What is "planar sound"?
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I've been reading a few reviews lately and I came across people saying that planars have a distinct sound to them. I don't understand what that could be, since both planar-magnetic and dynamic drivers just push air around. Why would some people want a planar instead of a dynamic if a pair of headphones are the same price?(And vice versa) Is there a certain sound quality that only one type of driver has that the other doesn't?
 
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I've been reading a few reviews lately and I came across people saying that planars have a distinct sound to them. I don't understand what that could be, since both planar-magnetic and dynamic drivers just push air around. Why would some people want a planar instead of a dynamic if a pair of headphones are the same price?(And vice versa) Is there a certain sound quality that only one type of driver has that the other doesn't?
There are some generalizations being mixed in here are there. Hifiman planars have their house sound due to the one man that designs the acoustics. Same for Can Clark, Audeze, etc.. Also, you have the Fostex planars, etc.. They all have variations to their driver configuration. Hifimans are generally open, but Audeze and Dan Clark isn't as open like Hifimans. For example, Dan Clark's Flow opens are really more closed with cup reverb. Audeze has this warm-ness about their sound due to the driver configuration being relatively less open than say Hifiman. If we talk about Adeze or Hifiman, etc.., planars have a feel of wall of sound, and the driver is a large area of the diaphragm. Dynmaic drivers are usually smaller in size, 30-40mm diameter, with exceptions like HD800 with 50mm. They are more like a point source compared to wall of sound kind of a usual planar driver.

There would be differences in sound due to driver configuration, but can I generalize planar's timbre sounds a certain way? I don't think I can as I've heard extended decay timbre to short. Based on what I see, I can say that planars seems to be harder to tune smoothly at the upper frequencies compared to dynamic (if I compare to a Sennheiser), and it's likely due to the large diaphragm breaking up at certain spots. I know Hifiman tries to make thinner and thinner drivers, and maybe that would help, but there are trances on it, and I bet that has effects. Also, there have been lots of research on dynamic drivers to stiffen the driver and keep the weight light. Good stiffness alleviates driver break-up, and thus should theoretically result in smoother response.
 
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There are some generalizations being mixed in here are there. Hifiman planars have their house sound due to the one man that designs the acoustics. Same for Can Clark, Audeze, etc.. Also, you have the Fostex planars, etc.. They all have variations to their driver configuration. Hifimans are generally open, but Audeze and Dan Clark isn't as open like Hifimans. For example, Dan Clark's Flow opens are really more closed with cup reverb. Audeze has this warm-ness about their sound due to the driver configuration being relatively less open than say Hifiman. If we talk about Adeze or Hifiman, etc.., planars have a feel of wall of sound, and the driver is a large area of the diaphragm. Dynmaic drivers are usually smaller in size, 30-40mm diameter, with exceptions like HD800 with 50mm. They are more like a point source compared to wall of sound kind of a usual planar driver.

There would be differences in sound due to driver configuration, but can I generalize planar's timbre sounds a certain way? I don't think I can as I've heard extended decay timbre to short. Based on what I see, I can say that planars seems to be harder to tune smoothly at the upper frequencies compared to dynamic (if I compare to a Sennheiser), and it's likely due to the large diaphragm breaking up at certain spots. I know Hifiman tries to make thinner and thinner drivers, and maybe that would help, but there are trances on it, and I bet that has effects. Also, there have been lots of research on dynamic drivers to stiffen the driver and keep the weight light. Good stiffness alleviates driver break-up, and thus should theoretically result in smoother response.
So what you're saying is that there is no definite "planar sound", and that I should just choose whatever headphone I find I like, regardless of the driver?
 
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So what you're saying is that there is no definite "planar sound", and that I should just choose whatever headphone I find I like, regardless of the driver?
In a simple answer, yes. But, also providing some aspects that should be in consideration from what I know, but of course you will figure it out in your way as you experience the different drivers as well. One thing I would also add is that planars will be more capable in providing more linear low-end. In order to get deep bass with dynamic drivers, it's usually done through going closed. Obviously, it's due to how subs work in terms of reverb, but there must be more details behind the principles why open Hifimans can have more linear bass. I would say it's the large area of the diaphragm.

Obviously, open-back dynamic drivers tend to roll-off in the subs (which isn't always the case, but in generally the case), but is planar's linear sub-bass a sufficient amount?
 
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In a simple answer, yes. But, also providing some aspects that should be in consideration from what I know, but of course you will figure it out in your way as you experience the different drivers as well. One thing I would also add is that planars will be more capable in providing more linear low-end. In order to get deep bass with dynamic drivers, it's usually done through going closed. Obviously, it's due to how subs work in terms of reverb, but there must be more details behind the principles why open Hifimans can have more linear bass. I would say it's the large area of the diaphragm.

Obviously, open-back dynamic drivers tend to roll-off in the subs (which isn't always the case, but in generally the case), but is planar's linear sub-bass a sufficient amount?
When I get enough money for both, I will definitely get both and try them. Thank you for all the help.
 
