When shopping for earbuds for you to take to class or walking around the city, you may have noticed two similar sounding, but distinct terms: noise cancelling and noise isolation.

While it’s true that noise cancelling and noise isolation sound suspiciously alike, they are completely different. In this article, we’ll explain just what those differences are, and which one is better for earbuds.


What Is Noise Cancelling?

Noise cancelling is a technology where tiny microphones are placed inside each earbud. These microphones emit sound waves that “cancel out” sound waves coming from external sources, like traffic or construction sites or music on a radio.

noise cancelling costar

Source: cutyourwire

This process of using microphones to cancel out incoming sound is better known by the term active noise cancellation. There’s also passive noise cancellation, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Active noise cancellation allows you to listen to your music, podcast, movie, or whatever you want in places where noise is happening all around you. You could be walking past a construction site, for example, and not be bothered by drilling and other machine sounds.


What Is Noise Isolation?

Noise isolation is the process of isolating your ear from the noise happening around it. This is usually done with extra padding on the earbuds to close up any space where external sound waves might leak through to your ear drums.

Noise isolation is also known as passive noise cancellation or physical noise cancellation. It’s called “passive” or “physical” because there’s no technology actively blocking out sounds, like the tiny microphones in active noise cancelling earbuds. It’s only a physical modification, like extra padding, that’s keeping out certain noises.

noise isolation

Source: cutyourwire

Earbuds that are equipped with noise isolating padding often block out extremely loud sounds better than those that are made with only active noise cancelling technology. They’re also less expensive than the latter.

But with a lower cost comes a bigger tradeoff in quality. Unfortunately, noise isolating earbuds are not that great at blocking low frequency noises.


Noise Cancelling VS Noise Isolation

The biggest difference between noise cancelling and noise isolation earbuds is the sounds they’re able to block.

It’s true that noise isolation earbuds may block out extremely loud noises better than noise cancelling ones. But at the end of the day, the latter kind is more practical for everyday use. Here’s why.

Most of the time, the sounds that will bother you and interrupt your listening experience the most are the ones that are low frequency and happening in the background. They include common things like traffic, airplanes passing overhead, a distant construction site, or radio music playing on the mall speakers.

Noise isolation earbuds, particularly cheap, low-quality ones, don’t always succeed in sealing off your ear from external sounds. This allows external sounds to “leak” into your ears and the music or dialogue you’re hearing to “leak” out where other people can hear it, too. Nor is noise isolation technology good at blocking out low frequency sounds like the ones we just described.

Noise cancelling earbuds, on the other hand, cancel out low frequency sound waves. This allows you to listen to your tunes at a lower volume than you would using noise isolation earbuds, which will decrease the amount of sound that leaks out from your earbud speakers.

industrial headphone

An even better option is true wireless or TWS active noise cancelling earbuds. These are guaranteed to also have passive noise cancellation, which makes them a better all-around choice for headphones. They’re far more comfortable and less bulky than industrial headphones that are only equipped with passive or physical noise cancellation.

Overall, noise cancelling earbuds provide you with a better listening experience, no matter where you are or what sounds are happening around you.


Conclusion: Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds Are Better Than Noise Isolation Earbuds

We have a clear winner here. Noise cancelling earbuds like the COSTAR Diamond On T300 True Wireless Earbuds are simply more effective at cancelling out every day sounds than the noise isolating kind.

Also, don’t let your budget be the determining factor! Yes, noise isolating earbuds are cheaper than noise cancelling earbuds. But our True Wireless Earbuds are more affordable than most of the other pairs on the market, and they make a better long-term investment. Rather than spend a lot of money on replacements for your cheap noise isolation headphones, you’ll have one pair of noise cancelling earbuds that will last a long time, yet still work just as well as the day you first bought them.

costar diamond buds

Check out our noise cancelling earbuds on the official COSTAR website or on Amazon.
August 11, 2022 — Felix Wu

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