What are Planar Magnetic Speakers: A Comprehensive Guide

Planar magnetic speakers, also known as ribbon speakers, have gained popularity recently due to their unique design and audio quality. These speakers fundamentally differ from traditional cone-based dynamic speakers, offering a distinct audio experience for casual music listeners and audiophiles alike.

A thin conductive ribbon or film is suspended between two magnet sets in planar magnetic speakers. This arrangement allows for an even distribution of force across the diaphragm, resulting in a more precise audio reproduction with minimal distortion. The large surface area of the conductive film also contributes to a broader frequency response, providing a more realistic and immersive listening experience.

Despite their advantages, planar magnetic speakers have challenges, such as their larger size and sensitivity to proper amplification. However, for many audio enthusiasts, these speakers’ impressive sound quality and unique listening experience outweigh the drawbacks, making them an attractive option for high-quality audio setups.

Table of Contents

What are Planar Magnetic Speakers: A Comprehensive Guide

Planar Magnetic Speakers Basics

Planar magnetic speakers, or ortho-dynamic speakers, are audio technology that offers several advantages over traditional dynamic speaker drivers. This section provides an insight into the basic principles and key components of planar magnetic speakers.

Working Principle

Planar magnetic speakers operate on the principle of a thin, lightweight diaphragm moving in response to an electromagnetic force. The diaphragm is placed between two arrays of magnets, with the magnets creating a strong magnetic field. When an audio signal in the form of an electrical current passes through the conductive traces on the diaphragm, it interacts with the magnetic field, causing the diaphragm to move and produce sound waves.

This design offers more control over the diaphragm movement than dynamic cone drivers. As a result, planar magnetic speakers can deliver a more accurate and detailed sound reproduction, particularly in terms of midrange and treble performance.

Key Components

Several key components make planar magnetic speakers function effectively:

  • Diaphragm: A thin, lightweight, and flexible diaphragm is crucial for the speaker’s performance. It is often made from materials like Kapton, Mylar, or polyimide, which combine high strength and low mass. The diaphragm is coated with a conductive material to create electrical pathways.
  • Magnets: Planar magnetic speakers use an array of strong magnets, typically made of materials like neodymium or ferrite. The magnets are strategically placed to create a stable magnetic field across the diaphragm.
  • Voice Coil: Instead of a traditional wound voice coil, planar magnetic speakers feature conductive traces embedded or printed directly onto the diaphragm. These traces interact with the magnetic field to create motion that drives the diaphragm and produces sound.
  • Frame: A rigid and acoustically inert frame is necessary to support and hold the diaphragm and magnet arrays in position, ensuring optimal performance and durability of the speaker.

With their unique working principle and key components, planar magnetic speakers offer high audio precision, making them an appealing choice for audiophiles and audio enthusiasts seeking natural sound reproduction.

Advantages of Planar Magnetic Speakers

Sound Quality

Planar magnetic speakers are known for their exceptional sound quality. They produce a more accurate and natural sound compared to traditional dynamic speakers. The thin, lightweight diaphragms used in planar magnetic speakers allow faster response times, improving audio detail and transient response.

Distortion Levels

Another advantage of planar magnetic speakers is their low distortion levels. Due to the even distribution of force across the diaphragm, there is less chance of distortion caused by unequal pressure points. This results in a cleaner, more accurate sound reproduction, making them popular for audiophiles seeking the highest quality audio experience.


Planar magnetic speakers are known for their durability and long-lasting performance. The design of these speakers minimizes the chances of structural failure, which can lead to a longer lifespan than other speaker types. Moreover, the simple construction of the diaphragm and magnetic array makes them less susceptible to damage from overuse or environmental factors.

Disadvantages of Planar Magnetic Speakers

Although planar magnetic speakers offer a variety of benefits, they also have several disadvantages that potential buyers should consider. This section will focus on the drawbacks of these speakers, namely their size and weight, cost, and power requirements. Consumers must weigh these factors against the advantages to determine if planar magnetic speakers are the right choice.

Size and Weight

One of the main disadvantages of planar magnetic speakers is their size and weight. Compared to dynamic speakers, they are typically larger and heavier due to their design. The large diaphragm and powerful magnets required for their operation contribute to their increased size and weight. This can make them harder to transport and install, especially in smaller spaces or home audio setups.


Planar magnetic speakers tend to be more expensive than conventional dynamic speakers. The cost is driven by several factors, including the materials required for the diaphragm, the powerful magnets, and complex manufacturing processes. Additionally, planar magnetic speakers are often hand-assembled, increasing production costs. As a result, purchasers should be prepared to pay a premium for these high-performance audio devices.

