If you are the kind of shopper that likes to do your research, kudos! Knowledge is power, after all. If you also happen to be in the market for TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earphones, in doing that research you will have heard one term over and over again: “driver” – normally along with the size of said driver.
But what are drivers, exactly? How do they work? And is their size as important as we are led to believe? Read on to find out all this and more.
And, if you are new to the world of TWS headphones, head on over to another article of ours and become a true wireless stereo professional today.
What are the different types of TWS drivers?
Fundamentally, a driver is an electrical component of all speakers and headphones that, through technological wizardry and ingenious engineering, converts electronic signals into sound.
When choosing a pair of headphones, you usually have four different types of driver to decide from, as these are the mainstream:
Dynamic Drivers have a large diaphragm and are the most commonly used driver out of all the different types. They offer punchy bass, low power consumption, and a good price/performance ratio.
Balanced Armature Drivers
Balanced armature drivers are the smallest kind and are generally used to make in-ear headphones. Due to their small size, multiple drivers are normally housed within each earpiece to recreate a broader range of tones.
Planar Magnetic Drivers
Usually found in high-end over-ear headphones, planar magnetic drivers consist of a diaphragm between two magnets and are much larger in size than dynamic drivers. This allows for an ultra-clean sound with very little distortion, but also makes planar magnetic driver-based headphones come at high prices.
Electrostatic drivers are rare, expensive pieces of kit that utilize static electricity to draw and repel the diaphragm. With no moving parts, there is barely any perceivable distortion, and these drivers can respond to subtle changes in audio to produce a very accurate sound.
TWS Drivers: Does size matter?
It’s a common view that a bigger driver automatically means a better sound. But contrary to what headphone marketers would have you believe, the truth is more complicated than that.
Let’s be clear about a few things before we dive in. The size or diameter specs we usually see on TWS earbuds or headphones are for dynamic, planar magnetic or electrostatic drivers. In TWS specifically, you’re likely to see this spec only for dynamic drivers, as the other two driver types are currently only used on larger, over-ear headphones.
If you like the music from your earbuds on the bassy side, as a lot of modern music is, you may want to opt for a larger dynamic driver.
Dynamic drivers come in a multitude of sizes. In-ear headphones tend to use drivers from 6-13mm in size and on-ear or over-ear headphones 30mm or more.
A large driver can move more air with each compression and release of the diaphragm, so is capable of louder volume, as well as the reproduction of a deeper range of bass frequencies.
Another benefit of the larger dynamic driver over other types is that they can deliver powerful bass without being power-hungry. This is ideal for use with portable music devices or phones, in which battery life is more important than volume capacity.
The main drawbacks to using larger drivers are that they can tend to distort sound if driven too hard, and also that their reproduction of treble frequencies may not be as accurate as with the bass. Fortunately, the size of the driver isn’t the only factor at play, and clever engineering coupled with excellent design can affect the final audio quality just as much.
For example, UGREEN’s newly-released Hitune T2 TWS Earbuds use a stunningly huge 14.2mm driver to power a PU+Titanium plated diaphragm for fantastic sound. They also have some additional specs and features normally reserved for much more expensive models, such as a gaming mode with ultra-low 60ms latency and optimized 3D sound , and a 4-mic environmental noise cancellation (ENC) array to cut out background sound pollution.
Bigger size in dynamic drivers almost always means a more vigorous, immersive listening experience especially in the bass frequency range. A dynamic driver with 14.2mm diameter outshines an absolute majority of current TWS models on the market.
Designed for optimized video and gaming experience, the UGREEN HiTune T2 offers perfect audio-to-video sync powered by its advanced SoC chipset. On top of that, for gamers that are into FPS games such as PUBG mobile, the T2 provides targeted footstep and firing sound optimization. This allows you to estimate direction and distance with improved details.
Interested in know more about UGREEN HiTune? Sign up now to be the first to get exclusive giveaways, discounts, and new launches.
What if you prefer treble and vocal over punchy low-frequency bass? Here’s our recommendation: go for a pair of TWS buds that come with balanced armature drivers.
Balanced armature drivers
A dynamic driver uses a coil of wire attached directly to a diaphragm, and the voice coil moves between two permanent magnets causing the diaphragm to move and produce sound. However in a balanced armature design, an electric current is passed through a coil suspended between two magnets and wrapped around an armature. The electric current changes cause attraction between the coil and magnets, hence producing sound.
Balanced armature drivers typically provide better isolation because there is no need for a vent to move air. They can be tuned for specific frequency ranges, and are inherently superior in treble performance with faster response due to their much smaller sizes. On the contrary, they perform much less impressive than dynamic drivers in bass frequency presentation.
So in a nutshell, if you’re more attracted to rich details in treble and vocal (mid to high frequency ranges) and willing to compromise bass response, TWS earbuds with small balanced armature drivers should be your better choice. However, do note that balanced armature based earbuds typically come in multiple drivers, and cost more than dynamic based buds.
One additional advantage of small sized armature drivers is that, because they’re smaller in size, they consume less power than bigger dynamic drivers. So if you’re to extend the battery life of your earbuds, small could be better.
Well if you’re a perfectionist and want both punchy, powerful bass as well as extended playtime, here’s our pick for you: the UGREEN HiTune True Wireless Earbuds. They come with decent-sized dynamic drivers and the aptx/AAC/SBC audio codec capable chipset allows for high fidelity of audio playback. As an added bonus, these fantastic earbuds support USB-C quick charging, and when used with the charging case have a massive 27h battery life.
Drivers: Size isn’t everything
The size of the drivers in your headphones is part of your overall audio quality, but there are plenty of other things to consider as well.
These include the quality of the driver unit, the type of materials used in the construction of the headphones, pads, and enclosures, and, finally, tuning.
The size of the driver does affect the output and frequency range of a pair of headphones, but you should not base your buying decision on driver size or any other specification alone. Ultimately, the only way to know if a pair of headphones is right for you, is to give them a listen to – preferably with a song or piece of music that you know really well.
So what factor is the most important?
Probably: Drivers plus Tuning.
While we’ve addressed the different drivers already, tuning represents the final adjustments and modifications to the driver. These ensure it suits the enclosure design and ear padding. Technological advancements mean that any manufacturer can get the acoustics right on their headphones, with the right balance of design and sound production.
What are the first things you look for when buying a new pair of TWS headphones? Join us on Reddit to discuss!