THE PATHFINDER TO YOUR SPEAKERS
The most important things to know
to choose meaningfully.
Speakers have been used for decades to enjoy music and audio programs. They convert electrical signals into audio sound waves thanks to three main components:
1. Driver units. A driver unit is an element that converts electrical signals to sound.
- Woofer. A driver that reproduces sound in low frequencies. This is very famous for having a bassy sound. It can either be a standard woofer, subwoofers, mid-woofers, and rotary woofers. Subwoofers can produce sounds lower than 200 Hz, and they are the most usual component that is added on to a speaker system.
- Mid-range. A driver that is targeted to handle higher frequencies from 500 Hz to 4 kHz. It can produce most of the sounds that humans can hear, like voice and musical instruments.
- Tweeter. A driver that produces the highest frequencies, usually to 2 kHz to 20 kHz. Some tweeters are equipped to go as high as 100 kHz.
2. Crossover units. A crossover unit receives the incoming audio signal and splits it into two or more bands. Then, these bands are sent to the different drive units that are designed for each specific frequency.
3. Cabinet. The cabinet is where the entire speaker system is stored. Frequently it takes the form of a closed box with sound-absorbent material, which must be maintained to be airtight and rigid so that only vibrations from the loudspeakers will be heard and felt.
Technologies have evolved since the first appearance of speakers: today, smart speakers can do much more than just play sounds. They can interact with you: for example telling you the weather, ordering food, reminding appointments and even controlling connected devices. This is possible thanks to their integration with digital assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
Speakers and smart speakers come with many significant benefits, most notably in improving daily life. They provide users with high-quality entertainment, whether for music, movies, gaming or other, to enhance their overall experience. Speakers can also give people more independence, especially those with visual impairment or physical disabilities.
No direct impact on time savings.
Quality of life improved thanks to the creation of personal pleasant atmospheres and cover-up of noises.
Peace of mind increased through listening to relaxing music that reduces the level of stress-related hormones.
No direct impact on home costs.
There are various ways to classify speakers, as they serve different uses. They might be categorised either on the application use case they serve or on their crossover design. Attending the application, speakers can be classified into:
This speaker system gives the user the ability to listen to music even in several rooms. Depending on the model that you purchase, you can either play different songs in different places at a time or the same song for all rooms in the house. This can be done by connecting to a music streaming platform, a drive or a CD local network.
These speakers are relatively small in size and intended to be placed on a high surface, just like a bookshelf. It is usually part of a home theatre package.
This speaker is the audio channel that is most common to many surround sound system because it provides a central location where vocals and dialogue are reproduced, making the effect that the sounds are coming from the screen, not the speakers.
This speaker is a speaker that is standing on the floor. Usually, it has a tall height, but it is still slim. Floor standing speakers are designed to be used alone or as part of a surround sound system.
These speakers are small and often partnered with subwoofers to produce a full sound. They are generally the first choice because of their relatively low price, but they do not have enough power to give out bass sounds.
These speakers, also called media bar, soundbars are horizontal loudspeakers that produce audio, usually mounted below a TV screen or a computer monitor. This component is generally supplemented by a subwoofer to create bass sounds.
These speakers are designed to produce low audio frequencies, which are commonly identified as bass and sub-bass. Subwoofers are companion devices that are meant to partner with other higher frequency speakers.
Attending the crossover design, speakers can be classified into:
Also known as powered speakers, these loudspeakers have built-in amplifiers. This means that they just need a battery or a power source to work. Users can look at this as an all-in-one system because the amplifier is already built-in to the cabinet.
On the other hand, passive speakers require an external amplifier, mixers, as well as speaker cables to transfer the sound between them. Therefore, before buying anything, users should make sure the speakers and amplifier are compatible. This will avoid not getting the best quality or blowing your speakers up.
If you are about to purchase a speaker, there are several variables to be considered to help you identify the right product:
Now that you know the different applications and designs of speakers, it is time to weigh each of their characteristics and decide the speaker type you want for your home. If you want a total surround sound package, you can even combine a couple of speakers or more for a perfect sound experience.
Placement of these speakers can influence the overall sound output performance. It can either be In-Wall, On-Wall, In-Ceiling, or Free Standing speakers.
