Finding the Right Speaker: A Guide to Different Types Of Speakers

There's more to sound systems than simply ramping up the volume.

December 29, 2018

There's more to sound systems than simply ramping up the volume. The type of speaker you choose can have a major impact on the quality of the sound produced. So if you're on the hunt for the best speaker for your needs — be it for home use, corporate gatherings, or live/virtual events — you've come to the right place. We're here to help you understand how a speaker works and navigate through the different types of speakers available.

How Does a Speaker Work?

In simple terms, a speaker is a device that converts electrical signals into audible sound by creating a magnetic field that moves the cone or driver. Here's a brief overview of what's involved:

  • The cone movements determine the sound frequency: larger, slower motions for low-frequency bass notes and smaller, faster movements for high-frequency treble notes.
  • A crucial component of speakers is the crossover network, which ensures that the frequency signals are divided and sent to the correct driver.

Most loudspeakers are 2-way speakers, featuring a woofer for bass frequencies and a tweeter for higher frequencies. More advanced designs, such as 3-way and 4-way speakers, include additional drivers like midrange drivers and subwoofers.

The speaker cabinets, often made from materials like medium-density fiberboard (MDF), are also vital. They need to be rigid and well-braced to enhance sound quality. There are two primary cabinet designs:

  • Sealed Enclosure: Offers a confined space delivering a controlled sound.
  • Bass-Reflex: Includes a port to enhance the low-frequency response and bass output.

Selecting the right speaker depends on how these components function together to produce the sound you desire.

What Are the Different Types of Speakers?

We've outlined the different types of speakers below, each with unique strengths and capabilities — be it for music, home, or outdoor setups.

Passive Speakers

Passive speakers are a fantastic choice for music and home theater enthusiasts as they rely on an external power amplifier. Brands like Klipsch and Fluance provide excellent options in this category, known for their cinematic floor-standing speakers and immersive home theater speakers, respectively.

You can further categorize passive speakers based on their form and function:

  • Floor-standing Speakers: Known as 'tower speakers', they deliver dynamic, full-range audio with exceptional bass, great for both music and movies.
  • Bookshelf Speakers: Compact solutions that fit snugly on shelves or stands, ideal for front or rear channels in home theater setups.
  • Center Channel Speakers: Focused on reproducing center-stage sound effects and dialogue, ensuring clear and consistent sound across the room.
  • Surround Speakers: Create a theater-like experience at home, coming in various forms like bookshelf, in-wall, or specialized bi/dipole speakers.

Powered Speakers

Powered speakers, with their built-in amplifiers, are suitable for those seeking convenience or with space constraints. JBL, Sonos, and KEF offer excellent options in this segment.

  • Subwoofers: Add depth to your audio with the bass from powered subwoofers, useful for music and movie soundtracks.
  • Soundbars: Streamline your home theater or conference room setup with a wide soundstage and minimal space requirement.
  • Powered Stereo Speakers: Provide stereo separation for a more immersive and realistic sound.
  • Portable Bluetooth Speakers: Convenient for on-the-go use, easily pairing with smartphones and tablets.
  • Wireless Home Speakers: Modern speakers that streamline your listening experience with app or voice control.

Custom-Installed Speakers

In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are perfect for those who want high-quality sound with an almost invisible setup. They fit seamlessly into your walls or ceilings and are ideal for Dolby Atmos home theaters or multi-room music systems. The Sonos brand is notable in this category.

Outdoor Speakers

For outdoor enjoyment, weather-resistant speakers from brands like Yamaha and Klipsch are perfect for backyards, porches, patios, or pool areas.

Speakers by Frequency Range

  • Bass Speakers: Focus on low-pitched frequencies, enhancing audio depth and richness.
  • Tweeters: Deliver high-pitched sounds, capturing the intricacies of instruments and vocals.
  • Squawkers: Specialize in mid-range frequencies, offering a balanced sound.

Brands like Klipsch are known for their excellent bass and mid-range sound, while MartinLogan is acclaimed for detailed treble reproduction.

Find Your Perfect Sound

Choosing the right type of speaker demands an understanding of your space, budget, and needs. Remember, a great speaker is only as good as the system and the company that supports it. Our expert team at Catalyst is committed to helping you find the perfect AV solutions. With our high-quality equipment and reliable team, we ensure your event goes exactly as planned, if not better. Schedule your free consultation with us today.