How Planar Magnetic Headphones Work

Many will be aware of Magnepan and their speakers, for which they’ve coined and registered the name “Magneplanar” referring to their planar magnetic operating principle. Most won’t know, however, that Yamaha similarly branded their planar magnetic headphones as “Orthodynamic” headphones, with a U.S. introduction in 1976. Just like with planar magnetic speakers, Yamaha’s Orthodynamic headphones (and those by Fostex, MB Quart, and others) have never gathered a wide following. On the other hand both planar magnetic speakers and headphones have gathered cults of rabid fans … with good reason, as it turns out.

The correct term to refer to this type of headphone is planar magnetic. Unfortunately, all of Headphonedom calls them Orthodynamic, a Yamaha marketing term. Well, I call a facial tissue a Kleenex, so no big deal I suppose, but it’s not technically correct. Likewise Magneplanar (not often used) is a registered mark of Magnepan.

The other less used common term is Isodynamic, which means, “having equal force,” and refers to the zones of evenly distributed magnetic force in the driver within which the electrical conductors are immersed. Isodynamic magnetic systems exist in numerous types of devices. For example, isodynamic separators can sort streams of powders of mixed materials having differing magnetic permeability.

So, in the world of headphones, Orthodynamic, isodynamic, and planar magnetic all mean the same thing. I’ll probably use them somewhat interchangeably here to be sure people Googling for the terms will find the info … but planar magnetic is the correct term.

The Planar Magnetic Operating Principle
You can think of planar magnetic drivers as a sort of crossbreed between dynamic and electrostatic drivers. Like a standard dynamic headphone, planar magnetic headphones use the magnetic field around a conductor that has electrical current flowing through it to drive the diaphragm. Like an electrostatic driver, the diaphragm of a planar magnetic speaker is a thin sheet of flexible transparent film, but unlike an electrostat, the film has very thin, flat electrical conductors (wires ... but very flat ones) in it.

An array of magnets is placed in front of and behind the diaphragm such that the conductors are immersed in a very even field of magnetic flux (isodynamic magnetic field). When current is passed through the conductors, the magnetic field created by the current flow interacts with the isodynamic field created by permanent magnets, causing the conductors, and therefore the diaphragm, to move. The importance of the isodynamic field is to ensure that the relationship of current flow to force exerted on the diaphragm is constant regardless of the position of the conductor in its excursions through the field. The quality of the isodynamic field partly determines the linearity, and therefore contributes to the harmonic distortion content of the reproduced sound.


JIGF's picture

Very informative, thanks Tyll.

I took the liberty and posted a link to this article over here ( Hope you don't mind.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Not. One. Bit! In fact, I love it. I think this site should be a gateway for people to find out about headphones; see that there's more than meets the eye; and develop (if it feels like something they might be interested in) a desire to find out more. Readers providing links to further information is a service to folks not familiar with the community of enthusiasts. So thank you very much for the link, JIGF!
LFF's picture

Very informative and loved how you broke them down in the video. Pun intended. Thanks!

kwkarth's picture

Good show Gov!

svyr's picture

so um, he-500 = 1/2 a sandwich = still ortho?

PMM's picture

"My guess is that the high-end planar magnetic headphone makers (Audez’e and HiFiMAN) need to move the drivers a little forward and angle them back towards the ear to make improvements here."

It saddens me a little bit that so few headphone manufacturers understand that. It's something that a number of Sony's headphones have been doing for a long time now (I enjoy this chaotic writeup by the inimitable Leonard Lombardo: ), and obviously the Senn HD800 and AKG K1000 benefit greatly from the angling.

If by any chance at all some folks from Audez'e and/or HiFiMAN are reading: Please do your best to implement this! You guys are AWESOME for reviving planar magnetics while all of the old dog companies rested on their laurels, but you can still bring 'em closer to the promised land.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... I just got a new pair of LCD2s and it does look like the padding creates more of an angle to the ear (and is somewhat softer) than my previous one. I'll take pix and go into more detail in my upcoming review.
PMM's picture

That's great news. Looking forward to it.

jrkong's picture

Now if my 11th grade education is correct, the conductive trace would be attracted to the top field and repelled by the bottom field unless the motor principle I learned was wrong.

