Speakers are a common fixture in many household and business settings, whether we are listening to music, recording audio, or discussing an important presentation at work. But despite their common appearance in our lives, the way speakers make the various sounds we enjoy almost everyday remains a mystery to many.
Speakers make different sounds by using magnetic force to rapidly move the built-in voice coil. This rapid movement of the voice coil creates various sound frequencies, allowing a speaker to produce sounds of different pitches.
Read on to learn more about the technicalities of sound production in speakers. I’ll cover all the essentials, from the basics of sound production in a speaker to the way speakers produce different sounds for various purposes. Let’s dive in.
How Do Speakers Make Sounds?
Speakers produce sounds by using magnets to move a voice coil. The movement of the voice coil is what creates the different sounds we hear from a speaker.
Let’s talk a bit more about the setup of a speaker.
Speakers work by using magnets to move a voice coil that changes the sound frequencies emitted by a speaker. This is how you can hear different pitches from one single speaker一the movement of the voice coil allows the speaker to create different sounds.
The magnet creates a push and pull element to the voice coil. This push and pull moves the coil, creating different sounds. This process happens very quickly, as the voice coil needs to move fast to recreate the sounds we hear. So, while it might sound like a simple process of the coil moving according to the magnet, it happens very fast within the speaker.
The voice coil does not work by itself. While it could, it would not be able to produce sounds loud enough to be heard from a speaker. So, the voice coil in a speaker usually has a diaphragm on top of it. Although the diaphragm is light in weight, it is large in surface area to ensure that the push and pull of the voice coil remain uninterrupted.
The diaphragm is there to push air as the coil moves. The pushing of the air helps the sound waves created by the moving coil to project even louder. Otherwise, the speaker would produce sound at a very low volume. So while the voice coil is responsible for creating the sound, it needs the help of the diaphragm to really project the sound.
How Does One Speaker Produce Multiple Different Sounds?
One speaker produces multiple sounds by moving the voice coil quickly to produce linear movements in the audio output. So while it might seem like different sounds are coming from multiple sources, that isn’t the case.
A common misconception about speakers is that they must require multiple sources of frequencies to accurately recreate music, but this isn’t the case. If this were true, a single speaker would require many different voice coils一one for each individual sound. However, that is not how the process works.
In reality, speakers create many different frequencies quickly as the coil moves. The coil moves enough to be able to send those frequencies to us without any help. This eliminates the need for many voice coils in a speaker, as one coil can move fast enough to create the frequencies necessary to play the sounds.
Every song or recording that you hear is a collection of pressure waves. These waves combine to make the unique sounds that make up a song. Think about parts of a song as a graph of frequencies moving up and down. Laying all the graphs on top of each other forms the song’s structure.
When you think about sound in a linear way, it is clear that despite multiple frequencies, the sound moves linearly. Though the flow of sounds seems like many different lines on a graph, they are actually linear. This makes the work of a voice coil a lot easier than it seems.
Most speakers only have one or two coils. These coils will move up and down to help form the different sounds that we hear from the speaker. What helps them produce so many different sounds is their speed and accuracy. It allows one speaker to easily produce multiple sounds.
What Makes Some Speakers Sound Better Than Others?
Speakers sound better than others if they have a better frequency, a less flexible diaphragm, a solid enclosure, and good quality construction. You should consider each of these factors when looking for a good speaker.
Since we have already talked about how speakers work and produce different sounds, let’s get into why some speakers may sound better than others and what you should look for in a good quality speaker.
There are a few different factors that set speakers apart from each other and make some better than others. Top of that list are frequencies. As discussed above, speakers make different sounds by producing different frequencies with the voice coil.
The different frequencies that speakers produce can be louder or softer depending on the quality of the speaker. The ideal speaker has less variation in sound volume with different frequencies. This is called the “flatness” of a speaker, and it is a priority for grading the quality of the sound you will get.
The Diaphragm or Cone
The diaphragm is another important factor for good-quality speakers. As we discussed, the diaphragm or the cone is what projects the sound that the voice coil makes. It is a vital part of the setup of a speaker. Without it, you’d barely be able to hear the sound produced.
The construction of the cone makes a significant difference in a speaker’s sound quality. Manufacturers can make cones out of different materials, but what makes a reliable one is whether or not it is flexible
If the cone flexes while moving and projecting the speaker’s sound, then it can distort the sound you hear. So, no matter how accurate the other components of the speaker may be, the cone can ruin a good speaker.
