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How many types of Headphone Driver & Which Is The Right Choice?

Heading forward to buy a headphone? What’s your budget? What type do you need? What about sound quality? Do I get everything under one headphone? And the questions go on.

To get a good pair of headphones you have to keep things straight. Which one should you buy? on-ear headphones or in-ears? Bluetooth or wired? Enough…. Here you will get the details regarding the four different driver types.

  • Dynamic drivers,
  • Planar magnetic drivers,
  • Electrostatic drivers, and
  • Balanced armature drivers.

What is a driver?

A driver is a small speaker unit that helps to drive the sound into your ear canal. It is a kind of electromagnetic device, that converts the electrical signal into audible sound. It is a must-have component for any pair of headphones to work. Driver size also varies as like sizes of headphones and IEMs show.

Dynamic drivers

  • This is the most affordable driver of the other three types
  • This driver is compact and has lightweight
  • It don’t require external power often
  • It can create a harmonic distortion

You can find these dynamic drivers in consumer-oriented headphones. Do you know why? This is just because it is an affordable choice. A magnet—typically neodymium—affixed into the interior housing to create a static magnetic field. It interacts with the voice coil and thus it is forced to oscillate towards and away from the created magnetic field. This raises some vibration and thus gives the sound waves.

How do dynamic drivers affect the music?

Till the sound quality goes, these dynamic drivers will cleverly reproduce the low-end frequencies. They can create an undesirable harmonic distortion, at high volume levels. Producing loud and low-frequency responses is a tasking process on the dynamic drivers.

The coil moments can be limited and hence causing an inaccurate sound reproduction. The drivers can create weird distortions by rebounding the sound on your ear at different angles if the size of the driver is kept small.

In spite they are a kind of worst-performing drivers, the true fact is that they are not actually bad. It would be a better choice if you are ready to spend more.

Speaking about the flip side, this dynamic driver offers easy powering when compared with other driver types. This offers many affordable models that don’t even require an amplifier or DAC for giving optimal playback.

Variations in the sound quality of the driver, depends on the different materials used in the housing material of the headphone.

Planar Magnetic Drivers

Planar magnetic drivers

You can easily identify the planar magnetic driver with the rectangular cutouts. 

  • Provide less harmonic distortion
  • Deliver us more accurate sound and an expensive one
  • The headphones with planar magnetic drivers would be heavier than the headphones with dynamic drivers.
  • Generally, it requires external power.

The headphones which utilize the planar magnetic driver will have a distinct look, as the ear cup has a rectangular shape elliptical. This planar magnetic driver can be found in open-back, over-ear headphones, but we can notice using on in-ears type too.

The planar magnetic drivers function similarly to the dynamic drivers, as they also utilize magnetic fields. Instead of using a coil, this planar magnetic driver has a large and flat membrane that will be in an embedded wire pattern. The membrane will be directly moved by the magnets it sits between, instead of using a coil.

planar magnetic membrane

The headphones with planar magnetic drivers will cost more, due to the presence of large diaphragms and magnets. The headphones will also be heavier and need more power to be driven. Hence this planar magnetic driver needs an amplifier and they are designed to be used on the computer.

How do planar magnetic drivers affect the music?

planar magnetic drivers affect the music
Source: head-fi

The sound distortion will be lightened as the vibrations are evenly spread across the entire membrane. All aspects of the sound will be more clearly reproduced by reproducing neutral frequency response. By producing a planar wavefront(a flat sound source), the sound on your ears is less likely to echo or rebound your head in a different manner. Hence it will be some to control the illusion in real life that you actually hear something happening around you.

Electrostatic drivers

Electrostatic drivers
  • Moving parts do not reduce almost any perceptible distortion
  • Respond to subtle changes in audio to the precise sound
  • It is expensive
  • Need an additional specialized amplifier
  • Heavy and bulky

You can rarely find electrostatic headphones. They are expensive and use static electricity to create an electric field. It pulls and pushes the thin diaphragm to and from a couple of metal plates upon it. They have perforated plates and force the airflow. This movement produces sound in conjunction with a constantly changing electrical signal moving the diaphragm.

With the help of electrostatic drives, the diaphragm is inserted into and around a pair of metal plates.

The headphones which utilize the electrostatic driver are more costly than a standard dynamic driver and it needs a specialized amplifier, to increase their overall cost. 

How do electrostatic drivers affect the music?

As they don’t have any moving metal components, these drivers can produce a clear distortion-free sound. While this accuracy is highly desirable, mass production for the general consumer is not realistic. This means that even the sheer cost and bespoke amplifiers have to work, which is only the domain of the enthusiasts. 

Balanced armature drivers

Balanced armature drivers

You can find this compact size, balanced armature drivers  in the 1More Triple-Driver In-Ear earbuds, making it an ideal one for transport without giving up the sound quality.

  • This is small and more efficient than dynamic drivers.
  • Delivers a treble response
  • Each armature can provide a range of frequencies(if multiple armature IEM)
  • Expensive than dynamic drivers

These Balanced armature drivers are small and compact when compared to other models, as they are modern and limited to use in-ears. The name itself indicates it’s balanced working. A magnetic armature stands on a pivot and rotates in between the two magnets. When it is kept centered within the magnetic field, “there is no net force in the armature.” Hence the armature is uniform at this point.

While passing an electric current through the coil which is wrapped around the armature, it starts to rotate from the pivot due to the magnetization forces. This moment causes the diaphragm to move and produces sound waves. 

How do balanced armature drivers affect the music?

Even if it requires a little power to keep the armature in a balanced position, it is still an efficient process. Proper sealing is mandatory for optimal reproduction and some headphones use multiple armature drivers, such as the 1More Triple-Driver in-ear headphones

By doing so, it gives each armature a certain amount of frequency – the bass notes are generally handled through a single driver, with the rest handled by one to three. These specialize in balanced armature earbuds that allow for improved low-end reproduction, as they work best with treble range frequencies or less than 20 Hz.

Which driver is the best?

By considering all the things you have to create a cost benefit analysis. Usually everyone says that the electrostatic drivers are the best but this would be an exaggeration. Almost everyone is within the controlled budgets and does not require a very precise frequency response. Hence go for the dynamic drivers. They are inexpensive and versatile. You include dynamic drivers if you need an inexpensive and functional one.

If audio is of interest to you and you have a way to pursue that interest, Planar Magnetic, Electronic, and Uniform Armature-driven headphones would be an ideal one. While these drive types require a little more shopping, there are plenty of options out there. As proven by Monoprise Monolith 1060, not all Planar magnetic headphones will cost you thousands of dollars.

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Kanishka is passionate about expanding her skillset. She has good knowledge of Headphones and Speakers. She gladly helps people without any expectations of favour in return.

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