Electrostatic vs Electromagnetic vs Conventional Speakers

Electrostatic vs Electromagnetic vs Conventional Speakers

Ever wondered what is the difference between Electrostatic, electromagnetic, and conventional speakers?
In this guide I will help you with that!

Electrostatic discharge has a lot of applications across several fields and even in everyday settings. Unfortunately, they are not always positive. ESD can cause a lot of problems, especially in settings that deal with sensitive electronics and equipment.

To mitigate the potential negative effects of electrostatics in such settings, we have tools like anti-static bracelets and anti-static flooring. You can read more about anti static bracelets and anti static flooring in these articles that I have written previously.

Electrostatic vs Conventional Speakers

Electrostatic vs Electromagnetic vs Conventional Speakers

Electrostatic vs Electromagnetic vs Conventional Speakers

The effects and applications of electrostatic energy do not necessarily have to be negative. In fact, there are many ways that this principle is put to good use.

One of these is in audio devices like headphones and speakers.

Electrostatic speakers are one kind of speaker. In this guide, I will talk about how all of these types of speakers work and which one you should be using.

What are the Different Types of Speakers?

While there are many types of speakers, we can divide them into three primary, broad categories. These are based on how the speakers work. That is, how they are able to produce sound from the signals they receive.

The types of speakers include conventional speakers, electromagnetic speakers, and electrostatic speakers. We will explore the workings and features of each type of speaker in further detail ahead.

What are Conventional Speakers?

Conventional Speakers

These are the most commonly and frequently used speakers. It is very likely that the speakers in your headphones, radio, or stereo are conventional speakers.

Also referred to as dynamic speakers or moving coil drivers, these speakers employ the use of a very thin wire placed within the range of a magnet.

The signal travels through this wire which creates a magnetic field. The two magnetic fields interact to move the coil back and forth which, in turn, moves a diaphragm. This is the speaker diaphragm and its movement produces sound waves.

What are Electromagnetic Speakers?

Electromagnetic Speakers

Take a guess as to how electromagnetic speakers work. That’s right- on the principle of electromagnetism!

These are relatively less commonly used as compared to conventional speakers but they can be very useful nonetheless and their demand continues to grow as people look for improving quality all the time. 

Instead of using a cone-shaped membrane, this type of speaker uses a thin, flat diaphragm across which the signal or charges are spread evenly. Its conductive nature allows it to respond to the magnetic field that is produced on both sides of the diaphragm.

These days, you may even find electromagnetic speakers that have a one-sided magnetic array, making them less bulky and giving them a higher definition.

What are Electrostatic Speakers?

Electrostatic Speaker

Electrostatic speakers are far and away the most uncommon kinds of speakers that you will find in the market as well as in use by the people around you.

This is because these types of speakers are typically quite heavy duty and provide a very detailed audio experience that may not be required in every given case.

As suggested by the name, these speakers work on the principle of electrostatic energy. A typical electrostatic speaker comprises a very thin, flat diaphragm that is placed between two grids.

This diaphragm is usually made from a thin plastic sheet that is covered in a conductive material such as graphite. Similar to the diaphragm, the two planes that it is sandwiched between- which are also known as stator- are also conductive. These electrically conductive surfaces are charged.

When an output voltage is applied by your amplifier, the diaphragm in the center moves either towards the stators or away from them depending on the charge. This is based on the principle that like charges attract each other and unlike charges repel each other.

The movement of the diaphragm because of electrostatic attraction or repulsion results in the production of sound waves which we hear as audio or music.

How are Charges Produced in an Electrostatic Speaker?

The charges on the conductive surfaces are produced in electrostatic speakers with the help of a very high voltage. This is connected to a transformer and an amplifier.

The transform operates with the help of magnetic forces. The high voltage is applied to the output end of the transformer to generate the electric fields.

What Makes Electrostatic Speakers Special?


The reason why electrostatic speakers are considered to be so unique is because they offer a level of sound quality that is truly unmatched.

But that is also why these are not as frequently used outside of specialty applications where they are a very facilitative necessity.

The sound quality and clarity are off the charts thanks to the delicate nature of the diaphragm which is being moved electrostatically within the system. It allows the speaker system to effectively highlight all of the little details of the audio.

Which Kind of Speakers Should I Get?

Headphones Should I Select

What kind of speakers you should get demands on what you want. If you want more ‘natural’ or raw sounding audio with its usual punch, then stick to the dynamic or conventional speakers.

On the other hand, if you want to hone in on the clarity and structure of the audio, then you may want to look into the more advanced electromagnetic speaker sets. If you have the budget and cannot compromise on the transparency and quality of your audio, then nothing beats electrostatic speakers.

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