Sony Noise Canceling Headphones Technology


A New Era in Personal Audio

What do noise canceling headphones mean to you? If you do a lot of air travel or use public transportation, it means an escape from distractions as you try to zone out on your commute or trip. If you work from home, it means a respite from the sound of children screaming while you tackle important tasks. If you just want to listen to your music wherever you are, it means you can enjoy those sweet sounds without any unsweet sounds creeping in. Noise canceling has changed the landscape of personal audio. What was once a luxury or specialty item has become ubiquitous in the world of personal audio, marrying great sound with amazing noise-blocking capability. And it's not just about convenience; it can help save your hearing. Lots of background noise will cause you to crank your volume in an attempt to compensate. With noise cancelation, you can keep the volume lower.

Noise Canceling Technology Has Roots in Aviation

Sony did not make the first noise canceling headphone, but it was a Sony headphone that sparked the creation.

Wait, what?

At is turns out, Dr. Amar Bose (founder of the same-named audio company) was using the first Sony headphone, the MDR-3, during a long flight in 1978. He was disappointed to hear lots of ambient noise that diminished enjoyment of his music, so he began working on a design that would become the first commercially available noise-canceling headset, the Bose Aviation Headset.

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Noise canceling technology was actually developed for the field of aviation a couple of decades prior. Dr. Lawrence Fogel is credited with inventing the concept for noise-canceling headphones in the 1950s. Noise canceling systems were created to reduce noise for pilots in the cockpit area; to help make their communications easier; and to protect their hearing.

The technology has come a long way, with noise canceling headphones now targeted toward consumers who both need and want to block outside sounds. From the airplane passenger who wants to get some shut-eye on a loud flight to the home office worker who needs to block household sounds to the frazzled apartment dweller who wants to enjoy music without hearing their neighbors arguing, noise canceling headphones have numerous consumer applications.

How does noise canceling work?

Nowadays noise-cancellation (or noise reduction and noise isolation) is an advanced technology integrating microphones and special circuitry into headphones. The way it works is that the microphones are placed inside the ear cups to pick up ambient or background noise and external sounds that cannot be blocked passively. The circuitry inside the ear cups then takes the signal from the microphone, track the frequency and amplitude of the incoming wave, and create a 180-degree out-of-phase wave associated with the noise. This out-of-phase signal is then amplified into the headphones along with the music, thus effectively “canceling out” the ambient noise by destructive interference. This allows the normal audio to continue to be amplified, unimpeded.

There are two types of noise-canceling technologies: active and passive. Active noise-canceling (ANC) essentially means that the device needs a power source to work, such as a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Passive noise canceling means that the device itself can block out noise on its own, without an additional power source. Sony has become a hands-down leader in ANC headphones and earphones, with the WH-1000XM4 headphone and WF-1000XM4 earbuds regularly topping lists of the best wireless headphones.

Sony Noise Canceling Headphones: Quick History


Sony’s first noise canceling headphone, the MDR-NC10, was released in 1995. They reduced outside noise by 70 percent. The noise canceling circuit sensed outside sound with the built-in microphone and sent an equal but opposite canceling signal to the headphones. And if you needed to hear outside sound temporarily, you could press the "hot line switch" to admit outside sound. Not only did these noise cancelling headphones block unwanted sound, but they also fit comfortably in the user’s ear with Fontopia design, which made them great for travel, work environments and outdoor use.

Fast forward to 2008, when Sony introduced the world's first digital noise canceling headphones, the MDR-500D. Touted to block 99 percent of noise in the 160Hz range (think jet engine), these headphones had three environmental modes catered to various user scenarios as well as a switch to let outside noise in.

Sony's first wireless earbuds with noise canceling, the WF-1000x, were released in 2017. Four years later, the WF-1000XM4 noise canceling earbuds contain some of the most advanced technology available!

"An exceptional listening experience that’s tailored just for you. The WF-1000XM4 truly wireless headphones take industry-leading noise cancelling and audio quality to the next level. Made to fit every ear, they offer a personalized experience that adjusts to every situation." -Sony on the WF-1000XM4

Explore Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Canceling Earbuds

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The WF-1000XM4 truly wireless earbuds take industry-leading noise cancelling and audio quality to the next level. Made to fit every ear, they offer a personalized experience that adjusts to every situation. Everything in the WF-1000XM4 has been designed from the ground up, like the new Integrated Processor V1, specially developed by Sony, that cancels more noise than ever; a new driver unit with more performance; noise-sensing microphones; and innovative Noise Isolation Earbud Tips with a more stable fit.

