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What is noise cancellation?

Whilst looking for the best headset, headphone, or video conferencing solution the term noise cancellation may have been a key selling point. But depending on the context, noise cancellation can have a range of meanings.

To begin with, in headsets/headphones there are 2 types of noise cancellation; within the microphone, and within the headphones. The noise cancellation within the microphone will help the call receiver hear you without the distraction of any background noise that may surround you. Noise cancellation within the headphones helps your concentration by reducing surrounding disturbances. In webcams, there is a variation of noise cancellation called automatic noise suppression (ANS) which gives a similar outcome to microphones in headsets and reduces the background noise for the receiver.

Noise cancellation in microphones

Noise cancellation in microphones benefits the receiver on the call by blocking out the background sound such as dogs barking, children, or the busy office. This can be achieved in several ways. The first is the overall design of the microphone including shape, length, flexibility and the way it is positioned in proximity to your mouth. It is recommended that the boom stays in a fixed position 2cm or 2 fingers depth away from your mouth.  Having the boom correctly positioned helps the directional microphone pick up the correct noise – your speaking voice – and not your surroundings.

The second is the software processing within the headset. The software processes all the sound waves picked up from the microphone and intelligently distinguishes the difference between speech and background noise. At JPL we have our Surround Shield™ noise cancellation technology in all our headsets to give clarity and professionalism to your calls.

The third which is included in some headsets, but more commonly as an optional accessory, is a windshield. This can be placed over the tip of the microphone which helps to eliminate all wind noise. We recommend these for hybrid workers who may be using the headsets in public settings or outdoors.

Noise cancellation in headphones

Noise cancellation in the headphone is what benefits you, the wearer. This helps to reduce the ambient background noise to help you concentrate and focus on your call or music. There are 2 types of noise cancellation in headphones: passive and active.

Passive noise cancellation

Passive noise cancellation is the most commonly used and refers to the effect you get from wearing the headset. This is achieved from the physical features of the headset such as materials used, ear cushion size, and headband design. For example, some headphones will include larger ear cushions that will sit over your ears to create a sound barrier for external noise. Passive noise cancellation is better for filtering out irregular sounds found within a busy open office or at home with high pitch barking dogs.

Active noise cancellation

Active noise cancellation uses software to analyze the sound of incoming noise from a call and intelligently removes the sound waves associated with background noise. Some headphone designs will use a variation of this called adaptive active noise cancellation that uses the microphone to pick up the background noise around you and allow you to adjust how much you would like to hear this. Options such as transparency mode will allow you to quickly switch between fully immersive during your call, to talking with your colleague without taking off your headset. This is better for filtering out steady continuous noises such as the hum from your refrigerator or the office radio.

Most headsets will use both the microphone and headphone noise cancellation at different levels to give comfortable, clear, and professional sound to the receiver or the wearer.

Noise cancellation in video conferencing

In video conferencing, you can have a version of noise cancellation called automatic noise suppression. Which effectively does the same as microphones in headsets, helping to reduce background sound for the receiver. Using intelligent software to identify the difference between speech and background noise the ANS removes the unwanted sound waves from your surroundings. In addition, video conferencing uses automatic echo cancellation (AEC) to stop you from sounding far away from the microphone when used in larger offices to give you clear speech. All JPL video conferencing solutions include this technology to give you the best sounding calls.

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