Dynamic vs Planar Magnetic Headphones

I think I’ve gotten tot he point where I have to ask the question, what might be the audio aesthetic difference between a set of Dynamic vs Planar Magnetic headphones. Many years ago, I did have a set of Stax electrostatics (SR-Gamma) back in the 1980s and wasn’t smart enough or knowledgeable enough to understand what I had and how to listen to them. Now, in the digital age, we have choices that approximate the electrostatic characteristic but without so much extra cost. For those that are not familiar with Planar Magnetic headphones, I’ve included a link to a really detailed review of the SIVGA P-II Planar Magnetic headphones that I’m currently enjoying to add a little fuel to the discussion. I’d certainly like to hear what others think about the differences between the two approaches to audio reproduction.

I’ve worked as a session drummer for many years and listened to many dynamic headphones, a lot of which I thought were horrible in both comfort and audio quality. I will say that my personal favorites are still the AKG K240 cans from many years ago. A snare drum with a Shure SM57 on it comes through just like it should with just the right amount of punch and impact. Dynamic headphones, especially open-back units, come pretty close to the accuracy and openness of a set of Planar Magnetics and hold a pretty steady impedance match across the frequency range but its the top end where you really notice the precision of the planars.

I’m going to stop here and offer the topic up for comments. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Just be respectful and unbiased. Thank you.

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Planars seem to have come a long way since my first pair in the 1970s (photo found on net) the Audio Technica ATH-2. They called it “orthodynamic” but it was an early planar.
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These still sound very fast, but they have a big mid bass bump so I don’t listen to them often. I did keep my 1980’s STAX, and I still listen to them, along with the Nectar Hive.

My Hifiman HE-560s are my only real planar headphones. I really like them for listening to jazz combos. I like how the render most acoustic instruments. Stanley Turrentine is just awesome on them, as is MJQ. My favorite IEMs are also planars, the iSINE 20 and the LCDi3 from Audeze.

My go to headphones - when I’m not at the workstation and in reach of the e-stat amp and the Hive, are, however Grado RS1-e. And that is certainly a dynamic. So maybe I’m technology agnostic at the price range I chose to play in. Which is not TOTL. I have NOT HEARD any ZMF, or any FOCAL headphones, nor any modern TOTL electrostatic.

From my current experience, electrostatic is my preference. But it’s on points, not a knock-out.
I think I’m as interested as you in finding out what people say with regard to how the technologies stack up.

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Aren’t Meze Empyreans planar/magnetic as well?

Short answer; Yes.

The Empyrean’s drivers are unique though. They elaborate on the design and purpose quite well on their website;

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I started in much the same place with my Yamaha HP-3’s which were also “Orthodynamic”. They still sound good to me, but I’m aware that modern Headphones - Planar & Dynamic - best them. For $38 in 1978 they were an eyeopening experience.

Really for me it’s about getting the sound right and not so much about the tech that gets that sound to me.

Mark Gosdin

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