Qualcomm hopes to topple AirPods Pro with ‘adaptive’ noise cancellation for true wireless earbuds

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Qualcomm is today announcing Adaptive Noise Cancellation for true wireless earbuds, which it calls “a new technology designed to deliver an improved user experience for earbuds with integrated ANC.” Adaptive Noise Cancellation will adjust sound performance in real time, according to the company, based on how the earbuds fit in a user’s ear. If the fit changes slightly, the Adaptive ANC will adapt to ensure consistent performance.

Sound familiar? This is almost exactly what Apple does with the AirPods Pro, which continuously adjust the level of noise cancellation 200 times per second. And the “adaptive EQ” feature of AirPods Pro automatically tunes sound output based on the shape of your ear. Qualcomm is trying to reach par with Apple in terms of these features and says that Adaptive ANC can automatically change audio quality “according to the tightness of fit and the level of leak-through no matter how or where the earbuds are being used.”

To this point, most true wireless earbuds have stuck with traditional active noise cancellation to drown out surrounding noise. Earbuds usually sample the sounds around you and create anti-phase sound waves to try and cancel them out.

Qualcomm claims Adaptive ANC should theoretically work for all styles of earbuds, including those with a traditional in-ear seal and also newer, open-type designs like the recent Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Comfort is key, with Qualcomm saying that it’s trying to “reduce the dependency on forming a tight seal so a user doesn’t need to push or twist the earbud into the ear.” According to the company, Adaptive ANC is also meant to work without requiring a fit test for eartips. And it applies to both music and voice calls, automatically adjusting the noise cancellation strength based on environmental conditions.

There haven’t yet been any true wireless earbuds announced with Qualcomm’s Adaptive ANC, but it likely won’t be long; the company already works with Jabra, Sennheiser, Bang & Olufsen, 1More, Audio Technica, Skullcandy, and other earbud makers, so you can expect Qualcomm’s latest ANC advancements to find their way to a shipping product soon.

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