Noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds are officially a thing now, but they’re not cheap. Hopefully that’s going to change soon, as Qualcomm has announced some new silicon that could enable active noise-cancellation in more affordable true wireless buds.
The QCC514x and QCC304x (catchy, I know) chipsets both feature fully integrated, dedicated active noise-cancelling (ANC) support on the chip. That’s not such a big deal for the premium 514x, but the 304x is destined to power more affordable mid-range and budget headphones.
That means that so long as manufacturers play along and built in the necessary microphones to make active noise-cancellation work, we could see the feature filter down to more true wireless earbuds soon.
Right now the highest profile noise-cancelling earbuds are Apple’s AirPods Pro, though you’ll also find ANC support in the Sony WF-1000XM3, Sennheiser’s new Momentum True Wireless 2, and the Libratone Track Air+. At £179/$199 the Libratones are the cheapest of the lot, which isn’t really saying much.
The new Qualcomm chipsets should help with battery life on noise-cancelling buds too. The company says that integrating the noise-cancelling module means that it should have almost no effect on battery life, beyond the extra power to kick the microphones on, delivering a 22% improved battery life compared to ‘competitor X’ while noise-cancelling is on and music is playing.
Beyond ANC, both new Qualcomm chipsets include support for improved mirroring – so that you can seamlessly switch between stereo sound in both ears or mono sound in either earbud, with the microphones adapting accordingly – along with better integrated voice assistant support.
We don’t know yet when any headphones powered by the two new chipsets will arrive on the market of course, and you shouldn’t expect to see many budget noise-cancelling earbuds just yet. The first pairs might appear by the end of the year assuming supply chains recover, or more likely pop up in early 2021.