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Electronic Music Production

LOUDSPEAKERS

SAE Institute (Glasgow)

85 87 Portman Street, Kinning Park, GLASGOW


Dynamic Loudspeaker Principles
An enormous amount of engineering work has gone into the design of today's dynamic
loudspeaker. A light voice coil is mounted so that it can move freely inside the magnetic field of a
strong permanent magnet. The speaker cone is attached to the voice coil and attached with a
flexible mounting to the outer ring of the speaker support.

Because there is a definite "home" position for the speaker


cone and there is movement allowed by the mounting
structure, there is inevitably a free cone resonant
frequency. The frequency can be determined by adjusting
the mass and stiffness of the cone and voice coil, and it
can be damped and broadened by the nature of the
construction, but that natural mechanical frequency of
vibration is always there and enhances the frequencies in
the frequency range near resonance. Part of the role of a
good enclosure is to minimize the impact of this resonant
frequency.

Loudspeaker Basics
The loudspeaker is almost always the limiting element on the fidelity of a reproduced sound in
either home or theater. The other stages in sound reproduction are mostly electronic, and the
electronic components are highly developed.

The loudspeaker involves electro-mechanical (or transducing) processes where the amplified
audio signal must move a cone or other mechanical device to produce sound like the original
sound wave, via changes in sound pressure level. This process involves many difficulties, and
usually is the most imperfect of the steps in sound reproduction.

Once you have chosen a good loudspeaker from a reputable manufacturer and paid a good price
for it, you might presume that you would get good sound reproduction from it. But you won't - not
without a good enclosure. The enclosure is an essential part of sound production because of the
following problems with a direct radiating loudspeaker.

Back-to-Front Cancellation
While the front surface of the cone of a loudspeaker is pushing forward to create a sound wave
by increasing air pressure, the back surface of the cone is lowering the air pressure. Since the
wavelengths of low frequency sound are large compared to the size of the speaker, and since
those low frequencies readily diffract around the speaker cone, the sound wave from the back of
the cone will tend to cancel that from the front of the cone. For most bass frequencies, the
wavelength is so much longer than the speaker diameter that the phase difference approaches
180, so there is severe loss of bass from this back-to-front cancellation.

This is one of the reasons why even the best cone-type loudspeaker must have an enclosure to
produce good sound.

Most speakers are of the Bass-reflex baffle


design. They incorporate a port that is tuned to
enhance the low frequency energy below that of
the speaker cone, therefore giving you some more
bottom end.

Occasionally, you will find that your speaker is of


the closed baffle design. These speakers perform
just as well as their bass-reflex counterparts.

Guitar amplifier cabinets are usually of the open


back baffle type.

Ported Bass-Reflex Enclosure


The bass-reflex enclosure makes use of a tuned port which projects
some of the sound energy from the back of the loudspeaker, energy
which is lost in a sealed enclosure. But care must be taken to avoid
the back-to-front cancellation of low frequencies which characterizes
unenclosed loudspeakers. This is avoided by tuning the cavity
resonant frequency of the enclosure to the free-cone resonant
frequency of the loudspeaker. This has the effect of projecting bass
frequencies from the port in phase with the sound from the front of
the cone, at least at the resonant frequency. The overall effect is the
increasing of bass efficiency and the extension of the bass response to lower frequencies.

Enclosure Effects on Resonance

Putting a loudspeaker in a closed


box will eliminate the back-to-front
cancellation effect, but will shift the
output curve upward in frequency
compared to the infinite baffle. A
bass reflex enclosure can extend
the bass response significantly
below the loudspeaker resonance.

Effect of Bass Reflex Enclosure

Use of Multiple Drivers in Loudspeakers

Even with a good enclosure, a single loudspeaker cannot be expected to deliver optimally
balanced sound over the full audible sound spectrum. For the production of high frequencies, the
driving element should be small and light to be able to respond rapidly to the applied signal. Such
high frequency speakers are called "tweeters".

On the other hand, a bass speaker should be large to efficiently impedance match to the air.
Such speakers (called "woofers") must also be supplied with more power since the signal must
drive a larger mass. Another factor is that the ear's response curves discriminate against bass, so
that more acoustic power must be supplied in the bass range. It is usually desirable to have a
third, mid-range, speaker to achieve a smooth frequency response. The appropriate frequency
signals are routed to the speakers by a crossover network.

Crossover Networks for Loudspeakers


Most loudspeakers use multiple drivers and employ crossover networks to route the appropriate
frequency ranges to the different drivers.

Two-Way Crossover
Combinations of capacitors, inductors, and resistors can direct high frequencies to the tweeter
and low frequencies to the woofer. This amounts to filter action. A two-way crossover network
divides the frequency range between two speakers.
Three-Way Crossover
Combinations of capacitors, inductors, and resistors can direct high frequencies to the tweeter
and low frequencies to the woofer. This amounts to filter action. A three-way crossover network
divides the frequency range between three speakers.
A capacitor has lower impedance for high frequencies. In series with the high frequency speaker
(tweeter), it acts to block low frequencies and let high frequencies through.
The inductor has lower impedance for low frequencies. In series with the low-frequency speaker
(woofer), it acts to block high frequencies and let low frequencies through.

Crossover Elements
The capacitor has lower impedance
High-
for high frequencies. It acts to block
pass
low frequencies and let high
filter.
frequencies through.

The inductor has a lower


Low-
impedance for low frequencies. It
pass
acts to block high frequencies and
filter.
let low frequencies through.

A capacitor and inductor in series Band-


act to block both very high and very pass
low frequencies. filter.

Impedance Matching
As a general rule, the maximum power transfer from an active device like an amplifier to an
external device like a speaker occurs when the impedance of the external device matches that of
the source. That optimum power is 50% of the total power when the impedance of the amplifier is
matched to that of the speaker. Improper impedance matching can lead to excessive power use,
distortion, and noise problems.
Matching Amplifier to Loudspeaker
The maximum power transfer from an active device like an amplifier to an external device like a
speaker occurs when the impedance of the external device matches that of the source. That
optimum power is 50% of the total power when the impedance of the amplifier is matched to that
of the speaker. For example, assume that the maximum distortion-free voltage from the amplifier
is 40 volts:

Note that it is safer in terms of total power to go to higher impedance speakers (series speakers),
but more typical practice is to put speakers in parallel, lowering the impedance.

Speaker Output Power