Noise Canceling Head Phones - In and Over Ear at the Same Time


macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2013
I own Audio-Technica over ear noise canceling headphones that I bought a few years ago and I have been happy with them. I am considering upgrading to Bose QC20 in-ear headphones and was thinking:

What would happen if I use the QC20 in-ear and over them, I put in the Audio-Technica (without the cable of course)?

Does it mean I will get double the noise cancelation? Has anyone tried something similar? It will probably look weird but will it get me the results? :D


macrumors member
Jan 7, 2014
I have a pair of ATH-ANC7b by Audio Technica, most of the noise canceling happens from noise blocking. The noise canceling (using phase inversion) is only moderately effective, best on consistent tones.

Basically if you want to simulate the effect, grab a pair of ear plugs and put on your headphones and turn off and on your headphones, I doubt you'll hear much of a difference.

The most effective noise canceling/noise blocking headphones use the double or triple flange inserts that tend to come with Etymotics or higher end Klipsch earbuds. The Etymotic Research triple flange tips (not the most comfortable) claim 35-42 dB, having bought (and later returned a pair) I can attest they're far far more effective than any noise canceling technologies. In fact, they're more effective than most shooting ear protection, which usually drops about 28 dB. Also its important remember, that noise blocking/canceling is more effective on shorter wave forms as they carry less energy, so deep bass signals will be the hardest to to effectively block. If you have inconsiderate person blasting bassy music all hours, almost no amount of hearing protection/noise canceling will block all of it out.

The secret of noise dampening/isolation is dead air, and a triple flange design gives you two dead air chambers. The double flange designs give you one dead air chamber.

If you're looking for extreme noise isolation, simply wearing any close air earphones combined with in-ear monitors will provide more sound blocking as you're adding another layer of dead air. If you're looking for the most effective noise isolation, Etymotic Research is it. Covering your ears with your Audio Technica will undoubtedly add yet more noise blocking, but most because of the physics of headphones creating a seal around your ears. You'd like be better off buying earphones designed for hearing protection combined with earbuds than the ATs specifically.


macrumors demi-god
Oct 6, 2009
I have to agree with Mr. Sea Cow. I have Etymotic in-ear headphones and find that they are more effective than my Bose active noise canceling over ear headphones.


macrumors 68020
Feb 28, 2009
Thirded for Etymotics. While they won't (can't) block loud bass, with those slightly uncomfortable triple-flange tips in, you won't be able to hear much at all.

It can actually be somewhat unnerving at times, so they've come up with an app called Awareness, which will take the microphone input from your iPhone or iPod and play it along with your content so you can hear:


macrumors 65816
Jan 23, 2010
San Diego, CA USA
I have a slightly different setup with the same idea. It can be effective. But it's important to understand what each part is doing.

Let's start with the over-the-ear Bose Noise Cancellation headphones. It blocks sounds in two ways. One is physical isolation. That is, the cups over your ears. That is most effective at blocking higher frequencies. Next is the 'active' noise cancellation. In the Bose headsets, that is primary designed to block the lower "rumbling" sound hear in rolling cars or the engine drone in airplanes. I think Bose technology does a pretty nice job overall. I'm a fan of Bose noise-cancellation headphones as far as the noise cancellation goes.

So what's the second part for me? I happen to wear in-ear hearing aids. They are custom-fit to my ears so they fit very nicely. Guess what happens when I turn them off? They turn into pretty effective ear plugs. In-ear headphones should be similar.

These 'plugs' are most effective at blocking higher frequencies, but less effective at blocking airplane drone.

When combined together, they make an effective combination. I have used that combination on planes when I want to get some rest. Turn off the hearing aids and turn on the noise-cancellation over-the-ear Bose headphones. It's quite isolating.

You wouldn't need in-ear noise cancellation to get the same effect. Just use ear plugs plus the over-the-ear noise cancellation.
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