What Drives Your Headphones?

You have learned so much from our blog so far: bluetooth, noise cancellation, IP ratings, and true wireless. To continue the educational series for Strauss & Wagner, let’s talk about a key piece to all headphones and earbuds---the driver!

Drivers are a huge component to our audiophile products. They are the transducers that convert audio into sound. Without drivers, our headphones wouldn’t be able to produce the frequencies that allow us to hear our favorite songs.


 The type of driver used determines the audio quality and price range of the product you purchase. There are 5 main types of drivers: dynamic moving coil, planar, balanced armature, electrostatic, and hybrid. 

Headphone Driver Types

Dynamic Moving Coil: This is the most common type of driver. Many headphones come with this. Dynamic moving coil drivers are perfect for those of you who are all about that bass (pun intended). It is made up of three components: a diaphragm, magnet, and voice coil. 

A diaphragm is a thin membrane that responds to a variety of sound pressures. Magnets assist microphones in converting sounds to electrical currents. A voice coil is the wire attached to the loudspeaker cone. How do these three work together? The magnet gives the voice coil a certain charge that makes it behave like an electromagnet. This causes a disruption in the air to create sound, particularly bass. A big downside to this is that the volume can cause distortion. If you love punchy bass, do not blast your music too high with these drivers. 

Planar Magnetic: Planar magnetic drivers are most used in high-end headphones, in particular open-back. This driver works similarly to the dynamic ones with the exception of the magnet. The magnet charges the diaphragm instead of the voice coil. You won’t have any distortion issues with this method. Headphones that use planar drivers tend to be more expensive since bigger magnets are used. This also affects the size of the headphones as well. 

Balanced Armature: This driver is tiny and used for earbuds and in-ear earphones. An armature (small arm) is connected to a diaphragm and balanced between two magnets. As electricity flows through, the arm swings in the direction of the signal, which then produces sound. Since the driver is small, you won’t get good bass out of them. 

Electrostatic: This one uses an extremely thin diaphragm. A high-voltage power supply is needed to get currents flowing. If classical music or spoken word is your preferred genre, this driver isthe one for you. 

Hybrid: This driver gives you the best of both worlds: the bass response from a dynamic driver and the high producing frequencies of a planar driver. Hybrid drivers replicate sound in every frequency. You get the best listening experience with this one.

There are other technologies that work as drivers, like bone conduction headphones, but that topic will be for another post. Next time you grab a pair of headphones or earbuds, think about the driver it may have. 


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