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What is a Loudspeaker?

By Ken Black
Updated: May 16, 2024

A loudspeaker is simply a device that converts electrical energy into sound that is amplified so that it can be heard from a greater distance than the original sound would allow. There is no difference in usage of the terms speaker and loudspeaker and both are often used interchangeably. Some loudspeakers are capable of producing sounds over a wide range of frequencies and some are only made to reproduce certain frequencies.

While it may seem as though it is more desirable for a loudspeaker to transmit over the widest range of frequencies possible, there are advantages to those which have a limited range. Due to the size of the system needed to reproduce the broad spectrum of frequencies well, it may be harder to find a compact loudspeaker that can adequately handle the task. Therefore, many speakers trying to do all frequencies may do a substandard job of sound reproduction.

Having multiple speakers, with some specializing in different ranges of sound frequencies, offers some advantages. A loudspeaker designed to handle mid-range and upper-range sounds may be good for reproducing human voices and certain types of music. However, other speakers, such as the woofer and subwoofer, are designed to produce sounds of lower octaves.

A loudspeaker is classified as a woofer if it is meant to reproduce lower octaves of sound. A subwoofer is a loudspeaker that is meant to produce the lowest two to three octaves of sound. The subwoofer often looks like a box and is most likely the speaker prone to the most noticeable vibrations.

One of the most common uses of loudspeakers in the home environment is as home theater speakers. These speakers often are synchronized so they produce a surround sound effect and are often referred to as surround speakers. This is especially useful when watching movies, where the audio is often meant to be played on a surround sound system.

The quality of the loudspeaker greatly depends on the weight, and therefore the size, of the magnet inside the speaker. The larger the magnet, the more powerful the speaker will be. The weight of the magnet should be listed on the specifications of any good loudspeakers. However, it should be noted that some weigh the entire magnet system and not just the magnet itself. This could affect the power and quality of the speaker and deceive some into buying something other than what they thought they were purchasing.

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Discussion Comments
By titans62 — On Jul 05, 2011

@jmc88 - Great explanation of the difference. I was confused when I first started playing the guitar, too. Something else that I'll add is that almost everything with speakers in it, from your computer to car radio, has an amplifier whether it is obvious or not.

I ended up at this article after looking for ways to make a DIY loudspeaker. Has anyone ever tried this or know where I could find a fairly simple, but effective way to make my own speaker? I wouldn't be installing it in my car or anything, but I like to fool around making homemade electronics, and I think this could be a fun project.

By matthewc23 — On Jul 05, 2011

What does the magnet do inside of the speaker? Obviously it has something to do with producing a high quality sound, but how?

Along the same lines, what size of magnet should you look for when purchasing an amp, and how do you know whether the measurement is for the magnet or the magnet system? Is there anything else I should look for when buying speakers?

I am looking to buy home audio speakers for my living room, and want to make sure that I make an informed decision.

By jmc88 — On Jul 04, 2011

@Emilski - That is a very good question, since the differences are not readily apparent.

As I'm sure you probably know, amp stands for amplifier. Its job is to take the signal from a sound source (in this case your guitar) and to amplify the signal several times over. What most people don't realize is that a guitar amp actually has a speaker inside of it. This is the cone shaped object you can sometime see inside of the amp unit. Like you've probably guessed by this point, the amp then sends the signal to the speaker, which then projects the sound out of the unit.

The article talks about how different speakers are better for certain frequencies. This is the purpose of a speaker cabinet. It is simply a collection of two or more speakers than are usually controlled together. With a full band, there are several ranges of sound happening at once, so a cabinet can have speakers to handle vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and so on.

By Emilski — On Jul 03, 2011

I have just started playing the guitar, and am confused by some of the equipment. I have an amp, but I have been reading about speakers and cabinets, and I don't really understand the difference.

Can anybody explain in simple terms how an amp is different from a speaker. Also, knowing what a loudspeaker cabinet is would be helpful as well.

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