Question: What is a balanced armature speaker driver?
Answer: Following up on last week’s Question of the Week about dynamic speaker drivers, we often get asked, “Well, what is a balanced armature driver and why is it different/better than a dynamic driver?” The armature driver was originally designed for hearing aids, where a compact, low-profile design was critical. As discussed last week, dynamic drivers move in and out in relation to the electrical pulse of an audio sine wave, whereas armature drivers use a little different technique for taking the electrical pulse and creating the physical audio.
The balanced armature driver is wrapped in a coil which passes the electrical current while centered and balanced between the permanent magnet. A positive electrical pulse will pass through the coil and pivot one end of the balanced armature, pushing the diaphragm out. Likewise, a negative electrical pulse will pivot the balanced armature in the other direction, pulling the diaphragm back in. The vibration of the electrical field rocks the driver thousands of times per second, moving the diaphragm back and forth, and generating physical sound waves which the human ear receives as sound. The armature is balanced between the magnet when there is no signal, and, hence, is referred to as a “balanced armature driver.” Additionally, armature drivers may be “tuned” to specific frequency ranges, and multiple drivers (since they are so small) may be used. This results in a fine-tuned, balanced sonic signature. The ATH-E50 In-Ear Monitors (IEM) use a single armature driver, whereas the ATH-E70 IEM use three armature drivers for a sonically balanced response over the entire frequency range.
Armature drivers are considered by many to be superior to dynamic drivers due to the low profile of the equipment and the detailed frequency response. On the other hand, dynamic drivers are preferred for better bass response, since the dynamic speaker design displaces more air, resulting in richer bass frequencies. While you, the user, can determine for yourself which one is “better,” Audio-Technica offers many options of headphones and IEM, so feel free to contact the Audio Solutions Department for assistance with getting the equipment that best meets your needs.