Different Types of Drivers in IEMs

Gagan Jajoria
Different Types of Drivers in IEMs

In-Ear Monitors, Headphones, or Speakers, whatever your medium of audio enjoyment might be, the core sound performance will always depend upon the quality of the driver used in them. When it comes to IEMs and Headphones, there are different types of drivers that are currently being used in them such as Dynamic Drivers, Balanced Armature Drivers, Planar Magnetic Drivers, Electrostatic Drivers, etc. Each of these drivers has its own characteristics, its own pros & cons, and delivers its own touch to the sound output. Today this blog, we will be discussing the characteristics and features of each driver type and we will also list some of our top picks as well. So, without wasting any more time, let’s begin.

Dynamic Drivers:-

Dynamic Drivers

Let’s start with the most basic one and the most commonly used one as well, Dynamic Drivers. These are used almost everywhere and have been in use for a long. You will find these in Headphones, IEMs, Speakers, and even TWS earphones. Dynamic drivers are designed with a membrane diaphragm coil that is stretched across a voice coil. They also feature an in-built high-power electromagnetic circuit that helps in the swift movement of drivers. When an electrical signal is sent to the dynamic driver, the electromagnetic circuit gets activated and produces a strong magnetic flux. This magnetic flux results in diaphragm movement and hence produces sound by vibrating the air around the diaphragm.

Brands have customized dynamic drivers by use of different materials for their diaphragm coils such as Beryllium, LCP(Liquid Crystal Polymer), CNT(Carbon Nano-Tube), etc. As we all know every metal and material has its own rigidity, weight, and density which affects the sound output in their own way. Generally, the greater the surface tension of the membrane material, the quicker it will respond. This means that high-density and lightweight material will provide a clean output with lower distortion and better clarity in the output.

Pros of using Dynamic Drivers:-

  • Dynamic drivers are capable of producing impactful low-end performance.
  • Dynamic drivers are usually cheaper than other drivers.
  • A single driver can cover the entire audible frequency range.

Cons of using Dynamic Drivers:-

  • They are prone to distortion.
  • Dynamic drivers are usually bigger than other driver types.
  • Dynamic drivers are susceptible to driver flex.

Today, most IEMs use Dynamic Drivers in single, dual, and even hybrid configurations. We will discuss Hybrid Driver configurations later in this blog. Let’s discuss some of the top-selling dynamic driver-based IEMs in the market today.

Tin HiFi T2 DLC:-

Tin HiFi T2 DLC

Driver Configuration: 10mm DLC Dynamic Driver.

Tin HiFi T2 DLC is a brand new single dynamic driver IEM equipped with a 10mm Dynamic driver unit. The driver unit here adopts a high-quality DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) diaphragm coil which is super lightweight and has a high-density build. T2 DLC delivers quality sound with ultimate clarity and resolution for its given price point!!

Price: Rs 4,990.

QKZ x HBB Khan:-

QKZ x HBB Khan

Driver Configuration: Dual Dynamic Drivers.

Khan is the latest project between QKZ Audio and HBB(Hawaiian Bad Boy). The pair houses two dynamic drivers on each side, one 10mm unit for producing a powerful lower end and a 7.8mm unit for a crisp midrange and treble frequency response. Khan also features high-quality 4th-Gen DLP 3D printed ear cavities that ensure a comfortable wearing experience. The drivers here uses composite LCP diaphragms for clean sound reproduction.

Price: Rs 3,890.

Balanced Armature Drivers:-

Balanced Armature Drivers

Coming on to the second most used type of driver in IEMs, We are talking about Balanced Armature drivers units now. BA drivers are smaller and feature a miniature arm in a coil of wire. This miniature arm is suspended between two powerful electromagnets which get activated when a signal is received. Upon activation, the miniature arm starts vibrating between the magnets and this produces the sound that we hear. Balanced Armature drivers have very little movement of the miniature arm so the distortion is also very less. Due to their small size, a single pair of IEMs can have multiple BA driver units. Balanced Armature drivers can’t cover an entire audible frequency band with a single driver. That’s the main reason we see multiple BA drivers in a single pair. Balanced Armature drivers are easy to tune for given frequency bands, resulting in better control of tuning for acoustic engineers.