Key features:

  • Evolved Digital Noise Cancelling with Integrated Processor V1
  • Sound quality with High-Resolution Audio Wireless
  • Smart listening and clear call quality
  • Ergonomic surface design for stable fit
  • Water resistant and long battery life for everyday use
  • Easy wireless charging with Qi technology


  • DSEE Extreme: Yes
  • Driver Unit: 6 mm
  • Frequency Response (Bluetooth® Communication): 20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz sampling) 20 Hz–40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz sampling, 990 kbps) / 20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz sampling)
  • Headphone Type: Truly Wireless
  • Magnet: High-power neodymium magnets
  • Waterproof: Yes (IPX4)
  • Weight: Approx. 1.45 oz


  • Ambient Sound Mode: Yes
  • Quick Attention: Yes


  • Bluetooth® version: BLUETOOTH Specification Version5.2
  • Profile: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Supported Audio Format(s): SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Supported Content Protection: SCMS-T


  • Battery life (continuous communication time): Max. 5.5 hrs (NC On) / Max. 6.0 hrs (NC Off)
  • Battery charge time: Approx. 1.5 hrs
  • Battery life (continuous music playback time): Max. 8 hrs (NC On) / Max. 12 hrs (NC Off)

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones


The WH-1000XM4 combines Sony's most advanced noise canceling technology with exceptional sound quality and a range of smart features for an unparalleled listening experience.

Key features:

  • HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1, Bluetooth Audio SoC and a dual noise sensor let you listen without distractions
  • Personal Noise Cancelling Optimiser and Atmospheric Pressure Optimising
  • High-quality audio with DSEE Extreme™ and LDAC
  • Adaptive Sound Control automatically adjusts ambient sound settings to suit your location and behavior
  • Wireless freedom with BLUETOOTH® technology


  • Headphone Type: Closed, dynamic
  • Driver Unit: 1.57 ", dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
  • Magnet: Neodymium
  • Diaphragm: Aluminum coated LCP
  • Frequency Response: 4 Hz-40,000 Hz
  • Frequency Response (Bluetooth® Communication): 20 Hz-20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz Sampling)/20 Hz-40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz Sampling, 990 kbps)
  • Sensitivities (dB/mW): 104.5 dB / mW (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on), 101 dB / mW (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off)
  • Cord Type: Single-sided (detachable)
  • Cord Length: Headphone cable (approx. 3.94 ft, OFC strands, gold-plated stereo mini plug)
  • Plug: Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini plug
  • Wearing Style: Circumaural
  • NFC: Yes
  • DSEE HX: Yes
  • Passive Operation: Yes


  • Battery charge method: USB


  • Battery charge time: Approx. 3 hours (full charge)
  • Battery Life (continuous music playback time): Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 38 hours (NC OFF)
  • Battery Life (Waiting Time): Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 200 hours (NC OFF)
  • Bluetooth® version: Version 5.0
  • Effective Range: Line of sight approx. 30 ft (10 m)
  • Frequency Range: 2.4 GHz band (2.4000-2.4835 GHz)
  • Profile: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Supported Audio Format(s): SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Supported Content Protection: SCMS-T


  • Noise Canceling ON/OFF Switch: Yes
  • Personal NC Optimizer: Yes
  • Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing: Yes
  • Ambient Sound Mode: Yes
  • Quick Attention: Yes

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Earbuds

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Sony WF-1000XM3 truly wireless headphones combine advanced noise cancellation with high quality sound, smart listening features, Bluetooth® and NFC connectivity, all-day battery life, and long-listening comfort.

Key features:

  • Digital Noise Cancelling with HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e and Dual Noise Sensor Technology
  • Truly wireless design with BLUETOOTH® wireless technology
  • Up to 24 hours of battery life3 for all-day listening
  • Quick Attention function lets you chat easily without removing your headphones
  • Modern classic design sits securely in your ears


  • Type: Closed, dynamic
  • Driver unit: 0.24 ", dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
  • Magnet: Neodymium
  • DSEE HX: Yes
  • Frequency response: 4Hz-40,oookHz
  • Frequency response (Bluetooth® communication): 20Hz - 20,000Hz (44.1kHz Sampling)
  • NFC: Yes (Case)
  • Noise canceling on/off switch: Yes


  • Weight: Approx. 0.3 oz each
  • Case weight: Approx. 2.8 oz
  • Color: Black or Silver


  • Battery charge time: Approx. 1.5 Hours (Full charge)
  • Battery charge method: USB (with case)
  • Case charge time: Approx. 3.5 Hours
  • Battery life (continuous music playback time): Max. 6 hours (NC ON), Max. 8 hours (NC OFF)
  • Battery life (continuous communication time): Max. 4 hours (NC ON), Max. 4.5 hours (NC OFF)
  • Battery life (waiting time): Max. 9 hours (NC ON), Max. 15 hours (NC OFF)


  • Bluetooth version: Version 4.2
  • Effective range: Line of sight approx. 30 ft (10 m)
  • Frequency range 2.4 GHz band (2.4000–2.4835 GHz)
  • Profile: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Supported audio format(s): SBC, AAC
  • Supported content protection: SCMS-T