What is Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones? Everything you need to Know

What is Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones

First of all, everyone should own a pair of headphones with Ambient Sound mode. Why? ‘Cause, it’s a freaking brilliant invention and even a life-saving one!

Imagine you’re at your workplace, you got a break and you decided to enjoy some music. You put on your headphones and get fully immersed in it. At the very moment, your strict not-so-sweet boss is calling for you urgently! But you’re so lost in your music and with your amazing noise-canceling headphones, you cannot hear him. What happens next? He is pissed and your relaxing break turns into a nightmare.

Now imagine you did have Ambient Sound mode activated on your headphones. You could have heard your boss calling, responded immediately and proceeded to have a stress-free life.

Ambient Sound mode enables you to enjoy your music without any noisy disturbance but also keeps your ears open just enough to listen to the surrounding sounds that you should hear.

I bet you’re thinking Great invention! Will try it! But what is Ambient Sound Mode exactly? Care to explain?

SURE! That’s what I’m here for!

What is Ambient Sound?

Ambient Sound refers to the “background sound” i.e. the surrounding sounds you hear like birds chirping, dogs barking, trains whistling, cars honking, traffic buzzing, boss talking, and so on. Note that these “sounds” only include the sounds that are nearby or immediately next to you.

It does not include if your boss is like 50 feet away from you and calling your name and you’re unable to hear him. It’s not an Ambient sound. Ambient sound mode on headphones cannot do anything about it. It’s your boss’s fault (if you can convince him so).

People often wonder, are there any bad influences of Ambient Sound?

There is no bad influence of Ambient noise on your health. However, it can affect the audio output of your headphones (sound leakage or inaccurate sound motions). But, for casual listening purposes, the compromised audio output should not bother you.

Rather it’s helpful for people who want to be aware of their surroundings all the time. It has also been found helpful to people who want to listen to some relaxing music and fall asleep but also be aware of their surroundings.

However, it is not suitable for audiophiles or professionals who need to solely focus on the audio.

So, What is Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones?

women wearing headphones at workplace

This is where it gets interesting. Ambient Sound Mode is a setting or a feature or a technology on your headphones that enables you to hear any kind of ambient sound whilst you are enjoying your music with your headphones on. This technology is found in both the big earcup headphones and wireless earbuds.

This mode particularly comes in very handy when you’re out on a walk by the road where you need to be able to hear the cars around you or when you’re in a room full of people where you wanna enjoy some music but also be able to listen to the people talking.

This mode is very similar to the noise-canceling mode. Likewise, you can switch it on or turn it off as you please. But there are some differences between the two modes.

Want to know about noise-canceling technology on headphones? Click on the link: Noise Canceling vs Noise Isolating Headphones– What’s the Difference?

Ambient Sound Mode VS Noise Canceling Mode

Points of differencesAmbient Sound ModeNoise Canceling Mode
Sound BlockingIt enables you to hear only surrounding sounds that are closer to you. It actively or passively cancels/blocks out external noise to a lot extent.
MechanismIt detects the ambient sound around you and enables them to pass through your headphones but does not let in a lot of noise.It can actively cancel out noise by capturing the noise waves and creating its opposite waves to nullify the sound, or by its physical design that passively blocks out noise.
Ideal forIdeal for when you want to enjoy music but also want to be aware of your surroundings at the same time.Ideal for when you want to fully focus on your music without any external disturbance.

Why should you have Ambient Sound Mode on your headphones?

Ambient Sound Mode is essential and necessary in situations where you need to be aware of your surroundings.

Like when you’re outdoors for walking, jogging, cycling, etc. and you wish o listen to some music but at the same time, it’s also important for you to be aware of your surroundings for safety reasons.

Similarly, when you’re at your workplace you can communicate with your colleagues and be attentive to your surroundings while listening to some audio on your headphones.

It is highly recommended to use a pair of headphones with Ambient Sound mode for your day-to-day lives unless you’re gonna use it for professional reasons where you have to focus solely on the audio and cannot let any noise slip in (that’s where noise-canceling headphones come in).

Our Top Picks:

Samsung Galaxy Buds and Ambient Sound Mode

samsung galaxy buds

Samsung Galaxy Buds have a wide range of versions (Live, Pro, Plus, etc.) that offer Ambient Sound Mode. You have to enable the setting using an app called Galaxy Wearable App. However, the App is not available for iOS users.

Exception: Ambient Sound Mode on Samsung Galaxy Buds+ can also be activated from an app called Buds App that’s available on iPhone 7 or later with iOS 10 or higher.


What is adaptive noise cancellation?

It is a bigger name for Ambient Sound mode. Nothing different.

Is white noise and ambient noise the same?

No. Although they have the same intensity and amplitude, their frequencies are different (it is known as “flat spectral density”. Ambient noise is much more pleasing to hear than white noise. White noise is more like a random signal, similar to the static noise you hear when your TV loses signal.

How do I use the NC/Ambient button on my headphones?

It depends on the number of times your press the button while in the noise-canceling mode. A single press activates the Ambient Mode. Double press deactivates both the noise-canceling and the ambient mode. Triple press activates the noise canceling mode. Some headphones have separate apps to control the ambient mode.


Nowadays, most headphones come with an Ambient Sound Mode setting as it is beneficial and essential for you to be aware of your surroundings for safety and other reasons. While some people do prefer noise-canceling headphones, one should opt for a pair with the Ambient Sound setting as a precautionary measure.

We hope we could explain to you all about Ambient Sound on headphones, its benefits, and bad influences (there ain’t any). Speaking of bad influences, how safe are noise-canceling headphones for us? Click on the link to know more: Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Safe for Ears?