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Monoprice’s M565 is a $200 gateway to planar magnetic headphones

Monoprice’s M565 is a $200 gateway to planar magnetic headphones

Dissect a random pair of headphones and there’s a good chance you’ll see something like this: a cone-shaped diaphragm speaker placed in front of a metal coil magnet. This basic design has been the foundation for most speakers and headphones for roughly a century; you’ll find it in everything from everything to the cheapest earbuds to the most expensive hi-fi setup.

But headphone companies have branched out in the past decade or so. In particular, headphones using something called planar magnetic drivers – particularly those from Audeze and Hifiman – are darlings among audiophiles thanks to promises of deeper, tighter bass and improved soundstage. Once exclusive to thousand-dollar headphones, planar magnetic headphones have come down to much more accessible prices over the past few years.

Which brings us to the subject of this post. At $200 ($170 at the time of writing), Monoprice’s M565 are a high quality, relatively affordable gateway into the world of planar magnetic headphones.

What makes planar magnetic headphones special?

It’s in the name: unlike the aforementioned cone-shaped drivers, planar magnetic drivers are flat as a pancake. Hence the ‘plane’ part of ‘planar.’

While planars are still powered by magnets and coils, the flat diaphragm purportedly has a variety of benefits, including, deeper and tighter bass, a more realistic soundstage, and less distortion at high volumes. You can read up more here and here. Of course this all depends on the individual implementation, but in my experience planars tend to consistently have a recognizable sound to them.

The caveats are largely practical: Planar magnetic headphones tend to be larger, heavier, and more expensive – in part because the tech is much younger.