What makes a speaker high-end or high-performance? That’s a continuing and nagging question for home theater and audio enthusiasts. For some people it refers first and foremost to the price of the product, but that rarely tells you anything. Great sounding speakers come in a wide range of prices.
Our friends at Audioholics have been tackling this issue in a series of articles, and their latest focuses on speaker drivers—the devices that actually push air and create the soundwaves.
The article first goes into detail describing the various parts of a driver, the different materials used and the process and theories that go into designing them.
Here are some great take-aways from the article:
• You will typically find the very best loudspeaker designs on the market will take advantage of the properties of cast baskets and thus employ them in ALL of their drivers.
• A hard dust cap for a well-engineered driver acts as a stiffing membrane for the diaphragm.
• Ferrofluid is an inexpensive and effective way of increasing short term power handling operated under normal conditions, and not when the tweeter is already pushed to its limits.
• You will typically find the woofers and midrange drivers of the very best high output loudspeakers employing either a vented pole piece or hole punches in the voice coil former and/or cone to achieve the best possible performance.
• Neodymium has the advantage of shrinking the weight and size of the driver motor structure but care must be taken in design execution to ensure the magnet is properly vented to avoid excessive thermal compression issues a ferrite alternative will typically not suffer from.
• Stiff cone drivers are typically better than flexible cone drivers (all things being equal). However, no magic cone material alone will determine the quality of the sound or performance of the driver. Cone geometry and proper dampening of the cone material to better manage its behavior at and above its break-up mode plays a vital role in how the cone will sound.
There’s a lot more where this came from. The article gets fairly technical, but it’s a must read if you really want to understand how your speakers work, and it may help you figure out if the speakers you’re shopping for are worth the asking price.