What are ANC Earbuds

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Updated October 10, 2022

No matter what your taste in music, finding the best headphones is a modern must-do. And with swarms of employees transitioning to remote work, the need for devices capable of drowning out the din of domestic chaos increases with it. So it’s likely that as you’ve scrolled through lists of the best wireless earbuds, you’ve seen marketing for active noise cancellation. If you’ve noticed this and asked yourself, “What are ANC earbuds?” keep reading to find out.


  • ANC stands for active noise cancellation, which means the ear device runs an electronic system dedicated to drowning out unwanted noise.
  • ANC earbuds are great for exercise, working from home, or listening in environments that require intense focus.
  • The additional electronics built into ANC earbuds mean the battery life will drain more quickly.

We get that purchasing new ear speakers is no light task. Because of this, we have much more headphone-related content to browse through, such as our article comparing Beyerdynamic DT770 80 Ohm vs 250 Ohm. And if you’re on a tight budget, we have a general outline of how much earbuds cost.

Insider Tip

There are a variety of designs of active noise-canceling headphones that differ in where the feedback mic is placed.

What is ANC Mode in Earbuds

ANC stands for “active noise-cancelation,” a technology used in earbuds and headphones. It’s not too hard to imagine what’s meant by “noise cancelation.” Instead, the “active” part leaves many scratching their heads. So what makes it active as opposed to inactive?

Active noise cancellation means the headphones have a built-in electric circuit that creates ambient noise. This noise is intended to neutralize external noises. Think of it like a built-in white noise machine.

The system uses a small feedback microphone that listens for outside noises. Then, the internal system generates the anti-noise as it picks up the external sound waves.

If you want to check out some more content comparing earbud models, you can read up on Airpods vs Airpod Pros. And for those looking for maintenance tips, we have an article on how to fix an earbud’s mic.

Pros of ANC Earbuds

The main pro, as outlined above, is that you hear a more precise audio quality. In addition, by eliminating excess noise, you can focus on the audio at hand, whether it be work, music, or a podcast.


Using in-ear headphones increases the likelihood of hearing loss compared to over-ear devices.

Also, if you’re debating between earbuds and ear headphones, remember that earbuds are more portable than wireless headphones and cost less. For example, the size difference between headphones and earbuds dramatically impacts those who like to exercise with music.

Cons of ANC Earbuds

Of course, it’s nice to have something that can drown out the background noise. However, there are some things to consider before purchasing.

First, they use more battery power because of the additional electronics incorporated with active noise cancelation. Because of this, a single charge won’t last as long.

STAT: The average battery life of a single charge on wireless earbuds is around 6 hours. (source)

Also, as opposed to headphones, earbuds make it hard for any environmental noise to break through. Some don’t like the feeling of eliminating ambient sounds. And for those who walk on busy city streets, being able to hear what’s going on around them is essential from a safety standpoint.

What Are ANC Earbuds FAQs

What's the difference between active and passive noise cancelation headphones?

Active headphones have an electronic system to block unwanted soundwaves. Passive noise cancelation uses an enhanced design to seal off unwanted noise physically.

Does ANC improve sound quality?

It's a tricky question because active noise cancelation ear headphones eliminate ambient noise, improving clarity. However, it doesn't improve the frequency of noises themselves.

Is using active noise canceling better for ear health?

It all depends on the volume at which you listen. But active noise canceling makes it easier to listen at lower volumes because you don't compete with unwanted background noise.
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