What is Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones?

Taotronics Blog - Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones

One of the biggest trends in 2020 is headphones with ambient mode. If you’re shopping for Black Friday deals or searching for the best Christmas gifts to send your family (or, let’s face it, yourself), ambient sound mode earbuds or headphones should be on your list.

In a nutshell, then, the best ambient sound headphones will allow you to hear ambient sound while you’re out walking. You can pay attention to sounds around you while you’re jogging.

Not only will they help you to listen to music with clarity when you want to, but you’ll be able to still hear when something is happening around you. Great for when you’re taking a walk—or for the rare occasion you’re now in the office.

In this blog, you’ll learn about what is ambient sound mode? We also look at what it actually means to have ambient sound mode on while wearing earbuds, and why this is useful for you.

What is Ambient Sound on Headphones?

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Ambient sound mode is a mode that you switch on, on your headphones or earbuds. This is a similar process to switching on your noise cancellation, in that you will hit a button to get the mode to activate.

Putting your earbuds into ambient sound mode helps you to you to hear what is known as “ambient noise,” even while wearing your headphones. This clever technology is found in both headphones and wireless earbuds and will help you to hear useful background sounds while you’re listening to music.

You might not get lost in your music in the same way, but you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you. This is brilliant for helping you to stay safe while commuting, jogging, working, or even cleaning the house with the kids around.

  1. Ambient sound definition: Ambient sound is basically just background noise. The buzz of traffic, the sound of rain, birds and bees rambling through nature… all of these noises add to the ambience. Some people want to get rid of this noise—and all background noise—so they opt for noise cancelling technology instead.
  2. Ambient sound technology: If you need to listen to ambient sound, or you think it’s going to make your listening experience better, ambient sound technology is the best mode to have on your earbuds. It helps you listen to this ambient sound so you can enjoy your music and be aware of the area around you. If you’re out running in the street, for instance, you will need to be aware of the sound of traffic or people on the road near you.

Please note: Ambient sound mode doesn’t let you listen to all of the sounds around you. If you want to do that, you should probably take your headphones out.

Ambient Noise Vs. White Noise

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All of these noises—but what are they? If your Bluetooth earbuds allow ambient sound noise, will they allow white noise?

The short answer is no. Ambient noise and white noise usually have sound wave with equal intensity and amplitude. However, they have different frequencies across the audible range—the term is that it has a “flat spectral density.”

White noise is more like the static sound you used to hear when your TV wasn’t picking up a signal. This is very different to birdsong, even though they might be the same volume. Your headphones can tell the difference. Plus, they shouldn’t play white noise in general. Get them checked out if you’re hearing white noise over or instead of your music.

Definition of white noise

White noise is a random signal that has different frequencies with equal intensities. There are a couple of different ways you could listen to it, but probably the most recognisable is the static noise that comes out of your broken TV screen, the whine of the hoover or the hum of an air conditioner. Its name comes from white light.  

It can cut through other background noises and be incredibly distracting (unless you’re a baby, as studies have suggested it can help young children fall asleep).

Similarities between ambient noise and white noise

Ambient and white noise can have the same volume, and so feel equally intense to hear. This is especially true if you’re listening through earbuds or headphones, with the noise going straight into your ear canal.

People also listen to both to go to sleep.

Differences between ambient noise and white noise

While they can both be loud and intense, ambient and white noise can have different frequencies. Moreover, though they are both background noise, trust us—ambient noise is far more pleasant than white noise. One is a screeching in your ear (white noise) while the other can be loud (the sound of traffic or your colleagues chatting), but also melodious (bird song).

You can hear the difference by listening to these two videos:

Ambient Noise (for sleeping)


White Noise (for sleeping)

What does Ambient Sound do?

Ambient sound might not be something you want to listen to while you’re listening to music. That’s fine! You should check out our noise cancelling headphone selection.

However, it does have uses outside of being able to hear traffic as you walk down the street. For example, it’s really important for use in video and film work.

