How do headphones work? Guide to the internal operation of our headphones.


In this day and age, the use of smartphones, headphones and smartwatches is increasing day by day. Today I am going to tell you something interesting about headphones. You have been using headphones to listen to most of the music but now the use of headphones is not limited to that only. It allows you to listen to videos, music, talk on calls and so on. But have you ever wondered how this headphone would work to do so much? It is not that difficult. You must have seen the big speakers right. Even these headphones have basically small speakers. And uses electromagnets to vibrate the air and make noise.

But there is more to headphones than just different types and it uses different technologies. For example, headphones have to use something different technology like ANC to control the noise of traffic.

Let’s talk about how this headphone works actually.

But first thing first, Let’s first discuss who made the headphones?

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Who made headphones and Why?


Early loudspeakers were pretty cumbersome things. Moreover, in the late 19th and early 20th century, when audio equipment was equally cumbersome. There was no obvious, immediate reason to shrink “sound reproducing machines” down to the size of your ear. So how and why did headphones and earbuds come about? There were three reasons, essentially.


headphones and earbuds can reproduce sound with much less input power than big loudspeakers. So they work very well with unsophisticated, low-powered, audio equipment. If you’ve ever built a crystal radio, you’ll know you can do it without a battery or power source of any kind providing you use what’s name a crystal earpiece. Which generates sound through piezoelectricity using very little input energy (from the incoming radio waves). Some early earpieces were even less sophisticated. You could listen to Thomas Edison’s sound-recording phonograph (the forerunner of modern record players) using either an amplifying “horn” (ancestor of the loudspeaker) or stethoscope-like tubes stuffed in your ears (ancestors of the earbud).


despite the cumbersome nature of audio equipment, there was still a pressing need for portability. Back in 1891, a Frenchman named Ernest Mercadier patented a “bi telephone” (a pair of in-ear telephone receivers) that look strikingly like modern headphones. “Which shall be light enough to be carried while in use on the head of the operator, and, second, an improved means for securing the same in place.” Portability was clearly a must for the military; one of the key reasons for developing headphones was that pilots and battlefield soldiers had to hear sound clearly and discreetly. You couldn’t put giant loudspeakers in the cockpit of a noisy, World War II fighter plane!


Finally, not everyone can hear sound from loudspeakers as clearly as you might be able to. Leafing through the patents in the US Patent and Trademark Office database. It’s clear that some of the earliest earbuds were actually earpieces attach to hearing aids. If you want to amplify sound, and do it portably and discreetly, using an earpiece makes a lot more sense than using a loudspeaker. Apart from putting the sound directly in someone’s ear, you also separate the microphone from the speaker and so help to reduce “buzzing” and “whistling” (where the speaker effectively feeds back into the microphone). In 1943, for example, several years before transistors completely revolutionized the power of hearing aids, we have Zenith Electronics offering a hearing aid earpiece with just these aims in mind.

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How headphones actually work?.

Black electronic headphones isolated on the white background

Basically, headphones work just like the speakers. As mentioned above, it uses electromagnets to migrate the essential air and convert it into electrical energy which makes noise.

Digital audio is stored in a device in the form of data – 1 and 0. When you hit the plane on that device, it is 1 and 0 – which represents the actual sound sample that is record with the microphone. Digital to analog converter or Sent by DAC, which converts 1 and 0 into electrical signals. That signal is sent through the wires of your headphones and into the headphones itself.

The driver unit

When an electric signal enters through a wire and your headphones it is known as a driver unit. Although, there are three types of driver units available: Dynamic driver, electrostatic driver and planar magnetic driver. You probably don’t know what type of driver is use in the headphones you use. One thing I would like to clarify to you is that most of the headphones that you use are mostly dynamic drivers. So let’s talk a little bit about it.

Dynamic driver unit


Basically, the driver unit is to be divided into three parts: magnet, electromagnetic and diaphragm.

The most useful thing to make headphones work is the magnet. And each earcup has two magnets. One of the magnets has to be fixed so it does not move. While the other is electromagnetic and it moves.

When an electric signal hits your earcup. It is sent to an electromagnet, which quickly transmits its polarity and switches forward on the pattern and reproduce sounds sent to it. When an electromagnet switches its polarity it is expelled at high speed and is attracted as a permanent magnet which makes it vibrant. Which is a vibrant electromagnet name diaphragm. And he has to be connect to his partner who is a petty abyss. When the electromagnet vibrates, the diaphragm also rotates. Due to which the surrounding air is vibrant – which we call our sound.

Different frequencies vibrate at different rates – so the electromagnet vibrates faster to produce higher tones or slower to produce slower tones. When you turn the volume up or down, the vibrations are more or less intense, causing the air to vibrate more or less.

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Planar magnetic driver unit

This driver unit also works similarly to the dynamic driver unit. But there are some differences. The planer driving unit is supposed to be like a very strong magnetic wire. And it has to be trapped inside the diaphragm.

Also, instead of a permanent magnet, a diaphragm wedge is place in an array of magnets. So as to help the electric current to react properly, when the electric current has passed through the conductor. That’s when the polarity changed and the diaphragm interacts with a permanent magnet, Vibrates and makes noise. This type of driver is called Ortho Dynamic Driver Unit.

