Isolation describes a pair of headphones' ability to isolate you from the outside world. This means that the headphones should be able to block ambient noise from distracting your listening experience and also prevent audio leakage, which can be disturbing to the people around you.
In an office-like environment, well-isolated headphones will not only prevent you from hearing the surrounding chatter and noise but will also prevent your audio from disturbing colleagues. Being in an airplane or on a busy city commute are examples of loud environments that require great isolation in order to not deteriorate the audio you’re listening to.
The isolation score is based on our noise isolation and leakage tests for the headphones below.
Noise isolation describes how efficient a headphone is at blocking ambient noise. A poorly isolated headphone will let a lot of noise seep into the ear cups or earbuds, which can ruin your listening experience, especially in loud environments like a busy city commute or in a plane. However, the loud sound naturally overpowers noise of lower amplitude, so listening habits affect the level of noise isolation required.
The noise isolation score dictates the level of ambient noise that will be blocked or canceled out and is assigned significantly more weight in the isolation contribution than leakage.
Leakage describes the amount sound that escapes the headphones. Depending on the seal achieved and the volume at which the audio is played, the escaping sound can be very distracting to the people around you.
Leakage importance will depend on listening habits and environments. A leaky headphone is fine if you do not plan to use them in public. Some headphone designs even take advantage of that to deliver a more open sound. We assigned less weight to the isolation score for leakage because its importance varies with the listener’s environment and listening habits.
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Isolation describes a pair of headphones’ ability to block ambient noise and prevent audio leakage. Noise isolation is important in loud environments, as it will stop ambient noise from ruining your listening experience. Leakage is slightly less significant, but this depends on your environment and the people around you. The ideal isolated headphones do not allow a lot of sound to leak and efficiently cancel out the ambient noise from your surroundings.