With the release of the new Audeze LCD-i4 in ear headphones now upon us, this feels like an appropriate time to discuss one of the key selling points of these incredibly detailed earphones; planar magnetic technology.
What is Planar Magnetic Technology?
Sometimes referred to as orthodynamic headphones, planar magnetic headphones differ to the more traditional dynamic headphone. Dynamic headphones generate sound by using a coil of wire (often called a voice coil) attached to a diaphragm, and a suspension is created to allow the coil and diaphragm to move back and forth like a piston, moving enough air to produce sound. However, depending on the quality of the dynamic headphone speaker cone, there will be inconsistencies across the frequency spectrum meaning that though many dynamic headphones have a very nice sound signature, they are not necessarily 100% accurate when they reproduce an audio signal. Dynamic headphones also deteriorate quicker over time.
In contrast, planar magnetic headphones use an incredibly thin, lightweight and resilient film diaphragm (around 1/10th the thickness of a human hair), stretched over a sturdy frame, and placed between magnetic arrays. In these headphones, the coil is unwound and spread across this film diaphragm. As the current flows, the magnetic field is created within the headphone that causes the diaphragm to move.
What are the benefits?
The film diaphragm in planar magnetic headphones is often lighter than the air it is moving, meaning that they can be driven with an incredible accuracy. The sound they produce feature faster transients, more responsive bass, more detailed highs and a wider dynamic range than other headphones.
As the voice coil is spread over a larger area than in traditional headphones, planar magnetic headphones are also much better at dissipating heat, and can handle a huge amount of power without distorting.
Overall, this type of headphone features higher sensitivity, can play louder with tighter control and reduced colouration, and more controlled directivity. However, their design means they will suffer from more leakage than traditional dynamic headphones.
Who are these headphones best suited for?
Planar magnetic headphones are best suited to those who want to want to have a very analytical, accurate sound that is more immersive overall than what a dynamic headphone could offer. However, those looking to invest in such a pair of headphones or earphones must be aware that they are much larger than traditional headphones, though not necessarily heavier and more fatiguing to wear over a prolonged period of time. It should also be noted that planar magnetic headphones come with a much more premium price tag than most dynamic headphones.
Dynamic headphones are still an excellent alternative, and still dominate the headphone market thanks to the wide range of prices and variety of sound signatures and audio fidelities that different pairs can achieve. Dynamic headphones are much better suited to casual listeners, and those who do not want to spend more on planar magnetic technology will still be able to find a pair of dynamic headphones that still sound fantastic.
Which planar producing brands do you stock?
The two main brands that we at Advanced MP3 Players range which feature planar magnetic technology are Audeze and HiFiMAN. Here are a few of our favourites:
Audeze’s goal when designing the LCD-i4 was to make the absolute best sounding in-ear experience. They took their award winning LCD-4 design and scaled it down to create an end-game in-ear headphone that is far more portable. Designed to give the user a truly wide and accurate soundstage, superior transient response, bass response flat from 900Hz down to 5Hz, the LCDi4s with a single driver deliver a coherency of sound lacking in multi-driver designs. With an impedance of about 35 ohms, it should be used with a high-quality headphone amplifier.
Designed for Apple products, the iSINE 20 is one step up from the iSINE 10 featuring an even longer Uniforce voice-coil that covers the ultra-thin diaphragm to a greater extent, enabling better control and responsiveness for better bass, clarity, and improved imaging. Zero distortion sound means you’ll feel closer to the recorded to your music. Add the included Lightning cable with DSP and there’s no other in-ear headphone that even comes close to its performance. To ensure all-day comfort, a pair of Ear Hooks and EarLocks® are provided along with silicon and foam tips.
Ideal for those who want to try planar magnetic technology on a budget! These beautifully designed headphones can fold flat for ultimate portability, and have near zero distortion, giving them the premium Audeze sound at a fraction of the price.
HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 Planar Headphones – £2599.00Not content to rest on their laurels, HiFiMan now present the HE-1000 V2 Planar Headphones, their most luxurious headphone yet. With the original HE-1000 headphones as a starting point, Dr. Fang Bian and his team at HiFiMan have redesigned and updated their award-winning flagship to produce something even greater in the HE-1000 v2.
The HE1000 V2 remains a cutting-edge, full-size headphone intended for reference use in the home or studio. At much less than 0.001 mm, its Nanotech planar magnetic driver is so thin it is not visible from the side with the naked eye. New features include an improved headband design that is lighter and stiffer yet will accommodate a wider range of head sizes. The ear cups are also slimmer further reducing weight and increasing comfort.
HiFiMAN HE-400i Open Back Full-Size Planar Magnetic 93 db Sensitivity Headphones – £359.00 Another great value set of orthodynamic headphones. The HiFiMan HE-400i is a full-size planar magnetic headphone intended for high performance listening in the home or studio. Using single-ended drivers, HE-400i delivers a lifelike soundstage and spatial imaging. Its increased efficiency of 93dB allows it to be driven with a modest size amplifier or can even be used with a portable audio player or smartphone.
These models and many others are now available to order from Advanced MP3 Players. Be sure to check in frequently for new models and great offers as they arrive, and if you need further advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!