on the market today that performs this good. 

A noise cancelling microphone will pick up your voice loud and clear, while at the same time provide a sound filter so all those distracting background noises won’t end up on your call. You have peace of mind knowing that your callers can't hear the sounds going on around you (babies crying, dogs barking, loud coworkers, office equipment sounds etc), and your callers get a clear, distraction free call experience.

Summarizing 

Active Noise Cancellation is designed to remove background noise so you, the person wearing the headset, can stay focused on your work, or have a better music listening experience. In the process, you’re happier and more productive. 

A noise cancelling microphone will remove distracting background noise so your callers hear you, and not those sounds going on around you. 

Depending on what your needs are you might not need either of these features. Specifically, if you work alone and/or in a quiet area. 

However, if you work in a noisy environment, you might want to consider both of these features. This way, you can maintain your focus and concentration, while at the same time, giving your callers a clear call.

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