What most good speaker companies choose to do is select a better quality material for the cone that is not likely to wear out or flex as it moves. This helps you get the best possible audio experience without sound distortion from the speaker.
The enclosure may be one of the most overlooked components, but it’s a vital determinant of a speaker’s sound quality. According to How Stuff Works the enclosure holds the air that the diaphragm compresses to project sounds. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like an important part of the sound-producing process. However, it’s vital in the makeup of a good speaker.
A good enclosure will ensure the music that you hear from the speaker is clear by limiting vibrations caused by loud music. These vibrations can distort sounds, even changing the notes present in a song to make them seem higher or lower.
Well-made enclosures are strong enough to absorb and mitigate vibrations when the diaphragm moves. A rule of thumb for determining whether an enclosure is of good quality is to tap on the enclosure. If the sound of the tap resonates, like tapping on an empty box, then it is not a high-quality enclosure.
Instead of a hollow sound, a good quality enclosure will have a deadening sound, like tapping on a sidewalk. While there will still be a sound present, you will be able to sense that the enclosure sounds as if it is full, like a concrete sidewalk. A full-sounding enclosure means that it is prepared to deaden those vibrations and improve the quality of sound from the speaker.
Good materials are vital for the overall quality of a speaker, but the quality of the construction is equally important. Without proper construction, the speaker will not sound as good as it could even if the manufacturer uses the best possible materials to make a speaker.
It’s like buying all the best possible tools to buy a house without any home-building knowledge. Sure, the materials you used may be top of the line, but anyone would immediately call the quality of the home into question. The same applies to speaker companies who do not put care and money into constructing their products.
Maybe the company is not a top brand speaker company, or maybe they decided to spend money on materials but cut corners with construction. Whatever the cause, poor construction of a speaker can make a good speaker go bad fast. That’s why making sure that you buy from a reputable company is such an important part of the speaker-buying process.
Take your time to research a company before purchasing a speaker from them. Make sure you read reviews from other customers. Remember, there’s a ton of companies that make speakers, and the fact that you’ve never heard of a particular brand doesn’t necessarily make them non-reputable.
Once you settle on a brand, the next crucial choice is choosing the right speaker for your needs. That brings us to the next point in our discussion: choosing the best fit for your needs.
How Do You Choose The Right Speaker?
You can choose the right speaker by figuring out how you plan to use it, considering the space you have to work with, and testing it. While specifications are important, these factors will help you choose the best fit for your needs.
Having already discussed what separates a good speaker from a bad one, let’s talk more about finding the right speaker for your needs.
How You Plan To Use It
There is a huge difference between using speakers for quality surround sound and just the occasional music. This is a very important factor to consider before making a purchase, so let’s talk more about what you should be looking for.
Speakers that are best for music have very accurate tonal balance. You want to make sure that the music will be clear and accurate, as the artist intended you to hear it. The frequency response of the speaker you choose for music is vital as it will be the difference between good and poor music quality.
If you are primarily going to use your speakers for movies or television, then consider surround sound speakers to get the full audio experience. These speakers are a lot different because they each work together to bring you the most immersive experience possible. Surround sound speakers use spatial audio to make it seem like you’re in the movie, so you’ll need multiple speakers for that purpose.
Keep in mind that watching movies and listening to music are merely examples meant to illustrate the importance of matching your speaker to intended use. There are a lot of different speakers available out there optimized for different purposes, so make sure you choose the right one for your specific needs.
Consider the Space
Specifications for speakers are important to consider, but you should also consider the amount of space you have to work with. Surveying your home for the amount of space that you have can be the difference between a good audio experience and a bad one.
Any good-quality speaker can cover a decent amount of space. But if you want an audio experience in different rooms, you’ll need to consider more speakers. It is also important to consider the available space when choosing your surround sound speakers. The bigger the space, the more powerful speakers you’ll need.
Test the Speaker First
You wouldn’t buy a new car without taking it for a test drive, and you should do the same for speakers. The best way to determine if the speaker will fit your needs is to test it out. Play your favorite song on the speaker and see how it sounds.
Many electronic stores allow you to test their speakers. Some even have speakers already connected to media for your sampling ease, so be sure to take advantage of this before buying a new speaker to ensure it is the right match for you.
Speakers have many components that allow them to produce different sounds all at once. The voice coil and the diaphragm are two important components for judging the quality of the sound you hear from a speaker.