Active noise cancellation is about to improve with this Qualcomm technology

Qualcomm Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Earbuds that promise active noise cancellation are about to get more comfortable to wear and more dependable — at least if a new technology announced by Qualcomm delivers what it promises.

During the same IFA 2020 keynote where the chip maker introduced its new Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 compute platform for always-connected laptops, the company also took the wraps off its Qualcomm Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology. Qualcomm says its Adaptive ANC technology can improve user comfort while also delivering consistent sound quality.

As described by James Chapman, Qualcomm's vice president of voice, music and wearables, most active noise cancellation features really depend on how earbuds fit within your ears. To get the best sound experience, your earbuds need to provide a pretty tight fit within your ear, and that isn't always the most comfortable feeling for some users.

Qualcomm's Adaptive ANC technology does what it says on the label, adapting to how the earbud fits in a particular user's ear and making real-time adjustments to provide the best sound quality when in use. 

Thanks to Adaptive ANC, you won't need to calibrate your earbuds before using them or twist the earbud so that it forms a perfect seal in your ear. Instead, Qualcomm's technology should work out of the box and adapt to the environment around you. Theoretically, you should be able to go from listening to music to taking a call to interacting with any on-board digital assistant without any noticeable difference in sound quality or performance.

That's key, Chapman says, because Qualcomm's annual consumer survey on audio gear found that 71% of the 5,000 people surveyed considered active noise cancellation an important feature for wireless earbuds. In that same survey, respondents rated comfort to be as important as battery life on wireless earbuds.

Qualcomm plans to deliver its Adaptive ANC technology to the QCC514x system-on-chip unveiled this spring for audio devices. There's no timeline on when Adaptive ANC might find its way into shipping products, though.

You may think of Qualcomm primarily as a provider of chipsets for phones, virtual reality devices and even laptops, but the company also supplies components for the audio industry. Its list of audio hardware partners is essentially a who's who of some of the leading providers of audio gear, with Yamahah, JBL, Plantronics, Jabra, jVC and Skullcandy among the many makers of audio products that have worked with Qualcomm.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.