Sound Isolating vs Noise Canceling Explained

Sound Isolating vs Noise Canceling Explained

Noise isolating and noise canceling sound like the same thing. However, they’re actually different, and knowing this can help you when purchasing noise-canceling or isolating products. Throughout this blog, we’ll take a look at sound isolating vs noise canceling products and go through what makes them unique and what could be the best option for you. 

What Does Noise Canceling Mean?

Sometimes when buying headphones, you may see “ANC” on the package – but what does ANC mean on headphones? 

Noise-canceling or Active Noise Canceling (ANC) is when an active approach is used to block out any external noise. Typically, headsets will have one or more microphones built in to help detect any external sounds around the user. 

Through a technologically advanced electronic signaling process, it can emit an anti-noise signal that will cancel out the other sounds around you. Thus, you’ll have noise-canceling headphones. 

What Is Noise Isolating?

Noise isolation is actually quite different from noise cancellation. With noise-isolating headphones, it doesn’t use any microphones or other electronics to counteract external noises. Rather, it uses high-quality materials and an ergonomic design to block out as much noise as possible from the ear. 

When you find isolation headphones, you’ll discover that they typically have thick memory foam padding around them that will encompass your ears and keep noise out. 

Noise isolation can also be found in earbuds, where they’ll have perfectly designed eartips to fit right in the ear canal and seal it from any external sounds. 

What Are the Differences?

When looking at sound isolating vs noise canceling, the main difference is that noise canceling uses technology, and sound isolation uses enhanced materials and design to block out external sounds. 

Noise Reduction Efficiency

Both noise isolation and noise-canceling headphones block out noise, but which one is more effective at doing this? 

Noise-canceling headphones actually offer both noise isolation and noise-canceling technology. However, they usually rely more heavily on noise-canceling technology than they do on noise isolation design. This can end up meaning that more expensive noise cancellation headphones are amazing, but some on the cheaper side aren’t as great at blocking out external noise. 


Though noise isolation headphones come with their sound-proof designs, it’s the noise canceling headphones that are going to come up on the more expensive side. 

So, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option but still want to focus solely on the audio you’re listening to, noise isolation headphones or earbuds would be the way to go. 

Quality of Sound

The quality of sound does vary when comparing sound isolating vs noise canceling headphones. Noise isolation headphones strictly block out sound, but noise canceling uses technology that can sometimes leave a faint hissing noise when no audio is playing. If you want the truest audio sound, noise isolation may be a better option. 

Battery Requirement

Noise cancellation headphones are battery-powered as they constantly have to work hard at blocking out external sounds around them. Noise isolation headphones, on the other hand, are not battery-powered.

Comfort Level

Both headphones are comfortable to use for hours. However, because noise isolation headphones need extra padding to keep out all external sounds, they can sometimes become uncomfortable after long periods of use. 

On the other hand, noise-canceling headphones don’t need to be as fitted and can give your ears some space while still keeping all the other sounds out. 

Best Noise Canceling Headphones

Here are some of the best noise canceling headphones you can find on the market today:

Best Passive Noise Canceling Earphones

Some of the best passive noise canceling earphones include:

    • SONY WH-CH710N Wireless Over-The-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones
    • These headphones are extremely comfortable and have up to 35 hours of battery life. With advanced ANC technology, it senses your environment and leaves you with high-quality audio.

    Shop True Wireless Earbuds from AUKEY

    Are you still debating between noise isolation vs noise canceling headphones? AUKEY has a variety of both noise canceling and sound isolation headphones to choose from. Check out some of the items we offer and start listening to high-quality audio!