You may have heard the term “noise-cancelling headphones” thrown around a lot, but people often mean noise reduction or noise isolation—they’re different theories in headphone technology that essentially keep noise out (and keep your music in). Noise cancelling headphones often have their own microphone, recording the outside atmosphere and creating a sound wave that actively cancels it out. Passive noise reduction headphones merely create a seal around or in your ears that keeps out noise. As for which is best, it usually depends on your situation:
- In general, the higher the price tier, the higher the quality. This is especially true for in-ear monitors because you get bonuses like detachable cables, lifetime warranties, and a wider range of caps for your ‘buds.
- Passive noise reduction works well with music. Because the source is closer to your ear drum, you can play it at a lower volume without skimping on quality.
- Quality is very much subjective. It ultimately comes down to your own ears, and your own music. I once passed on a set of really nice Bose cans in favor of some older Shures that made me fall in love with my music collection all over again.
This may be old hat for you audiophiles out there, but if you weren’t aware at the differences between all the noise reducing headphones out there, it’s pretty good information to have.