Noise cancelling has been a thing for ages.What was at one time just an after-thought has now become a central focus for manufacturers. With all evolving tech, noise or “sound” cancellation has come a long way in recent years.
The Two Cancellation Types
There is passive, which essentially relies on just foam and plastic to “passively” block out external sounds, and then there is “active” noise cancelling where a microphone picks up surround sounds and the headphone driver unit actively produces a counter sound, resulting in the virtual elimination of background sounds for the user.
Over the years, as technology has continued its endless march forward, these two types have evolved to the point where now the top of the line producers are combining both passive and active sound protection to create “ultra-cancelling” earphones.
New Tech, Tiny Package
Noise cancelling was traditionally just the domain of large, over-the-ear headphone makers because the extra space for the microphone and circuitry required a lot of space.
Over the years however, well into 2016, that technology has shrunk in size and now there are are a wide variety of “in-ear” headphone types, most commonly in the form of earbuds, that are both tiny in size but contain the tech and microphones necessary to actively cancel sound.
Whether you used a large over-ear set of cans or you use smaller earbuds types, both require power, or electricity, to power their circuit boards and cancel sounds.
This power has traditionally come from external battery backs, either lithium ion in nature or alkaline, in the form of AAA or sometimes AA batteries.
Obviously, this presents its own set of disadvantages, as battery and battery packs are often bulky and tend to die just when you need them most.
New Connectors Mean New Earbud Tech
Now smartphone makers are introducing new and exciting connector types to their flagship models in the form of Lightning ports and USB-C ports.
These “smart” connectors are capable of transmitting both audio and power simultaneously, which means circuitry in headphones can now be powered directly from the user’s device instead of from an external power source.
This was not possible before because traditional stereo cables with 3.5 millimeter plugs were only capable of transmitting audio, and were unable to transmit power. This means that finally, high quality, active noise-cancelling earbuds are now a very real possibility in 2016 and into 2017.
Earbuds were always the most troublesome to integrate active noise cancelling with because of their tiny size. With new connectors like Lightning and USB-C however, they will have the full noise cancelling capabilities as large headsets but in a fraction of the space (and sometimes at a fraction of the price as well!).
New Listening Opportunities Await
What does this all mean? Well, it means there is a whole world of new and unexplored audio technology that will be evolving to bring completely new experiences to audio lovers around the world.
With power, earbuds can become “smart”. They will transmit fully HD audio via their digital connector types, and also actively cancel background and outside noises just like before.
New and exciting features will be introduced, and some are already on market, such as dedicated earbud apps that allow users to tune their EQ and adjust how their music sounds via a simple app on their smartphone.
This type of tech was only available via laptops and expensive equipment just years ago but now will be available to anyone owning a recent smartphone.