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This is part 5 in a series on Headphones and Their Drivers. Don’t hesitate to share and comment if you found these helpful!
- What is Headphone Impedance?
- What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
- What is Output Impedance?
- What is a Headphone Driver?
- What is a Planar Magnetic Driver? (You are here)
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
What is a Planar Magnetic Driver? Before we get into all the juicy details, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this article
- What is a Headphone Driver? (Dynamic Variety)
- What is a Planar Magnetic Driver? (Planar Variety)
- The Anatomy of a Planar Magnetic Driver
- Some Great Planar Headphones
- Some Great Dynamic Headphones
- Final Word
Back in the day, I had no clue what a driver was. I remember buying headphones from CVS pharmacy thinking that was as good as it got. It’s strange to think back on those times. My first pair of pretty decent headphones came in the form of the Sony MDR V150, which is perhaps Sony’s most important budget offering. It’s actually still relevant today, and one of the only good pairs that a drug store like that ever sold.
I went through countless pairs of these because I liked the sound so much. The headband was infamous for snapping under pressure like Henry Hill from Goodfellas though. Lol. The pads also flaked out, but that’s pretty standard even for a headphone like the 7506 or V6. Learn more: Sony MDR V6 vs. MDR 7506
Aside from those two issues, I really love Sony headphones in general, and especially the V6. It’s a product that has stood the test of time for over 3 decades, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
But I digress…
Before we even discuss what a Planar Magnetic driver is, we’ll have to first discuss the Headphone Driver itself and why it’s important.
What is a Headphone Driver?
and what does it do?
First, we’ll look at what a Dynamic Driver is…
A headphone driver is a conduit that allows for your ears to hear music. It’s responsible for converting an electrical signal into an acoustic signal (sound). It does this by creating current with a conductor through a magnetic field that moves a diaphragm which creates that sound.
It’s basically like a tiny loudspeaker inside of the ear cups. Related: What is a Headphone Driver?
It is made up of:
- Voice Coils
- A Magnet.
- A Diaphragm.
To put it even more simply:
- The Magnet creates a magnetic field.
- The Voice Coil also creates a magnetic field.
- Both of these interact to create the movement of the Voice Coil up and down.
- This in turn moves the Diaphragm linearly, creating sound waves for your ears.
Now that we know what a headphone driver actually does…
What is a Planar Magnetic Driver?
and how does it differ?
With a Planar Magnetic Driver, the process is the same except for a few things:
- There are more magnets placed around the diaphragm, and they are placed evenly. In a Dynamic headphone (from above), there is only one Magnet employed.
- This allows the sound to enter your ears more naturally. A Planar Magnetic headphone really does sound more realistic, giving you more of that theater-like presentation and better Soundstage. In some instances it kind of feels like you’re there in front of the band!
- There’s much lower distortion at higher volumes, and in fact it’s basically non-existent (you likely will never be able to tell or hear any). I can also attest to this, as the LCD line from Audeze has this buttery smooth quality to it. The LCD-X in particular really impressed me with regards to bass response. It’s a flat line, and so good that it almost dances. There are a natural rumble and smoothness to the low end that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. The detail and intricacy of the bass is truly astounding when paired with a proper amp like the Bryston or NAIM DAC V-1.
- Planar Magnetic headphones have a larger and more powerful diaphragm. This allows air to move with more authority, resulting in that more powerful bass response that we just touched on.
- They are also a bit easier to drive from an Amp.
Check out Tyll’s Anatomy of a Planar Magnetic Headphone Driver!
With that, let’s take a look at some of my favorite planar headphones…
Some Great Planar Magnetic Headphones
- The HIFIMAN HE400i/400S. Both of these are fantastic first options if you want to see what it’s all about without burning a hole in your pocket. I’ve had extensive time with each, and absolutely love the sound they offer. The 400i is a bit warmer than the colder, somewhat more sterile/analytical 400S. The new and improved Sundara is also a great option! Learn more: HIFIMAN Sundara Review
- Oppo PM3. Oppo has since stopped making products, but their PM3 was one of the best sounding headphones I’d heard out of about 80 demoed units at the time of this article. Keep checking back here for updates! Just scroll down until you see “Important Reviews”.
- Audeze LCD-X. Anything from the LCD line is great, but I really enjoyed the LCD-X the most so far. It’s got a buttery smooth low end like we discussed above, an extremely flat but revealing mid-range, and a darker treble. Out of all the sound signatures, I prefer this type overall.
- MrSpeakers Aeon Flow. This is perhaps the best closed back headphone that I’ve heard thus far, and is truly a match made in heaven with something like a Chord Mojo. The intimacy and resolution you get are absolutely mind-blowing. In fact, I believe this combo to be an end game for most people.
Some Great Dynamic Headphones
- Sennheiser HD600/650. Of course, these are going to be at the top given they’re some of the most important headphones of the last 20 years. I believe the 650 to be just about the best all-around purchase one could make if you knew nothing about the hobby. It’s a sound that’s immediately accessible and will amaze pretty much anyone who gets a chance to listen. The 600 is the Gold Standard for Reference, but the 650 is probably better for a more casual listener. Learn more: Sennheiser HD600 vs. 650!
I tried to simplify the question of What is a Planar Magnetic Driver? the best that I could. Why? Because I know when I research something, I want the most concise answer that makes sense to me. A lot of websites get overly complex about it when it doesn’t need to be.
That said, I hope I’ve shed some light on the topic!
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information today…
Hey Marvin, what do you make of all this? Be sure to let me know!!
If you have any other questions or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or contact me!
I very much look forward to speaking with you…
All the best and God bless,