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Does speaker size effect tone or just volume?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by fleabee, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. Does speaker size effect tone or just volume?
    I see from 5" drivers all the way up to 18"-is it a tone thing or just volume?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It has absolutely nothing to do with volume. It's all about tone and marketing.
  3. gotcha
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    For some interesting reading, check into the threads/posts by greenboy, alexclaber, and billfitmaurice. Deep waters for sure. It would be incorrect to say that a certain diameter is necessarily best for a certain frequency range, for example, but knowing the optimal usage of a given cone design can allow each cone to operate in its best range, and sometimes that involves drivers of different sizes.
  5. Speaker size would affect volume if you're comparing two different sized single speaker cabs.

    1x10 vs 1x15... the 15 is moving more air and would be louder.

    A 4x10 should be louder than a 2x15 but it depends on the box the speakers are in. If one cab has a higher midrange response or whatever it would be perceived as louder. I've heard 10's that had more low end than 15's.

    It's not all so black and white, just pick a speaker size and expect a certain result. It'd be nice if it were that easy.
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Only if they are designed the same. An inefficient 115 will be less "loud" than a very efficient 110, given the same input.
  7. But wouldnt it be true that if you designed a range of speakers to have the same specs (wattage, thermal handling, etc) and put them in boxes that aimed for the same tuning for each driver, because of the larger cone surface the 15" would be louder than the 10" ? This is of course hypothetically speaking, seeing as such a range of speakers dont exist as far as I know. In the real world its like bongo said - using the speakers and enclosure together to get to your desired tone/wattage goals.
  8. gregoire1


    Oct 19, 2008
    a 10 with greater excursion could be driven "louder" that a 12 capable of little excusion before the clipped or failed, but I gotta say, in general, all other factors equal, the larger the cone area, the more air it can compress (or rarify) per cycle, thus cabable of more loudness.?
  9. gregoire1


    Oct 19, 2008
    Are we talking about loudness (sensitivity, loudness per watt)? Or how loud it can get before failing?
  10. spode master

    spode master

    Jan 21, 2007
    "tone" of a speaker is a very complex thing to define.

    A lot of the tone characters have a lot of variables involved.

    Materials used, suspensions motor structures. Cone Material, cone size, cone mass suspension.

    A lot of the cone variables determine where breakup modes occur which are a big part in the character of a speakers tone. A 5" cone built with the same materials will have a different tone than a 10" of the same material, though a few of the characteristics may carry over.

    A simple way to look at speaker tone is that the speaker has its own EQ curve, and it has its own distortion characteristics that change with power.

    And that's about as simple as I would want to put it. There are lot of variables.
  11. rpsands


    Jul 6, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    From what I can gather:
    Total speaker displacement (Vd or cone size * xmax?) is the main factor you're looking for to determine how "loud" a speaker will be. how much air it moves, that is.

    Only one real concrete thing about cone size -- the bigger the cone, the sooner the midrange dispersion falls off. I can't remember the exact numbers, but I believe a 10" is around 1.2khz, a 12 around 1khz, and a 15 around 800hz. Look it up for sure.
  12. dog1


    Dec 30, 2008
    I agree. And not to forget that the cabinet itself has much to do with the final tone (and loudness) that comes out of a speaker. A great speaker (driver) installed in a crappy home made box will probably sound terrible.
  13. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    In the bass region, maximum loudness is usually determined by displacement, which is cone area times excursion. In order to displace as much air as a 15" cone, a 10" cone will need roughly 2.5 times as much excursion. Not impossible, but unlikely; typically, larger diameter cones also have longer excursion.

    "Tone" is related most strongly to the frequency response and radiation pattern, in my opinion, but since it's a perceptual thing psychoacoustics also comes into play. Briefly, not every measurement glitch that looks alarming on paper is an audible problem, and some types of audible problems do not stand out in standard measurements.

    Back to the original question, cone diameter is indeed one factor in tone and in general small diameter cones have more desirable radiation pattern characteristics (cone breakup characteristics also play a role here), but that advantage is reduced or disappears when they are used in multiples. Also in general, the better the bass extension of a given woofer the poorer the high frequency extension, and vice versa.

    As you can probably see, loudspeaker design is a juggling of tradeoffs. Making generalizations about tone based on easy-to-see characteristics like cone diameter is unfortunately not reliable. Loudspeakers should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in my opinion.
  14. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Neither. The only factor influenced by size alone is dispersion versus frequency.
  15. Kindness


    Oct 1, 2003
    If only this were really true. As long as we have uninformed buyers, size will continue to heavily influence market share. :D
  16. I sent Bill a PM once asking for the relationship between speaker diameter and frequency response and he mercifully sent me back a note that said, "it's complicated" with a link to a ton of speaker design info. Speakers are not simply electrical components, thus their RMS or Peak power handling don't really say anything about how efficiently they convert electrical power into mechanical power and even less about sound pressure.

    A bigger speaker is a bigger "bushel basket" of air. If the material the "bushel basket" is made of is weak and floppy, the voice coil would "crush the bushel basket" rather than push it out. I guess that corresponds to "farting" in a speaker. The cone collapses because it's mechanically overdriven, regardless of whether the voice coil can stand it or not.

    As a trade-off, if I make the "bushel basket" strong like bull, then the voice coil performance is more challenged and if the bushel is too heavy to lift or to lift fast, then the voice coil/magnet have to dissipate the power as (V**2)/R worth of heat.

    Wow! I'm starting to get it, Bill!! Add in the resonant frequencies of spiders and materials and the electromechanical efficiency of the voice coil vs. the magnet and it makes me want to spend money for a nice speaker!
  17. A quality made cabinet will always sound better with a crappy amp, that a quality amp will with a crappy cab.
  18. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    Exact.....uh.....what? :confused:
  19. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    What he meant is there's a much larger difference in the sound of high quality versus low quality speakers than amps. So while a low end amp can sound really good through a high end speaker a high end amp won't sound good through a bad speaker.
  20. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    Has their ever been a ribbon-type transducer used for low-frequencies? I've heard some amazing hi-fi setups with large, column-shaped ribbons that sounded very deep & loud w/o a sub-woofer!

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