What is Driver Size in Headphones?

If you’re anything like me, you love music and are on a constant hunt for headphones that offer the best sound quality. And with all the marketing jargon added to the device specifications these days it can become difficult choosing the right device for yourself! 

But learning about the main component that affects the sound quality in your headphone can help you next time you go audio device shopping. I’m talking about headphone drivers and this article talks in detail about what it is and how it helps. 

What Exactly is a Driver?

I just bombarded you with another jargon term “headphone driver” and you’re still wondering what that is. 

A headphone is the most crucial part of the headphone. You could say it is what drives the headphone’s sound making mechanism! A driver converts electrical signals into sound waves. 

Typically, a headphone drive has three parts to it: 

  • A magnet that creates a magnetic field 
  • Coils that move the diaphragm to create the sound
  • And the diaphragm that moves to create the sound waves. 

What Does a Driver Do for the Audio Quality?

Technically for a driver, the bigger it is, the better the bass it’ll produce. This might lead you to believe that a bigger sized driver is better for sound. However, that’s not the case always. 

Yes you may think that a bigger driver has a larger diaphragm and so the quality of the sound gets better. But it is important to understand that a lot of things come into the picture when we talk about sound quality. Decent headphone drivers have diaphragms ranging between 20-50mm in diameters. This helps to determine the loudness of the headphone. The larger size helps produce a better base. But a larger diaphragm size doesn’t always support high frequencies (treble) and this may disrupt the overall sound quality.  

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What Are The Types Of Headphone Drivers? 

To understand the concept of headphone drivers and the components affecting the sound quality let me brief you about the different types of drivers available:

  1. Moving Coil Driver

This drive uses a neodymium magnet that interacts with the coil. Once the current flows, the coil produces vibrations in the form of oscillations.

  1. Planar Magnetic Driver 

The diaphragm is placed between two magnets and it operates using the magnetic fields. This tech is being used in most high end headphones. 

  1. Balanced Armature Driver 

These are very small drivers mainly used for in-ear monitors. Manufacturers generally put multiple of these drivers in one earpiece. 

  1. Electrostatic Driver 

Electrostatic drivers are expensive and have a lot of mechanisms going on. In a layman’s terms, the vibrations in this are produced using oppositely charged conductive plates.

  1. Bone Conduction Driver

These drivers are able to deliver the sound directly to the listeners inner ear using bone conduction. 

Conclusion – Which One Really Helps With the Sound Quality?

Sometimes, even smaller drivers produce great sound, take Google’s Pixel Buds for example. Besides drivers, sound quality also depends on the materials, the tuning, pads et cetera. 

In case you’re trying to choose among the driver types, it all comes down to your personal preference. If you’re a bass lover you should probably give dynamic drivers a try!

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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