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How to Find the Right Noise Cancelling Headphone
Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to reduce low-pitched humming and droning sounds, which you’ll encounter in an airplane cabin and, to a lesser extent, on buses and trains (and probably boats, too, although we haven’t tried that). They can also reduce sounds from some machinery, such as loud air conditioners. A decent set of headphones with active noise cancelling (ANC) can make airplane travel much more enjoyable because it allows you to hear movies, music, and in-flight entertainment clearly without having to turn the volume way up. You can also use these headphones even when you’re not listening to anything, just to make the cabin noise less annoying; some people use noise-cancelling headphones to help themselves fall asleep on long flights.
Noise-cancelling headphones work by using microphones to capture the noise around you and then feed an opposite (or phase-reversed) version of that sound into the tiny speakers (or drivers) built into the headphones. The result is that they cancel out the external noise to some degree. The technology never works perfectly, but it can work well enough in certain environments to make listening more enjoyable. The best noise-cancelling headphones combine this “active” noise cancelling with passive noise cancelling—that is, physical barriers and dampers built into the headphones that help block or absorb noise.