If you are passionate about high fidelity sound then am sure you know about the hefty price tags that come with these audio equipment. For audiophiles, choosing the best while still keeping track of expenses is a challenging experience. While there are many high-quality sound devices out there, today we are going to look at planar magnetic headphones.
Currently there has been an upsurge in the market of planar magnetic headphones. While most big companies such as sony keep off the planar market, others such as Audeze, Hifiman or OPPO are actually leading in producing planar drivers.
- What is a planar magnetic headphone
- How planar magnetic technology works
- Planar magnetic headphones comparison table
- Best planar magnetic headphones
(Also referred to as planar drivers) These are headphones that use a thin diaphragm material sandwiched between two powerful magnets. Planar technology goes way back and was first popularized by Yamaha in 1976 by the name “Orthodynamic” headphones.
Like the standard dynamic headphones, planar magnets make use of magnetic field around a conductor that has electrical current flowing through it to drive the diaphragm to move.
Planar magnetic drivers come with advantages and disadvantages, and here I will list some as shown on innerfidelity’s page:
With that said, if you are looking to delve into the world of planar magnetic headphones, here is our list of the best planar magnetic headphones.
To keep the review fair, we have reviewed both cheap planar magnetic headphones, open and closed planar magnetic headphones. We have also included our best tested model.
So, without further ado, lets look at the best planar magnetic headphones.
1. OPPO PM-3 – Our Best Planar Magnetic Headphones
The PM-3 is quite stylish and features a mix of leather, metals, and plastic. This makes it one of the best portable planar magnetic headphones in the market. Overall, planar magnetic headphones are quite heavy, but the PM-3 is a game changer due to its lightweight nature. The faux leather padding on the headband and ears makes it wearable for longer hours without exhaustion.
Now, for sound isolation, this closed PM-3 is quite efficient in noisy environments, the PM-3 attributes much of its noise isolation due to its closed back nature. Whether it’s your noisy workplace or public transits, you can rest assured of quality sounds when using your PM-3 planar headphones.
When the OPPO PM-3 was first released, it came in two colors, i.e., black and white. But due to its widespread popularity, OPPO Digital has released the blue and red versions of this headphone.
From an audiophile perspective, the PM-3 is simply fantastic, comfortable and good built quality. The bases that come out do not sound boomy or artificial. The sound clarity is also better than most planar magnetic headphone.
Overall, the sound quality of the PM-3 is at least best if not great. For me, it may be one of the most neutral sounding headphones I have listened to.
At this price point, the PM-3 is a good choice for any audiophile out there looking to buy a solid built performing neutral oriented closed planar magnetic headphone.
The sound quality, aesthetics, comfort, built quality and its weight make it a well-rounded headphone and the contender for our best planar magnetic headphone.
2. HiFiMAN HE400s – Cheap Planar Magnetic Headphones
If there is a planar magnetic headphone that boasts to be cheap and yet delivers on quality, it is the HiFiMAN HE400s. Comparing this model to the very best planar magnetic headphones, I would say at its price range, and this is quite a good fit.
From the previous models, the HE400s was greatly improved. The large earpads make them comfortable enough to listen for long hours. Also, Compared to other lighter planar magnetic headphones such as the MrSpeaker Ether, the HiFIMAN HE400S are lighter to carry around.
The overall styling design of the HE400S is nothing to smile about. First, the materials obviously look low quality. Artificial leather covers the headband, not saying they are not comfortable, but they might wear out after sometime. They come in two colors at the moment, which is black and silver.
Now, for sound quality, I would say, the HE400S is an excellent sounding headphone. The bass, I would say not that great but, they are much better compared to other headphones such as Vmoda, Nad and any other dynamic I have tried. The treble and everything in between is better. The HE400S have a decent soundstage, but that will depend on the recording you are listening to.
The HE400S remain one of the cheap planar magnetic headphones in the market. It may be very likely that the HE400S is the successor of the HE400. This is because the sounds are somewhat identical but improved on the HE400S. The HE400S also features similar connectors to the HE-1000.
But all in all, the HiFiMAN HE400S is a great headphone with a worth price tag to it.
3. MrSpeaker Aeon Flow Open Planar Magnetic Headphones
Next on our list is the MrSpeaker Aeon Flow planar magnetic headphone. The MrSpeaker brand has been on the list of leading companies who have come up with some of the world’s best headphones. Founded by Dan Clark, an engineer, MrSpeakers has grown since their inception.
