What Does ANC Stand for on Headphones and How Do They Work?

With remote work becoming more of a norm, investing in a great set of headphones seems like a prudent choice. The only question is, which headphones to buy? Perhaps there’s an idea of which brand, but as far as all the technical specs go, what does it all mean? Most importantly, what does ANC mean on a headphone — as that appears to be the term that many companies advertise.

What Is ANC?

ANC stands for Active Noise Cancellation — a phrase that may feel all too common. In fact, just hearing about it brings me a step closer to buying a headphone with ANC capability. Although, know that not all ANC headphones are created equal, and different models bring along their own advantages and disadvantages.

How Do ANC Headphones Work?

How Do ANC Headphones Work
How Do ANC Headphones Work? Screenshot captured from the Lenovo Website.

ANC technology works as a neutralizing factor. What I mean by that is the setup of the headphone is built in such a way that it cancels out the low-frequency noises from the external environment (depending on the headphone & its structure for determining what range) by generating an anti-noise to it. You can think of it as a simple math equation where +100 and -100 cancel each other out.

Essentially, what all of that translates into it, or at the least what the idea is that you hear a crisper and cleaner sound — from your headphones — when compared to one that does not have ANC.

Use Cases for ANC Headphones

Use Cases for ANC Headphones
Use Cases for ANC Headphones. Screenshot taken from the Lenovo Website.

The whole idea of cancelling out the noise started with assisting airplane pilots. Since then, it has evolved and made its way to a regular consumer like you and me.

The intention and purpose of such headphones were noble, and if I may be so bold, marketable enough, it became a feature that could not be resisted.

In any case, a few practical use cases for ANC headphones are:

  1. Travel: This has to make it to the top of the list. Many successfully tout how ANC headphones have helped them travel with a better peace of mind. Destroying some of the constant chatter at the airports, in addition to that inside the plan — including the engine roar, has been nothing but a blessing. Some even use them to get a bit of quiet in the sense where they have the ANC headphones on, but aren’t listening to anything. They just don’t want the incessant external noise. The same types of reasons apply for when traveling via Bus or Train.
  2. Working from home: If you have a big family, with kids, an ANC headphone might be an excellent solution for getting on calls. A common noise that many do not have control over is when landscaping services are being performed either at their own place, or at neighbors. I am sure everyone has an intimate knowledge of how load a leaf blower can be.
  3. General day-to-day: You don’t need a reason to filter out noise. ANC technology can be leveraged from the most mundane tasks to the most uplifting transcendental activities such as going on walks, or even at move theaters (when you’re not watching the movie, obviously), or any and all external or internal environmental settings. The thought process is this: If you want to tune out of noise stress at any point, an ANC headphone can come in very handy.

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In Closing

ANC headphones do not completely eliminate outside noise; however, it is said that they can attain a significant reduction in decibels which is incredibly helpful. Also, they’re most effective with lower frequencies of sounds, and lesser, in comparison, with higher frequencies. But that isn’t to say ANC doesn’t help in that aspect.

Noise cancellation is absolute. So whatever reduction you’re able to achieve is beneficial, regardless. Plus, if you’re willing to spend some extra dollars, you can get your hands on even more outstanding ANC headphones (such as hybrid ANCs) that can impressively decrease higher frequencies as well.

Lastly, many headphones will have a feature to turn the ANC functionality on or off. Having it on will consume more battery, whereas your headphones will last you for a longer duration in the off mode.