What Are the Different Types of Speakers?

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What Are the Different Types of Speakers?

From woofers and subwoofers to in-wall and mounted, speakers are available in a range of designs and configurations. Speakers< are an important part of any audio system, regardless of the location. They are found in sports venues, homes, churches, concert halls, conference centres, and a variety of other facilities. Professional speakers are essential for musicians, entertainers, DJs, and business owners. Poor quality speakers affect performance and sound transmission. Understanding each type of speaker will help buyers select the most effective and appropriate units for the intended purpose and location.

About Speakers

Speakers operate by moving a mass of air in such a way that it creates audible sound. Typically, speakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Speakers are also commonly referred to as loudspeakers, public announcement or PA speakers, horns, and monitors. All speakers are either passive or powered. Most speakers that are commercially available are passive. Passive speakers do not have a built-in amplifier and must be connected to an amplifier using a regular speaker wire. Powered speakers are also known as self-powered or active speakers. They feature built-in amplifiers for high and/or low frequencies. Powered speakers often require heavy enclosures, making them less mobile and functional as passive speakers. They are sometimes less reliable since they have built-in electronic components that require external power sources.

About Professional Speakers

Professional audio equipment has a range of features not found in consumer audio equipment. These features include greater mechanical robustness and balanced audio interfaces. Professional audio equipment also has heavy-duty, industry-grade connectors and large rack-mount construction. They also feature higher analog audio signal levels and advanced digital audio interfaces. Professional or high performance speakers are generally used by large venues, such as sports arenas and convention centres. They are also used by musical performers and entertainers at concert venues.

Types of Speakers and Speaker Systems

Speakers are catagorised depending on the number of characteristics, including the types of drivers and enclosure used in their construction. The following table provides an outline of the common types of speakers.


The most common type of speaker, these devices are typically passive speakers. They generally have one or more woofer driver to produce low-frequency sound, which is also known as bass. One or more tweeter drivers in dynamic drivers produce high-frequency sound, or treble. Professional audio dynamic speakers that offer higher performance may also have drivers on the rear of the speaker enclosure to further amplify sound.


Subwoofers are one-driver dynamic loudspeakers with a single woofer driver. The speaker’s enclosure typically includes a bass port to increase low-frequency performance. These speakers are used to transmit bass or low-frequency sound. They are also used to enhance bass from any accompanying main speakers in a multi-speaker system, allowing users to offer and deliver bass enhancement without compromising other sound at higher frequencies.


Horn speakers are similar to dynamic speakers in that they use similar drivers arranged at the small end of a cone-type structure. The most traditional type of speaker is the horn. The driver is attached to a wave-guide structure. This type of speaker offers a high degree of sensitivity and transmits sound efficiently in large areas.


Along with ribbon or planar-magnetic speakers, electrostatic speakers are a type of flat-panel loudspeaker or diaphragm speaker. They feature one driver and a thin membrane over two conductive, stationary panels. Electrostatic speakers generally have an outside power source and are plugged into an electrical outlet. The membrane receives an alternating current from an amplifier, which produces sound. Sound delivered using electrostatic speakers is crisp and detailed. They are often used for high frequencies and are not ideal speakers for bass or low-frequency sound since the thin membrane moves very little.


These speakers feature a tall, thin, and narrow metal ribbon instead of the wide diaphragms found on electrostatic speakers. Rather than charged metal panels like those found on electrostatic speakers, the ribbon in a planar-magnetic speaker is suspended between powerful magnets. A current passes through the metal ribbon, which resonates towards or away from the magnets in order to generate sound waves. This type of speaker does not need to be connected to an electrical system to operate.

Speaker Driver Types

Drivers are available in a wide range of types and sizes. Each driver is designed to transmit different frequencies, including low or bass and high or treble. Driver cones found in speakers are generally made from paper, plastic, and metal. The movement of this material creates changes in air pressure or sound waves that are audible. Multiple drivers are generally used to handle a range of frequencies, making up multi-driver speaker systems. Speakers with multiple drivers have connecting electronic circuits or crossovers.
The table below summarises the most common driver types found in most speakers and speaker systems.


Designed for a wide range of frequencies, these drivers are typically smaller devices. This type of driver is commonly used for public address or public announcement (PA) systems, televisions, radios and computers, earphones, and some toys.


This type of driver is designed to handle mid-range frequencies. They are typically used for frequencies between 200 Hz and 2000 Hz.


Handles low-frequency or bass ranges under 200 Hz for consumer systems and below 100 Hz for professional audio systems. Some woofer drivers are also used for mid-range frequencies when they are combined with a tweeter driver or another woofer driver.


Designed to handle high-frequency ranges, or treble. Typically these drivers are used for frequencies above 2000 Hz. Tweeter drivers are designed to handle different power and output levels on various types of speakers, including ribbon or planar-magnetic speakers. These drivers are generally found in home stereo systems, as well as professional sound systems.

Speaker System Designs

In addition to professional speakers, like commercial or personal use speakers, are available in a variety of designs. Speakers are available in bookshelf< and floor-standing< models, as well as on-wall units that are mounted to surfaces. Convenient in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are mounted to streamline the appearance of a room while saving floor space. Each cater to individual needs, performance objectives and design preferences. The table below outlines some of the most common types of speakers.


Also known as ceiling mount, in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, these speakers are designed to use a wall or ceiling’s interior space as an enclosure. They require no floor space and help streamline the appearance of a room.


These mobile speakers are generally the largest types of speakers. They are also known as floor-standing, bookshelf and in-room speakers, and are available in a range of sizes catering to individual needs. Bookshelf speakers are typically smaller, whereas floor-standing speakers are larger units.

Surface Mount

Also known as on-wall or wall-mounted speakers, these fixed speakers are mounted to a flat surface such as a wall. They are commonly used for home entertainment systems, as well as audio systems in a variety of small and medium size venues. They are also used to enhance sound systems in larger venues.


These speakers contain numerous drivers of the same type arranged vertically in an enclosure. They reduce sound travelling towards the floor and ceiling, therefore reducing diffusion of sound energy and output loss. They are often found in venues with high reverberation and when high voice clarity is required, such as in conference rooms, lecture halls, gyms and churches.

Buying Speakers with eBay

To buy a speaker on eBay, select the Sound & Vision link under the All Categories tab on the homepage. From the All Categories tab on the Sound & Vision page, select Speakers & Subwoofers. Narrow search results by selecting preferences from the left side of the page. Alternatively, use search fields found on every eBay page and enter specific terms.
Buying a speaker will depend on a range of factors, including the size and type of driver or drivers. Other factors include the electrical impedance, rate power or the power the speaker handles, enclosure type or baffle, crossover frequencies and frequency response or output, maximum sound pressure output level, and sensitivity or the sound pressure level produced by the speaker in a non-reverberant environment. Buyers should review these factors on eBay product listings.


Choosing a speaker is often a personal choice based on individual needs and preferences. Each option delivers its own sound and effective for different uses. When purchasing a speaker, it is important to test the device to ensure the equipment will suit the intended purchase. If the speaker is to be used with a musical instrument, hook up the instrument to hear the sound produced by the equipment. Similarly, if the speaker will be used for transmission music or announcements, test the device before purchasing one to get a sense of what tunes and voices will sound like.

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