When considering the investment in planar magnetic speakers, consumers must evaluate if the increased audio performance is worth the additional cost compared to traditional speaker options.

Comparison with Other Speaker Technologies

Planar magnetic speakers are an alternative technology to traditional speaker designs. This section compares planar magnetic speakers with two prominent speaker technologies: dynamic drivers and electrostatic speakers.

Dynamic Drivers

Dynamic drivers, sometimes called moving-coil speakers, are today’s most common speaker technology. They consist of a voice coil, a diaphragm (or cone), and a magnet. The voice coil is attached to the diaphragm and surrounded by the magnet. When current passes through the voice coil, it creates a magnetic field that interacts with the magnet, causing the diaphragm to move and produce sound.

Planar magnetic speakers, on the other hand, consist of a thin, flat diaphragm with a conductive pattern (usually aluminum) embedded within it. This diaphragm is positioned between two sets of magnets, and the interaction between electric current and the magnetic field generates movement in the diaphragm, creating sound.

Some key differences between these two technologies include:

  • Distortion: Planar magnetic speakers exhibit lower distortion than dynamic drivers, providing clearer and more accurate sound reproduction.
  • Frequency Response: Planar magnetic speakers usually have a wider and flatter frequency response than dynamic drivers, making them suitable for critical listening environments.
  • Size and Weight: Dynamics drivers are more compact and lightweight, making them more suited for portable applications.

Electrostatic Speakers

Electrostatic speakers use a different mechanism to produce sound. They consist of a thin diaphragm sandwiched between two stators, perforated metal plates. A high-voltage electrostatic force the stators creates causes the diaphragm to move and produce sound.

Planar magnetic and electrostatic speakers share similarities, such as their thin diaphragm design and overall low distortion. However, there are some key differences between the two technologies:

  • Amplification: Electrostatic speakers require specialized high-voltage amplifiers, while most conventional amplifiers can drive planar magnetic speakers.
  • Cost: Electrostatic speakers tend to be more expensive than planar magnetic speakers due to their unique manufacturing process and the need for specialized amplification.
  • Bass Response: Planar magnetic speakers generally have a better bass response than electrostatic speakers, making them more suitable for a wider range of music genres.

Both technologies have distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on the listener’s preferences and requirements.

Planar magnetic speakers are popular due to their unique design and high-quality audio performance. Several manufacturers have made a name for themselves in the audio industry by producing top-notch planar magnetic speakers.

Audeze is one of the most recognized brands in the planar magnetic speaker market. Founded in 2008, this California-based company is known for its exceptional headphones and speakers that deliver an immersive audio experience.

HIFIMAN is another well-known manufacturer producing planar magnetic speakers and headphones. The company was established in 2007 by Dr. Fang Bian. It has earned a reputation for creating high-quality audio products at various prices, catering to various consumers.

MrSpeakers (now Dan Clark Audio) is a fast-growing audio company specializing in planar magnetic headphones. It was founded by audio engineer Dan Clark in 2012 and has gained a following for its innovative designs and exceptional sound quality.

OPPO, although no longer manufacturing audio products, was known for its quality planar magnetic headphones. The company operated from 2004 to 2018 and was popular for producing high-performing audio products at competitive prices.

These popular manufacturers, among others, continue to push the boundaries of planar magnetic speaker technology, ultimately providing consumers with an unparalleled audio experience.

Conclusion on Planar Magnetic Speakers

Their innovative design and technology offer planar magnetic speakers a unique and high-quality audio experience. They are known for their excellent sonic accuracy, low distortion, and fast transient response. These characteristics make them popular among audiophiles and audio enthusiasts.

A thin, flexible diaphragm and planar magnetic technology enable these speakers to produce sound with exceptional clarity and detail. Additionally, their open-back design contributes to an expansive soundstage, providing a more immersive listening experience than traditional dynamic speakers.

However, planar magnetic speakers are larger and heavier than their dynamic counterparts. This can make them less portable and require more dedicated space for installation. Furthermore, they can be more expensive due to the materials and complex manufacturing processes involved.

In summary, planar magnetic speakers offer a unique and high-quality audio experience, appreciated by discerning listeners who prioritize audio quality and are willing to invest in a premium product. While they may not be suitable for every situation, they are worth considering for those seeking an unparalleled listening experience.

Juan Louder
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Juan Louder

I started SoundStudioMagic to learn how to record my own audiobook at home, and now I'm addicted to all the latest techniques and gear.

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