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The University of Southampton

Research project: Control strategies for active headsets

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Active noise reducing headsets are used to protect professionals in noisy environments, such as aircraft cabins, machine rooms, heavy vehicles and army vehicles. A combination of passive attenuation at the high frequencies and active attenuation at the low frequencies provide overall good performance, which made active headset the most commercially popular product incorporating active sound technology. Most active headsets use analogue feedback controllers designed around a loudspeaker and a microphone to control the sound at the ear.


Digital technology offer the potential of improved performance over the analogue systems for disturbances that require larger flexibility in control, e.g. time-varying noise (Rafaely, 1997, PhD thesis). In this case an adaptive controller can be used to track the time-varying disturbance thus offering attenuation for narrow-band noise, although stability of the system must be ensured (Rafaely and Elliott, 1996). Combination of analogue and digital controllers can be used to attenuate both broad-band and narrow-band components of the disturbing noise, thus incorporating the fast response of the analogue system to cancel broad-band noise, and the tracking capability of the adaptive controller to cancel time-varying tones (Rafaely, 1997 PhD thesis).

Recent studies at the ISVR, supported by industry, concentrated on evaluating the performance of digital controllers for active headset, and the integration of more than one control strategy in combined systems. With reduced size and cost of digital technologies, these are expected to play a more significant role in the design of future systems for active noise reducing headsets.

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