Expect more noise cancellation across earphones in the coming months, as chip-maker Qualcomm comes up with a way to make noise cancellation more adaptive to fit and the world you walk in.
Take a look around at any electronics store, online or offline in the real world, and you’l quickly find there’s a lot of choice in pretty much every category you might be looking to buy in. A cornucopia of computers, stacks of smartphones, a torrent of TVs; it’s all waiting, you just have to research what you want.
The same is true with portable sound, with plenty to pick from there, be it wired, wireless, headphone or in-ear. Some of it is better than others, and regardless of whether you want to hear the outside world with open-audio or block yourself off with noise cancellation, there is plenty to choose from.
But it’s not all created equal, and while there are many ways to democratise technology, it doesn’t always happen for everything. The best gear can be pretty expensive, often thanks to how much work the teams have put in, through design, engineering, and R&D.
However there may be some hope on the horizon to bring better technologies to more earphones overall, and it might be coming from an unlikely source.
Qualcomm, the maker of Snapdragon chips for mobile phones, is this week launching a new chipset designed to deliver active noise cancellation (ANC) to earphones, using something Qualcomm calls “Adaptive ANC”. Set to provide manufacturers with a reference design to build earphones, Adaptive ANC arrives on Qualcomm’s latest Bluetooth system-on-a-chip, the QCC514x, which supports voice assistants alongside the noise cancellation technology.
Noise cancellation technology can vary wildly between brands, and with this, it seems Qualcomm is trying to create a degree of uniformity, approaching adaptive noise cancellation in a way that deals with fit and the outside world.
This approach for adaptive noise cancellation seems less about adapting to all sounds, and more about adjusting sound through fit while monitoring the outside noise. While that might not be adaptive active noise cancellation in the way we expect, it’s still interesting all the same.
In fact, it will apparently adjust the sound for environmental changes, changing the strength of the noise cancellation by what the earphones hear in the background as you walk. That could make noise cancellation a more likely inclusion for fitness-focused in-earphones moving forward, and possibly bring down the premium that noise cancelling technology often adds.
“We have designed our Qualcomm Adaptive ANC to help customers deliver consistent performance levels and great sound for the largest possible number of consumers,” said James Chapman, Vice President and General Manager of Voice, Music and Wearables at Qualcomm.
While the idea of more noise cancellation across the industry is exciting, Qualcomm’s announcement of the technology hasn’t come with product announcements, at least not yet. We suspect there will be plenty in short order, but for now, more noise cancellation is coming, and it just might not have to cost you an arm, a leg, or even your ears to get it.