The Creators of Mad Dogs, Alpha Primes or MrSpeakers Ether C headphones have struck again with their newly branded Aeon Flow planar magnetic headphones.
The Aeon Flow headphones or AFO are a new great addition to the world of magnetic planar. The first thing you notice when you check out the AFO headphones is the unique shape that they come in. I would say the ‘V’ shaped design resembles the HiFiMan Edition X or the HiFiMan HE1000 series.
The AFO is strongly built, and the materials are of high quality. The Headband is made of leather while the ear pads come in high-quality artificial leather. The ear pads are soft and well padded with foam and are attached to the baffle plate with adhesive tape. The gimbals arm and baffle plate are cast aluminum.
How comfortable are these headphones? They are perfect. The ‘V’ or tear-drop shape as many have termed it has greatly influenced their comfortability. The pads if the AFO can be replaced, but the replacements are yet to be released in the market.
For sound quality, the AFO is another class in the open planar magnetic headphones. The thing that particularly got me to keep these headphones on for longer periods was the great mids. They are of quality and offer up delicate details. For bass, the AFO is more extended and more textured.
Lastly, I think these headphones are priced even better to the performance ratio they offer. I think they sound more expensive and well built than their price tag.
4. Audeze Sine On-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones – Best Portable Planar Magnetic Headphones
If you are an audiophile on the go, then these highly portable planar magnetic headphones are the best choice for you. Right from one of the giant producers in the headphone industry, Audeze, these headphones are a work of craftsmanship.
They are of solid build quality. They come with aluminum frames with a leather finish to make them comfortable for longer hours of use. For an on-ear headphone, Audeze has put in work to this headphone. I found the SINE fitting, but after hours of using them the pressure was greater, but they were very stable, and I encountered no problems with wiggling as I moved around.
With the Audeze sine, you get to choose between the sine’s standard cable and the lighting cable. The cables are of 3.5mm and covered in synthetic material. With the lighting, cable comes with a built-in amplifier, DAC (will draw a little power from your iPhone) and DSP. The lighting cable also features a SIRI-compatible microphone for voice calls. Both cables are built for strength and durability.
On-ear headphones usually never match up to expectations when it comes to sound quality. But, the Audeze Sine is good, that is not to say they are perfect. The midrange sounds a bit laid back and distant while the bass is clean and tight. The edges of notes are of clearly etched out hitting the high notes enough.
With the lighting cable, the sounds are much smoother and refined. There is also a significant boost in the bass which is a lot pleasing compared to the standard cable.
The Audeze Sine is the best of the On-Ear headphones. This is a solid, highly portable on-ear planar magnetic headphone.
5. Fostex T50RP MK3 – Best Budget Audiophile Headphones
Next on our list is the Fostex T50RP MK3 planar magnetic headphone. If you are new in the planar sound world and looking to experience a planar for the first time, the T50RP is one of the most affordable or call it the cheapest planar magnetic headphone you can get yourself.
Now to the design, The T50 MK3 a lightweight headphone but surprisingly it is larger. The build quality felt solid. The plastics it is made of are of good quality. The headband is made of synthetic leather but of better quality. The design of the MK3 remains unchanged from its previous predecessor the MK2. They both look alike, and nothing seems unchanged
One thing I would point out in the design that I did not like is the ear pads. I felt they were a complete disappointment. The synthetic leather and foam look average plus they were very thin. The good news is they can be easily replaced with a list after-market pads. For affordable replacement pads, I would advise going with the Brainwavz HM5 Velor Memory Foam pads. For a premium option, the Shure 1540 replacement pads (HPAEC1540) can do the work better. With a replacement of ear pads, all the comfort issues should be solved.
For sound, I found the T50RP trebles was more detailed and transparent. It is also systematic and can pick any imperfections. This is why it is best for a monitoring headphone. The highs are very well extended, but I found them to be slightly forward than the mid-range.
The bass of this headphone is so well defined. It is accurate and defined. It does not sound muddy, even on high volumes. The bass response on this headphone would compare to the HiFiMan HE-400s or the 400i.
The sound leakage is minimal, and the isolation level is moderate but not enough to use in a noisy environment. Overall the sound signature of the
T50 is on point. There is no real weak point I would point out in its performance.
Today is the best time to be an audiophile, but when it comes to choosing our headphones there are so many options that we don’t know where to start, right?
Nowadays there are lots of models and varieties that it is hard for us to decide. There are also different technologies and things get even more complicated. Within those technologies, today I am going to discuss the planar and dynamic driver technologies.
