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Passive vs Active Noise Cancelling

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Can passive noise cancelling (full-sized) headphones ever be as good at blocking out outside noise as active noise cancelling headphones? I was wondering because on another thread I set up for recommending commuting headphones people were quite insistent on passive headphones.
post #2 of 9
passive ones can still block a lot of sound and they don't have the noise canceling electronics screwing with the sound of you music.
post #3 of 9
Good passive isolation is better at shutting out noise than active noise cancelling.

Having said that, my favourite bang for buck headphones (especially including sound quality) are my Goldring NS1000s (noise cancellers from the same OEM as the Audio-Technica ANC7). I regard the "noise cancelling = bad sound quality" myth as having no substance. Every headphone I've tried that clearly beats the Goldrings has cost at least twice as much. I'd recommend them for commuting.

Then again, I'd recommend the S-Jays or the IE6s for the price I paid for them too (depending on what you want to listen to).

If I had to pick any of them as an all rounder it would be the Goldrings though.
post #4 of 9
First of all it is not myth at all. Look at the diagrams for the electronics that control the noise canceling function.. once a piece of junk like that is added to the signal chain expect bad things to happen. Plus you have the usual issues with it being in phase...

This is just my opinion of course, Bose seems to think they got it all sorted even though their noise canceling is only effective in the 500 Hz - 1200 Hz range.

Passive is better in so many ways. First of all the issue with phase is eliminated. Secondly the noise attenuation achieved (usuall 16 dB more than what is possible with current active systems) extends across all frequencies (even though the attenuation curve usually is not linear it is still alright for most of the audible range, look at Etymotic.com I think they have attenuation graphs for their lineup of earphones).

For isolation nothing beats a set of good in-ears.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Do the Goldrings have good bass response, cos I've found active noise cancelling cans to be a bit lacking in that department before. And are they circum aural?
post #6 of 9
They are circum-aural. Bass is fast, punchy, responsive and very well controlled. It stays very clean and gets very low without getting rumbly. The amount of bass isn't huge though.

With noise cancelling turned off there is rather more bass. They do really need to be adequately amped to tame them in passive mode though. Otherwise you gets lots of muddy bass veiling the other frequencies. Mids and treble can be very recessed if the amplification isn't good enough.

Not a problem for active mode as they have a built-in amp in use when noise cancellation is turned on.
post #7 of 9
i have many iems and several nc headphones. if u need to block out the roar of a jet engine, then u need nc headphones. period. iems just internalize the roar a little.
for an office environment iems are probably ok.
as for sound quality, some are better than others, the same with the nc ability. bose has great nc ability, but mediocre sound quality.
of course you can get an nc iem! i have one of those too.
post #8 of 9
If I wanted extreme isolation I'd just buy some Etys and forget the NC headphones.
post #9 of 9
I think ANC would be good with iems if they did some more research. The ANC should use frequencies that the ear can't hear and maybe this overkill destructive interference might work, if overkill destructive interference can work I think music can sound better. This is only in theory.
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