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What Is a Headphone Driver? (Answered)

If you’re looking for a little audio entertainment on your daily commute or while working on your tasks, you’ll need a good pair of headphones. Headphones are essential to any music lover’s arsenal, but what is inside the headphones that make them so special? Well, the headphone driver is at the heart of it. But what are the different types of headphone drivers, and how do they work? 

Unfortunately, not knowing the headphones’ drivers can lead to unawareness of their purpose.

Image of black and silver headphone. Source: pixabay
Image of black and silver headphone. Source: Pixabay

This article covers the different types of headphone drivers and their purposes. So if you’re looking to improve the sound quality of your headphones or are just curious about what goes into them, this post is for you!

What is a headphone driver? Headphones’ most crucial component is the driver, which transforms electrical information into sound. The sound you hear is, in a nutshell, the result of the driver’s actions. You may see the driver units in your headphones as little speakers.

What is a headphone driver?

A driver, as its name implies, is a primary loudspeaker. Sound is produced when pressure waves created by this motion enter your auditory canal. This part, called a transducer, transforms electrical energy into acoustic energy. In both headphones and loudspeakers, the sound is generated by a component called a “driver.” Drivers come in various sizes, as seen by the dimensions of different headphones and earbuds.

How does a headphone audio driver impact the sound?

Regarding Bluetooth headphones, the bigger the driver unit, the deeper the bass. But don’t take that to suggest that bigger is better for headphones. That is completely not the case. There are a wide variety of components that affect how the headphones sound. The size of the headphones’ drivers does make a difference, but not in the way you think.

A headphone driver unit’s size ranges from 20mm to 50mm. The volume output of headphones is proportional to their physical size. However, it’s often believed that larger headphone drivers equal higher audio quality. No, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Even if the diaphragm of a larger headphone driver unit is more suited to producing deeper bass, this improvement is minimal at best. Large-driver headphones, however, often need help to reproduce higher frequencies accurately. So yes, louder sound can come from bigger drivers, but this only sometimes means the sound quality is better. The most important things to think about are the quality of the driving unit and the variety of materials it is made of.

Types of headphone drivers

The sound quality of earphones is significantly affected by the driver type. The numerous drivers found in headphones and earbuds are listed below.

Dynamic (moving coil) drivers

Dynamic drivers are the easiest to set up of all the driver types we’ve discussed. The voice coil is affected by the magnetic field of a magnet, usually neodymium. When a current is sent via the voice coil, it starts to oscillate, which causes the diaphragm to do the same. When the diaphragm vibrates back and forth, it causes the frontal displacement of air, which in turn generates sound waves.

Headphones with dynamic drivers are the way to go if you want a powerful bass response. These larger diaphragm drivers are often used in headphones. They do an excellent job producing deep bass and a loud, clear sound without using a lot of juice.

Dynamic drivers are very efficient. However, they have been criticized for the distortion they cause at higher levels. The good news is that the impact can be mitigated through clever engineering. While dynamic drivers are often associated with budget headphones, they may also be found in more expensive ones like the Sennheiser HD 660 S.

Planar magnetic drivers

The majority of today’s high-end headphones use these sorts of drivers. Before, you could only get open-back, over-ear headphones. Now, you can also get in-ear headphones.

A diaphragm is held in place between two magnets using this technology. Both planar magnetic drivers and dynamic drivers use a magnetic field to do what they are supposed to do. Instead of a coil, the magnetic field directly hits the thin flat film diaphragm in these drivers, vibrating and making a sound.

So that the whole diaphragm can vibrate in unison, more magnets are used. Unfortunately, this makes the cans of headphones a little heavier. Because of this, the headphones will need more power from your audio source or an external amplifier.

As a result, headphones with planar magnetic drivers are typically intended for personal usage. But OPPO and other companies have improved by making headphones like their PM series, which are smaller, lighter, and better for carrying around.

These drivers make a sound so true and pure that you can hear every nuance without having to do a lot of processing or boosting. This makes them the first option for serious music listeners. Most luxury headphones, like the Audeze LCD-5, have these.

Balanced armature drivers

In-ear monitors frequently use drivers this small. Because of how small they are, several drivers may fit into a single earbud. Most IEMs have between one and four drivers. Because each earpiece has so many drivers, these headphones can accurately play back a wide range of frequencies. It’s common practice for one of the drivers to focus on the bass frequencies while the others take care of everything else.

This design’s driving element is a coil coiled around a short arm (armature). The armature moves back and forth because the magnetic field made by the current in the coil interacts with the two magnets on either side of it. Sound is generated when the diaphragm moves in time with the armature. “Balanced armature” means that the armature is in the middle of the magnetic field and doesn’t experience any net force.

Electrostatic rivers

These are one-of-a-kind and astronomically priced. Electromatic drives work on the idea that charges that are the same repel each other, and charges that are different attract each other. Vibrations are made when the diaphragm moves back and forth between two conductive plates or electrodes, which can be positively or negatively charged.

The diaphragm then pushes air through the holes in the walls, mixing with the electrical signal that keeps changing to make a sound. It takes specialized amplifiers to bring forth the full capability of these drivers. As a result, open-back high-end headphones include this sort of driver.

Piezoelectric drivers

Different from electrostatic drivers, piezoelectric drivers may be found in certain cutting-edge hybrid headphones like the BQEYZ Summer when a voltage is put on a piezoelectric material, such as a crystal or a ceramic, the diaphragm moves. The diaphragm vibrates because electricity changes the physical shape of the materials it is made of.