Planar Magnetic Driver Vs Dynamic Driver
The Dynamic Driver
The driver is the most common we can find. It’s also the simplest. It consists of a magnet (usually made of ferrite or neodymium) that is electrically charged and attracts a diaphragm made of carbon or some polymer. This electromagnetic relationship that occurs and the vibrations of the membrane is what produces the sound.
Of this type of devices, there are many in the market, from the very small ones (about 9mm) to the more robust models (50mm). Depending on the size and quality of the materials with which the driver is manufactured, the sound will be better or not.
Pros of Dynamic Drivers
The first big advantage of the drivers is that they are cheap. These don’t have the complex structure of the magnetic headphones. Nevertheless, excellent models can be achieved. They are considered entry-level headphones, but there are many professionals who have benefited them a lot.
Cons of Dynamic Drivers
The great disadvantage is in the design itself. The diaphragm can only be pushed or pulled by the voice coil or the part attached to it, and that produces distortion in the sound, especially when the volume is very high. That point of union in particular also generates a deformation in the membrane that also contributes to the problem of output quality.
The Planar Magnetic Driver
This type of driver is much less common to find. They are noticeably more expensive than the dynamic ones. The operation of these drivers mostly shares the same principle of dynamic headphones: interaction of two electromagnetic fields to produce sound.
However, unlike the dynamics charged part is distributed over the entire length of the driver. This charged part consists of a largely flat film. That is interaction on a single point; it distributes across the driver area.
Pros of the Planar Magnetic Drivers
These headphones are an intermediate option between dynamic drivers and higher-end devices (such as high-end electrostatic, for example). With them, the user will obtain a high-quality sound with very little distortion. It is a device with very good performance.
Cons of the Planar Magnetic Drivers
Within the negative aspects, in addition to your price, which is higher than a dynamic one, you may need to invest in something more than the hearing aid. To get the optimal performance of the device you may need a dedicated headphone amp.
What is the difference between the Dynamic and the Planar Magnetic Headphones?
1. Total Harmonic Distortion
We understand by distortion the level of fidelity of a device when it reproduces a signal at the maximum volumes. At these high volume levels, dynamic headphones distort more sound than Planar Magnetic. This is because the diaphragm only vibrates where it is attached to the voice coil. This union between these two components slightly deforms the shape of the membrane, and that makes it less
However, magnetic headphones have the advantage that both the magnets and the hearing aid material cover a larger area, make the diaphragms vibrate almost completely before the signal impulse, so they are less likely to disrupt the sound.
2. Bass Response
At Low-end frequencies, Planar Magnetic headphones have better performance, meaning that they have less roll-off than high-end dynamics of the same caliber. Also, the fact that the Planar has a thinner diaphragm also plays in favor of performance at low frequencies (20Hz to 250Hz). The thin layer gives a tighter bass response that causes a faster reaction to signal input.
When comparing dynamic headphones hearing aid of the same caliber, the winner is the Magnetic Planar. Of course, the advantage that users have is that by being a low-cost hearing aid, they can acquire another model that best suits their preferences of bass sounds.
The leakage is the amount of sound that “escapes” from the headphones when we are using them. For some users, it is important to use devices that are not capable of bothering anyone around, and this is when this concept becomes important. In this sense, dynamic headphones are more efficient, since their diaphragm has a unidirectional movement (inward of the ear).
Planar magnetic headphones, while, not only move inwards but also move outwards. This impulse of return causes that they have a greater coefficient of leakage. Of course, if this doesn’t cause problems with anyone around, this feature provides a more immersive sound and greater enjoyment of the sound experience.
When we take in mind the precision in the reproduction of location, stereo balance, and transparency of instrument, dynamic headphones have a better stereo performance. One of the reasons for this is the complex manufacturing process of the magnetic planar since this level of difficulty makes it equally difficult to match one ear with the other.
This difference is not only seen within the same device between its sides, but also between one unit and another of the same model. In contrast, dynamic headphones are manufactured with optimized manufacturing processes, and standardization is easier. Thanks to this, the match between one ear and the other is much more precise.
This characteristic describes the spatial, enveloping and “room-like” sensation of the experience of using a device. In this sense, planar magnetic headphones provide a better experience without any doubt. The reason for this to happen is that the sound transmission surface is much wider, and the interaction with the whole ear is greater.
Dynamic headphones, however, tend to have focused spherical wavefront configurations. This makes the interaction with the ear more focused, and therefore the surrounding experience is much smaller.
Conclusion – Wrapping Up