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So what you're saying is that there is no definite "planar sound", and that I should just choose whatever headphone I find I like, regardless of the driver?
I have planar headphones, and I would say to buy whatever you like, regardless of the driver type. There are a lot of good headphones to choose from. As with most things, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
 
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Listen to planar before you decide not to buy it. Everybody hears differently and everybody has different taste in music. Compressed music like EDM do not benefit from planar sound in my opinion. But uncompressed music, I'd say planar does something very special that dynamic has not done for me yet. My guess is time-space related that I can only understand by hearing it.
 
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That sounds to me like placebo effect.
 
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Listen to planar before you decide not to buy it. Everybody hears differently and everybody has different taste in music. Compressed music like EDM do not benefit from planar sound in my opinion. But uncompressed music, I'd say planar does something very special that dynamic has not done for me yet. My guess is time-space related that I can only understand by hearing i
It's easy to generalize like that based on eperience with a particular headphone that may not be all that representative. It's really headphone dependent. I personally steer the opposite way for that opinion due to most planars sounding quicker with less decay. EDM I find works well on headphones that seems to sound quick. EDM type stuff has good amount of subs mixed in compared to live recordings, and planars generally have better extended bass responses, which enhances EDM type sounds.

When I think of dynamic drivers, I find Sennheiser to be the stereotype, although there are different driver types like Focals produce. I find Sennheisers to do well with different types of genres like Classical, classic-rock, vocals due to it's smooth mid-centric response, but HD800 is different, and is the one that does well with electronic, sharing the speedy characteristics of Electrostats or planars, yet still a dynamic.

We can also say HD650 is easy to listen to, so it's a good headphone for pop music, so there's various ways of looking at this. For modern music HD650 is definately one of the easier listen, so you won't hear peakiness, etc.., but in my experience there are other headphones that does well with modern genre without that characteritic, but sound brighter (not in a negative way) like Focal Clear, or HE500. Although Focal Clear is a dynamic driver, it's not mylar like the Sennheisers, so I find the stiffer material brings it closer to planar timbre. So, it's hard to generalize dynamic sounds like this or planar sounds like that.
 
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I know color blind exist even though I am not color blind. I can not prove how I know it exist though. Planar sound does exist. Listen to it with uncompressed music. At the end of the day I know you don't have to listen to what I've said. But I was just trying to say there is something there; for me it's like spacial dimension in the resolution realization. But compressed music like EDM just don't have that info to begin with in the song.
 
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I know color blind exist even though I am not color blind. I can not prove how I know it exist though. Planar sound does exist. Listen to it with uncompressed music. At the end of the day I know you don't have to listen to what I've said. But I was just trying to say there is something there; for me it's like spacial dimension in the resolution realization. But compressed music like EDM just don't have that info to begin with in the song.
I won't say what you've experienced is wrong as it's your experience. I know people like to use analogies, but most often, the contexts are different that analogies do not apply too well.

I will also not say, there arn't differences. Once you've experienced enough of them, you start to see certain qualities are more consistant in the differences.

What I'm saying is, it's a bit complex to generalize easily. As an example, what we call dynamic drivers can be made out of different materials on them that can cause different characteristics. If it was just mylar, easier to generalize.

It also gets a bit more complext in terms of how the drivers are designed in terms of acoustics.

My opinions of planars would be more representative of Hifiman, and dynamic, Sennheisers, and if I did that, I would be narrowing how I see things as there are other types of designs from other companies.
 
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Here is an example of mashing theory with creativity and fiction. You know electricity travels pretty fast and near speed of light if electrons are like light particle/wave. I'm not a physicist so bear with me. I am trying to describe physics with -10th grade education. In dynamic drivers the voice coils have wire winding that share the electromagnetic flux.
Therefore the music signal traveling across the wire in AC signal form moving the voice coil in synchronous motion. Because of the right hand rule showing the magnetic field direction. In Planar the music travels on flat conductor that is not round so the magnetic field is not the way the right hand curls, but I imagine goes just perpendicular. Therefore the music signal does not overlap through the duration of the conductor signal path which is not zero; there is some length to it. Even speed of light takes time to cover this length of conductor trace. That distance travel can separate the signals in space. Just thinking out loud.
 
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I have PM-1s. They are very nice headphones, but they still sound like headphones. The PM-1s have a nice balanced response and low distortion specs, but they don't create time/space worm holes or split atoms. I think all this stuff here is an exercise in creative writing.

Listen to a bunch of headphones. Pick the ones you like.
 
