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How Do ANR Headsets Work?

by John White |

How do active noise reduction headsets work?

ANR (Active Noise Reduction) Headset Technology 


ANR (Active Noise Reduction) aviation headsets use active noise-cancelling technology to reduce distracting background noise providing exceptionally reduced high ambient noise like pilots experience in an aircraft cockpit.

Active noise-cancelling headsets have components not present in ordinary headphones:

  • Noise-canceling circuitry – Electronics in the ear piece create a noise-cancelling wave that is 180° out of phase with the ambient noise. This wave acts like a noise eraser: it cancels out the annoying sounds that surround you without diminishing the audio you want to hear. The result…an ability to hear critical in-flight communications.
  • Speaker - The "anti-sound" created by the noise-canceling circuitry is fed into the headsets' speakers along with the normal audio; the anti-sound erases the noise by destructive interference, but does not affect the desired sound waves in the normal audio wavelength range.
  • Microphone – Noise-cancelling headsets feature a miniature microphone in the earpiece that picks up ambient noise (such as engines, windscreen noise, cabin noise, etc.)
  • Battery – Noise-cancelling electronics are battery-powered.

Active noise-canceling headsets can do everything that passive ones can do -- their very structure creates a barrier that blocks high-frequency sound waves.

They also add an extra level of noise reduction by actively erasing lower-frequency sound waves. How do ANR headsets accomplish this?

They actually create their own sound waves that mimic the incoming noise in every respect except one: the headphone's sound waves are 180 degrees out of phase with the intruding waves.


    Using these components, noise-canceling headsets are able to provide an additional reduction in noise of 20 decibels. That means about 70 percent of ambient noise is effectively blocked, making noise-canceling headphones ideal for pilots who operate with a high level of background noise.

    While ANR headsets do a good job distinguishing between the audio a pilot wants to hear and the background noise he or she wants to keep out, some pilots say that they compromise sound quality by muffling the sounds. Users can also experience a change in air pressure, although ports built into the ear cup are meant to vent air trapped behind the speakers.

    In spite of these tradeoffs, many pilots would never go back to normal audio headphones. That's because noise-canceling headphones do more than reduce noise. They also help alleviate pilot fatigue while flying, which can result from exposure to low-frequency noise for an extended period of time. 

    PilotUSA ANR Headsets

    PilotUSA offers 4 different ANR headsets ranging in price from a low of $ 305.00 to a high of $ 475.00.

    While not nearly as expensive as the Bose A20 or Lightspeed Zulu the PA-1779T ANR headset is the only self-contained headset in the industry today with a rechargeable NiMH battery and a standard 110V wall charger. 

    The headset is cell/satellite phone capable, and has a “true stereo” input jack so that the user can listen to music from a CD player, IPOD®, MP3® or external radio. The cell phone system is designed to work with either newer “Smartphones” that use a 3.5mm (4 conductor) input or older phones that use a 2.5mm input.

    It is also the only headset to be worn in both the USA (International Space Station) and Russian space programs.

    Find it in our store at: PilotUSA PA-1779T 

    It also comes in a helicopter and panel mounted versions.

    The other models can be found here:

    PilotUSA PA-1771T

    PilotUSA PA-1761T

    PilotUSA PA-5050

    If you are ready to have a quality ANR headset at less than 1/2 the cost of a Bose A20 or Lightspeed Zulu, then give one of these a try.

    I think you will be surprised.

    PilotUSA ANR Headsets compete very well against more expense Bose and Lightspeed headsets

    How Do ANR Headsets Work?

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