Transparency mode: just as important as ANC?


The latest generation of headphones and in-ear monitors feature various technologies such as wireless connectivity and active noise reduction (ANC). But it’s a new feature that is currently attracting attention: the Transparency mode. Unlike ANC, this technology incorporates surrounding noises into your listening experience. To do this, the Bluetooth headphones or in-ear monitors must have one or more outward-facing microphones. The latter are responsible for receiving surrounding sounds and adding them to the music in order to distribute them simultaneously. This is a safety feature for pedestrians and cyclists, but also a practical function that allows you to keep your earbuds in while having a conversation. This Transparency mode appeared a few years ago and will become indispensable in the future!

The new Yamaha TW-ES5A wireless IEMs feature a Transparency Mode so you can hear outside sounds while listening to music.

You’ve probably already heard of active noise cancelling technology. The latter is constantly being improved over the years. It allows youe headphones to reduce or even completely erase surrounding noises. To do this, True Wireless IEMs or noise-canceling headphones detect surrounding background noise and then eliminate it so you can fully enjoy your music. However, ambient sounds can sometimes be essential to the listener.

What is Transparency Mode?

Transparency mode lets outside sounds pass through so you can stay aware of your surroundings. Indeed, some situations require that you can hear surrounding noises. This is especially true at train stations and airports where you need to hear announcements made over the microphone, but also when crossing the street. It’s also a feature that’s great for starting a conversation without having to remove your headphones. Whatever the situation, the Transparency mode is a must for any music lover looking for a versatile piece of equipment that can adapt to their lifestyle.

With their Transparency Mode, the Bose QuietComfort QC45 headphones let you hear outside noise and bypass the passive isolation provided by their circumaural design.

Called “Ambient Awareness” by Sennheiser, “HearThrough” by Jabra, “Ambient Sound” by Yamaha, “Aware” by Bose, “Ambient Noise” by Sony, or “Transparency Mode” by Bang & Olufsen and Apple, it is progressively being added to new IEM and headphone models. This mode also bypasses the passive isolation offered by circumaural designs and memory foam eartips. This isolation can provide a noise reduction of up to -30 dB.

If you want to continue wearing your headphones while hearing surrounding noise, there are several ways to activate Transparency Mode. Generally, it is via the control app that you can activate or deactivate the Transparency mode. This feature is also sometimes accessible from the control buttons built into the headphones or IEMs.

Transparency mode: a growing trend

With the release of the new Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones, Christian Ern, consumer headphones portfolio manager at Sennheiser, says their primary goal is to create a model that the listener can use throughout the day without having to take it off. “We’re not going to make a product for every type of situation.” he says. “That’s why, for example, more and more headphones and earbuds are offering a transparency mode in addition to ANC.” Indeed, in public transport, active noise cancelling is essential to listen to your playlist without hearing the noise of the engine, the friction of the wheels or simply the conversations of other users. On the other hand, in the street, the Transparency mode is very useful to hear cars and safely cross the street.

Like the Apple AirPods Pro, more and more True Wireless earbuds feature a Transparency mode to adapt to everyday life.

Manufacturers are constantly innovating to perfect this recent technology and ensure a comfortable listening experience at all times. With some manufacturers like B&O, the Transparency mode can now be more or less pronounced. Like the adjustable ANC mode, it is possible to adapt the reproduction of ambient noise according to individual needs and the environment.

Bang & Olufsen allows you to adjust the level of transparency to tailor the presence of ambient sounds to your preferences.

We’ve seen noise-cancelling coming to Xbox S and X, but what about Transparency mode? How will it evolve? Will it become a must-have for future headphones and in-ear monitors? We’ll have to wait and see…

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