By Brian Casey
So you have been listening to your music every day in your car, and you are wondering about the technology behind the working of your car speakers. Speakers are generally output devices that convert electrical signals into sound signals. The speakers allow us to listen to cool music in our cars as we drive around.
But how do car speakers work? This is an important question that can be answered in so many ways. In this article, however, this question shall be answered in the simplest way possible so keep reading to find out.
We are going to get into the details regarding how speakers work and explore more about the types, sizes and anything else worth knowing about car speakers.
Car speakers work based on a very simple principle that is easy to understand. The speaker is made of a diaphragm that vibrates back and forth resulting in different degrees of air pressure that relates to the electrical signal converted. The movement is caused by the alternating electrical input signal from the amplifier.
The amplifier produces alternating (positive and negative) electrical impulses which pass through the voice coil. This passage of electrical signals results in the creation of a magnetic field that can either be attracted or repelled by the speaker’s fixed magnet. The voice coil is attached to the cone which is attached to the magnet basket using a rubber surround.
The function of the cone is to amplify the vibrations. The vibrations of the cone then bring about the sound that is captured by our ears. The rubber surround and the spider make the cone to return to its original position. Here is a quick video on how speakers work.
The frequency of the vibrations can be related to the pitch of the sound being produced. Their amplitudes affect the volume of the audible sound. The higher you crank your car’s audio volume, the more visible are the cone’s vibrations.
The sensitivity of the speaker is how loud a speaker is at 1 watt of power over a distance of 1 meter. It is usually measured in dB. A highly sensitive speaker will be louder as compared to a lowly sensitive speaker at the same power.
This is the ability of a speaker to create an impression that everything is in front of the listener. The feeling created should be like the one felt when in a concert. This is where the vocalist is at the center, instruments on the right and left but the speaker is always in front of the listener.
Imaging is the ability of the listener (you) to pick certain sounds from different locations. If the speakers are scattered, there will be poor imaging in that same sound will come from different places. For better imaging and staging, it is always advisable to adjust the locations of the speakers until you get the best location.
The frequency of the sound is used to determine the directivity. It is easier to pinpoint the direction of the sound at a higher frequency than a lower frequency. This feature can be used as an advantage in a car audio system.
Since tweeters produce high frequencies, they can be used in setting the direction of the sound in the car. For the best staging, they should be directed towards the middle of the car.
The subwoofer should be located at the back pointing forward so that the low frequencies from the subwoofer and the midrange drivers meet and overlap. This will create an impression that the basses are at the front and create a satisfactory staging effect.
Always ensure that you have cut the highs using the crossover as low as 60Hz for the subwoofer to avoid distortion.
This is location at the kick panel which is a good position to mount your speakers. The speakers can be installed at factory speaker holes or custom holes if some modification is required to install the upgraded speakers. This location is the best because it minimizes the path between the ears and the speakers without causing any delay in sound.
Rear speakers act as a top up or filling speakers. They should not be heard while at the front. This means that the rear speakers should have low frequencies. It is important to utilize the crossover to cut off the higher frequencies. It is also important to note that tweeters are not meant for rear installation. A set of coaxial speakers will be good for the rear location.
The center channels are always meant for the midrange drivers, which work between the frequencies of 300Hz to 3500kHz. The midrange drivers are always installed on the dashboard. By doing so, it will create a wider staging effect.
To implement center channels, one must first have a bandpass crossover. Secondly, the left and right channels should be summed up. Thirdly, the volume of the center channel should be lower than the volume of the right and left channel.
Speaker sizes range from 1-inch to 18-inches. Bigger speakers will respond to lower frequencies than smaller speakers. That is why subwoofers are bigger than tweeters. The wavelength of a 20000Hz sound signal is smaller as compared to that of a 60Hz signal. This explains why a 4-inch speaker cannot put out more bass in comparison with an 8-inch speaker.
What about shape? Round shaped speakers sound better than oval speakers (for instance 6×9) for most obvious reasons. Round cones are always rigid as compared to oval shaped cones. So at higher frequencies, oval speakers will distort.
The main reason why oval speakers are made is because of the rear deck space. 6×9 speakers have a higher space area than 6-inch speakers. This makes them suitable for this location, and they also put out more bass.
Knowing the type of speakers you own will aid you in knowing how your car speakers work. There are generally two types of speakers available, coaxial and component speakers.
These speakers have their drivers in one unit. They are the cheapest, simple to install and won’t require any crossover since they already have built-in crossovers. They have poor staging and imaging.
For instance, if you choose to install them at the kick panel, they will aim at your feet and you will not receive the best imaging and staging. Most of the coaxial speakers’ manufacturers curb this problem by adding adjustable tweeters. The best location for these types of speakers is on the back left or right.
These types of speakers can be found in a configuration of 2-way and 3-way. 2-way coaxial speakers have mid-range drivers and tweeters while 3-way coaxial speakers will have a mid-range, tweeters and a woofer.
They are also known as separate speakers. They comprise of speaker drivers separated from a single unit. The sound drivers, tweeter, midrange drivers and the woofer are all located as a separate unit.
Since they are located this way, the system will require an external crossover. This crossover will equalize the sound signal into low frequencies to the woofer, mid frequencies to the mid-range drivers and the high frequencies to the tweeter.
Separate speaker systems are good when it comes to imaging and staging. This is mainly due to the installation points of the woofer, tweeter and the midrange drivers. Tweeters are normally surface or factory hole installed on the dash board or front of the top corner of the door panel.
When installing the speakers, you should experiment with different directions and angles to get the best imaging and staging. A disadvantage of the component speakers is that they are a little complicated when installing and are expensive in comparison to coaxial speakers.
So, how do car speakers work? It is as simple as that; it generally revolves around what we have discussed above. If you are interested in the physics and the science around the mechanisms of speakers, you can still dig deeper than we did.
It simply revolves around the conversion of an electrical signal into a sound signal and how that signal is transferred in the best way possible to the listener's ears. Without the listener’s ear, no one will know if the speaker is working in the first place.
Here at Car Speaker Land we have only one goal: to bring you the best speakers around. Well, actually we have two goals: we also want to make sure that you’re able to get things going without having to pay the steep fees which are often charged for even the most basic procedures in auto shops.
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