What About All Those Speaker Specs?

Even within a single manufacturer’s product line, there are subtle and obvious differences between speakers, which is why many people spend their days searching for the “best.” Even within one manufacturer’s product line, there are subtle and obvious differences between speakers. Some of those variances are visible, while other variances are hidden in the secret scrolls of specifications.

All those differences between the prices of the various models must matter, right? They range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, don’t they? It’s true! Some details are more important than others, so it is important to pay attention to them. If you want to pick the right monitors, you will need to understand how a speaker’s specs affect its performance. From home studios to houses of worship and everything in between, selecting speakers can make or break setups from home studios to houses of worship and everything in between, no matter whether you take in music casually or listen critically for a living.

In order to fully understand the specific characteristics of speakers, we must first keep in mind that when we discuss the characteristics of speakers, the room in which the speakers are located has a direct and significant effect on the sound quality of the speakers. This article will also focus on the most popular specs since it doesn’t have enough space or time to discuss all of them in this space.

Type

Passive vs. Active:

There is a difference between passive speakers and active speakers. Passive speakers require separate power amplifiers, and so they are unable to be powered directly by line-level signals from most audio interfaces and mixing consoles, while active speakers have built-in power amplifiers and can be fed line-level signals from most audio interfaces and mixing consoles.

2-Way vs. 3-Way:

As a result of the two-way speakers having two separate drivers, it is possible to separate the incoming audio signal into two frequency zones. In the case of a 2-way speaker, 60 Hz to 3 kHz may be directed to the woofer which is a full-range device, while 3 kHz to 18 kHz may be directed to the tweeter which is a high-frequency device.

In order to provide three different frequency zones in a speaker, the incoming audio signal is split into three zones, each of which is fed to a separate driver. In the case of a 3-way speaker, for instance, the woofer receives sound from 60 Hz to 300 Hz, the midrange receives sound from 300 Hz to 3 kHz, and the tweeter receives sound from 3 kHz to 18 kHz.

A speaker is able to perform more efficiently if the input signal is split into more frequency zones and a greater number of drivers are utilized. Each speaker driver is responsible for fewer frequencies due to the increased frequency zones.

Frequency Response

When it comes to speakers, the frequency response shows how accurate they are at converting the frequencies of an input signal into a speech signal, measured in Hertz (Hz). It is quite common to see specs like 60 Hz to 18 kHz in terms of specifications. In other words, the device is capable of transducing frequencies within that range with a certain level of accuracy. Based on the number of frequencies that are not included in that range, such as 30 Hz and 19 kHz, the speaker will not be able to output sound outside of that range. There are, however, very important aspects of the frequency range that cannot be told from the frequency range alone. In order to be able to make certain that the results are accurate, a variation of +/- decibels is required. The difference between the input and output signals could be 20 dB at certain frequencies, if the frequency ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 20 dB). The difference between the input and output signals at certain frequencies could only be as much as 3 dB if the frequency ranges between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (+/-3 dB). It is evident that the latter is more accurate than the former.

The frequency response chart further illustrates the decibel fluctuations across the frequency spectrum, which is even more informative than the decibel response chart. It is possible to determine the exact location and magnitude of the attenuation or boost of frequencies by looking at such a chart. There are frequency response charts that show how the speaker will change the tone of the signal that is input into the speaker. As a way of describing it, we can think of it as the speaker’s equalization curve.

Maximum SPL

As you can see, it indicates the maximum sound pressure level at which the speaker is capable of producing before a certain amount of distortion is experienced. You can imagine it as the most loud sound you can emit “cleanly.” Speakers that are capable of delivering high SPLs, as is common for PA speakers and mid- and far-field studio monitors, will be beneficial for loud monitoring.

Amplifier Class (for Active Speakers)

In terms of amplifiers, class ratings are a way to classify them based on their topology or operating principle, which falls outside the scope of this article. Rather than comparing their audio characteristics, let’s look at how they compare. In general, there are four main classes of amplifiers, namely A, B, A/B, and D. A class-A amplifier, for example, exhibits low distortion and noise, but does not perform as well as a class-B amplifier. In addition to being highly efficient, class-B amplifiers also exhibit higher levels of distortion and a lowered quality of sound. In terms of efficiency and noise, Class A/B amplifiers are more efficient than Class A (but less efficient than Class B) and have a higher level of distortion. It is known that Class D amplifiers are the most efficient, but they are traditionally prone to high-frequency delays and have a variable audio quality, even though their designs are continually improving.

Amplifier and Speaker Power

The power rating of an amplifier or speaker is measured in watts, and represents the maximum amount of electrical energy it is capable of handling before overloading occurs. A common rating is one that is rated at 50W, 100W, and even higher. Nevertheless, the mere mention of the wattage alone does not complete the sentence. Most manufacturers don’t tell you whether the value was measured in peak or RMS values, so it is hard for you to tell. The difference between the two is enormous. The peak value is the maximum level of a short duration, while the RMS value is the maximum level over a long duration. When it comes to a speaker, its peak value will be significantly higher than the RMS value, and vice versa. In theory, a 600W speaker seems to be more impressive than a 400W speaker, but that is not actually the case if the first speaker has a peak power rating of 600W and an RMS power rating of 300W, while the second speaker has a peak power rating of 400W and an RMS power rating of 800W.

Crossover Frequency

Crossover frequency refers to where the input signal of the amplifier is split into different zones that feed different amplifiers and/or speakers, which are fed by different crossover frequencies. The way frequencies are distributed to the speaker components, despite not being able to determine the quality of the sound, does tell us how the frequency distribution will work.

Woofer Size

A larger woofer is generally able to produce lower frequencies than a smaller woofer. Therefore, you may find that a certain 8″ speaker is unable to extend its frequency response past 65 Hz, but a 10″ speaker is able to extend its frequency response forward to 50 Hz. Although larger woofers offer a number of benefits, they can also have a major disadvantage with regard to physical compatibility with small spaces due to their larger footprints.

Impedance

Impedance refers to the resistance that an electrical signal encounters when it travels through it and is measured in Ohms. In terms of cable run length and the number of speakers per amp channel, high-impedance speakers are better than low-impedance speakers in terms of audio quality. If you want to avoid damaging the components, you should match the speaker impedance with the amplifier impedance.

Sensitivity

In terms of sensitivities, normally measured in decibels, they describe the level of output that can be achieved from a given level of input. The fact that a low-sensitivity speaker will produce a lower level of output than a high-sensitivity speaker is well known to anyone, and if the same input level is applied to both speakers, it will produce a lower level of output than a high-sensitivity speaker which will produce a higher level of output. As a result, low-sensitivity speakers usually have lower maximum SPLs when compared to high-sensitivity speakers.

THD

It is common knowledge that THD is a term that refers to the level of distortion caused by a given input signal, and it indicates the amount of distortion produced by it. Ideally, if you are seeking a clean reproduction of your signal, you will want a THD value that is lower. Due to the fact that THD is measured in percentage terms, 0.005% over 0.05% would be preferred.

Coverage Angle

As a gauge of the area that the speaker is able to cover in terms of audibility, this is measured in degrees. In contrast, 45° horizontal by 30° vertical will allow the target to be more accurately aimed at the desired location whereas 90° horizontal by 90° vertical will provide the ability to reach more people in different positions.

Conclusion

In the future, it is my hope that manufacturers will continue to list detailed specifications and that customers like yourself will be able to make use of them. In order to maximize the quality of resulting sound, you need to consider three key factors: speaker type, frequency response, and amplifier class as the most significant factors. Take a closer look at this topic and share your helpful experiences with speaker research that you’ve had in the past!