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Which is best ENC or ANC Earbuds?

Updated: May 14


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In the world of personal audio, everyone wants the best listening experience possible. Now, with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) technologies, people have more options for better sound. But which one is better for earbuds? Let's break down ANC and ENC earbuds to see which might be right for you.


Table of Contents

  • Understanding Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

  • Exploring Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC)

  • ANC vs. ENC: A Comparison of Features and Effectiveness

  • Pros and Cons of ANC and ENC Technology

  • Top ANC earbuds in the market

  • Top ENC earbuds in the market


Understanding Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is a technology that reduces unwanted background sounds using clever sound manipulation. Here's how it works:


  • Detecting Noise: Earbuds with ANC have tiny microphones that listen to the sounds around you, like the engine noise on an airplane or the rumble of a train.

  • Creating Opposite Waves: The earbuds then produce sound waves that are the exact opposite of these noises.

  • Cancelling Out Sound: When these opposite waves meet the outside noise, they cancel each other out, making those sounds much quieter or even completely silent.


In simple terms, it's like a noise eraser for your ears! This makes it easier to focus on your music, podcast, or phone call without being distracted by the sounds around you.


Exploring Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC)

Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) is a technology designed to make your voice clearer during calls, even in noisy places. Here's how it works:


  • Picking Up Your Voice: Earbuds with ENC have several microphones that listen carefully to both your voice and the background sounds around you.

  • Filtering Background Noise: Using smart algorithms, the earbuds recognize which sounds are your voice and which are background noise, like chatter at a café or traffic on the street.

  • Enhancing Speech: The earbuds then boost the volume of your voice and reduce the surrounding noise, making it easier for the person on the other end to hear you clearly.


Unlike Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which tries to block all outside noise, ENC focuses on making your voice sound as clear as possible by cutting out unwanted background sounds during calls or voice commands.


ANC vs. ENC: A Comparison of Features and Effectiveness


Purpose of Use:

  • ANC: Best for reducing all types of background noise, such as when traveling or in loud environments, making it easier to enjoy music or peace.

  • ENC: Ideal for calls and voice commands, as it enhances voice clarity by filtering out noise from your surroundings without eliminating it entirely.


Sound Quality:

  • ANC earbuds often have robust sound quality that focuses on delivering a pure audio experience by blocking out external noises.

  • ENC earbuds prioritize voice clarity over music quality. They are engineered to make your speech clear during calls even in noisy places.


Battery Life:

  • Using ANC generally consumes more battery because it continuously needs to cancel out all surrounding sounds.

  • ENC, focusing only on voices, may use less battery compared to ANC, which can be a factor if you often have long calls.


Comfort and Fit:

Both types of earbuds come in various shapes and sizes. Choose ones that fit well in your ear, as a good seal can improve the effectiveness of both ANC and ENC.


Price and Features:

  • ANC earbuds can be more expensive due to the complex technology used to cancel all types of noise.

  • ENC earbuds might be more affordable and come with features beneficial for calls and meetings.


Environment

  • If you spend a lot of time in environments with constant low-frequency noise, like airplanes or busy offices, ANC might be more beneficial.

  • For those who need clearer communication in environments like coffee shops or open offices, ENC is more suitable.


Pros and Cons of ANC and ENC Technology

ANC Earbuds

Pros:

  • Superior noise cancellation in consistent noise environments

  • Enhanced listening experience for music and media

  • Ideal for travel and noisy settings

Cons:

  • Can be more expensive due to complex technology

  • May cause a sensation of "ear pressure" for some users.


ENC Earbuds

Pros:

  • Exceptional voice clarity in calls and voice commands

  • Effective in diverse noise environments

  • Generally lighter and less bulky

Cons:

  • Does not provide comprehensive noise cancellation for all types of sounds.

  • Can sometimes amplify unwanted frequencies.


When selecting top ANC earbuds in the market for 2024, there are several standout options, each with unique features catering to different preferences and budgets.


Top ANC earbuds in the market

Sony WF-1000XM5

This model is highly praised for its excellent sound quality and noise-cancellation capabilities. It features Adaptive Sound Control, high-resolution audio support with LDAC, DSEE upscaling, and 360 Reality Audio. The earbuds offer a robust battery life of up to 24 hours and are equipped with Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity.


Bose QuietComfort Ultra

Known for their superior comfort and stable fit, these earbuds deliver strong noise cancellation and a bass-rich sound profile. They also offer a feature to adjust the intensity of the noise cancellation via an app, and a total of 24 hours of battery life with the charging case​ (HeadphonesAddict)​.


