The Speaker Components and What Makes It Sound Better

The word “speaker” is the shortened form of the word “loudspeaker”, and it means that a device that converts electrical signals into sound waves that we can hear. A speaker has several components:

To be simplized the above, they are all components that convert electrical signals into sound signals for playback. From the analogy acoustic signal input into the voice coil, acting as alternate current, drive the voice coil move back and forth along the pole piece, through the speaker diaphragm movement to generate the acoustic wave.

Why do drivers come in so many different sizes? Because it is nearly impossible to make one piston driver that can reproduce sound waves over the entire 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range of human hearing. To produce low frequencies a driver needs to have a large diaphragm and enough mass to resonate at a low frequency. To produce high frequencies a driver needs to have a small diaphragm with a low mass. Obviously, these requirements are in opposition so drivers are usually designed to produce only a portion of the sound. This gives rise to multi-way speaker systems like the two-way system shown above. It uses a tweeter for the high frequencies and a woofer for the low frequencies.

Let’s separate the components by different functions:

Motor parts:

  • Pole Piece(Center Pole): The pole piece is connected to the back plate and extends the pole of the magnet; it extends into the center of the voice coil.
  • Magnet: provides a stationary magnetic field to oppose the alternating electromagnetic field of the voice coil and thereby cause the attached cone to move inward and outward.
  • Top Plate(washer): which provides another layer of decoupling between the stand and speaker.” And each part of the construction plays an important role in managing vibrations: the feet either couple or decouple the stand with the ground and the top plate does the same with the speakers.
  • voice coil(coil former): the coil of wire attached to the apex of a speaker cone. It provides the motive force to the cone by the reaction of a magnetic field to the current passing through it.
  • screen, vent(optional): some drivers include a rear vent to prevent pressure from building behind the cone in the magnet assembly and to provide cooling of the voice coil. A screen is usually provided to prevent debris from entering through the vent.
top plate, magnet, pole piece

top plate, magnet, pole piece

Diaphragm parts:

  • cone(diaphragm): the thin, semi-rigid membrane attached to the voice coil, which moves in a magnetic gap, vibrating the diaphragm, and producing sound.
  • dust cap(dust cover): a gently curved dome mounted either in concave or convex orientation over the central hole of most loudspeaker diaphragms. It protects the inner mechanics (such as the pole pieces and the voice coil) from small particles (which can cause rubs) and other contamination.

Suspension parts:

  • Spider(Damper/suspension): one of the most stressed parts for a loudspeaker, it function to provide suspension for the cone, and centers the voice coil in the voice coil gap. Besides, it is used to limit the inductor’s oscillation and the loudspeaker’s excursion without affecting the oscillation’s linearity.
damper of the speaker

damper of the speaker

Frame parts:

  • Basket(frame): also called the “frame” or “chassis”, provides a rigid structure to which the driver components are mounted.
  • Surround: The surround is the poly-foam, foam, butyl, accordion or a single cloth or “m” roll cloth ring that holds the cone and the basket together. It acts as a suspension system that works harmonically with the spider to bring the cone to its normal position between vibrations.

What makes one speaker better than another one?

If you’ve listened to more than one set of speakers, you probably find out that some speakers sound better than another one. Even if you understand the underlying technology & the above sturcture, it’s hard to explain why speaker X sounds better than speaker Y.

So, what makes one speaker better than the other one?

  1. Driver Quality: The drivers (woofers, tweeters, mid-range drivers) are fundamental. High-quality drivers made of superior materials like Kevlar, aluminum, or titanium produce clearer, more accurate sound across different frequencies.
  2. Crossover Design: The crossover directs specific frequencies to the appropriate drivers. A well-designed crossover ensures a smooth transition between frequencies, preventing overlap or gaps in sound.
  3. Materials: High-quality materials for both the enclosure and drivers can significantly impact sound. For example, high-density woods or composites for cabinets and quality coils and magnets for drivers.
  4. Frequency Response: A broader frequency response allows the speaker to reproduce a wider range of sounds. This means better bass depth, clear midrange, and crisp highs.
  5. Impedance and Sensitivity: These factors affect how well a speaker converts power into sound. A speaker with appropriate impedance and sensitivity levels can work more efficiently with amplifiers and produce better sound.
  6. Amplification and Source Quality: Good speakers require good sources. A quality amplifier and source material (like high-resolution audio files) can reveal the speaker’s capabilities better.
  7. Different designs (like bookshelf, floor-standing, or in-wall speakers) cater to various purposes and environments. The design can affect sound dispersion and placement options.

Ultimately, what constitutes “better” sound might be subjective. Some may prefer a neutral sound profile, while others might prefer more emphasis on bass or treble. Understanding your personal preferences is crucial when evaluating sound quality.

But some how, there’s a reference sound for most of the users, that’s the Harman response curve.

The Harman response curve refers to a target frequency response curve developed by Harman International Industries, a well-known audio equipment company. This curve is based on extensive research conducted by Harman to create a sound signature that is generally perceived as pleasing by most listeners across different environments.

The Harman curve aims to achieve a balanced sound reproduction that emphasizes certain frequencies while maintaining overall neutrality. It typically features:

  1. Elevated Bass: The curve tends to have a slight emphasis on bass frequencies, providing a fuller and more impactful low-end without overpowering other frequencies.
  2. Flat Midrange: The midrange frequencies are relatively flat, maintaining accuracy and clarity for vocals and instruments.
  3. Gradual Treble Roll-off: The high frequencies gradually roll off, avoiding excessive brightness or harshness that could cause listener fatigue.

The goal of this curve is to create a sound profile that many people find enjoyable and natural across various music genres and listening environments. It’s worth noting that while the Harman curve serves as a reference, individual preferences for sound can vary significantly, and some listeners may prefer deviations from this target response based on personal tastes.

 

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