What IS A Balanced Armature, pt 2 The Guts & The Glory

In our last post we touched on what a balanced armature is and how it works. Next we thought we’d get some feedback from Jerry “The Man” Harvey on why he chose balanced armatures over dynamic drivers and how they superior in this application.

So the big debate of which is “better”…. well it really depends on the application. If you think about it who would want a full size headphone filled with 362 balanced armatures to give you the same punch in the low end and warmth in the mids (settle down, settle down, we know some of you are wondering how this can be done…pixie dust!). Honestly it cannot, well and not sound good at least. Balanced armatures NEED a good seal to create the lows and sound stage you desire. That’s where the lows come from, isolation (yet another reason why custom earphones are THE way to go, but we’ll get to that in another post). Just like dynamic speakers are the “go-to” for headphones, speaker enclosures, etc. Those type of applications allow the cone to move and get the air it needs to produce the sound it was designed to do. They just work better in that application.
I mean, who doesn’t want the speaker setup from Back To The Future??!!

One thing you should remember though is, NO ONE can tell you what sounds “best” in that application, better than your ears. Always approach a listening session with an open mind.
Here are some of the pros and cons of balanced armatures and dynamic drivers that we heard from Jerry.

Dynamic Drivers
Pros: Warm mids, good low end response, lower cost
Cons: Low input sensitivity, distort too quick (unless in a tuned enclosure), different response in each ear and no extension above 5k.

Balanced Armatures
Pros: High input sensitivity, repeatable responses, fine tuning possible within a small enclosure, with a dual driver setup dual driver you have a faster response, 3dB volume increase before distortion and the phase curve flattens out over single or dynamic setup.
Cons: cost, requires multiple units to get full, deep base

For stage use, since the goal is to provide a clear and accurate sound, a balanced armature driver would be better since isolation is the name of the game. Blocking out that external sound allows you to hear only what you need to and at a lower, safer volume. (Hence the reason we here at JH Audio use them) With a dynamic driver you need a “vent” for the lows to be produced properly. This “vent” then allows stage, crowd and room noise to effect what you hear. It can also “kill”certain frequencies that need to be added to your mix if possible.

So which is better. Depends on your application, but for ear monitors the clear winner is balanced armatures.


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