Shop Confidently, knowing we’ll match a lower price – Chat with one of our agents or call 1800-023-367

Noise cancellation: What are the pros and cons?

Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

For many people seeking a new pair of headphones or earbuds, the term “noise cancellation” can still raise questions and concerns, as the concept remains new to some. It’s also easy to confuse the term with similar language in headphones advertisements and product specs like “noise blocking” and “noise masking”. Noise cancellation, however, is something altogether different.

One way to demystify the meaning is to look at the pros and cons of noise cancelling headphones and what the technology can do for you. Here are the important ups and downs to consider when choosing the best headphones and earbuds for you.

What is noise cancellation?

“Cancellation” is the key word of this feature, and it marks an important distinction from earbuds that only block or mask noise by virtue of their placement in the ear. Noise cancellation goes much further by analysing surrounding sound and then emitting opposite frequencies to essentially cancel out the noise altogether. The result is an uncanny bubble of silence through which only your music, podcast or soundscape can pass.

Pros of noise cancellation

Noise cancellation has earned its share of devotees, and for good reason.

Sound clarity

For many first-time users of noise cancellation, the effect can shock in the best possible way. Free of any ambient sound bleeding in, the music – even well-trodden favourites – sound fresh and new. In fact, the musicians themselves may seem to be playing right next to you.

Sound control

With a standard pair of headphones, you can adjust the volume and equalizer in reaction to the competing sounds around – be it the sound of the train, a colleague at the desk next to you, or roadwork outside the front door. Bose noise cancellation, on the other hand, lets you raise or lower the amount of exterior sound like a dam does to water. Our noise cancelling earbuds, QuietComfort Earbuds II, for example, offer Quiet and Aware Modes: The first cancels all external sound, while the second just softens the rough edges while still letting enough through to hear. Via the Bose Music app, you can further fine-tune it to the level that fits best.

Man wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II outside


Online meetings

Active noise cancellation works particularly well during online meetings and phone calls, making them the best headphones for work. The feature mitigates the commotion of your office or home so you can focus on meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, microphones inside Bose noise cancelling earbuds and headphones also enhance your voice by eliminating interference around you, ensuring you come through loud and clear on the other side.

Man wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II outside

Concentration and productivity

Without the distraction of ambient noise – something you may not fully appreciate until it’s no longer there – you can get down to work with an extra dose of focus. In fact, you can simply switch on the noise cancellation and work in total silence if that’s better than any background sound. This reduction in distraction can translate into greater productivity at work, helping you stay at your most efficient.

Stress reduction

Commuters on public transport, flights or foot can clear away honking horns, screeching tracks, crying babies and snoring seatmates. You won’t be able to hear your sigh of relief either, as noise cancellation turns down the world’s chatter and fills your head with a wave of peace.

Hearing protection

On a standard pair of headphones, all you can do to counteract a loud environment is to turn up the volume, potentially damaging your hearing and increasing the likelihood of tinnitus – a ringing or persistent noise in one or both of your ears – in the long run. When used judiciously, noise cancelling headphones can help prevent hearing loss by eliminating the need to increase the volume in the first place. Bose goes even further by including fit kits that let you personalised earbuds to your unique ear shape. The CustomTune technology inside also adjusts the sound to your specific ear canals, optimising the sound quality and further reducing the need for a higher volume.

Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II outside
Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones while working on her laptop

Cons of noise cancellation

Noise cancellation may not be a perfect fit for everyone – or for at all times. Here are some possible drawbacks to using noise cancellation and how to overcome them.

Reduced awareness

Noise cancellation’s ability to eliminate ambient sound can also reduce your awareness of your surrounding environment, which could become an issue if you’re biking through traffic or in other situations where sound cues keep you safe. That’s why QuietComfort Headphones and QC Earbuds II come with adjustable noise cancellation that lets enough ambient sound through to warn you of the oncoming train.

Increased power usage

To power its technology, noise cancellation requires more energy than standard headphones. This can eat into your headphone battery reserves. However, thanks to noise cancellation, you won’t need so much volume and can save battery power that way. A fully charged pair of QC Earbuds II offer up to a six-hour battery life, plus up to an additional 18 hours via the charging and storage case. This represents a total of up to 24 hours of power before a recharge is necessary.

Poor quality noise cancellation

Not all noise cancellation is equal, and if the first experience caused a poor impression, the culprit may not be the noise cancellation itself but poor execution. Many cheaper versions don’t offer adjustable versions, either, dictating an all-or-nothing experience. As the inventor of noise cancellation technology, Bose not only produces the highest-quality version of the technology but also gives you control of how much to use.

The ultimate decision

New technology always takes time to catch on, and that’s no different for noise cancellation. Getting to know the pros and cons of noise cancelling headphones can help you get an early sense of whether it’s right for you.

Woman wearing Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 while selecting a wardrobe change

Product availability may vary by country.


Related stories

How noise cancelling earbuds support your whole day
5 ways the new QuietComfort Earbuds II up the earbuds game
Best headphones and earbuds for work