Looking over headphones specs can be confusing. Case in point: headphone drivers. You might have seen Dynamic Drivers, Balanced Armature Drivers, Electrostatic Drivers… but what are they? And how important are they in headphones?
The short answer is – very important. Luckily for you, our team are here to shed some light on the issue! Read on for our guide to headphone drivers.
Headphone Drivers 101
So let’s start from the beginning. What exactly are headphone drivers?
The driver is the element inside the headphone that produces the sound you hear. Built up of magnets, coils and a cone-like diaphragm measured in millimeters (mm), they are responsible for converting an electrical signal into a sound wave the ear can understand. Think of it like a super small speaker that’s integral to making your headphones work.
Does Bigger Mean Better?
Drivers come in many different sizes, from 6-12mm in earbuds to the 20mm – 100mm versions found in larger, over-ear headphones.
Many people assume that the bigger the driver, the better the sound. But this is not entirely true. Typically, the size is an indicator of how great the audio soundstage can be. For instance, the bass may be deeper and more pronounced on larger drivers, though this often comes at the expense of high frequency reproduction.
Ultimately, to get the best sound experience you should look at the quality of the drivers, not their size. We’ve rounded up the three most common headphone drivers to explore:
Dynamic, aka moving coil drivers, are the most common driver type. You will find them in almost all on-ear headphones, many over-ears and majority of TaoTronics headphones.
They work by sending a signal through the voice coil, magnetizing it and creating a magnetic field. The voice coil then moves backward and forward rapidly, moving the diaphragm it is attached to and displacing the air around it to create sound waves. As a result, dynamic drivers are great for reproducing low-end bass frequencies.
Balanced armature drivers are primarily used in more advanced in-ear headphones and hearing aids, as they are much smaller in size and are much more expensive than dynamic drivers.
In a balanced armature design, the audio signal passes through a coil that is wrapped around the armature. As the signal goes up and down, so does the armature. A drive pin at the end of the armature moves the diaphragm; this changes the volume of the air enclosed and produces the sound. Unlike dynamic drivers, balanced armature drivers do not displace air to generate sound, meaning the bass can sound more shallow.
Electrostatic drivers are sort of the holy grail of the headphone world. They’re rare, hard to find, and pretty expensive, though the reward is brilliant sound with unparalleled accuracy.
Electrostatic drivers are unique in that they take advantage of static electricity to produce sound. They consist of a thin, electrically charged diaphragm suspended between two perforated metal plates that moves effortlessly to create sound waves. An absence of moving metal parts culminates in virtually distortion-free sound.
So, what’s the deal with all these different headphone drivers?
In all, if you’re paying serious money for headphones ($250+) then understanding the type of driver they include will matter. If you’re looking for some fantastic, day-to-day headphones with deep bass, then dynamic drivers are for you!
Check out TaoTronic’s range of headphones (largely with dynamic drivers) here!