Noise Canceling Headphones

Written by Robert Mac
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Noise canceling headphones are finally here! After decades of being just out of reach, the technology behind these wonders is now affordable enough to make them available to the general public. Now you can join Captain Kirk and all your sci-fi heroes in creating "anti-noise."

Futuristic Noise Canceling Headphones Are Available Today

The theory behind noise canceling headphones dates back to the 1930s, but more significant work didn't happen until the 1950s. It wasn't until the arrival of modern computers--specifically, the fast processors of modern computers--that this technology, called active noise control, became a legitimate field of study. And now it's so mainstream you can get it at the corner electronics store.

The idea behind noise canceling headphones is simple enough: it comes straight out of high school physics. Sound (and unwanted sound, or noise) moves in waves, right? And if two waves of the same dimensions run into each other, they cancel . . . right? So, if we create a sound wave that's the opposite of, say, a noisy background, we could cancel them both.

Processors Are the Final Ingredient in Noise Canceling Headphones

On paper, it works like a charm; you create a wave that's the inverse of the noise you want to cancel, send both waves at the same time, and they will equal zero, or silence. But creating a sound wave in near-real time isn't easy. You need super fast processors.

All the other components to make noise canceling headphones were in place. Thick headphones for blocking out as much sound as possible, microphones for listening to the background noise, and an amplifier to create the anti-noise sound wave. Finally, a processor that was fast, small, and inexpensive enough was available--and noise canceling headphones became a reality.

Noise Canceling Headphones Turn Travel Time into Silence

Headphones are the first successful commercial products that use noise canceling technology, and the best place to see them in use is at airports. Because they reduce background noise by nearly 30 decibels, they are ideal for noisy places when you're alone--like traveling. You can turn them on to create a sound vacuum--just silence--or play your favorite music or movie without any distracting ambient din.

And speaking of traveling, there are other ways to make a trip as comfortable as possible. Since anti-noise headphones are very affordable now--in the ballpark of a hundred dollars--and very compact, you can afford to bring along other comfy travel gear. How about your own silk sheet, pillow case, and sleep mask to make travel time sleepy time, too?

Traveling by airplane doesn't have to be uncomfortable--there are accessories to make every aspect of flying a little more tolerable. All-natural homeopathic remedies reduce jet-lag, colorful and practical tote bags make packing easy, and electronic gadgets translate foreign phrases in a snap. There are even accessories for big, tall, and restless people who find the tight seating on airplanes a little too restrictive.


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