Noise Isolating vs Noise Canceling: What To Choose?

by Emma Williams | Published On

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Noise Isolating vs Noise Canceling

Noise is all around us. It’s present in our homes, offices, and even when we’re out and about. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal, but when we need to focus, or when we’re trying to listen to music or a podcast, noise can be incredibly distracting.

This is where noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones come in. But the question that arises here is, what is the difference between these two, and which one is a better option? Let’s take a closer look. In this article, I have talked in detail about noise-isolation and noise-canceling techniques and how precisely they can be beneficial for your audiophile ears.

What is Noise Isolating?

Noise-isolating headphones or noise-isolating earbuds are designed to block out sound by physically creating a seal around your ears. They work by using ear cups that sit tightly against your head, which helps to create a barrier between you and the outside world.

This type of headphone is typically designed with thicker and heavier materials, such as foam or silicone, to create a seal around your ear. When using noise-isolating headphones, you’ll still be able to hear some noise, but it will be significantly reduced.

This can make them ideal for situations where you need to focus, such as in an office or library. They’re also great for listening to music or podcasts, as they can help you hear the audio more clearly.

The advantages of Noise isolating headphones are as follows:

  • No extra equipment required: Noise-isolating headphones work by physically blocking out external noise, which means they do not need equipment to cancel out external noise.
  • Electronics not required for their functioning: They don’t require any electronics or signal processing, which means the audio quality isn’t affected by any additional distortion or interference.
  • Simple: They don’t require any specialized technology, so they can be made with simple components like foam, rubber, or silicone.
  • Cost Effective: Noise-isolating headphones are more cost-effective than noise-canceling headphones because noise-isolation headphones do not require any electronic equipment to achieve the isolation of sound.
  • Durable: They are more durable since they don’t have any additional electronics that can break.
  • Detailed noise isolation is ineffective: Noise-isolating headphones are not as effective at blocking out external noise. They use physical barriers, such as ear cups, to create a seal between the ears and the environment which cannot eliminate it. Some external noise may still leak in, especially the higher frequency ones.
  • Not fit for the noisy environment: If you’re in an extremely noisy environment, such as on a plane or train, you may still find it difficult to hear your audio.
  • Uncomfortable: Noise-isolating headphones are uncomfortable, especially if they’re wearing them for long periods.

What is Noise Canceling?

Noise-canceling headphones use active technology to block out noise. They work by using microphones to pick up the sound around you and then create an opposing sound wave that cancels out the noise. This creates a sort of “anti-sound” that effectively blocks out external noise.

When using noise-canceling headphones, you’ll be able to hear your audio without any interference from outside noise. This can make them ideal for situations where you need to focus or where there’s a lot of ambient noise, such as on a plane or in a crowded office. They’re also great for listening to music or podcasts, as they can help you hear the audio more clearly.

One of the main advantages of noise-canceling headphones is that they’re incredibly effective at blocking out noise. They can create a near-silent environment, which can be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to work or relax. Additionally, many noise-canceling headphones are designed to be comfortable, even for extended periods of use.

  • Need a power source: They require a power source to work by keeping them charged or connected to a power source, which can be inconvenient if you’re on the go.
  • Expensive: Noise-canceling headphones can be more expensive than noise-isolating headphones since they require additional electronics to work. Finally, some people may experience discomfort or pressure in their ears when using noise-canceling headphones.

Know The Differences Between Noise Isolating And Noise Canceling Headphones

Noise-isolating headphones block out external noise differently from noise-canceling headphones. Noise-isolating headphones physically block sound waves from entering the ear, while noise-canceling headphones use electronic technology to cancel out external noise.

Noise-isolating headphones can block out a significant amount of external noise, but they don’t provide complete silence. On the other hand, noise-canceling headphones can provide complete silence or near-silence, making them a good choice for environments where complete quiet is required.

In terms of comfort, noise-canceling headphones tend to be more comfortable to wear for extended periods than noise-isolating headphones. This is because they don’t create the same sense of pressure around the ears and head. Additionally, noise-canceling headphones often come with features like soft ear cups and adjustable headbands to make them more comfortable.

Price is a significant difference between the two types of headphones. Noise-isolating headphones tend to be more affordable than noise-canceling headphones due to the lack of electronics required. However, there are still expensive noise-isolating headphones available on the market. Noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive due to the complex technology required for their noise-canceling features.

Which is Better: Noise Isolating or Noise Canceling?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as it depends on your personal preferences and needs. However, there are a few things to consider when deciding between noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones.

If you’re in a quiet environment, such as your home or office, noise-isolating headphones may be all you need to block out the little ambient noise that you encounter. On the other hand, if you frequently find yourself in noisy environments like planes, trains, or coffee shops, then noise-canceling headphones may be the better option for you. Noise-canceling technology can be particularly useful in these kinds of environments, as it can cancel out most of the background noise that could otherwise be a significant distraction.

If you’re a music enthusiast, then you’ll want to hear every detail of your music, which is where noise-isolating headphones can come in handy. They help block out ambient noise, so you can enjoy the music without any distractions. However, if you’re frequently listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or other spoken-word content, then noise-canceling headphones might be better for you, as they can cancel out any background noise and make it easier to hear what’s being said.

You’re likely to be using your headphones for extended periods, so it’s essential to choose a pair that is comfortable to wear for long periods. Noise-isolating headphones can feel tight around your ears and head, causing discomfort and making them unsuitable for prolonged use. Meanwhile, noise-canceling headphones are generally more comfortable, with features like soft ear cups and adjustable headbands to fit various head sizes and shapes.

Noise-isolating headphones are generally cheaper than noise-canceling headphones since they don’t require extra electronics. However, some noise-isolating headphones can still be costly, especially if they’re of high quality. Meanwhile, noise-canceling headphones tend to be more expensive due to the additional technology required to cancel out noise. However, there are more affordable noise-canceling headphones available in the market that can still provide a decent level of noise cancellation.


In conclusion, both noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones have their pros and cons, and the best choice will depend on your needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that doesn’t require a power source and can help reduce external noise, noise-isolating headphones are a good choice.

If you’re looking for complete silence or the ability to switch between modes depending on your environment, noise-canceling headphones are the way to go.

Ultimately, it’s essential to consider the type of environment you’ll be using your headphones in, the quality of the audio you’ll be listening to, comfort, and price when deciding which type of headphones to go for. With these factors in mind, you can make an informed decision and choose the right headphones for your needs.

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