Active noise-cancelling headphones use a microphone, amplifier, and speaker to pick up, amplify, and play ambient noise in phase-reversed form; this to some extent cancels out unwanted noise from the environment without affecting the desired sound source, which is not picked up and reversed by the microphone. They require a power source, usually a battery, to drive their circuitry. Active noise cancelling headphones can attenuate ambient noise by 20 dB or more, but the active circuitry is mainly effective on constant sounds and at lower frequencies, rather than sharp sounds and voices. Some noise cancelling headphones are designed mainly to reduce low-frequency engine and travel noise in aircraft, trains, and automobiles, and are less effective in environments with other types of noise.
The QuietComfort 20 headphones have been around for years and years; and they’re essentailly an in-ear alterative to Bose’s QuietComfort 25. They offer the same great active noise-cancellation that the company is known for, just in a traditional wired and in-ear form factor. The QuietComfort 20 can also be switched to an “Aware” (aka ambient) mode, so you can better hear the world around you.
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Over-ear and on-ear headphones effectively block out outside sounds, allowing you to hear your music or whatever else you're listening to crisply and without distraction. Over-ear headphones are sometimes known as full-size headphones because they completely envelop the wearer's ear. This results in what's known as passive noise reduction, which makes these some of the most-preferred headphones available. The only drawback is that your ears and the skin around your ears can get warm and sweaty. These are usually the heaviest type of headphones.