Anker Soundcore Space A40

These are regarded as the best budget noise-canceling earbuds. They provide good sound quality and effective ANC, with a battery life of about 8 hours. They also feature multi-device connectivity and wireless charging, making them a great value for the price​ .


Anker Soundcore Liberty 4

Offering a balance between cost and performance, these earbuds have adaptive noise cancellation and sound quality that competes well with more expensive models. They also feature spatial audio, which enhances the soundstage for a more immersive listening experience. The battery life is commendable at 28 hours.


Top ENC earbuds in the market


Apple AirPods Pro 2

Renowned for its excellent call quality due to the advanced microphone system. The transparency mode allows you to hear your surroundings, while the improved active noise cancellation (ANC) blocks out most noises. The adaptive transparency feature balances sound isolation for better clarity during calls.


Sony WF-1000XM5

These earbuds offer exceptional call quality with advanced microphone technology. They combine ENC with powerful noise-canceling features, enhancing your voice during calls while filtering out background noises.


Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro

Equipped with a three-microphone system that delivers high voice clarity and minimizes background noise. The intelligent voice detection feature helps filter external noise when speaking.


Anker Soundcore Liberty 4

Affordable ENC earbuds providing voice enhancement with adaptive noise cancellation. They excel at filtering out distracting background sounds, making them ideal for calls.


Conclusion: Finding the perfect earbuds for your needs

The battle between ANC and ENC technologies in earbuds is not about declaring a definitive winner but about recognizing the distinct advantages each brings to the table. By assessing your priorities and understanding the nuances of these technologies, you can select earbuds that elevate your listening and communication experiences. Whether it's the serene isolation offered by ANC or the crystal-clear calls enabled by ENC, the perfect earbuds for your needs are out there.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which type of noise cancellation is best?

The best type of noise cancellation depends on your specific needs and environment. Generally, there are two main types:

  1. Passive Noise Cancellation: This type uses physical barriers like thick ear cups or snug-fitting in-ear tips to block out external noise. It's best for blocking consistent sounds such as those in an office or public transportation and doesn't require any power source. An example of ANC technology is the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones.

  2. Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): This type uses microphones and electronic circuitry to detect external sounds and generate sound waves that cancel them out. It's ideal for noisy environments with fluctuating or low-frequency sounds, like airplane engines or city traffic. ANC usually requires a power source, often a rechargeable battery. An example of passive noise cancellation is the Etymotic ER4XR in-ear monitors.


For most people, Active Noise Cancellation provides superior performance, especially in environments with constant, low-frequency noise. However, Passive Noise Cancellation might be more suitable for those who prefer a simpler, battery-free option.


Q2. Is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) better for your ears?

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) can be better for your ears in noisy environments because it reduces the need to increase audio volume to counteract background noise. By actively minimizing external sounds, ANC allows you to listen at lower, safer volumes, potentially reducing the risk of hearing damage. However, the effectiveness and safety depend on the quality and fit of the headphones, as poorly designed ANC can sometimes cause discomfort or headaches. For optimal ear health, it's essential to balance using ANC with maintaining moderate listening volumes.


Q3. Which earbuds have both ANC and ENC?

Several earbuds on the market combine both Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) technologies, offering both immersive audio experiences and enhanced voice clarity during calls. Some notable models include:

  1. Sony WF-1000XM4: Known for their excellent ANC performance, these earbuds also feature precise voice pickup technology, which uses beamforming microphones and a bone-conduction sensor to improve call quality.

  2. Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation): These earbuds offer both ANC for reducing external noise and voice-enhancing ENC, ensuring clear calls even in noisy environments.

  3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: These combine effective noise cancellation with a noise-rejecting algorithm that helps to isolate your voice on calls, filtering out surrounding disturbances.

  4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: Equipped with both ANC and advanced beamforming technology to enhance voice clarity during calls, making them versatile for both listening and speaking.


Q4. Is it bad to sleep with ANC headphones?

Sleeping with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) headphones may have some potential drawbacks:

  1. Comfort: Most headphones, including over-ear and in-ear models, may cause discomfort when used during sleep due to their size or fit. In-ear buds might press into your ears, and over-ear headphones can cause pressure on the head or neck.

  2. Battery Life: Using ANC headphones overnight can drain the battery, which might leave them uncharged when you need them during the day.

  3. Awareness: Wearing ANC headphones can block out important ambient noises like alarms, smoke detectors, or someone calling out to you in an emergency.

  4. Health Risks: Prolonged use of any headphones could potentially lead to ear irritation, and if listening to audio at high volumes while sleeping, it might also risk long-term hearing damage.

For improved comfort and safety, consider using a pillow speaker or noise-canceling sleep mask if you need audio while sleeping, and keep the volume at a safe level.


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