Introduction to audio loudspeakers
Put simply, a speaker is nothing more than a transducer to turn electrical energy into sound energy but of all the component parts of an audio system, the selection of speakers will be the most critical in terms of the final sound result. Sensitivity and power handling are just the start of the selection criteria.
Electrostatic speakers or hybrid versions with electrostatic tweeters and dynamic mid-range and woofers are not uncommon and produce a more linear output with lower distortion but the construction is more problematic. Ribbon speakers deliver good high frequency response but they generally require very powerful magnets and well designed step-down transformers, all adding to the cost.
In a dynamic speaker, a voice coil moves backwards and forwards causing a paper cone or similar medium to vibrate, causing sound waves.However, in practice, a multitude of transducers (drivers) are used with a crossover unit separating the various frequency bands. The type, size, location, quality and integrated design elements are critical to the end result.The speaker Altec Lancing introduced in 1943 changed speaker design for ever.
To add to the complexity, the voice coil chassis and suspension systems play an important role in the ability of the speaker to react without unwanted distorsion and the driver magnets themselves are technically so critical that their shape, material and integration with the other components will greatly affect the outcome.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the enclosure that performs not only an aesethic function but has a considerable effect on the sound produced, just as does the shell of a stringed instrument.The internal reflection of the sound, the resonance, the rigidity and the shape of the enclosure is fundamental to the sound.
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