It performs a number of functions including:

  1. Providing audio continuity between shots. Playing ambient noise is great for making sure that two shots fit together, even if they were filmed in different takes. It makes you feel like the movie is smoother and helps your brain make the leap between the changing shots. In this way, it can even help tell part of the story.
  2. Preventing an unnatural silence when no other sound is present. You know when you visit the Zoo, sometimes you go into an enclosure and there are animal noises playing? Partly, this helps you to feel like you’ve travelled to another place. It also helps the animals feel more at home. If you’ve come from a jungle where there is constant ambient noise and a whole range of animals making noises in the background, you’re going to need something to fill the silence.
  3. Establishing or reinforcing the mood. Sometimes you just need the sound of rainfall while listening to your music to make everything better.

The Effects that Ambient Noise Has on People

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Ambient noise can have a pretty big impact on people. Some of it you might want, such as helping you fall asleep. That isn’t so great if you’re trying to run, but being able to hear someone coming up behind you or a car on the road during your commute definitely has its benefits.

Just a quick note that ambient noise isn’t a health hazard. The only way the noise itself can harm you is if you decide to crank up the volume. If you do, you might damage your hearing.

There are some negatives to listening to ambient noise:

  1. It can make your music sound worse. Well, that’s dramatic.  It doesn’t help music to sound the best. You can’t immerse yourself in the same way you would with noise cancelling headphones or noise isolating earbuds because the music itself can be covered and blocked by the noise. You can get distracted by what is going on around you.
  2. Ambient sound helps some people relax and fall to sleep easier. On the other hand, ambient noise is amazing for people who love to fall asleep to the sound of thunderstorms. Take a listen to the YouTube videos we put up above—do either of them make you want to sleep?

What is the Difference between Noise Cancelling and Ambient Sound Mode on Headphones?

Noise cancelling headphones and headphones with ambient sound mode are very different.

Firstly, noise cancelling works to actively stop the sounds from reaching your ears. We have explained how this works in our blog about how noise cancelling headphones can work to make you feel less stressed. Basically, this is done by cancelling out the sound wave itself, or in some cases, by blocking out the noise through the physical design of the headphone.

You focus on your music instead of what is going on around you.

Earbuds with ambient sound mode, however, let these noises in. If you want to talk to people and hear what’s going on around you, for instance, ambient sound mode will let through the sound of people’s voices. This is perfect for when you want to listen to music at home or at work but still be aware of people who need your attention.

Some headphones even have both features, so you can block the world out or let noise in when you need to.

How to Switch Ambient Sound Mode on with TaoTroncis Headphones

TaoTronics soundliberty 80, switch Ambient Sound Mode on

TaoTronics are upping the game with ambient sound mode on headphones—and designing some beautiful pieces while they’re at it. We make sure that ambient mode is as easy to switch on as the rest of our amazing headphone options. It’s as easy as one touch!

What’s really exciting is the launch of our SoundLiberty 80 model, True Wireless earbuds that are excellent at going from your commute, to the office, to home. Plus, the have our amazing fast charging technology for anyone whose too busy to think about charging their headphones. Plug them in for five minutes to get an amazing hour of listening!

SoundLiberty 94

Looking for a more traditional, matte black pair of True Wireless earbuds? We’ve got you covered!

SoundLiberty 94 has amazing features, including:

  • Ambient sound mode (for when you need to hear your surroundings)
  • Active noise cancelling (for when you want to block everyone out)
  • 9.2mm dynamic drivers for high-fi like audio quality
  • 8 hours of playtime (with ANC off)

Shop our Black Friday and Christmas deals to get discounts on your new True Wireless headphones with ambient sound mode.


Ambient sound mode is great for making sure you’re aware of your surroundings. It might not be the only reason you buy a pair of headphones—they have to look good as well, be the right price, have a great battery life, and so on. But, it’s an incredible feature for a whole range of people to experience. Being more aware of your surroundings is safer and can mean that you don’t miss anything, even if you’re working, cleaning the house, or exercising outside. With some pairs even coming with both ambient sound mode and active noise cancelation, you get the best of both worlds.

Check out the whole TaoTronics headphone range and shop our latest deals at the TaoTronics website or on Amazon!

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Rebecca Lee has a penchant for writing about all things audio-related for TaoTronics. Her editorial endeavors include testing out the latest headphones to write in-depth product reviews that benefit our readers.

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