Types of Speakers

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Updated October 21, 2022

If you’re considering a premium speaker, you should learn about the type of speaker that would most benefit your setup. There are many speaker options to consider, but understanding the common types can help narrow your choice. For instance, you’ll find great bookshelf speakers and nice floor-standing speakers, but connection, setup, and overall sound quality are what you should look for, too.

In addition to sound quality, you should understand how other factors affect your listening experience. For example, you know you’re looking for a quality listening experience when you’re comparing Klipsch Reference vs Reference Premiere: you want the best sound. If you want to understand the types of speakers on the market today, read this guide.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Speakers deliver sound by converting electrical energy to mechanical energy, moving the air to create sound.
  • Users seeking convenience and wireless connectivity should consider portable, smart, and soundbar speakers.
  • Advanced audiophiles will benefit from studio monitors, outdoor speakers, and surround sound speakers.

Speaker Types Explained

As you learn what a speaker is, you’ll start to understand what gauge wire for a speaker is best for different types of speaker systems. Additionally, multiple brands are offering similar loudspeaker designs, which you can see comparing KEF vs. Bowers and Wilkins sound systems.

Moreover, many speaker types exist, including soundbars and bookshelf speakers, wireless speaker solutions, and Airplay vs Bluetooth connectivity options. Keep reading to learn more about speaker types.

Insider Tip

You can place a conventional speaker on a horizontal plane if you need a center channel for middle frequencies.

You can also learn how to connect a Bluetooth soundbar to a TV if the built-in speakers aren’t good enough. Additionally, some audio systems connect to the internet and offer a digital assistant to find your favorite songs. Even if you’re unsure why is my iPhone sound not working, a wireless speaker can offer sound output through Bluetooth.

Whether you want convenience or high-quality sound production, a wide variety of speaker systems maximize your setup.

Studio Monitors

Studio monitors feature multiple loudspeakers and typically serve in professional producer sound systems. This type of loudspeaker system offers a flat frequency spectrum for accurate sound production in radio, television, and music production.

The often-rugged enclosure makes studio monitors great for traveling performers, and the full-range driver speakers can stand up to loud input signals from musical instruments and vocals. That said, the flat frequency response won’t deliver dynamic sound for entertainment purposes.

Reasons to Buy

  • Studio monitors are professional-level loudspeakers for musicians and production professionals.
  • These speakers offer strong drivers that can withstand random bursts of noise as you refine an audio mix.
  • Most studio monitors feature robust enclosures that keep them safe during travel.
  • Studio monitors reproduce an audio source without post-processing, making them ideal for production settings.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Unlike other conventional speakers, studio monitors do not enhance audio signals or add emphasis to sound frequencies.
  • Studio monitors do not provide enhanced bass frequencies, which can make some media sound hollow.
  • When you play them through studio monitors, your music and movies will have a flat frequency range.

Tips for Buying Studio Monitors

  • A single speaker cannot deliver accurate stereo sound, so you want a matching set of two studio monitors for the best results.
  • If you choose a passive speaker, you will need a power amplifier and receiver for your studio monitors.
  • An 8″ studio monitor is ideal for users needing consistent audio quality, even at the lowest frequency.

Portable Speakers

Portable speakers typically use battery power and wireless connectivity to deliver a convenient listening experience on the go. These speakers offer a good range of frequencies with distortion-free performance on the high and low ends of the audio spectrum.

Most portable speakers use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to smartphones, laptops, tablets, and Bluetooth-enabled TVs. Additionally, these units are built for travel, and many feature decent water resistance ratings.

Reasons to Buy

  • Portable speakers offer convenient connectivity through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • The internal battery and lightweight form factor mean users can listen to their favorite songs while camping, studying in the park, or grilling outdoors.
  • Portable speakers are extremely user-friendly and feature simple onboard controls for volume, power, and wireless pairing.
  • Some portable speakers feature smart home connectivity and virtual assistants.

Warning

Your Hi-Fi speaker system can encounter sound output problems if you use audio cables with cheap insulation.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Portable speakers aren’t as loud as conventional loudspeakers, especially with low-range audio outputs.
  • Entirely-wireless portable speakers can produce distorted audio in areas with numerous wireless signals.
  • Unlike stationary speakers, portable speakers can get lost in bags, cars, or around the house.

Tips for Buying Portable Speakers

  • Choose a portable speaker with a high enough power rating to last at least 15 to 20 hours of listening on a single charge.
  • Pick a unit with an auxiliary cable port if you want to play music from non-Bluetooth audio sources.
  • If you want a portable speaker for camping or hiking, ensure it has at least an IPX55 rating to withstand water and dust.

