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Active Noise Cancellation in Headphones

Active Noise Cancellation in Headphones

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Published by Manish Gaur

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Published by: Manish Gaur on Jun 09, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 Active noise reducing headphones are theapplication of active noise control .Activenoise control brought a revolutionarychange in detection and cancellation of low frequency noise. In this paper the authorsdiscuss the implementation of active noisecontrol to headphones.
 Noise is any unwanted signal which isirritating and loud. Reduction of noise isimportant as prolonged exposure to acousticnoise of high level can lead to permanentloss in hearing. The presence of noise isinevitable but its effect can be reduced toalmost zero by using suitable techniques.The passive methods include the use of ear  buds, earmuffs or circumaural headphones[1][2]. The traditional passive methods of noise cancellation are not efficient enough incase of low frequency noise due to longwavelength of sound. Active noisecancellation is another technique which isused to attenuate the noise signal and is veryeffective.In active headphones the active noisereduction is the characteristic for theacoustic noise cancellation. The activeheadphones diminish the noise which is present in the environment. Suchheadphones can be used in very noisyenvironment to prevent the person using itfrom the excessive noise. These headphonescancel the effect of noise by generating ananti-noise signal thus cancelling out anynoise present at low frequencies effectively.The concept of active noise has existed sincethe beginning of 20
century. The first patent regarding the possibility oattenuating the background noise was issuedto Paul Lueg in 1933. The true research of active noise reduction in headphones wasdone by Dr. Amar Bose in 1978. In 1986,Bose applied the noise cancellationtechnology to develop headphones to protectthe hearing of the pilots participating in firstnon-stop around-the-world flight [4].
The passive methods are used mainly inevery headphone for the removal of thehigher and middle frequency noise. Anykind of headphones can provide passiveattenuation. This is because the material of which the headphones are made block highfrequency noise. To provide betteattenuation bulky headphones with stifcushions are used. But there are alwayslimitations for the size, thus suchheadphones fail for low frequency noise.
Active headphones eliminate the unwantednoise signals completely. They do this by producing a wave which is identical to thenoise wave, but the wave produced is out of  phase by 180 degrees. After this thegenerated wave is superimposed on thenoise wave. Thus active noise cancellation is based on the principle that if two wavesidentical and in phase are added then theremagnitude increases. On the other hand if the second wave is identical but with exactlyopposite phase the signal diminishes asshown in fig1.
Thus the user with the headphone is able tolisten clearly due to the destructiveinterference. Fig 2 shows how noise isreduced to silence using destructiveinterference.
FEED BACK ACTIVE NOISECONTROL SYSTEMIn this case the circuit is a closed one and amicrophone is placed inside the headphonenear the loudspeaker as shown in fig3. Themicrophone is used for providing errocorrection. The signal is fed back to thedesigned audio signal input as an errocorrection for the noise.
B.FEED FORWARD ACTIVE NOISECONTROLThis is the mostly used active noisecancellation technique. It uses digital filter which can correct both phase and amplitudeerror. In this technique a noise referencemicrophone as shown in fig4 is used. Thismicrophone detects the noise as referencenoise signal which is adaptively filtered andfed to the loudspeaker in the headphone. Theloudspeaker emits an anti noise signal. Thisanti-noise signal is known as secondarysignal which cancels the primary noisesignal. Active feed forward control dependsmainly on the detection of the noise signal.It depends a lot on timely detection of thenoise signal. The delay between thedetection of two noise signal should be less. Nowadays more and more DSP algorithmsare made to improve the functioning of theactive feed forward control. The erromicrophone tunes the adaptive filter. Thetuning of the filter is done in absence of theaudio signal.C.HYBRID ACTIVE NOISECONTROL SYSTEMThe noise cancellation over a wide range of frequencies is achieved by combining thefeedback system and the feed forwardsystem into one. The advantage of suchsystem is that it combines the feature of bothANC systems.
Fig. 5. Block diagrams of Hybrid ANC system
The combined active noise control systemmay suffer from the problem ocomputational complexity but the resultreceived from this system makes it better innoise reduction performance and stabilitythan the individual systems at lowfrequencies.
The active and passive attenuation methodsused in headphones have been discussed. Itis found from the study that both thetechniques complement each other. At lower frequencies active attenuation is better whileat higher frequencies passive attenuation is better. Combining all three characteristicsystems in a single headphone will be bestand optimal solution to be used at widerange of frequencies.Protection from noise in headphones hasreached a stage where commercial systemsare available. Considerable improvement in

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