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✒️ Written by Danny | 📷 Photo credit : Willy, Hai Wei
The earphone market is ever more competitive, overseeing the latest advancements with multiple types of new drivers being integrated. Manufacturers are trying ever so hard to squeeze in every last bit of kit into the tiny and compact packaging form factor they’re limited to. From single dynamic driver configuration to micro planar magnetic type and finally some intricate hybrid combination setups.
▶️ Dynamic Driver:
Almost every entry level earphone in the market will have Dynamic Driver implementation.
The proven platform for sound reproduction, it's cost effective for production and suitable for a broad range of sound frequency.
Dynamic driver produces sound by sending current to the voice coil attached with the diaphragm. This induces movement due to the voice coil magnet polarity attracting and retracting from the strong magnets.
Manufacturers are able to use different diaphragm materials to tune their tonality. Companies like Beyerdynamic even went the extra mile miniaturizing their Headphone Tesla Driver Technology into a small form factor for Xelento with a magnetic flux density of more than 1 Tesla.
▶️ Balanced Armatures / BA drivers:
Balanced Armature driver works by having a moving metal diaphragm setup, allowing it to generate a high level of sound clarity with accuracy, improve micro details and transient response. Originally developed for hearing aids, BA driver unit is relatively lightweight, compact in size and electrically efficient, making it extremely appealing for manufacturers to integrate into their earphones. All BA drivers are created for optimal performance at selected frequency range, thus manufacturers will usually employ multi BA setups or Hybrid Dynamic BA combo setups with passive crossovers to cover a wide range of frequencies.
▶️ Electrostatic Driver / EST Tweeter Driver:
Shure’s KSE series comes to mind as the first electrostatic driver earphone. We’re quickly blown away with how effortless it reproduces treble frequency and resolution. As with electrostatic headphones, an external transformer is required to power the earphones which makes the design clunky. Until 2018 when Sonion came out with the Electrostatic Tweeter drivers. Easily distinguishable with its additional transformer unit inside earphone housing, it draws power from the audio cable itself and produces sound with an ultralight membrane for an accurate transient response and ultimate details reproduction, it allows high frequency to be extended all the way up to dizzying heights of 70 kHz.
▶️ Planar Magnetic Driver:
Used to be exclusive to headphones, planar magnetic has been successfully miniaturized and becoming ever more accessible, from the popular Tin Hifi P1 to the Audeze iSine/LCDi3.
Planar Magnetic Driver creates sound by vibrating the thinly stretched membrane across the full surface uniformly, suspended between two sets of magnets.
This is how planar magnetic drivers get their signature transient response and uniform frequency response from low to highs across the whole area of the diaphragm.