Things You Should Know About Speakers

9/7/2012 9:07:21 AM

When talking about speakers, we will think of sound waves and air. Speaker technology is simple, but knowledge of the wavelength can help you put the speaker to optimal the sound.

The sound in general, whether it is music from the speaker or sound of typing fingers on the keyboard, it is actually moving air. Sound waves move the air and when the air comes to your ears, then your brain considers it as sound.

Speakers, regardless of size, perform a simple task is creating sound waves. In particular, speakers receive a power form of an audio signal from the amplifier (amp), then they vibrate to generate corresponding sound waves and reproduce original sound.

When music is recorded, sound is converted to digital sound wave or similar thing. When playing music, you need equipment to convert that data into suitable electric signals to be transfer to speakers. Parts of the sound system or digital circuit and similar circuit of a device are used for this purpose.

Speaker’s operation

In English, the term “speaker” has ambiguous meaning. It can be used to refer individual speaker (also known as driver) or a barrel for multiple driver speakers. In this article, the term driver is used to talk about a speaker in a barrel or many speakers, and the term speaker is used to refer a barrel containing one or more speakers.

Description: The smaller side of the speaker has a magnet, the bigger side has a vibrating diaphragm by electrical signals.

The smaller side of the speaker has a magnet, the bigger side has a vibrating diaphragm by electrical signals.

Most speakers use a simple design. At the rear of the speaker, a permanent magnet (usually has round shape) is fastened in a fixed frame. When power is transfer to the speaker, the changes in electric field make the magnet copper coil vibrate. Sticking with this copper coil is a diaphragm, usually made of paper or plastic. This diaphragm vibrates to move air in front of the speakers, then, sound waves are created. When these sound waves reach to your ears, you will hear sound.

When the electric current flows in one direction, the diaphragm vibrates away from the magnet. When the electric current flows in opposite direction, the diaphragm also vibrates in opposite direction. The flow of electric current is changed to match the frequency of sound waves that speakers create. For low frequencies (bass), mobility changes may be more than ten times per second. For high frequencies (treble), mobility can change up to 20 thousand times or more per second.

The size of the speaker affects sound frequency that it can reproduce best. Bigger speaker can move more air, but it cannot move air quickly, making this speaker be used to create bass. Smaller speakers do not move much air, but it can move much faster, so it’s used to create the treble. Therefore, most hi-fi barrel or speakers often use many kinds of speakers.

Some speakers just have a single speaker, such as speaker of the phone. However, despite the single speaker can create sound at almost all ranges, the speakers designed for listening to music often use two or more speakers to create the full audible frequency range.

Description: A speaker set usually has many different component speakers inside.

A speaker set usually has many different component speakers inside.

A basic hi-fi speaker set has two speakers: a woofer (for the lower frequencies - bass) and tweeter (for the higher frequencies - treble). The mid-range frequencies (sounds by singing) are usually renewable by tweeter, though some speakers have smaller woofer (such as the speaker on shelf) for woofer to reproduce midrange audio.

The speaker set will decide what kind of speaker will handle a frequency. A speaker set with many speakers has a circuit called a crossover circuit to lead electrical signal to appropriate speaker according to the frequency that speaker supports. For example, in a small speaker on shelf, crossover circuit may send all the 3kHz or greater frequencies to tweeter, and below 3kHz frequencies to woofer speaker.

Some hi-fi speakers have one or more speakers to handle the midrange frequencies. Therefore, we need to have one or more crossover circuits or even a subwoofer speaker in your speaker set (need a subwoofer crossover circuit in signal chain). Each speaker or speaker set is optimized to generate different frequencies. From low to high frequencies, it means from bigger to smaller speakers, in order they are subwoofer, bass, middle and treble.


The length of a separate sound wave depends on its frequency. You may not notice much to the wavelength, but they are very important when you decide the position of your speakers.

Description: Speaker creates sound waves and air movement. When sound waves come to your ear, the brain will recognize that is sound.

Speaker creates sound waves and air movement. When sound waves come to your ear, the brain will recognize that is sound.

About subwoofer, the speaker can create low sound (bass) and has big wavelengths. The reason that you need a subwoofer is: 40Hz sound wave - a very low frequency needed subwoofer – is longer than 8.5 m.

In a normal sized room, you cannot listen to music with that sound wave, so you only need a subwoofer. Besides, because of the wavelength, your ears cannot know exactly where waves come from, that’s why you can place the subwoofer anywhere (you’d better to put it in the same side with other speakers).

About tweeter, a sound wave of 4000Hz (4kHz) - equivalent to the highest note of the guitar or violin (excluding harmonic) – is usually 86mm long. Because this sound is too short and vibrate fast, you need to stay in their path to hear them clearly. That’s why the tweeters are always in top of the barrel or speakers, so they are equal to the ears. This means that you should put the left and right speakers so that the tweeter is as high as the level of your ears when you listen to music or watching TV.

If you use small speakers that cannot be placed on the floor, you can place them on rack and shelf, so that the tweeter is in equal position of your ears. The speakers connected to the desktop should also be placed on shelf or rack and put tweeter toward your ears.

Woofer and mid-range speaker can create the frequencies between treble and low bass, so their location is less important than the tweeter placement. That’s why the speaker’s woofer is always at the bottom. However, with higher frequencies, you will realize that your ears have the same “axis” with speakers or not, that means it is on the wave path of the speaker or not.

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