These drivers are wonderful because they can turn even the weakest audio signal into audible sound. But because of the way piezoelectric materials are made, manufacturers are limited in how finely they can tune these drivers. As a result, the sound quality may worsen, and the energy used may go up significantly.

Bone conduction drivers

Bone conduction lets these drivers send vibrations straight to the inner ear, skipping the eardrum. These headphones’ drivers are designed for people with hearing loss or who need to use headphones in noisy environments. Still, if you use bone conduction drivers, you can expect to give up some convenience in exchange for better sound quality. This class of drivers can’t compete with others in producing high-quality sound.

Which headphone driver should you get?

There are a wide variety of headphones designed to fit a variety of ears. Open-back headphones with a planar magnetic driver may be the best choice if you’re a musician who mixes songs in your home studio.

Getting big, open-back headphones may be challenging if you’re a runner. That’s why I recommend a set of earbuds with balanced armature drivers, which are surprisingly compact for their sound quality. In addition, you can find custom-made headphones that sound incredible. It’s time to go look for them now.

Is a bigger headphone driver always better?

The driver in a pair of headphones usually has a diameter between 20 and 50 millimeters. In comparison, the driver in a pair of regular earphones has a diameter of between 8 and 15 millimeters. The size of the driver typically determines the volume of a pair of headphones.

As size increases, so does the consensus that larger is better regarding sound. This is true, yet a bigger diaphragm may result in clearer bass. It’s a fact that headphones with big drivers have trouble reproducing high frequencies (treble).

Bigger drives can theoretically produce more power, but that doesn’t imply they do. This could be because of how well the driver unit was made and what materials were used inside. Use the Pixel Buds from Google or any other similar little earphones. Even though these earbuds are small and have small drivers, they sound just as good as bigger brands.

What Audio Technica has to teach us might also help us in other ways. The M40X and M50X are two premium headphones produced by this firm. Comparatively, the M50 uses 45mm drivers, while the M40 employs 40mm ones. Since the M50X has bigger speakers, you could expect it to have superior sound quality. In most cases, no.

Image of a black headphone lying flat on the wood. Source: pixabay
Image of a black headphone lying flat on the wood. Source: Pixabay

There is a huge difference in sound quality between the two headphones. Compared to the M40X, which has a flatter and more neutral profile, the M50X’s tuning, pads, and enclosures are designed for a more aggressive response. In addition, the cushioning and cup enclosure affect the sound more than the drivers in both situations.

In a nutshell, the power and frequency range of headphones are influenced by the size of the driver. But make a purchase based on something other than the driver’s physical dimensions. The sound quality is more affected by the type of drivers and the frequency range than by the size of the drivers.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Dekoni U – What are the Different Types of Headphone Drivers?” from the Dekoni Audio YouTube channel.

A video called “Dekoni U – What are the Different Types of Headphone Drivers?” from the Dekoni Audio YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about headphone drivers.

Is a bigger driver better than headphones?

The driver diameter shows how big the diaphragm is, and in headphones, the bigger the diaphragm, the better the sound.

Which driver is best in the headset?

Direct-current motors with planar magnetic drivers: in this design, the diaphragm is sandwiched between two magnets. In a dynamic driver, the diaphragm is part of the coil. Audiophiles like them, which are often housed in open-back, over-ear headphones.

Do more drivers mean better sound?

Yes, bigger drivers can make louder sounds, but the sound quality could be better. The quality of the driver unit and the range of materials used inside are the most crucial aspects.

Does the audio driver improve sound quality?

It is better in many ways than earlier versions but has a few big problems. People who bought new PCs or updated older versions of Windows say they have sound problems like static, distortion, and other driver and sound quality problems.

Conclusion

Now that you know more about headphone drivers, you can get your new favorite pair of headphones and enjoy some quality music. Because of this, we suggest you keep searching for the right pair before picking up a new pair.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music artist by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered what a headphone driver is, how they impact the audio, and the different types of headphone drivers. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • A driver, as its name implies, is a primary loudspeaker. 
  • Regarding Bluetooth headphones, the bigger the driver unit, the deeper the bass.
  • The sound quality of earphones is significantly affected by the driver type.
  • Extra tips:
  • The deep bass response is a hallmark of planar magnetic headphones, also known as morphodynamic headphones.
  • Due to the absence of a breeze, pilots of ba aircraft don’t need to install extra vents.
  • Excellent detail, extended treble, and overall frequency response are all contributions often attributed to electrostatic speakers.
  • Driver electrostatic drivers make use of static electricity.
  • Instead of using coils to move the diaphragm, planar magnetic drivers sandwich an electrical conductor between two parallel magnet plates.
  • Electric motors with electrostatically charged rotors on amazon The koss esp-950 is a pair of highly attuned electrostatic headphones.
  • To put it another way: noise is made. Produce sound; the bass is not very responsive. Speakers on monitors use a combination of dynamic and balanced armature drivers.
  • Despite lacking bass response, some in-ear monitors compensate with a dynamic driver that complements the many balancing armature speakers.
  • The skull bones will vibrate in time with the sound while using bone-conduction headphones.
  • Certainly, larger drivers can produce louder noises because they can move more air particles.
  • The armament receives an electric current, becoming an electromagnet attracted to the magnets above and below it.
  • Electrostatic drivers “float” a thin film between two perforated metal plates and are powered by applying static electricity to the film.

So, does music sound good with your headphone transducer? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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