5 Different Types of Headphone Driver Units [Explained, Analyzed & Rated]

5 Different Types of Headphone Driver Units [Explained, Analyzed & Rated]


Looking to buy a new headphone?

Then you must understand the different types of headphone drivers.

Responsible for creating sound – by converting an electrical signal into audio waves – drivers are the most crucial unit in headphones. So, provided you manage to get the drivers right, excellent sound quality is all but guaranteed.

And guess what? You don’t need any technical background, either.

Instead, we’ll rely on plain English to explain how drivers work. That means even persons who aren’t audiophiles can benefit from this article.

What Is A Driver In Earphones/Headphones?

In case you are wondering, a headphone driver isn’t a one part device. Instead, it is composed of the following components:

  • A magnet – to create the magnetic field 
  • Voice coils – when electric current traverses them, voice coils move the diaphragm due to which you hear the sound 
  • A diaphragm – pulsates to create audio/sound waves

Sound Quality Vs Headphone Drivers

Regardless of the earing device (headphone or earphone) you use, both of them would have the same disc-shaped driver. However, since headphones have to give bigger sound output, their drivers are relatively bigger as well.

That said, the size of a headphone has no effect on its sound quality, as there are other factors that come into play in this regard.

What Are Types Of Headphone Drivers?

Following are the major types of headphone drivers.

  1. Dynamic (Moving Coil) Drivers
  2. Planar Magnetic Drivers
  3. Electrostatic Drivers
  4. Balanced Armature
  5. Magnetostriction (aka Bone Conduction)
  6. Hybrid Drivers

1 - Dynamic (Moving Coil) Drivers

The three main components which make up a dynamic driver include a voice coil, neodymium magnet and a diaphragm (which is connected to the voice coil).

How Do They Work?

To get them up and running, the neodymium magnet activates the voice coil which, in turn, vibrates the diaphragm. As stated earlier, the vibration of the diaphragm generates a sound which you hear in the form of your favorite music.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of Dynamic drivers:


  • Provide bigger output at small power
  • Inexpensive and lightweight
  • Generate a powerful bass response


  • Not the most long-lasting
  • Sound quality might distort at higher volumes

2 - Planar Magnetic Drivers

Mostly limited to high-end, expensive headphones, planar magnetic drivers create louder sound than their dynamic counterparts. Also, in contrast to other drivers – which have a single magnet – they have 2 magnets, hence the reason why they’re costlier.

How Do They Work?

Barring one step, these drivers rely on the same mechanism to create a sound as dynamic drivers. For, here the magnets do not activate the voice coil. Instead, they absorb the electric signal before vibrating the diaphragm (which is located between the magnets) on their own.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of planar magnetic drivers:


  • Richer, louder sound quality
  • Extremely low distortion even at full volume
  • Powerful bass response


  • Expensive
  • Tend to be bulky

3 - Electrostatic Drivers

For those of you who want their highs and mids to be crisper, electrostatic drivers deserve your attention. That is, because, they perform brilliantly in the upper frequencies’ range and rely on static electricity to create audio.

How Do They Work?

In electrostatic drivers, magnets won’t be causing vibration – and subsequently producing sound – in the diaphragm. Instead, they use two opposite electrical currents (positive and negative) to cause their thin membrane to vibrate. Such a mechanism allows them to generate accurate sound.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of electrostatic drivers:


  • Mids and highs are pristine
  • Natural sound quality
  • Give live-concert experience


  • Lackpowerful bass
  • Pricier 

4 - Balanced Armature

Due to their relatively smaller size, balanced armature drivers aren’t normally found in headsets. So, if you want them, you might have to switch to IEMs or earbuds.

How Do They Work?

Each ear of a balanced armature driver consists of a mini arm – which it calls armature – inside a voice coil. Both the voice coil and the mini arm have magnets on opposing sides.

When electric current passes through the coil, it magnetizes the armature with the result that both magnets generate a powerful magnetic field. Subsequently, a “drive rod” – which is connected to the armature – moves to and fro to push air out and sound waves into your ears.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of balanced armature drivers:


  • Sound profile is well-balanced
  • Build is ultra-compact
  • Passive noise isolation


  • Expensive 

5 - Magnetostriction (aka Bone Conduction)

Invented by Beethoven, these drivers bypass your eardrum to deliver sound directly into your ears. To know how they do that, let’s look at how bone conduction headphones work.

How Do They Work?

Instead of sitting inside your ears, these drivers sit in front of your ears. They create the sound by sending current into the headphone. Once there, the current causes the audio waves to vibrate a snail-shaped bone in your skull – known as cochlea.

