How do Headphones Work? 4 Facts Every User should Now

Headphones and earphones are the most sold electronic items in the world. Have you ever wondered how do headphones work, Especially about the strength and quality of the sound produced by the small device?

Sound is basically vibrations; if you could vibrate anything in a particular manner, it produces music!

how earphones work

Understanding the working of headphones helps you in several ways, such as avoiding mistakes while selecting headphones, selecting the best headphones for your ears, and also understanding the health threats.

A Headphone is nothing but a speaker designed to wear on our ears, and the difference is only in size. The working principle behind both wire headphones and wireless headphones is the same except for connectivity.

In an earphone, electrical energy to sound energy conversion is taking place with the help of coils and a magnet. For all types of headphones, the basic working principle is the same except for the connectivity.

The working of Bluetooth headphones is slightly different from the wired one. Here we mainly focus on the wired type. On the wireless section, you can find how earbuds work.

1.How do Headphones work?

how headphones work

What is the science behind headphones? Before penetrating into the science behind working first, let us discuss the essential parts of a headphone. 

Parts and Function of Earphone and Headphone

  • Driver Assembly
  • Diaphragm
  • Voice Coil and Magnet

There are some other components too, but we have included only the important parts of earphones. Now let us see how do headsets work.

parts of headphones

Driver Assembly

If you ever checked a headphone or speaker, you may have seen that 40 mm or 50 mm Driver Size. It is actually the driver assembly size, which acts as a housing for components like a diaphragm, magnet, and coil.

As the size of the driver increases, the quality and bass of the audio also increase. The main challenge among audio engineers is to produce fantastic quality sound through small drivers.

Because in-ear-type earphones can not use a bigger driver, they would be forced to limit driver size between 06 mm to 13 mm. 

The driver casing has an inbuilt filter material made with fabric or plastic to prevent the ear wax and dust from entering the headphone’s internal components. 

Voice Coil and Magnet

Voice coil and Magnet can be regarded as the heart and brain of headphones. The parts which produce vibrations that later converted into audio.

Voice coil, technically concentrated voice coil, is made of thin threaded copper wires. The headphone jack receives the current that carries an audio signal from the mobile phone entering the voice coil through the cable.

Then the voice coil produces an electromagnetic field, just as we have studied in the high school classes. The peculiarity of this magnetic field is that it gets polarised only when electricity passes through it.

Then the voice coil starts vibrating, precisely saying starts moving up and down depending on the audio signal. But the coil is placed inside the magnet, just inside the circumference. 

The diaphragm is placed above it.


The quality of the diaphragm decides the performance of the headphone. This is the part of the headphone which produces sound. All other components are supposed to support the diaphragm. 

As we said in the earlier section, the diaphragm is placed above the magnet-coil assembly. The up and down movement of the coil generates vibrations in the diaphragm.

This vibration would be exactly according to the sound signal. And we hear it as music or audio.  This is how headphones make a sound.

Basically, we use all these components to turn electrical energy into sound.

2.How do Headphone Jack Works?

Have you ever observed the rings in the wire headphone jack? Then you can see the number of rings change from one to three depending on the function which is supposed to perform.

To understand how jacks work, first, you have to find the types of headphone jacks

Single Ring

Audio jacks with only one ring are called the mono microphone, are used for recording mono sound.

But if we try to play audio recorded through a mono ring, the sound will be audible only at one earbud. Such devices are recommended for music recording.

Two Rings

Two-ring headphones produce stereo sound; it means the sound from such headphones is audible for both earpieces.

The tip portion of the jack is responsible for producing sound in the left earpiece, and the part between both the rings produces sound in the right ear. The last portion is dedicated to earthing.

Three Rings

Three-ring headphones ensure mic function in addition to stereo sound. The metallic portion at the tip provides sound for the left earbud. The next portion is reserved for sound in the right earbud. Immediately, you can find earthing region; then, the last part is responsible for microphone function.

3.What is the right way to wear headphones?

Suppose you are wearing the best headphones and fail to wear them properly, then the audio experience would be inferior. 

First of all, you have to select headphones with perfect size and comfort to your ears. If you have an earphone, select the correct size of earbuds.

Now, most earphone packs contain earbuds of different sizes. But this consideration is not available with headphones, so you have to give extra caution while selecting them.

Then you have to wear the earpiece marked as “R” in the right ear and “L” in the left ear. Also, make sure that the headphone band is exactly at the center of the head. 

When you start playing you must feel that the music is coming through the center of the head. If you feel otherwise, repeat the procedure.

If the headphone fails to deliver a “center” feel, the headphone is probably not suitable to wear. Replace it with a new one without hesitation. Otherwise, it may harm your ears.

4.Why are my headphones not working when I plug them in?

There are a number of situations when headphones do not work even though they are plugged in. Most times, we can sort it ourselves. 

  • For wired headphones and earphones, Make sure that you inserted the jack on the right port. Usually, the port is represented by a small symbol of headphone. 
  • For wireless or Bluetooth headphones and earphones, confirm it has enough charge. Turn on Bluetooth on both the mobile phone and headphone then pair them, just like you pair mobile phones using Bluetooth for sending files. If this is not working turn off and then on Bluetooth and repeat the procedure.
  • Clean the port using soft cotton. Remember, never use pointed tools like a needle for cleaning port. You can also use a cotton swab for cleaning the jack. Cotton dipped in spirit can improve the result but never use water. 

These are some simple methods to tackle headphones, not working issues. I recommend the same procedure for the issue; what do I do if my headphones don’t work. If you could not make it, consult a technician, it is a “serious injury.”

Advantages of Headphones

  • Privacy
  • Rather than just hearing you can feel the music
  • You can listen to your favourite music even in a noisy street with the help of a good headphone with noise cancellation feature
  • Bluetooth earphones can further issues of cables

Disadvantages of headphones

  • Using headphones with very high volume causes health issues.

Let Us Sum Up

We believe this article helps you understand how do headphones work. Even though the parts and working of headphones are simple at a glance, precise engineering is required to manufacture a perfect headphone. 

We explained the working in simple language and reduced technical terms to a minimum. Even a slight flaw in the design affects the sound quality. Very complicated calculations are also involved in making earphones, which is obviously beyond the scope of this article.

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