Qualcomm has released a new version of the feature it calls adaptive active noise reduction (AANC) in an effort to help headphone manufacturers produce more efficient ANC that needs a little less of the customer to get it working well.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) can be a huge advantage on a pair of wireless headphones or wireless earbuds if well implemented. But the system has its problems to prevent outside noises from entering the ear canal, not the least of which is a fairly strict necessity for an ear canal.
In order to make existing ANC earbud designs more effective, it has the potential to enable new designs – such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live to provide the same level of ANC without the need for silicone eartips that penetrate the ear canal.
Besides being able to compensate if an earbud doesn’t match perfectly, AANC can also adapt dynamically to the conditions as they shift.
For ANC-equipped products like Apple’s AirPods Pro or the Amazon Echo Buds it’s not unusual to ask buyers to take a fit test in-app. This is partly to ensure the highest quality sound, but also as a way of ensuring that people get the full benefit of ANC capabilities from the earbuds. The gap between good fit and good fit can be substantial in ANC e terms right now.
With the AANC of Qualcomm, the expectation is that these fit tests may become a thing of the past, or at least not an ANC necessity that still performs reasonably good.
If Qualcomm’s AANC eliminates people’s need to twist and push earbuds into their ears to get a better seal, that will make many people happy.