speaker geeks

Weber Speakers guru C.J. Sutton demystifies magnet lore in the second installment of our new column series.

I’m going to tell you something you already know: People like different things. Shocker, right? Apples or oranges, cake or pie, Strat or Les Paul … the list goes on. And it seems the more polar opposite things are, the more likely a person may gravitate toward one choice and show disdain for the other. Like the English and Scottish in Braveheart, guitarists can end up on opposing sides ready to do battle over such life-or-death issues as whether to use tube or solid-state amps. That said, I urge us all to agree on one thing: Amplifiers don’t make sound without speakers. Even the simplest amplifier can be an extremely complex piece of electronics, but a speaker is a very basic electromagnetic motor (Fig. 1).

When you apply signal to a speaker, the voice coil begins to move in and out in response to that signal. As a result, the voice coil creates a magnetic field of its own, which works against the magnet and tries to demagnetize it. However, the magnet generates energy in the opposite direction, and it becomes a back-and-forth struggle. Gluing a cone to a moving voice coil harnesses this motion and makes it audible. That’s the basic idea behind a speaker.

A voice coil is like an electric motor. The bigger the voice coil and the more wire used, the more torque or pulling power you have to move the cone. With the proper match of components, you can get more sensitivity, wider frequency response, and more power-handling ability. The size and type of magnet also affects a speaker’s sound. There are two major types of magnets used in loudspeakers: alnico and ceramic. These magnet types differ and this difference affects a speaker’s overall tone. Let’s take a closer look.

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