When the cochlea vibrates, it sends signals to your inner ear hair cells. The movement of these cells, in turn, sends bone vibrations to your brain, which processes the signals to let you hear music.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of bone conduction drivers:


  • Sound profile is well-balanced
  • Build is ultra-compact
  • Passive noise isolation


  • Expensive 

6 - Hybrid Drivers

The reason why they are termed as hybrid is because these drivers are a hybrid between balanced armature and dynamic drivers. That means you get the advantages of both types with these.

How Do They Work?

As stated earlier, these drivers have both dynamic and armature systems. When the current passes through them, the armature moves up and down between two fixed magnets. From here, the driver system takes on to produce a wider frequency response.

In case you’re wondering, such a unique configuration gives these drivers many benefits. For, while the dynamic drivers let them accommodate all music genres and create a deeper bass, the armature provides a larger soundstage and better sound clarity.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of hybrid drivers:


  • Wider soundstage
  • Excellent sound clarity
  • Create a deeper bass
  • Able to accommodate all music genres


  • Ultra-expensive 

What Size For Headphone Drivers?

Is a bigger driver better in headphones? It is a question most people ask when they are buying headphones for the first time. The answer to this question, frustratingly, is NO.

Why is that the case? Well, let’s look at dynamic drivers to explain this point. Despite being the cheapest to make, these drivers boast of their bigger drivers. Ask any audiophile, and if they’re being honest with you, they might tell that dynamic drivers sound the most average.

So, despite their bigger driver size, dynamic drivers aren’t able to sound better. Consequently, whether you’ve chosen a 50mm driver or a 70mm driver, itssize alone won’tforce the driver to churn out better sound quality.

Do We Need To Go For Multi Driver Earphones?

Yes, if you can afford to. We have stated earlier that hybrid drivers provide better sound than any of their counterpart in the market. Did you wonder why we say that? Cue: the answer is in the name.

That’s right; since they are “hybrid”, these drivers can go for multiple drivers. That, in turn, allows them to reap the benefits provided by both while canceling out the negative features of each driver. As a result, you get better sound quality.

However, if you’re on a budget – which means you cannot afford to pay the asking price of hybrid drivers, your next best alternative is the planar magnetic drivers.

While they don’t have multiple drivers, planar magnetic earphones have two magnets, which is one more than what their counterparts can offer. That excess of magnets allows these headphones to churn out better sound quality.

Sound quality Vs Headphone Drivers

As indicated earlier, some people think that the quality of a sound is directly proportional to the size of their driver unit. In other words, they believe that the bigger the headphone driver, the better the sound it will produce.

Unfortunately, people who believe this myth are misguided.

For, size of a headphone doesn’t make a difference when it comes to sound quality. Instead, it is the technologies that your headphone might have – i.e. active noise cancellation – which determine how well (or poor) your headphone will sound.

That said, while the size of a headphone won’t impact its sound quality, it might affect its frequency range. Headphones with a bigger size have enough space to put in two drivers instead of one. Provided their manufacturer do just that, the range of frequencies is increased.

Best 70mm Driver Headphones

As far as we are concerned, there aren’t many 70mm driver headphones performing better than the Sony MDR XB1000.

They have made full use of their bigger drivers to produce a clean, pure and fuller bass. Also, despite their laid-back design, these headphones are forward-sounding, with the result that they provide a wider soundstage.

However, if you don’t want to invest in an amplifier – which you will have to with the XB1000 – the next best choice is the Sony MDR-Z7 headphones. They create a plane wave effect in your ears to minimize sound loss and prevent reflection delays.

What’s more, these headphones have a frequency range spanning from the meager 4Hz to the mammoth 100Khz. The 4Hz frequency comes handy if you want to listen to deep sub-bass notes. However, if you want to enjoy vocal melodies, the 100Khz frequency would allow you to do just that.

Best 50mm Driver Headphones

When it comes to 50mm driver headphones – and if you want the best value for your money – the V-Moda Crossfade M-100is worthy of your attention.

Excelling at overpowering bass, these headphones are great at providing noise isolation. That means that people around you won’t be able to hear your soundtrack. Still, while it doesn’t leak noise, the shallow design of the M-100 allows you to hear some environment sound.

Next up we have the TaoTronics Bluetooth TT-BH03 headphones. Apart from their excellent sound quality, these 50mm driver headphones provide 25 hours of battery life and on-ear controls.

What’s more, they have an advanced CSR chip to make pairing a cinch. Their earcups have memory foam padding and the headphones themselves fold into a small box. Lastly, if you want a better idea of your surroundings, you can swivel the earcups, too.


Now that you’ve gone through the whole article, you might have become aware of the different types of headphone drivers. While their size doesn’t matter as much as some people think, drivers do play an important part. Therefore, if you want your headphone to have a wider soundstage, it’s imperative you know which driver to choose.

Hinterlassen Sie einen Kommentar

Bitte beachten Sie, dass Kommentare vor der Veröffentlichung freigegeben werden müssen