- In-Wall. Speakers placed in the wall, might require professional installation.
- In-Ceiling. Speakers installed in the ceilings, might as well require professional installation.
- On-Wall. Speakers mounted against the wall with a bracket and table stand.
- Free Standing. Speakers placed on the floor or the furniture.
The number of speaker drivers and the type that you partner with each other can affect the overall sound quality. This is why you should identify and research at first, which drivers work well with each other or if you would get one or more.
The sensitivity or decibel rating shows how efficient a speaker is in converting power into volume. The higher the dB rating, the louder the speakers can play once supplied with power.
This indicates the range of tones a speaker can produce and is measured in Hertz. It can tell how long a speaker can go and its highest tonal limits. The more comprehensive the number range is, the more versatile and the fuller the speaker can be.
This refers to the electrical resistance the speaker presents to the amplifier. It is essential to check the specifications of an amplifier and identify if they are compatible with the impedance of the speaker.
Power specifications, which are measured in watts, refers to how much power is required by the speaker to receive signals from an amplifier before it distorts. Nominal power refers to the theoretical power needed, while peak power refers to the actual power extent that it can handle.
Enclosures, also known as speaker boxes, serve as the place where drivers, hardware, and circuits are all mounted. They prevent the sound waves from merging and cancelling each other out while they are vibrating. They also ensure that the frequencies are reproduced in the intensity required. They can be Open Baffle, Infinite Baffle, and Bass-Reflex:
- Open Baffle. Not a box or an enclosure, technically, but a board where the loudspeaker is mounted. To be effective, this must be very large.
- Infinite baffle. Using a sealed and rigid box, the loudspeaker is contained inside, often with sound absorbent material.
- Bass-reflex. It looks almost similar to the standard speaker box, except it has an open tunnel that allows air to circulate freely.
Before purchasing a speaker, you should also check if they will be compatible with the rest of your entertainment system. Some common sound formats are:
- Monaural Sound. A single channel or track of sound produced by one speaker.
- Stereo Sound. Two separate audio channels produced by two speakers.
- Surround Sound 5.1 channel. Industry-standard format comprised of 5 main channels and a subwoofer channel. It also consists of 2 stereo speakers, one central channel speaker, and two surround sound speakers.
- Surround Sound 6.1 channel. A sound enhancement to a 5.1 channel with an additional centre surround sound speaker.
- Surround Sound 7.1 channel. A sound enhancement to a 5.1 channel by adding two additional side-surround speakers.
In case you want to use your voice to manage your smart home, you may want to buy a speaker that already comes with an integrated digital assistant. These speakers generally support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocols, although some already include the possibility to support other communication protocols like Zigbee. The most popular digital assistants are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri. In our Inspirations section, you find a list of variables that you can use to evaluate and select the best fitting smart home platform for you.
First, check if the speaker comes with a dynamic mic or a condenser mic. Dynamics are perfect for performance, while condensers are great for recording. A factor to consider is how many microphones are included, as well as if there are noise cancellation features embedded. Smart speakers come with far-field recognition, to pick up the human language even when spoken far from the microphone, usually between 1 and 10 meters distance.
If you are after portability, there are speakers that you can charge and then bring with you in places without being connected to fixed power sources.
Most speakers come with the following connectivity options:
- 3.5mm jack. Famous phone connectors that are typically used for analogue audio signals
- HDMI. Provides connectivity between audio and video sources like DVD players, TVs, or monitors.
- USB 2.0. Commonly used in connecting devices like hard drives, thumb drives, mobile devices, and game consoles.
- USB-C drive. Similar to USB 2.0, USB-C is a smaller and newer connectivity drive.
- Bluetooth. Wireless standard available to almost all phones and tablets without any need for Wi-Fi and with a slight reduction of quality
- Airplay 2. Streaming any audio file, internet station, podcast, from Apple Devices
- Chromecast. A device, plugged to a TV, that connects to a smartphone or computer to transform them into remote control devices.
- DLNA. WiFi-based networking that allows playback from Android, Blackberry, and Windows systems
- Spotify Connect. Sets up a connection between the internet and HiFi, so it seems directly from Spotify