What you should know about Headphone Drivers

Choosing the headphones is not just thinking about the design and looks.

I thought like that before, when I was young, and I wanted to look cool. However, in most cases, I chose the lousy headphones with great looks and vice versa. To get both combinations, you will have to spare a small fortune.

Before you enter the store to make a purchase, you have to understand everything about headphones. There are many parts inside, and one of the most important components is driver unit or transducer.

Let’s check what driver unit is and what are different types of it.

What Is Driver Unit?

The driver features voice coils, magnets, and diaphragm that we measure in mm. It is one of the most important pieces that make headphones tick. Its main job is to convert the electric signal into the sound wave so that you can hear everything produced.

However, there are different types of drivers that you can find inside the headphones. You can find them in various sizes such as 8mm and 15mm for earbuds such as Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series, and between 20mm and 50mm for large headphones.

Types of Driver

Even though the size matters, you can consider different types of drivers based on the mechanism. Each one of them has a unique way of producing sound.

Let’s start!

Moving Coil or Dynamic Driver

Moving coil or dynamic drivers are the most common ones. At the same time, it is the cheapest one on the market that you will find in entry-level headphones. It works by using a combination of magnetism and electromagnetism to create a movement that will provide the sound.

It features three main parts such as:

  • Voice coil
  • Neodymium Magnet
  • Diaphragm attached to the voice coil

The magnet uses voice coil that acts as an electromagnet, and once it receives the current, it creates a magnetic field that will go in a direction determined by the current. The voice coil will attract and repel toward the magnetic field, and that will create a movement of the attached diaphragm. The movement creates a sound that you will hear.

The bigger air displacement is, you can achieve a higher amount of volume. The mechanism is simple, and they are quite effective when compared with other types of drivers. Therefore, they don’t require lots of power to reach the high volume.

Balanced Armature Driver

BA or balanced armature drivers are much smaller than dynamic drivers are, and that is why in-ear monitors use them mostly. They are quite expensive when compared with other types of drivers. They feature miniature arm within the coil of wire, which is around two magnets.

You can find a bottom and top magnets that surround the coil, and they will create a movement of the armature. While current enters the coil, it will magnetize the armature, and that will lead to both magnets. The movement will provide you sound like the result.

The best thing about it is that you will be able to tune the driver to cover a specific frequency range. The difference between dynamic and BA drivers is that BA doesn’t use air to produce sound, which will lead to less bass response.

That is the main reason why you can find IEMs with various BA drivers that manufacturers combine with one dynamic driver for bass response.

Planar Magnetic Driver

Orthodynamic or planar magnetic driver is the most common driver choice for open-back, over the ear headphones. They are thin, and you can find them only as expensive and high-end models.

They work on the similar principle as dynamic driver headphones. Therefore, we can say that they use a magnetic field to produce the sound. Instead of moving the voice coil, it features diaphragm that moves because of the magnetic field to create a sound.

The diaphragm contains large magnets that will add the weight of the headphone. Therefore, you will get more power from the source. Of course, they are not as portable as dynamic drivers are, which is why people purchase them for household use. At the same time, they come at high price.

On the other hand, you should have in mind that the sound will provide you a high standard without distortion and great overall response. The great thing about it is the bass response because the large diaphragm in combination with electromagnetic force will displace large quantities of air.

Electrostatic Driver

As the name suggests, electrostatic drivers use static electricity. The vibrations happen within the diaphragm when it starts to push and pull conductive plates that are charged positively and negatively. The air goes through the perforations, and this action will send an electric signal that will result in sound.

The driver uses complex and specific amplifiers that most people know as energizers. You will find these drivers in the most expensive and high-end open-back headphones. They are quite expensive, and that is why most manufacturers avoid using them.

Apart from the expensive price tag, they lack in portability, but you will gain the amazing sound and life-like audio experience. You will be able to produce great sound than any other driver type significantly.

Bone Conduction or Magnetostriction Driver

The modern design and invention changed the way we perceive headphones and drives. This is the perfect example of latest technology that will send the vibrations directly to your inner ear by using bone conduction principle.

Even though it sounds like science fiction, it is quite helpful especially if you are in the movement. If you are a jogger, who needs to hear the outside sound, this particular source of music will be quite useful.

It is also a great solution for people who have hearing problems and you will be able to use them underwater too. However, they have limited sound quality features when compared with traditional headphone.


As you can see from everything that I’ve mentioned above, there are five most significant types of headphone drivers. Most of them have advantages and disadvantages, so choosing are strictly based on your preferences and what you want to accomplish.

Therefore, I recommend you to check again and to consider finding the appropriate driver for your specific needs. It is simple as that.

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