Good headphones ensure great sound even on the go. However, given the sheer number of models, the market is almost overflowing. That makes the selection difficult. In addition to a few other things, the drivers, in particular, have the most significant impact on audio quality.
But what are drivers? They ensure that the electrical signals are also converted into sound – they are like tiny speakers that sit right in your ears. Therefore, they have a significant influence on how the audio quality turns out in the end.
A headphone driver consists of three components: a magnet, which generates a magnetic field; and voice coils, which move the membrane to generate sound as soon as current flows through it; and finally, the membrane itself, which vibrates and thus creates sound waves.
Many manufacturers now specify the diameter of the built-in drivers; typical for gaming headsets, for example, are 40 millimeters. More significant drivers provide a stronger bass and a higher maximum volume. The site says very little about the audio quality itself because many other factors play a role here. For example, significant audio drivers tend not to reproduce high frequencies quite as cleanly as smaller models.
Instead, the quality of the driver unit and the materials chosen determine the tone. The upholstery used and the housing of the earphones or ear cups also play essential roles. Things like the frequency range also affect the sound in practice.
Even the use of several drivers in one earphone, which then, for example, only have to deal with one frequency range separately, is no guarantee of good sound.
Thanks to increasingly clever techniques, single drivers are recommended. There are five different types: dynamic drivers (widespread), planar magnetic drivers (especially widespread in the high-end sector), balanced armature drivers (tiny drivers, e.g., for in-ears), electrostatic drivers (rarely and costly) as well as bone conduction drivers (direct transmission to the inner ear of the listener via the bones).
But which drivers should you choose now? It all depends on personal preferences. For example, if you want to immerse yourself and listen to powerful sounds, you will use dynamic drivers. For gaming, on the other hand, the balanced armature versions are suitable, as they enable sound isolation and offer a fairly wide soundstage.
Discerning audio enthusiasts are willing to spend a lot of money turn to planar-magnetic or electrostatic drivers. In any case, drivers have the most significant influence on the sound quality – but your purchase decision should not be based on the diameter of the driver, as there are a few other factors that influence the sound.
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