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Single driver headphone or multi driver IEM?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I am relatively new to head-if and high quality audio in general.
I have been reading some sites, blogs and of course, this forum! smily_headphones1.gif

I see that headphones, over ear models are highly rated for their sound quality.
From what I see, headphones only have one driver providing sound, it is usually a large 40mm or 50mm driver, but just one.

IEM can have a single p driver or multiple drivers on the same iem.
Drivers can be of the dynamic type or BA.
I see IEMs with 4 drivers of different sizes and one driver for lows, one for mids and one for highs.

From what I know from home Hi-if, multiple way speakers are usually better.
If you have one or two woofers for low frequencies, then a woofer for mids and a tweeter for highs, you generally get better sound quality, fidelity and detail,

I am just wondering if this is not the case with head gear,
Won't a multiple driver IEM deliver better sound that a single driver headphone?

Also, what do you prefer? And why?

post #2 of 9
You are comparing apples to oranges to strawberries.

IEMs have NO enclosure to work with - they need to produce their sound entirely inside your ear canal. Over-ear headphones do have an enclosure, but are still relatively small and very close to your ear compared to loudspeakers. Loudspeakers need to deal with the room they are placed in and the fact that the listener's ear is many feet away from the drivers.

There are some full-size headphones with multiple drivers, but in general they aren't seen as being necessary or advantageous. There is an effect called "comb filtering" that comes into play that can cause big problems for multiple drivers in headphones. Multiple drivers in IEMs are typically a bit different because they are balanced armature drivers, not dynamic drivers. The BA drivers can be tuned to focus on specific frequency ranges and minimize mutual interference.

There are excellent IEMs with a single driver and also excellent IEMs with multiple drivers. It is really only recently that the "more is better" bug seems to have hit IEMs - and quite frankly I think the silliness of some of the 6,8 or 10 way custom IEMs is just stupid marketing drivel.

All of the above is IMHO, YMMV, etc, etc... smily_headphones1.gif
post #3 of 9

You cannot compare headphones with IEMs really. The best headphone is much more expensive and from what I read, much better than multi driver IEMs. A 4 driver Westonr 4 is not better than a 3 driver Dunu DN-1000 IMO. 


I love IEMs but I accept than headphones are better so I am moving into a full sized setup. 

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 


Thank you for your replies.

I have been researching on this also.

From what I understand, current market trend is biased more towards IEMs and much technical evolution as been made.

Form what I read, both have their place and usage.


As far as IEMs go, is something like a Sony XBA-H3 with it's multiple drivers and BAs in conjuntion with dynamic, better than a single dynamic driver EX1000?



post #5 of 9
Depends on personal preference.
post #6 of 9
BA drivers and dynamic drivers each have their strengths and weaknesses. The conventional wisdom is that it's easier to get a warmer, more bass-leaning sound from dynamics, and it's easier to get more detail and definition from a BA driver. However, I think there are plenty of examples that run counter to that conventional "wisdom".

Bottom line: This is the audio industry. There is no such thing as a universal "best" for ANYTHING. There is always some engineer that is willing to get a wild hair up his rear and create something that is different - and then list all the advantages of their unique design. That's why there is so much variety even at the top of summit-fi. If you look at the wider world of audio transducers that includes IEMs, headphones and speakers, you see balanced armatures, dynamic drivers, orthodynamics, electrostatics, electret, etc - and hybrids of all of the above. Each with their fans and haters.

My advice is to ignore the specific technology involved, and focus on the resulting sound being produced. Although it might be possible to generalize on the sound characteristics each technology is *likely* to produce, I think the implementation of the technology is also a HUGE contributor to the resulting sound, and you cannot predict the sound characteristics of a specific model only from the technology that was used. Researching the technology is very interesting (I do it myself) but it isn't really relevant to the evaluation of "good", "better", "best".
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Today I was browsing some online stores.
I know this is another apples and oranges comparison, but...
The HD600 cost roughly the same as a pair of Sony XBA-H3.
What gives the better sound for the price?

I know the 650 are far from portable and are open back, so using them on the street is a no go, but still... How does the sound compare?
I know the hd650 will probably have better soundstage, imaging and instrument separation. The H3 will probably offer more detail because it has 2 BA drivers and a dynamic driver while the 650 has only one larger dynamic driver.

What's your thoughts?

post #8 of 9
I heard the H3 briefly and I think that both HD600 and 650 were better. I actually liked the HD600 over the 650.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by lin0003 View Post

I heard the H3 briefly and I think that both HD600 and 650 were better. I actually liked the HD600 over the 650.

Thank you for sharing.
Can you also share your thoughts on the H3?
What did you liked and disliked on that IEM?

Also, why did you enjoy the 600 more than the 650? Was the 650 too bassy?

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