Speakers are everywhere. From our cars, home stereo systems, favourite concert venues and even our phones, speakers play a big part in how we communicate with and experience the world around us. But for things that are essential to modern life, they can be kind of misunderstood. After all, what really goes into translating a digital signal into music, podcasts or directions?
To get familiar with how it works, it helps to understand what essential speaker terms mean.
Things get tricky when we start diving through complex specifications and concepts that can be difficult to understand at first. To someone who doesn’t buy speakers that often, it can make home audio feel like a science experiment. After all, there are a lot of parts to get familiar with, and not all speakers are created equal.
We’re here to simplify everything for you. This article will guide you through the need-to-know information about basic speaker design as well as different ratings, measurements and concepts. After you read this guide, you’ll be able to read through speaker product descriptions like an expert!
Anatomy of a Speaker
Before you start looking at speakers, we want you to be comfortable with their structure and design. With a better understanding of the “nuts and bolts,” you’ll feel more confident when conversing with other audiophiles or choosing new speakers. This section will explain the core components of speakers and why they’re important.
A transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one type to another. By design, speakers are transducers because they convert electrical energy into sound.
Speaker drivers are circular components that convert electrical signals into acoustic energy. You’ve probably seen a speaker driver flutter inward and outward when you crank the music up. These subtle movements produce varying air pressure waves that our ears recognize as sound.
A single speaker typically might house multiple drivers to reproduce sound across the entire frequency range, from low to high. House of Marley Get Together Duo speakers feature full-range drivers for big stereo sound.
The diaphragm is the cone-shaped component of the speaker driver that moves air to create sound. Speaker diaphragms are commonly made from paper, plastic, kevlar, metal, wood or composite materials.
Surrounds are the foam or rubber exterior of a speaker driver. The surround is made from a flexible material to allow the speaker diaphragm to push air in a fluid motion. Marley's Get Together 2 XL has 2 x 30W Speakers with unbelievable power
A tweeter is a type of speaker driver that produces high-frequency sounds, like the wild cymbal crashes heard in the opening of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Without the “airy” presence of tweeters, your music would sound stuffed under a blanket—dull, muffled and lifeless.
Tweeters are the smallest speaker driver, and they’re commonly made from silk. On a traditional speaker design, the tweeter is positioned towards the top of the faceplate.
While the tweeter produces the highs, the woofer delivers the lows. Woofers produce low-frequency sounds at the bottom of the spectrum. The iconic Roland TR-808 kick drum from every hip-hop classic, like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, lives in the low-end of the frequency range. Woofers give you the bass-driven punch that makes your music sound bold.
Typically, when manufacturers specify speaker sizes, they refer to the diameter of the woofer. Woofers are the largest driver in a traditional speaker design, and you can spot them towards the bottom of the faceplate.
If you want your music to really “bump,” consider a speaker with a bass port. Bass ports are structural openings in the speaker enclosure that extend low-end sounds by improving airflow. As a speaker produces sound, excess pressure in the enclosure is channelled through the bass port.
Bass ports are classified based on which direction they face. The three main bass port styles are front-firing, rear-firing and floor-firing. Although rear and floor-firing ports are effective, front-firing bass ports produce a cleaner bass sound with a tighter punch.
The enclosure, or cabinet, houses the internal circuitry of the speaker, including the drivers, crossovers and amplifiers. For the best sound, speaker enclosures are carefully designed to improve the frequency response and eliminate excessive vibrations.
A crossover is a special electrical circuit that divides the audio signal into different frequency bands and distributes the sound to each driver. Crossovers use a combination of low-pass, band-pass and high-pass filters to isolate different frequencies.
You’ve probably come across speakers described as “2-way” or “3-way.” 2-way speakers divide the signal between two drivers using a low-pass and high-pass filter. 3-way speakers are similar, but they have an additional band-pass filter for the mid-range driver.
Grills are protective covers that rest on the front of the speaker to shield the drivers from damage or dust. Metal and plastic grills are the most common style, but other speakers have fabric grills that serve a more cosmetic purpose.
Terms, Specifications and Concepts
When you’re shopping for a new pair of speakers, reading through a list of speaker specs can feel overwhelming. We’re here to clear it up for you and provide some useful advice along the way. This section will give you a strong overview of speaker specifications, measurements and concepts.