Electrostatic driver unit

The key is different when it comes to electrostatic headphones compared to other types of headphones: instead of using a magnet to move the diaphragm, the diaphragm is the part that rotates. In electrostatic headphones, the diaphragm is made of a very thin sheet of electrically charged material and sits between two conductive plates, one of which is positively charged and the other negatively charged. When an electrical charge passes through those two plates, the electrically charged film moves back and forth, affecting the surrounding air and causing noise


Some people suggest that electrostatic headphones work best because of how they work – the electrically charged film is so thin and actually lighter than the air around it, that it colors the sound like flatter or dynamic magnetic headphones. Of course, electrostatic headphones aren’t cheap – they can often cost thousands of dollars.

How do Bluetooth headphones work?

There really isn’t much difference between standard wire headphones and wireless or Bluetooth headphones – the process is almost identical. The only real difference is that instead of sending the DAC inside your phone or computer, 1 and 0 are sent via Bluetooth radio to a chip in your headphones. Where they are then sent to the DAC inside the headphones.

The remaining process is exactly the same

How do earbuds/in-ear headphones work?

In addition to standard headphones and wireless headphones, all headphones work almost identically – earbuds and in-ear headphones use exactly the same technology, but on a much smaller scale. Because of this, they cannot reproduce the same frequencies, but the trade-off is that they are more portable.

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Guide to buying headphones

Try before purchased

Cheap headphones are usually heat seal in solid plastic. Even if you bought a headphone online, you may not return it. So try to get as much from the store as possible. So before you buy, you can check that the headphones are correct. And after that you can also buy it online. However, if you have a query, you can also ask a close friend.

If you decide to shop online, remember that reviews can be misleading and unhelpful; They can also be planted by retailers or manufacturers. The sound is very personal and one person’s idea of ​​an acoustic paradise may be another’s idea of ​​a noisy hell. Different types of music absorb different parts of the sound spectrum (drums and bass use a lower frequency than classical music), so a pair of headphones may not sound equally good for everything you hear. If you are going to go through online reviews, read extensively and critically and check out well-informed professional reviews on audio sites as well as off-the-cuff amateur opinions.

Beware the bass

There has been a trend of high bass in headphones since the early days. The high bass biases the sound of the headphones. So, make sure that your headphones give you high bass. Smartphones and earbuds are very well design to emphasize the bass frequency. However, beware of products that draw too much attention to their “bass response.”

Which type of headphone you prefer

There are many types of headphones. So first you need to know what kind of headphone will  you over air or in-air. Both have different characteristics. That’s why stylish people prefer over-air headphones and some people prefer in-air headphones. If you want some phones for listening mainly on the move, earbuds are generally the best. Bigger headphones are usually better for “audiophiles” who want to listen to music or TV without disturbing other people.

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Normal or noise-canceling headphones?

If you’re listening to headphones in a noisy place (on a plane or in a noisy home), background sounds can seriously reduce the quality of the experience. Noise-canceling phones can be a big help and they come in two main kinds. Passive noise-isolating earbuds have earpieces that make a seal with your ear canal, preventing unwanted sound from getting in. Active noise-reduction headphones and earbuds (such as Bose QuietComfort 45) have a little microphone on the outer case. The microphone samples the background noise and an electronic circuit inside the phones automatically compensates for it.

Passive noise-isolating earbuds are very low-tech and very effective; active noise-canceling phones can be more comfortable to wear, but generally need their own battery power (so you have an added, ongoing cost if you’re going to use them regularly). If you’re listening in a quiet place at home, there’s no real reason to buy noise-canceling headphones. They tend to be much more expensive and, for the same price as a pair of noise-canceling phones. You could probably get a much higher quality pair of normal phones.

Build quality matters

Earbuds and headphones almost invariably fail where the main cable meets the jack plug. If I were cynical, I might suggest headphone makers deliberately engineer their products to fail by using poor-quality cables and connections. You can always tell a good pair of headphones: the makers will have devoted some time to making sure the connections are robust enough to cope with constant flexing of the cable. Though you can’t easily detect headphones and earbuds with poor connectors, you can spot well-engineered connections. Look out for makers who draw attention to any efforts they’ve made to make their cables more durable.

If your headphone cable does fail, and you know how to use a soldering iron, it’s relatively easy to fit a new jack plug. You can double the life of your phones with about 10 minutes’ work; repairing headphone cables at the other (earphone) end is much more tricky and often not worth the effort. Hi-fi shops can sometimes also do repairs for you. (See our article on how to repair headphones for more details.)

In my view, coiled cables are a mixed bag. On the positive side, they save you having to keep wrapping up your headphone cable. On the negative side, coiled cables are virtually always stretched open and that constant tension puts added strain on the weakest points of the cable, where they meet the jack plug and the two headphones. Generally, I prefer to use an uncoiled cable and an extension lead.

You get what you pay for

The basic rule of buying things generally holds true of loudspeakers, headphones, and earbuds. If you study the wide range of phones offered by a decent manufacturer like Sennheiser, you’ll notice a distinct correlation between quality and price: the low-end phones are good, basic, and relatively inexpensive; the high-end phones are recording-studio quality and cost many times more.

Portable music players come with their own “default” headphones, but there’s no reason why you have to stick with them. Try some others and you might be surprise how much better—or different—your music sounds. You might hear instruments or effects you didn’t notice before. Shortly after buying an iPod, I switched to using some expensive Etymotic earbuds (which cost almost as much as the iPod). However, they made a huge difference to the sound quality. But remember that MP3 players are inherently limited in audio quality by the compressed files they’re playing. If you want to hear better quality sounds, go back to your CD player… or even vinyl LP records!

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24 thoughts on “How do headphones work? Guide to the internal operation of our headphones.

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