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[1] I know color blind exist even though I am not color blind. I can not prove how I know it exist though. Planar sound does exist.
[2] At the end of the day I know you don't have to listen to what I've said.
{3] But I was just trying to say there is something there; for me it's like spacial dimension in the resolution realization. But compressed music like EDM just don't have that info to begin with in the song.
1. That's an example of a logical fallacy, the use of which is unfortunately very common in the audiophile world. No one knows all the facts/science, even scientists themselves, because the creation of commercial audio recordings, their reproduction and how we hear/perceive them covers a large number of different sciences and scientists tend to specialise in just one or a few of those sciences (plus of course some of it is art rather than science). The fallacy commonly employed by audiophiles is that if they personally don't know something then no one does, it's an "unknown". This leads many/most audiophiles to make-up facts/explanations/conclusions (or repeat marketing BS) that seems to fit their perception of what they're hearing, not realising that it's actually nonsense because it contradicts some proven/demonstrated facts (that they personally don't know). This is why science exists in the first place (and this sub-forum)!

I also know that colour blindness exists, even though I am also not colour blind myself and I also cannot prove that it exists. However, science can and has proven it exists and therefore I could prove it too, if I could just be bothered to go and look it up (and then cite the relevant science). In other words, the fact that I personally can't prove it tells us nothing at all about whether colour blindness is real, the only thing it tells us is that I am ignorant of the existing evidence/proof and am too lazy to go and look it up! Therefore, if I were to claim that "planar sound does exist" but I cannot prove it, there are only two options: Either I am ignorant of the evidence/proof that it exists and would be able to prove it if I could be bothered to look it up, or, that "planar sound" does not exist!

2. At the end of the day, this is the sound science forum and therefore we will ONLY "listen to what you've said" if it agrees with the facts/science that we personally already know or if you can cite the relevant facts/science (that we don't personally know).

3. Unfortunately, that's an explanation/conclusion that does not agree with the facts. Commercial EDM recordings do typically have that info to start with (although there maybe the odd exception) and compression is one of the most common tools sound/music engineers use to create "spatial dimension" in the first place. However, an EDM mix for a live gig will typically have significantly less "spatial dimension" than a mix specifically designed for consumer reproduction, so it can depend on which mix you get your hands on but this is also true of other music genres.

[1] Here is an example of mashing theory with creativity and fiction. ...
[2] You know electricity travels pretty fast and near speed of light if electrons are like light particle/wave.
[3] Even speed of light takes time to cover this length of conductor trace. That distance travel can separate the signals in space. Just thinking out loud.
1. Indeed! And what have you ended-up with? :)

2. However, electrons are NOT like light particles. Photons have no mass, while electrons do. Electrons actually move very slowly in an electrical circuit (about 1mm per sec), although the electromagnetic wave (electricity) propagates through the electrons very quickly, about 50%-99% the speed of light. However ...

3. All this talk of speed of light and electricity propagation is irrelevant. The diaphragm/membrane of your headphones have enormously more mass (than photons or electrons) and cannot travel anywhere near the speed of light or an electromagnetic wave and even if they could, your ear drum, your ossicles (the bones in your middle ear) and the cilia in your inner ear certainly can't!

Your assertion has certain problems:

A. Due to their lighter mass, the membrane of planar headphones can move more quickly than the diaphragm of dynamic drivers and therefore can reproduce higher frequencies. However, we're talking about very high frequencies which are near or beyond audibility and which music recordings don't usually contain in appreciable amounts anyway. The audible advantage of the planar design is theoretically less distortion (particularly of transients) than dynamic drivers. Therefore, your "planar sound" isn't really a "sound" it's just less distortion.

B. What about electrostatic headphones? Their membranes have even less mass than planar membranes and are even "faster". Do electrostatic HPs therefore have more of a "planar sound" than planar HPs? :) Obviously, there are many factors besides just the basic driver type that define "sound" and, at higher price points, HPs can be manufactured that significantly reduce the inherent weaknesses of dynamic drivers. Would HD800s (for example) have more of a "planar sound" than not so well designed planar HPs? :)

C. This also highlights a problem with the definition of "fidelity". Is high fidelity the ability of a set headphones to accurately transduce the analogue input signal or is fidelity the "faithfulness" of the reproduction to the intent of the recording's creators? There can be a big difference between these two definitions because the analogue input signal will pretty much always contain both more and less information than the intent of the recording's creators. For example, a recording created on speakers will contain less spatial information, the spatial information caused by the creator's room acoustics, that will be recreated by the listeners' room acoustics. And, no recording is perfect, there will always be "more information", undesirable details/flaws, that the creators do not intend you to hear. Headphones exacerbate both of these examples, they obviously do not recreate the acoustics of speakers in a listening environment and good headphones can reveal undesirable details/flaws that are not intended to be heard. So, if good HPs are revealing details that are not intended to be heard by the creators, then surely they must be lower "fidelity" than headphones that do not reveal those details? This same logic applies to one of the big selling points of planar HPs, their fast, low distortion transient response. What if the recording's creators created the recording on slower responding dynamic driver HPs or speakers that have an even slower (and more distorted) transient response? If the "sound" the creators heard in their studio (and intended) was a far slower transient response, then the faster transient response of planar HPs is lower fidelity!

G
 
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