Pros of Balanced Armature Drivers:-

  • Compact in size, multiple units can be implemented in a single pair.
  • Can be tuned and adjusted for given frequency regions.
  • BA drivers don’t have much movement, they produce cleaner sound with less distortion.

Cons of Balanced Armature Drivers:-

  • Hard for a single BA driver to produce the entire audible frequency band.
  • Since Dynamic drivers produce sound with more air movement involved, they produce a more impactful bass response.

BA drivers are capable of delivering ultimate resolution and excellent sound performance with an IEM. Many of the current flagships like QDC Anole VX, and 64Audio U18T/U12T, feature an all-BA setup. Here are some of our current top-selling models with All-BA driver configuration.

KZ AS16 Pro:-

KZ AS16 Pro

Driver Configuration: Eight BA Driver Units per side.

AS16 Pro is a premium all-BA IEM from the house of KZ. The pair comes equipped with eight upgraded balanced armature drivers on each side. AS16 Pro is known for delivering quality sound with rich vocals, ultimate resolution, excellent clarity, and a smooth inoffensive sound. It’s an impressive pair available in a pocket-friendly price.

Price: Rs 6,290.

Symphonium Audio Meteor:-

Symphonium Audio Meteor

Driver Configuration: Four BA Driver Units per side.

Symphonium Audio is a premium IEM brand from Singapore. The Meteor is their precisely designed handcrafted pair of in-ear monitors designed with their in-house developed PHAT technology. With just four BA drivers per side, Meteor delivers outstanding performance that is quite impactful and lively.

Price: Rs 54,999.

Planar Magnetic Drivers:-

Planar Magnetic Drivers

Planar Magnetic Drivers have been quite famous this past year. From what was limited to some high-end gears only, Planar Magnetic drivers are now easily available at budget price IEMs as well. They have a similar working principle as a dynamic driver but instead of a cone-shaped diaphragm, these use an ultra-thin straight membrane diaphragm. This ultra-thin membrane is suspended between the magnets which gets activated upon receiving a signal. Planar Magnetic drivers are capable of delivering an impactful bass response that too with excellent details and resolution. The only con with Planar drivers is that they are delicate and might need extra power to produce the sound to their best ability.

Pros of Planar Driver:-

  • Capable of delivering clean, powerful sound.
  • Distortion is less in the output with Planar Drivers.
  • Bass with Planar Drivers is usually deep-hitting and impactful.
  • Fast and precise sound capabilities.

Cons of Planar Drivers:-

  • Planar Drivers are delicate and need to be taken care of properly.
  • They require extra power to sound their best.

We have received many successful planar magnetic driver-based IEMs in the past year. Planar drivers have been a highlight for IEMs in the last year. Here’s our list of top-selling Planar Magnetic driver IEMs.

KZ PR1:-

KZ PR1

Driver Configuration: 13.2mm Dual-Cavity Planar Magnetic Driver.

KZ PR1 packs an amazing sound performance with its in-house developed 13.2mm Planar Magnetic driver unit. KZ PR1 performs well for most genres with its fast and accurate sound reproduction. The pair captures the minutest of the details from your music and presents it in a defined manner. On top of premium high-fidelity sound, PR1 also brings you an exquisite finish with professionally designed ear shells. It’s one of the top-selling IEMs around its price point.

 Price: Rs 6,490.

LETSHUOER S12:-

LETSHUOER S12

Driver Configuration: 14.8mm Planar Magnetic Driver.

S12 is one of the top-selling Planar Magnetic driver IEMs in the market. With a 14.8mm custom Planar magnetic driver unit on each side, S12 produces rich and impactful sound output. The pair delivers thunderous bass response with outstanding clarity and resolution throughout a wide frequency band. S12 brings you impressive sound with an equally impressive build as the shells are made using CNC machined high-precision process. They are made up of high-quality aluminum alloy in an industrial-grade design promising a comfortable fit!!

Electrostatic Drivers:-

Electrostatic Drivers

Electrostatic drivers also known as EST drivers work on the principle of static electricity. They have an ultra-thin diaphragm suspended between two electrodes. When a sound signal is provided, the electrodes create a magnetic field where the diaphragm moves and produces the sound. The diaphragm movement is super smooth, resulting in a very detailed sound presentation. IEMs with EST drivers have built-in energizers that power the drivers upon signal reception. EST drivers are known for their excellent detail retrieval. They are usually tuned for high-frequency band response as they achieve quality performance with low distortion, no harshness, and no sibilance.

