The Biz: What companies make Balanced Armature Speakers?

Legal Disclaimer: All information produced in this article has been obtained through publicly accessible means. CYMBACAVUM and its editors and writers, have not been privy to nor have disclosed any confidential information.

There are countless manufacturers for dynamic coil speakers in earphones. However, due to their miniature size, the number of balanced armature receiver makers is far lower. In the past, the market for BA manufacture has been (and still is) dominated by two companies: Knowles and Sonion. However, as the market for in-ear earphones has expanded, global demand for “premium sound” has propelled more and more companies to get into the game for manufacturing balanced armature drivers. While both Sonion and Knowles continue to dominate, earphones using balanced armatures in the future might not necessarily use their products.

So without further ado, here is a posting of the fruits of our labor… (in no particular order)

DTS Acoustics (苏州动铁石电子科技有限公司)

Country of Origin: China (Peoples’ Republic of China)

Not much is known about DTS, other than the fact that it technically no longer exists. Whilst it has had a (barely) functional website in the past, that site no longer exists.

Kinera/Yutai Electronics, an ODM/OEM manufacturer of headphones and earphones from the southern Chinese manufacturing bastion of Dongguan, has mostly absorbed DTS’ balanced armature products, which leads us to believe that the company has either been bought out by another entity or was a branding effort for the wholesale market that didn’t quite succeed. (See next entry…)

Hisound Audio

Country of Origin: China (Peoples’ Republic of China)

Hisound is a brand known to portable audiophiles, mostly for its [somewhat mediocre] digital audio players (see Rocoo BA review here). They now claim to be “one of only five companies in the world that can manufacture BA drivers“. As their products’ appearances and electroacoustic properties seem uncannily similar, it is unknown whether or not Hisound and DTS Acoustics, along with Kinera/Yutai are a single entity (as often are these Chinese state-backed conglomerates), but even so, their claim seems to be somewhat inaccurate.

Hearonic Electronics (苏州恒听电子有限公司)

Country of Origin: China (Peoples’ Republic of China)

Based wholly in China but incorporated in the United States (San Jose), Hearonic seems to have originated in the hearing aid industry and has only recently branched out to audio products.

Also with a manufacturing base in Suzhou like DTS, it’s possible that Hearonic is connected to DTS, but the product offerings tend to dispel this idea.

SYT Audio

Country of Origin: Taiwan (Republic of China)

Perhaps the least well-known manufacturer on this list (even to insiders), SYT Audio really is a bit of an unknown quantity. By its own description, “SYT Audio has an advanced R&D and Manufacturing facility in Taipei, Taiwan a new facility scheduled to open in 2013 in Jiangxi Province, China.” This statement suggests that they’re a very new outfit, but they seem to be solely dedicated to making transducers suited for audio, rather than mixed use balanced armatures.

Molex

Country of Origin: Japan

Molex is a very well-established electronic componentry manufacturer, best known for its power connectors used ubiquitously in personal computers worldwide.

As part of the Molex ecosystem, Final Audio Design and its associated manufacturing arm S’NEXT have used Molex’s manufacturing capabilities to produce a proprietary balanced armature receiver for use in its entry-level Heaven II model. Zero Audio has also elected to use balanced armature receivers from Molex in its Carbo Doppio and Carbo Singolo IEM products.

Star Micronics

Country of Origin: Japan

Aside from the big two (Knowles, Sonion), Star Micronics is the oldest balanced armature receiver manufacturer in this list. It isn’t known whether or not they still make BA receivers, but years before, they were the first to manufacture a low-cost RBB driver, used in the famous Etymotic ER6 and ER6i models, about a decade ago.

Sony Corporation

Country of Origin: Japan

Sony, we didn’t forget you! The once infallible electronics titan has fallen on hard times in recent years, but monetary troubles have not stopped Sony from taking risks, such as investing in the manufacture of their very own balanced armature drivers.

“Experience Balanced Armature” was the marketing slogan in 2012, and Sony quickly leveraged its production capabilities to blow out half a dozen new ‘XBA’ products. Unfortunately, even after a mid-cycle revision, these products were not well-received, and the following year saw Sony implement their BA drivers alongside their dynamic ones for the ‘XBA-H’ line, which has seen a lot more success. This past fall, Sony introduced revisions to their balanced armature designs in the XBA-Z5 and XBA-A3, and is likely to continue tinkering with the design in typical Sony fashion.

Cresyn

Country of Origin: South Korea

The Korean OEM audio giant, Cresyn, has long been rumored to manufacture their own balanced armature drivers, but examples of them have never been widely propagated. Until now.

At CES 2015 in January, Phiaton, the premium retail arm of Cresyn, announced the MS 100BA — a $120 single balanced armature driver IEM with a transducer “engineered and manufactured by Phiaton“.

What’s to learn from all this?

The spate of companies rushing to claim a piece of the balanced armature pie shows us the strongly increasing demand for premium earphones.

Knowles and Sonion remain the most reliable companies for earphone (and hearing aid) manufacturers to source from, as their quality control and production capabilities remain second to none. Thus, the “big two” will continue to take the spoils.

What about the rest? Sony is a largest company of all, but it’s unlikely to open up its proprietary technology to takers, opening up the rest of the market to those who can manage to market their products as the next big thing.

If you have any additional information to add (or to suggest edits), please feel free to contact us!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom says:

    One more player to add to the balance armature market. OS Electronic I have placed a sample order which I have not received. They sell BA with similar P/N to Kinera and Hearonic. It is very to figure out who’s actually manufacturing these parts and who is just selling them.
    TOM

    Like

    1. CYMBACAVUM says:

      Seems like they’re not using their own pictures, it’s hard to tell what they’re really selling.

      Like

  2. benj says:

    Westone, The American Company est. since 1955 manufacture their own BAs

    Like

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