Noise isolating vs Noise cancelling

One of the common questions we come across is I should opt for noise cancelling or noise-isolating headphones. To clear this doubt, we have included a detailed post about noise isolating vs noise-cancelling headphones.

While buying earbuds or headphones, noise isolating and noise cancelling are common terms thrown around by headphone companies.

Although they may sound the same, they perform different functions. These features enhance the hearing experience.

In this post, we will be looking at the features of noise isolating and noise cancellation.
Apart from that, what are the difference between the two?

Noise Cancelling 

Noise cancellation is often referred to as Active Noise Cancellation headphones since it includes components responsible for blocking out ambient noise.

Noise cancelling headphones includes extra components that cancel out the background noise.

The components of noise cancellation is a digital signal processor, microphone and battery unit.

How does Noise cancellation work?

The microphone of the headphones picks up unwanted background noise from your surroundings.

The sound is then sent to the digital signal processor, which analyzes the sound and creates and opposite soundwave to counter the ambient noise.

Thus it blocks out the ambient noise to provide a better hearing experience. Since this process can take some time, hence, rapid sounds cannot be canceled quickly.

As a result of this, ambient speech or vocals are hard to cancel since they occur rapidly.

Ambient noise, constant and steady such as engine noise, air conditioner and aircraft noise, is easy to cancel.

The downside of noise-canceling headphones is that the noise cancellation features, in most cases, work only wireless.

If the headphones are plugged with a wire when the battery is low, the noise cancellation feature will not function.

Sony is currently a leading company in the noise cancellation feature that engineers headphones with phenomenal noise cancelling properties.

Noise Isolation

Noise isolating vs Noise cancelling

Noise Isolation is often referred to as passive noise cancellation because it depends on the fit of the headphones or earbuds.

Noise Isolation blocks out background noise by providing an enclosed fit.

The headphones or earbuds are designed so that they create a seal with the ear, thereby blocking out ambient noise.

In-ear headphones offer excellent noise isolation compared to over-ear and on-ear headphones since they go inside the ears, upto the ear canal.

In-ear headphones come with different silicon tips that can be customized to get the best noise isolation experience.

For the best noise isolating experience, it would be ideal for wearing and checking the headphones’ fit since noise isolation depends upon the fit and dynamics of the headphone.

Noise Isolating vs Noise Cancelling

Noise isolating vs Noise cancelling

Most premium headphones come with noise isolation and noise cancellation properties to provide the best hearing experience.

It would be ideal to opt for headphones with the right mix of the two since it will create a concrete barrier and block most background noise.

If you have to choose between one, it would be ideal to opt for noise cancelling since they actively block out background noise, whereas sound isolation depends on the headphones’ fit.

Furthermore, the fit of the headphones could vary from person to person.

Noise cancelling headphones are generally higher priced than headphones with noise isolating design since active components block background noise.


This post is an in-depth comparison of noise-isolating vs noise cancelling headphones.

Previously many companies used to market their noise-isolating headphones as noise cancellation headphones.

Let us know your views about this in the comment section.

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