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Does bigger driver mean better sound?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by eltocliousus, Jan 28, 2012.
  1. eltocliousus
    I was recently watching a few videos on the HE-300 which I plan to buy and I kept hearing that they have large drivers giving them better clarity and more distinction and it got me thinking, every time I see a product/company advertise as having a "large" driver (usually 40mm upto 70mm) they always advertise as having a very clear and great sound due to these large drivers, if this is the case, why don't all headphones use large drivers (except portable ones for obvious reasons)? Or is this just simply marketing buzzwords and a larger driver does not actually mean better sound?

    I'd love to hear some thoughts on this subject, thanks!
  2. Nightowl217
    As far as i know, Bigger driver=better bass
    Besides that, im not sure of any big differences, but im sure there are.
  3. stv014

    Even that is not always guaranteed. The ATH-AD700 has 53 mm drivers, and it is not famous for its bass.
  4. Aizura


    And Pro900's have 40mm drivers [​IMG]
  5. eltocliousus
    Are larger drivers harder to power?
  6. TMRaven
    It is generally the case.  It's the reason planar magnetics usually have the linear bass extension that they do, because their drivers are so huge.
    Mass of the driver plays into impact, though.  If I remember correctly the Pro900 has metal drivers?  
    The AD700 has a really bad seal and is open-backed.  I'm pretty sure it'd have some decent extension if it had a change of pads at the very least-- but that still isn't to take away the fact that it's tuned for mids and highs.
  7. Xymordos
    My ATH W5000 have 53 mm drivers and the bass quantity is stupid. But the quality is great :D
  8. ginetto61
    The very well received Sennheiser HD600 have 30mm drivers, if I am not wrong (please confirm).
    And they have been top of the line some years ago
    Usually bigger drivers lower bass ... usually
    I like the thread
    My opinion is that the quality of driver sets the maximum performances that can be obtained
    Actually the very best dynamic HPs have exceptional drivers
  9. eltocliousus
    It brings up another question, are IEMs limited by quality due to their small size or can rearch/surpass the quality of high end headphone such as Audeze/HIFIMAN/Stax?
  10. shadow419
    In ears are a different animal. The drivers are much closer to your ear drum, and don't have to move as much air as supra/circumaural headphones.  
  11. obobskivich
    I'm not entirely sure on the effects of the larger driver for headphones; I know with loudspeakers that larger drivers have trouble producing higher frequencies, but can produce lower frequencies with more pressure as they can displace more air (in other words, a 12" driver is more efficient to reproduce something around 30hz than is a 2" driver - the 12" driver will need much less excursion and therefore input power). With stats everything I've read seems to indicate that bigger is better (as you get more LF extension with essentially no cost aside from power demands), but with headphones that doesn't seem to hold "as much" (in other words, despite the Koss ESP/950 having the largest stat panel in a headphone (if I'm not mistaken; at one point it was), it isn't head and shoulders above anything to come out of STAX (although in reviews between the 950 and the STAX Lambda parts (like the LNS), the 950 is often regarded as having more bass - it is not, however, a "clear cut winner" in all contests)).
    When it comes to dynamic drivers, bigger doesn't seem to always mean more bass - Ultrasone headphones use 40mm drivers (I think universally, but I may be wrong), and the experiences I've had with Ultrasones inform that they produce substantially more bass than my Sony F1s (which use "oversized 50mm drivers" (lifted right from the manual)). I've read claims that larger drivers improve sound stage; I'd disagree here too - the Ultrasones were no less deficient, despite again, having smaller drivers (perhaps S-LOGIC influences this, but it still demonstrates that a smaller driver can be made to work). As far as harder to drive, I'd have to disagree as well - my headphones with the "biggest" drivers (53mm) are also the most efficient and can handle the most power (99 dB/mW and 1500mW/ch). This seems to translate with a number of "big driver" headphones aside from my own collection. On the other hand, the most efficient headphones I'm currently aware of (the DT48A.00) use smaller drivers. 
    Now, to take the above into perspective - the Sony F1s are "full open" and manage bass extension, and I (somewhat, and within context) agree with Sony's claim about the F1s being able to "rival closed headphones" (remember, we're talking about 1998) for overall extension. They use very big drivers, while a number of closed or semi-closed parts (Ultrasone, Bose, Beats) use 40mm (or smaller) drivers and accomplish more bass. The enclosure does matter as well (and other parameters related to the driver aside from size). I've read that the Sony XB1000 (which has 70mm drivers) is supposed to be a monster, but I've never heard one. The reviews that explain the bass are just silly compared to most headphones. That having been said, the "bassiest" headphones I've ever heard used 40mm drivers and were incredibly efficient (and they were headache-inducingly bassy).
    In short, I wouldn't put too much worry into the driver diameter or surface area as an indication of quality; it does matter as a spec within the context of the design, but there's other specs that would be needed to get a better bead on what the thing can actually do. Measurement or evaluation of the entire system, once finished, is going to be more relevant (so for example, the Sony F1 has an impedance compensation network in the cups, which likely affects FR, and they have damping material on the back of the transducer housing - so even if you know everything the driver will do in free-space, it's going to change once it's put into the F1 and that is put onto a head; same is true for basically any other headphone I can think of). 
  12. bravo4588
    the size of the driver housing(earcups) also matters right? 
  13. RPGWiZaRD
    At least already 40mm drivers are more than capable, it's more down to how it's tuned and construction of the cup than driver size. For me if it has at least 40 mm size I'm confident and don't see it as an advantage if it it's 50 mm or whatever as there's many impressive 40 mm drivers out there.
  14. obobskivich

    Of course. The enclosure plays a role in how the entire system sounds. Both in terms of frequency response, and stored energy (and it can also influence things like headstage, as it more or less "fixes" the positioning of the driver). Remember that the diameter is one parameter off of a whole long list of parameters that explain what a driver can do. It's not as simple as "oh well this is 90mm and therefore the king of the world!" A lot of thought goes into the design of modern headphones (at least quality ones). 

  15. bravo4588

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