FireFold Blog

How Do Speakers Work?

Ever wonder how speakers actually work? The best description of speakers involves air pistons moving back and forth—first on the negative side cycle of the signal, and then the positive—creating variations in the air pressure at different frequencies as a result. Speakers are fairly simplistic items, capable of executing their desired function as long as power and sound processing considerations are taken into account.

It should be noted that most speakers do not possess their own dedicated power source, but will instead draw power from those devices they are connected to a CD player, car system or even a computer. Most devices like radios have proven capable of generating enough power to operate the functions of the average speaker.

There are situations that might arise requiring the acquisition of an amplifier. Where the power situation proves to be a non-factor, sound processing becomes an important consideration. After all, speakers are designed to generate sound from electrical signals transmitted via a wired or wireless connection.

Speakers do not actually have the capability to process sound and will require access to devices either built into the speakers or external elements to which a speaker may connect. This includes a CD player, computer or basically any system that can accept audio information in its various forms, process it and converts it into an electrical signal. It isn’t until this electrical signal is created and transmitted across a connection that the speaker finally comes into play.

While they might vary in size and purpose, most speakers ranging from one’s tiny earphones to larger devices are essentially the same. They involve the same elements: from a magnet to a diaphragm, driver, spider and voice coil.

The diaphragm is a flexible material, usually plastic, usually facing outward. The voice coil is just that, a metal coil that wraps around a cylinder responsible for conducting electricity to the magnet. The spider is a small material with accordion folds, used to connect the voice coil to the diaphragm, moving in tandem with both elements.

Electrical signals from a processing device are usually transmitted as alternating current (jumping between the negative and positive electric charge), which strikes the magnet several times each second, polarizing it as either negative or positive and causing it to jump back and forth with each strike. This occurrence causes the magnet to force the voice coil up and down, making the diaphragm vibrate. This generates sound waves.

The primary purpose of the speaker is relatively simple: receiving the electrical signal and outputting it. This is a matter of the speakers generating a frequency of continuously-changing noise. The human brain is then tasked with turning this noise into actual sound, interpreted as music and various other forms of audio entertainment.