Measuring Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (ANC Headphones)

Active noise cancellation tests are a common headphone measurement. SoundCheck makes these measurements easily, and can even measure the battery drain caused by active noise cancellation.

The configuration for active noise cancellation test is similar to a regular headphone test, in that you need a head and torso simulator or alternative headphone test fixture, and an audio measurement system such as SoundCheck. Ideally, the audio interface (e.g. AmpConnect 621 or AudioConnect 2) also powers the microphones in the head and torso simulator, but a stand-alone microphone power supply (e.g SoundConnect 2) can also be used. Background noise is generated by the SoundCheck software and physically, can be as simple as a single speaker playing pink noise, or as complex as multi-channel speaker system playing ETSI-standard background noise.

Whatever your test configuration, the general principal of making active noise cancellation measurements is the same. Usually you first measure the unoccluded noise, in other words, the noise captured by the head and torso simulator without the headphones on. You can then measure passive attenuation by placing the headphones on the test head and re-measuring, and then the active attenuation by turning on the noise cancellation. Attenuation is displayed over the frequency range of the test.


Example Output of Headphone Active Noise Cancellation Test (click picture to enlarge)


Example Test Configurations


Simple configuration to test headphone ANC using just a single speaker to generate the background noise


More complex configuration using 4 speakers to create ETSI-standard background noise, along with a Bluetooth interface to test the ANC properties of a Bluetooth hearable device.


A headphone Active Noise Cancellation Measurement using a Head and Torso simulator and a single speaker is demonstrated in this short video:


Listen’s free test sequence to measure ANC of headphones is a great starting point for ANC headphone test development. This sequence generates the three measurements described in the video, and is easily customized to your specific requirements.


SoundCheck can also be used to measure battery drain with Active Noise Cancellation. This is a more complex configuration and requires an external battery pack, along with a DC Connect power supply and current monitor.

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