How Do Headphones Work?

To put it exceptionally basically, your earpiece features a bit of plastic that vibrates in accordance to the signals received from the device it’s connected to. The plastic vibrates directly to the metal curl that is connected to a magnet, which helps the plastic to create the noise waves that play into your ear.

That is it, really. It seems easy enough, but I couldn’t have thought of it.

Jezen Thomas at presents a more comprehensive explanation to us, he says that,

“Earphones consist of a speaker cone, an iron coil, a magnet and speaker cables. When earphones are plugged into a music-playing device like a stereo, electricity is sent along the speaker cables. The speaker cables feed this electrical current through the iron coil, which behaves as an electromagnet. The coil then attracts or repels the permanent magnet, depending on the electrical current sent by the music-playing device. This causes the coil to move, which subsequently pushes and pulls the speaker cone. As the speaker cone vibrates as a result of this movement, it creates sonic waves that resonate through the air and are transferred through small bones and membranes inside your ear”.

Evidently, you can find various kinds of earpieces, but fundamentally, that is it.

Some earpieces, though, do include bonus functions. Noise canceling headsets, for example, can make a small field of white sound round the amp itself, which acts as something of a vacuum and has the consequence of disabling exterior noise. These earpieces are also better for the physical condition of your inner ear than most other styles. Sam Costello at

“The noise around us can contribute to cause us to change how we listen to an iPod. If there’s a lot of noise nearby, it’s likely that we’ll turn up the iPod’s volume, thus increasing the chances of hearing loss. To cut down on, or eliminate, ambient noise, use noise-deadening or –cancelling headphones. They’re more expensive, but your ears will thank you”. 

Chris Woodford, writing for ‘Explain That’, provides a close portrayal of the major variation between earpieces and audio system. Even with fundamentally operating in a similar way, there are actually variations involving the two, it seems. He states,

“The biggest difference between loudspeakers and headphones is, of course, size. A loudspeaker needs to set all the air moving in a room so you can hear the sound it’s making, but the speaker in a headphone only has to move the volume of air inside your ear canal. That’s why it can be so much smaller and more discreet”.

 If, even after all this tech talk, you are still considering seeing what is happening within your headphones, the Youtube user Cayde Brown is known for a number of video lessons called ‘Take Apart’, which will probably be of interest. In a single episode (which I’ll link HERE), Cayde takes a pair of headphones apart and reveals to us exactly how they operate.