The first thing that you should know about electrostatic headphones is that they operate in a completely different manner. Namely, the core principle from which they are built is a different approach than the one used in the regular dynamic headphones and speakers.
Those who have heard about them know that they are a highly advanced piece of technology. Some people view them as the Holy Grail of headphones. Why? Well, simply because they are rare, expensive and hard to make. Even though their qualities are undeniable, they also have some drawbacks as we shall see a bit later.
We wanted to demystify the whole fuss about these headphones and give you the most realistic picture. From there on, you should be able to decide whether they are worth pursuing.
However, we can tell you beforehand that, due to the way they produce sound, they offer an immense amount of detail and clarity. That quality is hardly matched by any other regular set of headphones or speakers.
- Lower and affordable prices
- Convenient for physical activities and prolonged use
- Decent sound
- Ability to choose between different boosted frequencies
- Ability to have a strong, large and muddy bass
- There is always a distortion in the sound
- They can never offer the most realistic picture of your recording
- No distortion in the sound
- Covers all frequencies with an ease
- Offers an incomprehensibly detailed and vivid sound
- They are not in the mass production
- They are expensive
- Sometimes you might lack a bit of the bass hardness
- Their amplifier draws too much power from portable devices
What Do the Electrostatic Headphones Sound Like?
One of the first things that you’ll notice when you put the electrostatic headphones on is the total absence of distortion. We all know that distortion is created by the mechanical nature of drivers. Most of the time we don’t even notice it simply because we are used to it.
However, when you are sitting behind the mixer and trying to make that last recording sound perfect, you might find them to be a serious distraction. Whether your setup incorporates a balanced armature driver or a dynamic driver, they will always produce distortion in some way due to the vibrations.
The regular diaphragm is usually surrounded by other moving parts that might get in the way of producing the clearest sound. That’s not the case with the electrostatic technology. The electrostatic headphones rely solely on the electrostatic field. That field surrounds the very light diaphragm. Therefore, there is nothing to get in its way while vibrating.
The next thing that we noticed is the range of frequencies that the electrostatic diaphragm can cover. It’s mainly due to the fact that it’s almost massless. As a plus, it is not constrained at all. The regular headphones usually rely on at least two drivers. Especially the in-ear studio monitors.
Even then, they aren’t able to cover the expected frequency range. Usually, they will need three balanced armatures to deal with the mids and the treble. At the same time, the dynamic driver will handle the bass.
With the electrostatic headphones, less is always more. Actually, less is the only way to go. A single electrostatic driver makes no room for filtering that is related to the phase itself. You will also experience no acoustic distortions. When we put them on, we experienced the cleanest low frequencies.
The bass was sharp and clear. There was no unnecessary mud. The mids were so vivid. They perfectly accentuated every single instrument as if they surrounded us. The detail provided on electrostatic headphones is just amazing.
We suppose that most of you worry about the treble. Many of us are sensitive to high frequencies. Sometimes they can just be outright painful. However, an electrostatic driver is free to dance as it wishes. With it, you will get a highly mobile treble that will sit naturally in the mix. We’ve come to the conclusion that even some of the highest violin screeching sounded smooth and unified.
One of the properties that we must mention is the response. It is simply otherworldly. A driver that is not constrained by any means is able to act accordingly and in an instant. Any other set of regular headphones cannot achieve this type of transient response.
We were able to hear so much detail in the sound. Electrostatic headphones are one of the most immersive pieces of hardware that we’ve put our hands on. All you’ll need in addition is to keep your eyes closed.
Electrostatic headphones are also very realistic and unforgiving. All those aforementioned properties lead to an unmistakable accuracy that they provide. For instance, you will be able to hear the Bohemian Rhapsody at its full glory for the first time in your life. You will just sit there amazed and stunned by it.
On the other hand, electrostatic headphones will reveal even the nastiest little details and dirt. Especially in the recordings that aren’t carefully or professionally made. They can’t boost any frequency band. Therefore, they will leave you with the raw sound.
Anyhow, every single audio recording that you’ve heard before will be a completely new experience when you listen to it with electrostatic headphones. It is almost as if you’re discovering your favorite songs all over again.
How Do the Electrostatic Headphones Work?
The electrostatic headphones use an electrostatic diaphragm. The polyester diaphragm is very thin and almost massless. Think of it as a paper-thin plastic sheet. It’s much thinner even than plastic bags. The manufacturers also coat it in some sort of conductor. Usually, they use graphite. Then they place that thin piece between two other conductors.
Those conductors are usually two perforated metal plates or metal grids. However, they mustn’t touch. This type of technology is able to put pressure on the diaphragm through static electricity. It will do it without any physical contact.
