Speaker Parts Tips

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What does a speaker crossover do?

The Crossover : Sound Divider

Speakers are designed to reproduce sound and you usually need two to three drivers to cover the audible range of human hearing. To have a seamless transition between subwoofer, woofer, midrange and tweeter, a crossover is used to split the sound between the different speakers.

Most speaker crossovers are of the passive variety; they are mounted downstream of the amplifier, and are mounted within the speaker enclosure. Active crossovers are mounted upstream of the amplifier, and require a separate amplifier for each driver in the speaker. A speaker with a woofer, midrange, and tweeter would require three separate amplifiers if using an active crossover. Many crossovers have circuitry which boosts or cuts the frequency response of the speaker.

What is a subwoofer?

Speaker Drivers: Subwoofers

Subwoofers are speakers which are designed to reproduce the very lowest frequencies of audible sound: about 16 Hz to 120 Hz. In a home theater, the subwoofer gives you that sense of realism. When Godzilla stomps Tokyo, you don't just hear it--you feel it! Because sub-bass sound waves range from 12 to over 50 feet wide, subwoofers are very sensitive to room placement. Some useful facts on the matter include:

• Size does matter: a big speaker cone moves large amounts of air and a little driver must move very far
• bigger cabinets can be more efficient with the same bass response
• For movie effects, most subwoofers sound best placed in corners
• For the transition to the woofer to be smooth in all listening locations, the subwoofer should be in between the two main speakers (or very close).

What is a midrange?

Speaker Drivers: Midrange

Midrange drivers are speakers designed to handle the frequency band of about 250 Hz to 5000 Hz. Midranges are found in three- and four-way speaker systems where all the high frequencies go to a tweeter and all the lows go to the woofer or midbass driver.

Since a midrange driver is not expected to handle any lower bass program material, it doesn't have to be as big and it can handle more amplifier power. Midranges tend to be very directional, but not as bad as tweeters. Keep in mind that the ones crossed over from the woofer in the 250 Hz to 800 Hz range always adversely affect the voice reproduction.

Does speaker enclosure design matter?

The Enclosure : More Than Just A Box

When thinking of a speaker, most people envision either a traditional boxy loudspeaker or little computer speakers. A speaker enclosure plays a vital role in speaker sound. When envisioning a speaker, think of it this way: Your living room is a big box; it will affect how a speaker sounds. How much it affects the sound, however, will depend on:

• structural rigidity
• proper sound damping
• speaker placement

A well designed speaker box will be well braced internally, and its size should be optimized for the speaker it contains. Don't expect to take a speaker, mount it in any old box, and expect it to sound good.

What is a woofer?

Speaker Drivers: Woofers

In most speaker designs, woofers handle most of the program material (from about 60 Hz up to around 2000 Hz). Larger woofers tend to excel at low frequency performance, and smaller woofers are usually better on the higher end. Because they are designed to handle lots of low frequency sounds, their motor assembly (magnet, voice coil, etc.) are usually overbuilt to allow for greater power handing and less chance for overheating.

Modern woofers' cones are made of paper, carbon fiber, plastic, and other materials. The goal is to achieve a smooth response of the desired frequency range and a smooth transition to the higher frequency driver(s).

Why are there different sized speakers?

Speaker Drivers: Sound Transducers

Speakers, also known as drivers or transducers, come in all shapes and sizes. Although there some full-range drivers designed to handle much of the audible spectrum of sound, most speakers are considered to be one of the following:

• 2-way (tweeter and woofer)
• 3-way (tweeter, midrange, woofer)
• 4-way (integral subwoofer)

Each type of driver is designed to handle different frequencies. Tweeters cover the highs, woofers, however, can be broken down further into midrange (mids), midbass (lower-mids), and subwoofers (sub-bass).

What's a tweeter?

Speaker Drivers: Tweeters

Tweeters are designed to handle the very highest of audible sound (starting at about 2000 Hz all the way to 20, 000 Hz and beyond). As you listen to music, most of the high percussion (like cymbals) is covered by tweeters. Tweeters need to move very fast to reproduce sound waves that can be less than an inch in wavelength. Because these wavelengths are so small, tweeters are very directional. High frequency response will usually taper off as you move 'off-axis' from a tweeter.

Be nice to your tweeters. When you drive your amplifier into audible distortion, tweeters are usually the first to blow. If you have blown your tweeters, you should replace them with the original manufacture's replacement tweeters—that is, if you want to retain the sound you were enjoying.

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