It’s very important to understand earphone drivers to ensure you find a pair of earphones that actually produce good audio. A driver is what converts audio signals into sound waves. There are different types of earphone drivers, each of which comes with different qualities and sizes.
This article will break down how these various drivers work, what size you should be looking for depending on your needs, and how each driver affects sounds. I’m confident that you’ll have a good idea of what earphone drivers are once you finish reading.
What Are Earphone Drivers?
Most people don’t truly know what earphone drivers are. They think that bigger drivers are better, but while that may be true in some cases, there’s a lot more to that.
The driver is what transforms the electrical signals into sound waves so that you can hear them, and it’s what determines if sounds are coming through loud and clear or muffled. A low-quality driver will cause a lot of distortion, which might ruin it for you even if the earphones do have a good bass response. So, for the best possible audio quality, you need to make sure that you find the best earphones with high-quality drivers.
Some Basic Terms To Keep In Mind
Before we begin, I’ll give you an idea of certain terms that you need to know to gauge the effectiveness of earphone drivers. Even if you know some of these terms, it might be a good idea to read what I have to say as a refresher.
- Frequency Response: The frequency response of a driver tells you the range of its bass, mids and treble. It tells you how low or high the frequencies that the earphones can produce. These lower numbers are represented by Hertz (Hz), while the higher numbers are in kHz (1 kHz = 1000 Hz). A higher-quality driver with a better frequency response will produce more bass and treble sounds than cheaper ones. Most drivers range from 20 Hz to 20000 kHz.
- Impedance: Impedance is the electrical resistance of a driver. It determines how efficient the driver will be at converting audio signals into sound waves. A low impedance means less power is required to make these sounds, but this can also cause distortion in some cases. An earphone with an impedance from 16-32 Ohms should work fine for most devices without causing any distortions.
- Sensitivity: Sensitivity is measured in decibels (dB), and it tells you how loudly a driver can play a sound with a given amount of power. This is usually measured when the earphones are at their maximum volume. A higher sensitivity rating usually means that you won’t have to turn up the volume as high to achieve a good listening level.
Now that you know what these terms mean, we can continue to the next part.
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Different Types Of Earphone Drivers And How They Work
The most important thing about earphone drivers is actually the type, not the size. You have mainly six types of earphone drivers: Dynamic Drivers, Balanced Armature Drivers, Planar Magnetic Drivers, Bone Conduction Drivers, Piezoelectric Drivers and Electrostatic Drivers.
1. Dynamic Drivers
These are the most common type of drivers, and they work by using a moving coil to create sound waves. The larger the driver, the lower the frequency it can produce, leading to better bass. This is why many people believe that bigger drivers mean better quality audio. However, this isn’t always true, as other factors also come into play when determining sound quality. Dynamic drivers usually range from about 15 mm to over 60 mm in size.
2. Balanced Armature Drivers
These drivers use electromagnets to move a tiny armature around inside a small chamber. This creates sound waves, which then travel through a diaphragm. Balanced armature drivers are what professional earphones use for producing great sound quality at higher frequencies. The downside to these types of drivers is that they usually have very small, almost negligible bass production capability, and the driver sizes themselves can be as low as just about 0.75 mm in diameter!
3. Planar Magnetic Drivers
These drivers are similar to dynamic drivers in that they use a moving coil to create sound waves. However, what makes them different is the flat diaphragm which moves back and forth between two magnets. This type of driver usually has a higher sensitivity than dynamic drivers and can produce better audio quality, especially in low frequencies. You’ll usually find these drivers in high-end earphones.
4. Bone Conduction Drivers
This type of driver works by vibrating the bones in your ear and sending sound waves through them to create audible sounds. Bone conduction drivers usually have a better bass response than dynamic or balanced armature drivers. However, they can also be too loud- loud enough to cause hearing loss to sensitive ears. These drivers are quite new, and there aren’t a lot of earphones using them in the Indian market right now. So, if you’re interested in these drivers, keep in mind that you’ll have a harder time trying to find them.
5. Piezoelectric Drivers
These drivers use a crystal that creates an electrical charge when put under pressure. This then causes the driver to vibrate and create sound waves. Piezoelectric drivers are usually found in earphones that come with noise-cancelling features.
6. Electrostatic Drivers
As the name suggests, Electrostatic drivers work through static electricity. This electricity is applied to the thin-film layer that’s sandwiched between two metal plates. As the electricity moves through this layer, it creates sound waves, which can then be played out of a speaker and eventually come to your ears as music (or what you’re listening to).
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How Earphone Driver Sizes Affect Audio
Now that we’re done talking about the driver types, let’s move to a factor you’re more familiar with; the size. How does the size affect audio? Does bigger mean better? Well, keep on reading to find out.
Let’s start with the basics first. The driver size is what’s responsible for the range of frequencies that the earphone can produce. Depending on the size of the drivers, the audio quality will be more or less bass-heavy. At the same time, the audio can feel more or less balanced.
Sometimes, bigger doesn’t always mean better, though. Depending on the type of driver, a bigger driver might not be an ideal choice for producing good audio. For instance, if you’re looking for earphones that have good midrange and high-frequency responses, then you’ll want to go with a pair with Balanced Armature Drivers, as they usually excel in these areas. While Dynamic Drivers usually range from about 15 mm to over 60 mm in size, while Balanced Armature Drivers can be as low as just about 0.75 mm in diameter.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I have earphones with more than one type of driver?
Yes, you can find earphones that have multiple drivers in them. This usually means that the earphones can reproduce a wider range of frequencies and give you a more balanced sound.
Is there any specific type of driver that’s more prone to causing health issues?
Yes. Bone Conduction Drivers and Piezoelectric Drivers come with such risks; if you listen to music at high volumes with either of these drivers, it could lead to hearing loss over time. It’s always a good idea to keep the volume levels down if you’re using earphones that have either of these types of drivers.
What drivers are more appropriate for listening to Pop Music?
If you’re looking for earphones that will give you a great listening experience for pop music, then I’d recommend going with a pair that has Dynamic Drivers. The bass response in these drivers usually gives a good punchy sound that’s perfect for upbeat songs.
Does the driver type affect the maximum volume of a pair of earphones?
Yes. Generally, earphones with Dynamic Drivers can reach higher volumes than those with Balanced Armature Drivers or Electrostatic Drivers. This is because the former type of driver can create more pressure, which makes it easier to produce higher volume levels.
Which are the cheapest earphone drivers and which are the most expensive ones?
Dynamic Drivers are usually the cheapest type of drivers that you can find in earphones. This is because they’re easier to produce and don’t require much intricate work like other driver types. On the other hand, Electrostatic Drivers are typically the most expensive drivers that you can find in audio equipment as they’re more complex to manufacture.
Are there any drivers that are exceptionally good with surround audio?
No. Full-sized headphones and home theatres that utilise multi-channel audio are better at producing surround sound.
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As you can see, while the size does matter, so does the driver type. Both are equally important. Regardless of whether you’re a casual user or an audiophile, you should carefully consider both of these factors. I hope you have a better understanding of the different types of earphone drivers. If you’re trying to get a good pair of earphones, everything I’ve said will certainly help.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll see you in the next post.
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