The world of audiophile hardware is dense and difficult to parse and to be entirely honest; audiophile seems to be better that way. A technology named “planar magnetic drivers” is coming out to be more accessible and cheaper headphones as of promising, late audio fidelity much greater than conventional cans.
What makes them different and a lot better than the normal one?
How do the traditional dynamic headphones work?
To understand what planar headphones are, first it is essential to understand what it doesn’t contain. In simple words, speakers inside the headphones work through electromagnets. In an inexpensive and dynamic style of driver construction, the electric current is sent via a tightly-wound coil.
The coil gets connected to a “diaphragm” or “cone” – the huge, cone-shaped part of the speaker which can be seen from the outside – and is surrounded by a circular magnet.
The regulation of the electric current leads to moving up and down of the coil inside the donut-shaped magnet, therefore moving the compressor, diaphragm, and expanding air particles along with the creative sound waves that your ears listen to. Precisely controlling the electrical current that flows through the coil lets the driver translate the electronic source into standard music and other audio.
In other complicated electrostatic drivers, the diaphragm and the coil get combined in a single part of the apparatus. Both these parts are replaced with a thin piece of electrically charged material placed in between two metal plates, one negative and another one is positive.
The entire setup regulates the electrical charge with the help of the outer plates, moving the material inside back and forth between positive and negative to vibrate molecules into the air and create waves of the sound.
Electrostatic drivers are considered to be larger and can be found in the headphones starting at the range of $3500 and going way beyond.
How planar headphones are different?
The planar magnetic headphones combine some of the operating principles between electrostatic and dynamic drivers. In the setup, the one that makes sound is an electrostatic-style flexible, thin material in between the outer layers of the mechanism.
Just like a dynamic driver, the diaphragm comprises thin wires with the current flowing through it, which regulates its vibration.
The entire setup works with a series of evenly-spaced and precise magnets on both sides of the thin, electrically-active diaphragm material. Therefore, the name “planar magnetic” comes in which means magnets working on a flat plane.
The magnets are cut precisely and spaced that the diaphragm holds in the magnetic fields. This flat layered and wide construction is what makes these headphones huge in diameter than other larger dynamic headphones, but they have thin cups.
Just like a dynamic driver, the sound in a planar driver gets generated by regulating the electrical flow with the help of wires suspended between the magnets. But like the electrostatic driver, the diaphragm mechanism is replaced by directly vibrating a flat and large film, allowing for more range and precision.
Combining all of these principles lets planar drivers be constructed in cheaper, smaller headphones and speakers if compared to expensive electrostatic hardware which can still lead to a better sound than usual dynamic headphones and speakers.
How do they make better headphones?
The magnetic drivers design the headphones which are used to be resistant to all types of audio and electronic distortion, all thanks to the suspended diaphragm material situated between permanent magnetic fields. It also offers fast responding times, with low to no transient sounds as the audio stops sending low or high frequencies.
In simple words, planar magnetic headphones have a precise and even sound without the need for headphone amplifiers. A disadvantage is that the design doesn’t give that satisfying look like a conventional driver, which can make a wider and bigger sound for the ones who love bass. They also seem to be heavier than the standard designs.
Benefits of buying planar headphones
- Simply driven by amplifiers
The flat serpentine nature of the conductor yields impedance which is purely resistive. The flatness means that the amplifiers can easily drive the headphones. The amplifiers might be needed to increase the current and voltage of the audio signal to achieve appropriate levels while listening but these amplifiers will have an easy time driving the planar drivers.
- Low distortion
The conductor in a device is designed, speaking practically, covering the entire area of the diaphragm. In this way, the diaphragm can move uniformly which leads to excellent audio reproduction even if the levels are high.
Moving coil-dynamics diaphragms are moved by the coil conversely in the center that does not extend over the entire area. This leads to non-linearity when the coil is set moving at higher amplitudes.
- Huge diaphragm with planar sound wavefront
As mentioned previously, the planar driver produces a sound wavefront. These seem to be natural to the ears. So even though the headphones are closer to the ears, they sound natural and might give a sense of a clearer and wider stereo image.
- Accurate transient response
Audio transient is considered to be the short-lived peaks in an audio signal. Some of its examples include kick and snare drum hits. Transient response means the accuracy where the driver of a headphone can recreate the transients of the audio signal as the waves of the sound.
Again, this is because of the conductor being spreading across the diaphragm. The input signal pulls and pushes the entire area. This not only has an incredible transient response but also a tight bass response which is crucial in various music genres.
Are expensive headphones worth buying?
Nowadays, the most expensive headphones are often the best ones. However, no need to spend much if your budget is low and you can get the best results at a fraction of the price.
In past years, planar headphones have been introduced by various manufacturers and almost all of them have the best designs that complement the drivers. Usually, the range starts from thousand dollars and goes way beyond, but most of the manufacturers have made budget sets below $500 that compare with premium sets.