Smart Speakers

Smart speakers offer strong sound quality and a suite of wireless connectivity options. These mid-range speakers can accept audio sources through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and link to smart home devices. Internet connectivity allows for virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Reasons to Buy

  • Smart models are great midrange speakers, and you should enjoy decent sound quality, even at dynamic frequencies.
  • Smart speakers provide smart home connectivity so users can control internet-connected lights and appliances.
  • Most smart speakers can accept multiple audio source options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

STAT: A 2019 Pew Research Center survey showed that 24% of Americans making between $30K and $75K use a smart speaker at home. (source)

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Smart speakers feature microphones which may concern the privacy-focused user.
  • Smart speakers typically require power from a wall socket and are not portable.
  • If you do not use the internet at home, you cannot use most of the smart speaker’s features.

Tips for Buying Smart Speakers

  • Look for a smart speaker that works best with the brand of smartphone you use.
  • Ensure that your smart speaker connects to a music streaming service like Amazon Music or Spotify.
  • Pick a smart speaker that can connect to multiple devices simultaneously.

Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor speakers are a durable option for users needing music or TV audio around the pool or on a covered porch. These speakers can be built into structures or furniture, but many are free-standing models. Outdoor speakers deliver omnidirectional sound to distribute audio in an outdoor space evenly.

Reasons to Buy

  • Like traditional models, outdoor speakers are powerful enough to deliver clear audio without reverberating off of walls.
  • Outdoor models are more durable and waterproof than conventional speakers, especially built-in speakers for outdoor use.
  • These speakers are all-weather, meaning they can withstand extreme outdoor temperatures.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • These models are sometimes too powerful for a pleasant indoor listening experience.
  • Outdoor speakers require maintenance like weatherproofing and regular cleanings to maintain peak operation.
  • Robust outdoor speaker systems usually involve a lengthy installation process.

Tips for Buying Outdoor Speakers

  • Ensure that one of your outdoor units serves as a bass speaker if you want impactful or dynamic audio.
  • Passive outdoor speakers deliver more setup options, but you’ll need additional audio equipment for a functional audio system.
  • Consider mounting your outdoor speakers to your deck or porch to conserve space.

Surround Sound Speakers

Surround sound speakers deliver a dynamic soundscape with multiple powered speakers that cover the entire range of frequencies. Surround systems are most common for home theater setups, but their use of separate speakers offers a full sound for music and games.

Surround sound systems usually consist of a center speaker, left and right speakers, rear speakers, and a woofer.

Reasons to Buy

  • Surround sound systems offer a dynamic listening experience that delivers positional awareness in movies, TV, and games.
  • Advanced users can adjust the levels of their surround sound speakers to achieve the audio levels they want.
  • These units are excellent for home theaters; some can access virtual surround technology for an upgraded soundscape.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Surround sound systems are more expensive than other options since they require multiple speakers.
  • You will need cable management solutions for a hard-wired surround system.
  • Surround speakers take up a lot of living space.

Tips for Buying Surround Sound Speakers

  • Look for wireless surround sound speakers to minimize installation time and manage cable.
  • Ensure your surround sound speakers support the latest surround sound technology, like 7.1 surround and Dolby Atmos.
  • You can add upward-facing surround speakers to your system to achieve simulated verticality.

Soundbar Speakers

Soundbar speakers are loudspeakers in a slim enclosure that usually sits below a TV. You can also mount most soundbars on a wall, often supporting wireless audio sources. These models are an affordable speaker option for a living room or gaming setup.

Reasons to Buy

  • Soundbars often use a combination of Bluetooth and wired audio sources, so they support many devices.
  • They do not take up much space and often fit underneath your TV.
  • Soundbars offer more powerful and dynamic audio than most built-in TV speakers.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • These units do not offer surround sound, so they are not ideal for home theater setups.
  • Soundbars struggle with low frequencies and bass tones at loud volumes.
  • Some soundbars are not compatible with extensive multi-speakers setups.

Tips for Buying Soundbar Speakers

  • Ensure that your soundbar isn’t longer than your TV if you want a clean-looking entertainment center.
  • Only use a third-party mounting kit if your soundbar manufacturer doesn’t produce one.
  • Look for a soundbar with upward-facing speakers if you want to use virtual surround sound technology like Dolby Atmos.

Types of Speakers FAQs

What are speaker drivers?

Electrodynamic loudspeaker drivers, often shortened to speaker drivers, are a transducer element. The driver takes the electrical energy from the audio source and converts it to mechanical energy that moves the air to create sound.

How do you clean a speaker?

You should clean your speaker with a dry microfiber cloth to avoid damaging the tweeters and affecting the electrical signal. If there is tough grime on the speaker, you can use a damp microfiber cloth, but it needs to be near-dry.

Do I need a power amplifier for my sound system?

Most modern consumer-level speakers have a built-in amplifier, so you do not need additional hardware to power the drivers. That said, premium passive speakers still require an external amplifier and receiver.
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