Page 1 – Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones
Page 2 – In-Ear, On-Ear and Over-The-Ear Headphones
Page 3 – Active Noise Cancellation and Wireless Headphones
Page 4 – About Headphone Impedance, Amplifiers and DACs
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
So what exactly is active noise cancellation? To put it simply. The headphones will create an anti-sound to counter the unwanted environmental sound. This will – for a big part – cancel the environmental sound leaking into your headphones. It does this by using adaptive algorithms to analyze these unwanted sounds. With the result, it will create the anti-noise sound.
Some examples of active noise cancellation headphones are:
- Bose QuietComfort 25 (Read my In-Depth Review!)
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
- Beats Studio 2.0 Over-Ear
Don’t expect these headphones to cancel out all the outside noise. Also, you will get better results when the noise is somewhat a sustained sound, like the noise of airplane engines. In the surroundings of people talking, you will still hear voices etc because it’s impossible to perfectly filter out all these different sounds…
Also, the alteration of the sound comes with a price when it comes to sound quality. For example, the Bose QuietComfort 25 is one of the best in its class but does it sound great? Not really. It sounds good. But don’t expect audiophile-grade sound out of ANC headphones.
Then there is the price. ANC headphones are more expensive then non-ANC headphones.
Do you really need them?
It depends. If you travel a lot by airplane or train, then ANC could be the answer. If not, I advise you to check out some decent in-ears or some of the over-the-ear closed-back headphones. The passive noise cancellation they provide will give you a great listening experience at places with a lot of different transient sounds like people talking, bypassing traffic, …
Let’s sum up the different kinds of wireless headphones:
- Bluetooth (BT)
- Infrared (IR)
- Radio Frequency (RF)
The most used wireless technology, since most people use their smartphones to listen to music while on the move. Due to the limitations of Bluetooth, the music will be compressed when sending to the headphones. This has an impact on sound quality, so audiophiles should look elsewhere. However, the technology has come a long way since Bluetooth 1.0 and 2.0. and with Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 the sound quality is much better.
A bit more about the sound quality. With the more recent Bluetooth headphones, sound quality has improved a lot. So if you listen to lossy sound formats (mp3, aac, …) it will not really be an issue. It is only when you are actively listening to lossless music (FLAC, cd, …) you will not get the most out of these music formats.
One other factor to keep in mind is the price. You’ll be paying a premium compared to wired headphones.
If portability and convenience are a key factor and you’re not worried on hearing every bit of detail out of your music and you’re willing to pay a premium, then Bluetooth headphones are a smart choice.
Infrared headphones are not really that interesting. First of all, you need to be in a constant line with the receiver or you get signal loss. Second, there aren’t really any high-end headphones available. The only thing they have going for themselves is the price. They are a lot cheaper than Bluetooth and Radio Frequency headphones.
If you’re looking for high-end wireless headphones for home usage then Radio Frequency headphones are a perfect choice. They can have great sound quality and also have a wide range. They’re also pretty affordable.
You plug in the transmitter into your preferred audio device, like your TV, Receiver or Stereo system. The headphones will pair with the transmitter and you are good to go.