Noise Isolating Vs Noise Cancelling: Which is Better?

Noise isolation and noise cancellation are terms you would read and hear often if you are interested in sound quality. You must have bought a headset a few times in your life, and you must have read these terms on the packaging. I am sure that you have asked the salesman why, for example, are headphones with noise cancellation technology a bit pricier than others. Today, we will answer these questions and more by striking a comparison: noise isolating vs noise cancelling.

Most people don’t know the first thing about noise isolating or noise-cancelling other than that they are related to making sound quality in headphones better. So, here is what they mean.

Read also: Best Noise-canceling Headphones Under $200

What is noise isolation?

Remember how you are able to hear your neighbors if the walls of the building are thin? The theory behind noise isolating is somewhat similar.

Noise isolating technology depends on design rather than electronics. Certain materials are good at blocking noise. Combine that with a design that keeps sound focused on your ears and blocks outer noises from reaching your eardrum.

How is the theory of noise isolating employed?

 Headphone manufacturing companies use materials for the ear pads that have high noise isolating properties: real leather or suede made from animal hide, protein leather, vinyl leather, or velour.

In addition to that, the design makes the earcups of the headphones surround ears completely blocking out the noise that can interfere with the sound transmitted from your device.

As for earbuds and in-ear-phones, their design makes them “stuff” the outer side of your ear canal. Therefore, noises other than those streaming from earbuds won’t have a chance of reaching your eardrums. Moreover, eartips with their snug material and design improve noise isolating.

Many people refer to noise isolation as passive noise cancellation seeing as how it depends on materials rather than an actively working mechanism.

What is noise cancellation?

Noise cancellation takes place when headphones detect external noises through a headset’s microphone and counter them with reverse sound waves to cancel the noises in what looks like a +1 – 1  equation.

In headphones depending on noise cancellation technology there is :

– A small microphone embedded to detect different noises.

– A DSP (short for digital signal processing) that will differentiate between audio streaming from a device and outer unwanted noises.

– A battery since this technology needs power to work.

Many algorithms were made for detecting and control of sound throughout the process of noise cancellation. These algorithms are used in active mufflers, noise-cancelling headphones, sound equipment, anti-snoring devices, and karaoke machines.

Which is better? Headphones with Noise isolation or headphones with noise cancellation?

The answer is simple: headphones with noise cancellation technology are definitely better than headphones with noise isolation. Noise cancelling headphones have both technologies utilized: isolation and cancellation.

However, some electronics companies believe that noise cancellation is more than enough. Therefore, they don’t manufacture thick ear padding and thus noise cancellation alone does not reduce noise effectively.

If you are an audio enthusiast, you may not like noise cancellation technology all that much. Not a few reviewers and clients said that noise cancellation can mess up audio. DSP interferes with sound. Luckily here, money talks. So, high-quality noise cancelling headphones won’t mess up audio for you.

We have said already that noise cancellation is an active technology which means that it needs the power to work. This means headphones with noise cancellation technology need batteries in case they’re wireless or regular constant charging.

In terms of price, noise cancelling headphones are understandably more expensive than noise isolating headphones. Cheap ones were considered those under $200 which isn’t exactly cheap by anyone’s standards.

Read also: Tozo t10 bluetooth 5.0 wireless earbuds

So what headphones should you invest in? Many factors are at work here

Comfort and functionality:

What will you be using the headphones for? Are they listening to hype music during your morning jog? Are they listening to recorded voice notes needed for your work? Do you go to crowded places often? Depending on the answer, decide whether you need noise isolation alone or noise cancellation.

What style of headphones do you find most comfortable? On-ear headphones or over-ear headphones? Or do you hate the thought of something sticking to your ear-shell for long hours and would prefer ear-buds and in-earphones?


Noise cancellation technology is pricey for many. How much money have you set for buying a pair of noise cancellation cans? Remember that in this case, you get your money’s worth. So if you don’t have enough to buy a high-quality headset, go for good quality noise-isolating headphones instead.

Audio streaming device

Maybe you are going to use your new pair of headphones with one device. Maybe you’re using it with all audio streaming devices you have. Either way, make sure your headset is suitable. If you have a jack-less iPhone 7, it is best to get wireless headphones. If you have the said iPhone and a laptop, buy headphones and a lightning adapter.

To Conclude:

By now you know what noise cancelling and what noise isolating are, and how they work and what they are used for. However, I would like to add my personal opinion regarding noise isolating vs noise cancelling: if you don’t have enough money to buy high-quality noise cancelling headphones, just stick to noise isolating ones.

Read also: CVC Noise Cancellation [Complete Guide]

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