Headphone drivers are an important component of headphones which are responsible for the reproduction of sound via these devices. The quality and quantity of drivers determine the type of sound it will emit.
There are a wide range of types of headphone drivers that produce different sounds and they all have their pros and cons. This is as they all use different techniques and materials to let out sound.
In this article, we discuss the different types of headphone drivers. In total, there are 6 types of headphone drivers that are manufactured in the markets. But before that, let us learn a little more about drivers.
Does the size of the driver matter?
Some people believe that the more the number of drivers, the better the sound reproduction is. However, this is not the case always. The technology used and the type of headphone driver also matters a lot.
So what exactly does the size of the driver denote? Well, the size determines how big the sound will be. The size affects the overall sound of the device they are used in.
Headphones that come equipped with more than one driver can manage different frequency ranges.
Does the number of drivers matter?
A single driver is capable of producing sound with the frequency of it lying between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. However, they too come with their own limitations and restrictions. This is where the benefits of a device having more than one driver come into play.
When multiple drivers are involved, the process of filtering is used to segregate different ranges of frequencies so that each individual driver can focus on a particular range of frequency.
However, having multiple drivers does not automatically make a headphone better. A poorly constructed driver is of no use even if you use four of them in a pair of headphones and a well produced single driver’s sound quality will easily beat it.
Table of contents
- Does the size of the driver matter?
- Does the number of drivers matter?
- Types of drivers
Types of drivers
As previously mentioned, there are 6 types of headphone drivers available in the market. They are as follows:
Dynamic or Moving Coil Headphone Drivers
Dynamic drivers are mostly found in consumer headphones because they are the most affordable and average in nature. The driver works by using a fixed magnet of neodymium to create a static magnetic field.
This magnetic field interacts with the voice coil’s current and is then forced to move back and forth. The diaphragm amplifies the sound and thus sound waves are produced. The coil’s design has evolved since around 100 years to become more refined.
Dynamic drivers provide the user with limited bandwidth, power compressions and other distortions, though. If you spend more on these, you can actually find good sound quality with dynamic drivers. They also do not require an external amplifier for playback.
- Able to generate good and strong bass
- Very cost effective
- Compact and lightweight
- Robust build
- Suitable for drummers and bassists
- Average sound reproduction
- Susceptible to audio distortion in higher volumes
Balanced Armature Headphone Drivers
Balanced armature drivers are much smaller than other types of headphone drives and are used frequently in hearing aids and in-ear devices. To work, these drivers use a magnetic armature that stays on a pivot and moved around between two magnets.
The armature is balanced when it is at the centre of these magnets and when current is sent through it, the magnetic force makes the armature move. Sounds waves are thus created that make the diaphragm move and produce sound.
This makes this type of headphone drivers efficient. In a multi driver setting, an individual driver handles bass. The rest is handled by the other drivers.
- Good noise isolation
- Drivers can be tuned for optimal sound quality preferences
- More detailed sounds
- Better treble frequency performance
- Small and more effective than dynamic drivers
- Are a little bit pricey
- Need additional drivers’ assistance to get a better bass effect
Hybrid Headphone Drivers
Hybrid headphone drivers make use of two or more than two drivers to deliver a signature sound. The sound is well received and of good quality. Two drivers ensure every frequency is aptly represented.
This gives the sound that comes from these drivers a vibrant ring to it as well as detailed sound stage. These drivers are good for people seeking deep bass and a detailed, high quality sound experience.
These drivers pair a dynamic driver as well as a balanced armature driver to provide you the best of the two worlds. Individually, these driver types are not that impressive but when combined, the sound quality increases exponentially.
- Every sound frequency is well represented
- Excellent sound quality and detail
- Good warmth and bass response
- More improved technology as it is a combination of 2 types of drivers
- More sound control options
Planar Magnetic or Orthodynamic Drivers Headphone Drivers
Headphones that come equipped with this type of headphone drivers have a distinct design. They sport rectangular ear-cup interior instead of the standard elliptical or round ones.
They have the same basic functions of working as dynamic drivers with the electric conductor moving between the magnetic fields of two fixed magnets and passing audio signals through it.
But, instead of a coil, the planar magnetic driver’s conductor is laid out in a 2D pattern and attached to a diaphragm. It uses multiple magnets to produce a uniform magnetic field. What you get is a more detailed and coherent sound quality.
- Very high level of sound quality
- Very little sound distortion
- Excellent bass response
- Needs headphone amplifier to be properly powered
- Are a little costly
Electrostatic Headphone Drivers
Electrostatic headphone drivers operate on a very unique kind of technology than all the other types of headphone drivers we have discussed so far in the article. The drivers work by applying static electrical energy to a thin film.
The thin film floats between two metal plates and moves back and forth due to electrical charge which causes attraction and repulsion. The diaphragm in these drivers is free of distortion which is usually there in moving coil speakers.
- Completely distortion free sound
- Life like sound quality and sound stage experience
- High sound sensitivity
- Very accurate sound quality
- Are expensive
- Are large and bulky
Magnetostriction or Bone Conduction Headphone Drivers
Bone conduction technology is becoming a rage in the world. It uses technology which conducts sound through your bones and the jaws and cheeks to reach your ear and improves the quality of life for those who are hard of hearing by working as an efficient hearing aid.
These type of headphone drivers come in two types of drivers and they are – mechanical drivers and magnetostriction drivers. These drivers work using vibrations by decoding sound waves and converting them into vibrations then passing them into your ears.
People in the military, sportsmen, and other people who need to be aware of their surroundings while listening to something on these headphones can also find these drivers very useful.
- Can hear external sounds while enjoying music
- Aids people with hearing loss
- Improves quality of life
- Average sound quality
Now that you know the basics of each type of headphone driver, the question that must come to your mind is which type of headphone driver is the best for you? Well, for this you will have to do a cost and purpose analysis and find that out for yourself.
Electrostatic drivers are overall more efficient but your frequency response requirements might not match the driver’s. Balanced armature drivers are the most commonly used drivers but you may need high bass requirements.
Thus, the first step is zeroing down on your needs, finalizing and budget, and then deciding upon a headphone driver. Good luck shopping!