Is sound quality affected by Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) in modern earphones?
Jul 16, 2019 at 1:39 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


New Head-Fier
Jul 13, 2019
Deciding whether to get a pair of Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) vs noise isolating earphones. Is sound quality adversely affected by ANC? Using it mainly for office use sitting besides colleagues on sales calls, thanks
Jul 16, 2019 at 2:04 AM Post #2 of 5
Generally speaking, I do believe that ANC affects sound quality in a negative way, but it really depends on implementation and the environment you are in. Particularly bad cases may be where in a quiet environment you will hear an added hiss from the ANC, and that noise will be added to anything you hear. OTOH, if you are in a plane, that hiss isn’t going to be much noticeable, and the fact that you can actually hear the music would negate any adverse effects from the ANC. Also, typically speaking, the best sounding earphones/headphones don’t come with ANC, so there’s always going to be an inherent tradeoff in sound quality when you go with ones with ANC.

If you are used to having earphones tight in your ear canal, then noise isolating earphones may be enough for your needs. But if you haven’t tried this yet, just know that there’s a learning curve, and it ultimately may not work out just because of your ear canal shape or just your sensitivities. From this point of view, over the ear headsets may generally be a safer bet.

Also, it is my understanding that ANC works best with “systematic/consistent” noise like airplane engine noise or AC hum, although newer ANC headsets may be more adapted to work with random voices and noise in the office environment.

Just some things to consider, hope this helps!
Jul 16, 2019 at 4:30 AM Post #3 of 5
I'm pretty sure it does. ANC pumps sound to match whats being heard outside the ups to your ears while the music is playing in an attempt to drown that noise out. Its not only playing your music with all detail available but also playing more frequencies due to whats adversely happening around you. Its like asking a person to cook a gourmet meal and look after an unpredictable child or animal at the same time.

If you ask me, you're better off using the ANC for moments when you dont need absolute detail for your music and you would rather just have background music while you do work with anc on.

If you are truely wanting to sit, and focus on your music, i think an investment in good passively closed back headphones would be more your focus. A good number of thoes can be searched for here in the many headphone threads :)
Jul 16, 2019 at 6:15 PM Post #4 of 5
Yes. The good ones can really be pretty darn good, but there’s no question in my mind that non-ANC headphones at a similar price point will almost always deliver better sound quality *under optimum conditions*.

But will I take open back Sennheisers on a plane or noisy public transport? No. My Sony noise cancelling headphones are much better in that particular setting. Planes in particular.

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