9 mm Vs 12 mm Earphone Drivers: How to Make Your Choice

It’s been over a year since we started working/ studying from home due to the pandemic. Earphones/ headphones have become our saviors over the cacophony of howling pets, screaming kids and grandparents watching their favorite shows in the highest possible volume.

We buy earphones without actually going through into its specifications. So today, let’s discuss how driver size affects sound, why you should not ignore it and how to choose the perfect driver size.

What Is a Headphone Driver?

In simple terms – it converts electrical signals into sound. Naturally, it is the most important part of the headphone.

The three components that make up the driver are:

  • Magnet – Performance of the magnet has a qualitative effect on the sound produced
  • Voice coils – They perform the actual conversion of electrical signal to sound
  • Diaphragm – It converts mechanical vibrations to sound

Does Driver Size Matter?

Size decides how loud the headphone is. However, loudness and quality are two different factors.

A common misconception is bigger the driver size, better the sound quality. In truth, the sound quality of headphones depends on many factors and not just the driver size. These factors are:

  • Driver distance to eardrum
  • Driver sensitivity
  • Tuning of the headphones
  • Impedance
  • Headphone signal amplifier

Does this mean you should ignore driver size? Not at all! We recommend that you understand all other factors along with driver size to make the best suited choice.

12 mm vs 9 mm: How Does Driver Size Affect Sound Experience?

  • Sound output

12 mm driver size output is larger than the 9 mm one. It will be louder.

On the other hand, earphones are significantly closer to the eardrum and such loudness can cause a number of issues such as ear pain and related headache.

  • Bass response

Bigger driver size is technically considered to be a more efficient way of pushing/ pulling more air without having to move as much compared to smaller driver size.

Thus, bass frequencies will be perceived a little better in bigger sized drivers.

However, don’t rejoice yet. Practically, other factors (discussed above) also play an important role in perceiving bass. At most, 12 mm driver size can make the bass sound a little cleaner.

  • Trebles (High Frequencies)

Earphones with large drivers find it difficult to reproduce high frequencies (treble). On the other hand, a 9 mm sized driver will perform better with treble and give a decent bass sound as well.

9mm vs 12mm Driver –  Which Driver Size Is Better Then?

While we use the terms headphones and earphones interchangeably in our daily conversations, earphones/ earbuds are inserted into the ear canal whereas headphones are worn on/ around ears.

Earphone driver size ranges from 8 mm to 15 mm. They are very close to our eardrums and thus, the sound is usually incredibly clear.

In Conclusion

As discussed above, a 12 mm may give you louder sound and a slightly cleaner bass, it may not necessarily be a healthy choice especially if you are going to be using the earphones for hours together.

A 12 mm is a good choice for gamers looking for immersive gaming experience. It will also be a good choice for music lovers.

However, for long term use and painless experience along with a slightly lower bass response, a 9 mm is recommended.

Also, please go through user reviews and ratings on various websites as well as your own previous experience before making a purchase.

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

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