How? Well, first you must understand that the audio signal in the form of voltage is applied across the metal plates. On the other hand, the diaphragm operates under the constant charge, which shouldn’t be confused with the aforementioned audio voltage.
The voltage on both plates creates an electrostatic field between them. That’s how it applies pressure and force on to the diaphragm. As a result, the diaphragm moves by itself and transmits the sound through the perforated parts of the metal plates.
So why do we call it static? Simply because the electric charge on the diaphragm is static. It doesn’t move. What moves the diaphragm is the electric field that exerts the force on those static electrons. Basically, they move the diaphragm under influence.
One other criteria must be met in order for the technology to work. The diaphragm must be under a constant and equal charge. That can be achieved if a proper coating is chosen.
The diaphragm must be coated in such a way that to give it a high electrical resistivity on its surface. For those of you who don’t know, the electrical resistivity is an attribute of a certain material that shows us how much the material is able to oppose the electrical currents. By meeting this requirement, the manufacturer will ensure to avoid all distortion that will arise.
However, the most important thing that the electrostatic headphones need in order to work is the high voltage.
How to Use Electrostatic Headphones?
We found our electrostatic headphones to be quite comfortable. You will be able to use them like any other electrodynamic headphones. They usually come with a 3.5mm jack. That means that you will be able to use them on all PCs, Android devices and iOS systems that support it.
One of the inconveniences that we’ve found is the amplifier that is always present. Namely, it is a bit chunky. That can pose a problem while you’re on the go. It will also suck the life out of your battery pretty fast. That is why we mainly see these headphones as headphones for home.
On the other hand, it’s maybe even better to use them only at home. They provide an overwhelming amount of sound detail that requires you to focus on the recording itself. Any distractions might irritate you. That also makes them a perfect studio monitor. You will get the most realistic picture of your recordings.
Electrostatic VS. Electromagnetic
So what is the difference between the electrostatic headphones and the ones that you’ve used so far? We tried to give a detailed answer to that question. We also provided you with the most common pros and cons that every audiophile will encounter.
The main difference is that the two operate in a different manner. The electrodynamic headphones use a coil that vibrates while the electrostatic ones use a charged diaphragm. The electrodynamic technology uses wires placed on a magnet in order to produce an electromagnetic field that then puts force on the coil itself.
On the other hand, as we mentioned before, the electrostatic system uses two perforated plates that are charged with voltage and create an electrostatic field. That field forces the static electrons that are located on the diaphragm in between to move.
The next difference that you will find is in the amount of distortion that appears in the sound. The electrodynamic headphones usually have multiple drivers that might cause the noise. The electrostatic ones produce no distortion whatsoever. The diaphragm operates without physical contact and constraint. That allows for a clear and impeccable sound.
When it comes to the frequency range, the electrostatic headphones excel once more. The liberty in the movement that the electrostatic diaphragm has, allows it to touch upon the highest and lowest frequencies without any effort. It produces them in great detail, unfortunately, showing you even those that you weren’t meant to hear.
The electrodynamic system usually needs three or more drivers in order to come even close to that. And even when using multiple drivers it is more likely that you will get some sort of distortion.
When comparing the electrostatic and electrodynamic sound, we can say with certainty that they are two completely different experiences. We are very well accustomed to the electrodynamic sound quality. However, we can never know what to expect from it.
Why? Well, every single hardware will give you different boosts to different frequencies. Therefore, the impressions of electrodynamic systems are usually quite subjective and dependable on personal preferences.
The electrostatic sound will almost always offer to you the same experience. But it will also be like something that you’ve never heard before. It will have a unique impact on your hearing and you will feel like someone who puts their contact lenses for the first time.
Is This Still The Trend Today?
Everything in the sound is suddenly present. Everything in the sound is suddenly comprehensible. There are no more blurry or shady parts that you tend to miss out. It’s right in the face, and it is wonderful.
However, the electrodynamic headphones are usually more convenient to wear. They lack the large adapter that is an inevitable part of the electrostatic set. You will be more mobile with the regular headphones, simply because you will lack another component that might get in your way while you move. Also, if you’re using them on your phone or some other rechargeable device, they will draw much less power than the electrostatic ones.
The price is also something that we should talk about. The electrostatic headphones are much more expensive than the electrodynamic ones. The main reason for that is that the production process is slow and expensive itself. They are usually hand-made over a certain course of time, and thus they are also rare. However, if you are tech-savvy, you might be able to construct them yourself. Though it will still require a lot of time, effort and not so cheap materials. However, it may pay off in the end.
Finally, we made a clear list of pros and cons for you to see. We hope that it will help you to decide whether the electrostatic headphones are a luxury or a must for a modern audiophile.