Pappabetalar's picture

Was at a hifi-store listening to the LCD 2's while I was reading this informative article. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

Insatiable's picture

This article mentions the high end of HiFiMAN's product line. What about the HE-400? It is lower on their product line. I was wondering what you think about it, if you have heard it before. Would you say it would fit the general description of the higher end models, just a little less so? I am looking to buy these as an upgrade from my old ATH-M50.

social.sevenstarwatches's picture
tiyaha's picture

It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to come here! Thanks for sharing such information with us.

Claudio12's picture

Wow that's very exciting to know the working of a headphones. The terminology used in it is simply awesome. I must thank for this brief description. The planar magnetic operation is just remarkable. I have been looking for analysis to help my brother. Good to be here and share my views.

Sanah Winari's picture

hello thank so much for the articles, i am very lucky found this page. Cara Membuat Akun Facebook and bagaimana cara membuat blog want to say thanks too.. nice article..

Wardffsdf's picture

The is the good and most of the uses to the students and the institutions for the developing the essays and the process making to the skills of the students and the essay writers.

geosynthetic's picture

I was working and suddenly I visits your site frequently and recommended it to me to read also.
The writing style is superior and the content is relevant.
Please visit my web too.. :)
Jual Geotextile
Geotextile Distributor
Geotextile Jakarta
GeoBag SandBag
Catering Services
Jual Goetextile di Jakarta
Cinangka Housing
Sawangan Housing
Depok Housing
Hunian Nyaman dan Murah Di Cinangka, Sawangan, Depok

csnk's picture

This article mentions the high end of HiFiMAN's product line. What about the HE-400? It is lower on their product line. I was wondering what you think about it, if you have heard it before. Would you say it would fit the general description of the higher end models, just a little less so? I am looking to buy these as an upgrade from my old manufacturer

csnk's picture

This article mentions the high end of HiFiMAN's product line. What about the HE-400? It is lower on their product manufacturer

hargaperedam's picture
emadahmed1995's picture
Thomasgreen's picture

that i like it very much, and i am looking forward to hearing from your next. You done certain good points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will agree with your blog. Nicely presented information in this post
click here

Thomasgreen's picture

nteresting and amazing how your post is. It Is useful and helpful for me, that i like it very much, and i am looking forward to hearing from your next
Visit this website now

Thomasgreen's picture

Thank you so much once more time you share with me your new and fantastic article. I appreciate your hard working and in the same time my humble request is please share with us some more informative and more interesting article in future.
click here for more details

Thomasgreen's picture

Yes i agree with your post. It contains very important data and i use it as my personal use. Your 95% posts are useful for me.
Stevenage removals in UK Services

geosynthetic's picture

Jakarta, sebagai salah satu kota di Indonesia yang memiliki tingkat pembangunan yang sangat pesat pun membutuhkan material-material dan bahan-bahan pendukung yang berkualitas, seperti penggunaan geotextile untuk memperkuat tanah dasar.

Sebagai salah satu produsen terkemuka, pemasok dan penjual bahan Geosynthetic di Indonesia, Kami menawarkan produk-produk berkualitas kepada pelanggan di seluruh kawasan yang menjadi ruang lingkup Kami. Tujuan kami adalah untuk memberikan pelayanan yang terbaik dan produk berkualitas dengan harga yang kompetitif. Produk utama kami meliputi: Geotextile Woven dan Geotextile Non Woven (PE / PP), Geobag (Sand Bag), Geogrid Biaksial, Geomembrane HDPE, dll.

Tiga motto utama Kami adalah “Produk Berkualitas, Pelayanan Cepat Dan Bersahabat, Harga Yang Kompetitif”. Jika Anda tertarik pada salah satu produk Kami atau ingin membahas pesanan Anda, maka jangan ragu untuk menghubungi Kami. Kami berharap untuk membentuk hubungan bisnis yang sukses dengan partner bisnis baru, di seluruh dunia.

Jl.Salak Raya-Perum Muslim Al-Falaah 3 Blok G. No. 16
Kel. Pondok Benda. - Kec. Pamulang. Kota Tangerang Selatan
Akses terdekat dari Kota Tangerang-Depok-Jakarta Selatan
Kontak : 021-29043406 - 081277667997 - PIN BB 51837562

alexsam's picture

The percentage of people that is certainly deaf, that is certainly around , will also need to have closed captioning services. It is actually required by regulation through the FCC available captioning so your hard of hearing get the similar stuff that the competition can access closed captioning transcription. They actually depend totally in the terms which were demonstrated in any good filter. However, captioning isn't for those really challenging connected with studying, or maybe hard of hearing specific.


Enter your InnerFidelity username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.