Pros of EST Drivers:-

  • Small in size, easy to implement.
  • Excellent high-frequency band response.
  • Delivers an airy and detailed sound.

Cons of EST Drivers:-

  • Power requirements are usually high for EST drivers.
  • Expensive.
  • Full-frequency EST drivers are a rare sight in budget IEMs.

Due to their power requirements, EST drivers are currently only available in multi-driver hybrid configurations. Only a few models like Shuoer Tape/Tape Pro uses a single EST driver configuration.

SHUOER Tape Pro:-

SHUOER Tape Pro

Driver Configuration: Composite Electrostatic Dynamic Driver unit.

Tape Pro is a highly successful model from Shuoer. The pair packs a composite Electrostatic Dynamic Driver unit that produces impressive details and exceptional clarity for its price bracket. You get an unparalleled sound resolution that delivers crisp sound for different genres of music. Tape Pro is an exceptionally good-sounding IEM if you love details and clarity!!

Price: Rs 5,990.

Bone Conduction Drivers:-

Bone Conduction Drivers

Out of all the drivers we have discussed so far, Bone Conduction Drivers(or BCD in short) are different from the previous ones. The sound-generating principle is the same, the driver vibrates in its place and produces the sound. But BCD drivers produce sound by coming in contact with our bones. BCD drivers are heavily used in hearing-aid devices. But in recent times, we have seen brands implementing Bone-Conduction Drivers in IEMs as a part of the hybrid configuration. So let’s move ahead and discuss the Hybrid driver configurations.

Hybrid Drivers Configuration:-

Hybrid Driver refers to the configurations where brands have implemented two or more kinds of drivers in a single pair of IEMs. Commonly this has DD+BA driver configurations, but now we have got interesting combinations featuring combinations of DD, BA, EST, Planar, and even BCD drivers in a single pair of IEMs. Today, most IEMs feature hybrid driver configuration as it brings the user the best of different worlds with a single pair of IEMs. It allows the brands to implement different benefits of different driver types and merge them together to create impressive IEMs. Like, imagine having a dynamic driver for powerful bass response and balanced armatures for exceptional mid-range and treble response, and EST drivers for ultra-high frequencies. This brings advanced sound capabilities in a single pair of IEMs.

Pros of Hybrid Driver Configuration:-

  • You can get the benefits of different types of drivers in a single pair.
  • Hybrid configurations are capable of delivering exceptional sound.
  • Brands can tune different drivers based on desired frequency bands and get the desired performance.

Cons of Hybrid Driver Configuration:-

  • Since multiple drivers are used, precise adjustments have to be done.
  • Multiple drivers if not adjusted properly can cause distortion issues. 

Hybrid IEMs are highly-famous today. Bringing in different driver types in a single pair allows the brand to achieve its desired sound easily. Here are some of our top-selling Hybrid IEMs.

DUNU Talos:-

DUNU Talos

Driver Configuration: Planar Magnetic Driver With Dual BA Drivers.

Talos is a spectacular hybrid in-ear monitor designed with a unique combination of Planar Magnetic driver with dual BA drivers. The Planar driver here is tuned to deliver a full-frequency response while the Dual BA drivers are here for enhancing the high-frequency band. The pair is unique as the Dual BA drivers can be switched on or off based on their requirements.

Price: Rs 18,990.

Unique Melody Mext:-

Unique Melody Mext

Driver Configuration: Coil-Based Bone Conduction Driver+ 1 Dynamic Driver + 4 BA drivers.

Mext is a premium pair of in-ear monitors designed with a combination of balanced armature drivers, dynamic drivers, and a coil-based bone-conduction driver unit. With this unique and highly-decorated driver configuration, Mext delivers impressive sound with a powerful lower-end, exquisite details, and a rich midrange. It takes the benefits of its multiple drivers and delivers quality sound for the listeners. 

Price: Rs 84,990.

Final Words:-

Well, this blog has been quite long now, but it was necessary to lay out all the details about different types of drivers out there. This guide will help you understand the working principle of different drivers and how they perform. We hope this guide helps you to increase your knowledge and also keeps you updated with the latest technology. We will try our best to regularly update this guide with new and updated driver types. If you have any questions or queries, you can reach out to us through the Chat window on our website (available Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM).