Headphone Driver: What is it and does it matter?
So, what exactly is a headphone driver?
The textbook definition goes as follows :
A driver unit is an element inside the headphones made up of a magnet, voice coils and a diaphragm which converts an electrical signal into sound.
The layman definition :
it is a device inside your headphones that produces the sound coming out of it.
It converts electrical pulses coming through headphone wire into sound. The bigger the driver more the output , but that doesn’t mean better sound quality also.
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Diameter Of Headphone Driver
It is the end to end length of the driver and is the one that is mentioned in mm(millimeter). Usually, people think that the bigger the diameter, the better the sound quality. This is only partially true. A bigger diameter does help in better sound quality, but it isn’t the only thing that affects it.
It is the quality of the driver unit that makes the sound better. Size of diameter only determines the loudness of the sound output.
A earphone driver is usually in the range of 8mm – 15mm in diameter and a headphone driver is 20mm – 50mm in diameter.
What are the different types of Driver units?
1 Dynamic Driver
– The most common driver type used is the dynamic kind which use larger diaphragms.
– Thus, these are very good at producing Lows(BASS) and the Mids.
– They provide very good base and achieve the right amount of pressure without using much power.
– But here, the concept that bigger driver leads to bigger base does not apply.
2 Balanced Armature Driver
– These are very well suited for In Ear Monitors because they are quite small in size.
– But why would you want to have a small driver that displaces more air?
– Simply because you can have more of them!
– Most IEMs have anywhere between 1-4 balanced armature drivers per earpiece & Custom IEM’s can have up to 20.
3 PLANAR MAGNETIC DRIVERS
– With this technology, a diaphragm is sandwiched between magnets.
– A wire is made to go through the diaphragm in a serpentine pattern creating an electromagnetic field that can interact with the magnetic field creating sound waves.
4 ELECTROSTATIC DRIVERS
– These are the most expensive and the most uncommon ones.
– But these are supposed to sound the most realistic.
– These headphones use a thin electrically charged diaphragm that are placed between two conductive plates or electrodes.
– A special amplifier is required to amplify the sound.
5 HYBRID DRIVERS
– Hybrid Drivers are a relatively new technology which is a combination of dynamic and balanced armature drivers.
– This means audiophiles can enjoy a balance of both deep dynamic bass and bright treble.
– These earphones are easy on the ears, but not so much on the pocket!
Which one is the best for you?
It really matters what you are going to use them for. For casual listening, any would do. But most people love a good bass, so go for the ones with a Dynamic Driver.
If you are into gaming, then you shouldn’t care about bass that much. You should go for the Balanced Armature or the Magnetic ones.
If you are into music production, then technically you don’t need my advice on which ones to buy, now do you? Well, in any case, go for the electrostatic ones.
But remember, headphones should not just be bought solely on the basis of driver type and size.
There are a lot of things that go into choosing the right ones for you.
So, if you have to buy one, do some research first or ask a professional, then buy them.
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