What’s the difference between noise canceling earphones and normal earpods anyway?

We know what you’re thinking. Why are there so many different types of headphones and how do I know what’s right for me? What’s the difference between earbuds and earphones and all the various types of portable audio anyway? Well you’ll be glad to know you’re not the only one that’s confused! In 2022, we’ve seen an ever expanding offering of gadgets available on the online with price tags to match. Over the past few years of isolation and remote work, many of us have seen less travel and more time at home in close quarters with our pets and loved ones. One style of headphones that might work for one person may not necessarily be the right thing for another. We’re here to break down the different options available on the market and what we recommend for your listening style.

Firstly, let’s clear up the different types of listening devices currently available on the market. In terms of physical appearance you’ve got two:

  1. Over ear headphones. These come in both wired and wireless varieties. They also come with noise canceling capabilities or not. You will recognise these anywhere by their large ear muff style appearance that completely cover the users ears and connecting bridge that sits either on top of the head or behind the neck (think DJ’s and teenagers).
  2. Earphones. Again you’ll find wired and wireless varieties of these and noise canceling offerings are also available. When it comes to wireless earphones, you’ll find them more commonly referred to as earbuds or Airpods. This is in reference to their small physical shape and appearance, with no connecting wires. You might have wondered why someone was talking to themself until you got a little closer, enough to see small buds in their ears. There is some confusion when it comes to airpods. Airpods are Apple’s specifically branded earbuds. All airpods are earbuds but not all earbuds are airpods. Airpods will only pair via bluetooth to apple devices, while earbuds are available in many brands and styles and are able to pair to multiple device types.

So what’s the deal with noise canceling headphones and are they worth it?

There a few varieties that fall into the category of noise canceling. Styles that offer noise canceling can use what’s known as “active noise canceling” or “passive noise canceling”. Active noise canceling operates via electronic processing technology. They do this by analyzing noise around the wearer and creating noise on the opposite end of the sound spectrum in order to balance and effectively “lessen” the impact of loud noise you might be hearing. Think of it like adding more fresh water to salt water, it becomes less salty but the saltiness is still there. This is the same thing with active noise canceling. Due to the technology and requirement of analyzing sounds around the wearer in real time, sudden loud noises and certain high pitched sounds may not be negated too well.

Another factor to keep in mind with active noise canceling headphones, since they are using energy to “actively” filter outside noises, these styles require batteries to perform their noise canceling duties. Generally AA or AAA batteries are required, while some styles have in-built rechargeable batteries. While this may not be a turning point for some, it does mean there are some extra steps involved if you really want a pair of headphones with active noise canceling.

This is where passive noise canceling comes into play. Rather than requiring technology and processing, passive noise canceling styles rely on physically blocking out sounds by creating a barrier in or around the ear. Over ear styles achieve this by covering the entire ear while in ear styles will seal off the ear canal to prevent outside noise entering. What you prefer in this situation comes down to your comfort level and style. Most over ear styles come with a fair amount of padding to keep them comfortable over your ears, but ultimately over long periods of wear you may need a break.

You might be wondering now, how do I choose what style of earphones to use? Ultimately it will come down to two main things, what are you using your headphones/earphones for and what is your budget. Let’s break down the pros and cons of over ear headphones vs in ear buds and noise canceling vs standard styles. The first thing you’ll need to consider is your lifestyle. Some common questions might include: “What do I need headphones for” and “when will I be using them?” Once you’ve gotten these details figured out you’ll be able to pinpoint your audio style much easier.

If you are looking for something discrete and easy to carry around between classes or meetings, you’ll probably want to go with the smaller in ear styles that take up much less space. On the other hand, if you are travelling or heading somewhere with alot of background noise, you might want to consider some over ear noise-canceling styles for extra comfort and sound padding. These will help you hear what you are actually listening to without requiring you to crank up the volume of your music or podcast and damaging your ear drums. Need a headset for gaming? You’ll probably want over ear headphones, again for comfort over longer periods of time, with the addition of a microphone for easier team communication.

While price is also often another deciding factor, branding will always have an influence on the price of your ear gear. We’re not saying that the more expensive brands aren’t worth it because some of them have plenty of technology that go into them for sure! It’s just worth noting that you can still find a pretty decent pair of inexpensive noise canceling headphones that actually work and don’t cost an arm and a leg. If you aren’t moving around alot and don’t mind cables, you could consider opting for a wired headset. These have the advantage of being a cost effective and don’t require charging. Too easy!

Ultimately, your choice will come down to what is comfortable for you and what you will be using your headphones for. It might take you some trial and error before you find the right style for you, but once you find the right pair, you’ll be hooked on the beauty of personal, portable sound.

June 29, 2022

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July 13, 2022

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