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WPI Technical Theatre Handbook: Speakers
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The final element in a sound system is the loudspeaker. The purpose of the speaker is to convert an electrical representation of sound into mechanical vibrations. Many different types of speakers exist, making choosing the right one for the job a difficult task. Making the right choice involves balancing several factors including size, sound quality, efficiency and power handling.

A typical speaker is made up of several components. One or more drivers are mounted in a cabinet, generally made out of wood or plastic. There are many kinds of drivers, each suited to reproducing a particular range of sound. Bass drivers (often called woofers) reproduce low sounds. Midrange drivers reproduce the sound in the middle of the audible frequency spectrum. High-frequency drivers (usually called tweeters) reproduce the top end of the audible frequency spectrum. Some speakers contain two or three drivers that can respond over much of the audible frequency spectrum. These speakers are often called full-range speakers. Other designs exist in which indivual cabinets house drivers, but the whole speaker is not capable of reproducing the entire audible frequency range. For example, it is common to find two-cabinet speaker setups. One cabinet houses a tweeter and a mid-range driver, while a second cabinet houses a woofer.

Figure 6.9: A 3-way full-range speaker, manufactured by JBL.

Speakers can range in size from a boxes a few inches a side to boxes and other shapes several feet per side. Generally cabinets that handle bass are larger than those that handle mid-range or high frequencies. High-powered mid-range and high drivers can be built into fairly small packages separate from bass units. Units such as this are becoming common in consumer audio, and have some application to theatre audio. These so-called subwoofer/satellite systems are ideal in some cases because they allow the relatively large bass cabinets to be hidden, as bass frequencies tend to be non-directional. The remaining satellite speakers are usually small enough to be mounted in convenient, inconspicuous locations. Schemes such as this are often preferred in theatre applications because having large unsightly speakers flanking a proscenium stage is typically not desirable. However, systems of this nature tend not to be able to produce incredible amounts of volume, and they often do not sound as good as other designs.

next up previous contents index
Next: Crossovers Up: Output Previous: Power Amplifiers   Contents   Index
Steve Richardson 2000-07-06

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