Noise cancellation: ANC and ENC explained.

March 29, 2024

What is noise cancellation?

Our world is filled with noise — the sound of wind, weather, airplanes, traffic and the people around us. And our world is likely to just keep getting noisier as time goes on. Our earbuds and headphones feature noise cancellation to offer a more enjoyable audio experience by removing the unwanted ambient sounds that are happening around the listener.


Noise cancellation: ANC and ENC explained.


Two types of noise cancellation: ANC vs ENC.

We offer Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) or Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) on our SoundForm products. While they operate with a similar effect, the way they are used is different:

ANC is the noise cancellation people usually think of when it comes to audio products. This technology reduces or blocks out the ambient noise that the listener would hear with the earbuds in. This offers a better listening experience for music or podcasts, as external sounds can’t be heard.


Active noise cancellation


ENC cleans up the audio going out, so you’re heard more clearly by the person calling you. Our technology is called Clear Call Quality, and it reduces or blocks out the ambient noise on a call or videoconference. The user can talk in a loud environment, and only their voice will be coming through the mic.


Environmental noise cancellation

Who needs these?

Popular with travelers and students, ANC helps eliminate the sound of an airplane, bus or train while commuting. It’s also useful for studying or reading in a public spot like a coffee shop or common area of a dorm.

Perfect for remote work and the home office, ENC reduces or removes ambient noise during a phone call — coworkers or meeting attendees won’t hear kids and dogs in the background, traffic or other sounds.


Why Belkin SoundForm?

Our unique testing process brings you the Belkin Signature Sound. With the method we use to adjust tuning across all audible frequencies, we reproduce the audio in our headphones and earbuds to replicate the experience of high-fidelity speakers in a well-tuned listening room. ​

Sound comes at a listener from all angles. Because of our ear structure, the way we hear things inside our ears can be different depending on where they originate. We crafted our target based on how sound waves arrive at the ears in front of the listener, replicating how audio arrives from speakers placed directly to the front left and right.

Belkin audio products undergo 150 tests. The design validation standards include functional, compatibility, and quality and reliability testing, plus on-site factory testing for each unit.

Our in-house acoustic lab is the “R&D center of excellence” for internal acoustic tuning and qualifying microphone performance and Active Noise Cancellation qualification.


Some of the testing managed by the acoustic lab:

  • Frequency response of earphones and headphones including tuning and matching the desired Belkin Signature Sound.
  • Measurement to assure low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) limits and Noise Floor limits.
  • Compliance to kids’ and international standards’ (EN50332) safe maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL) limits.
  • Performance evaluation of Ambient Noise Cancellation (ANC), and testing and tuning of various ANC variants, including “pass through.”
  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS) used to assess effectiveness of microphones in voice calls.
  • Tests are conducted using Audio Precision (APx517) and KEMAR HATS (Head and Torso System) from GRAS: industry-recognized, best-in-class test gear for audio headphones and earphones.


Which one is right for you?

Let’s look at the specs. One feature of both ANC and ENC is the number of mics. For example, an ENC earbud with two mics per earbud will typically have a higher sound quality than an earbud with one mic per earbud. For ANC, there are three forms of noise cancellation depending on how the mics operate. “Feedforward” is good, “Feedback” is better, and “Hybrid” offers the best sound quality.

FAQs

ANC stands for Active Noise Cancellation. ANC headphones use built-in microphones to pick up ambient noise and then produce sound waves that are the exact opposite (anti-phase) to cancel out the incoming noise, providing a quieter, more immersive listening experience. 

Similar to ANC headphones, ANC earbuds use Active Noise Cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise and provide a quieter, more immersive listening experience. 

ENC stands for Environmental Noise Cancellation. It involves using microphones to pick up external noise during calls and then generating anti-noise to cancel out the noise, reducing external noise and allowing for clearer phone call conversations.  

In the context of headphones, ENC typically refers to the same technology as in earbuds, where microphones are used to cancel out environmental noise during phone calls. 

When selecting noise-cancelling headphones, consider factors such as the effectiveness of noise cancellation, sound quality, comfort, battery life, number of microphones that are in each earbud, and additional features like Bluetooth connectivity or customizable EQ settings. Reading reviews and testing out different models can also help you find the best option for your needs. 

There are primarily two types of noise cancellation: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC). ANC is generally more effective at cancelling out constant low-frequency sounds like engine noise, while ENC is focused on improving call quality by reducing environmental noise during phone calls. In addition, the ranking of ANC from most basic to best is Feedforward ANC, Feedback ANC, and Hybrid ANC (a combo of Feedforward ANC and Feedback ANC). 

Consider your specific needs and preferences, including factors like budget, intended use (travel, office, exercise), comfort, sound quality, and battery life. Additionally, look for reviews and test the headphones, if possible, to ensure they meet your expectations. 


The effectiveness of noise cancellation is typically measured in decibels (dB). Higher dB ratings indicate better noise cancellation. Generally, noise-cancelling headphones with a reduction of 20-30 dB or more are considered effective at blocking out ambient noise. 

The choice between ANC and ENC depends on your priorities. If you primarily want to block out ambient noise while listening to music or watching videos, ANC headphones would be more suitable. However, if you prioritize clear call quality in noisy environments, ENC technology found in earbuds might be a better option. 

Yes, ENC technology helps improve call quality by reducing environmental noise picked up by the microphone during phone calls, resulting in clearer voice transmission for both the caller and the recipient. 

The best type of noise cancellation depends on your specific needs and preferences. ANC is generally more effective at blocking out constant low-frequency sounds, like engine noise, while ENC is focused on improving call quality by reducing environmental noise during phone calls. 

Our Pulse and Immerse (Hybrid ANC) as well as our Flow (Feedforward ANC) feature both ENC and ANC. 

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