As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time experimenting with different components for speaker systems, I am fascinated with how magnets influence speakers.
I’m often asked about the difference between neodymium and ferrite magnets and which is better for speaker applications.
As a general rule, neodymium magnets are lighter and more expensive, while ferrite magnets are cheaper, but they are heavier. You cannot say one magnet type is better than another regarding sound quality, as it depends on your speaker application.
The most appropriate magnet material is evident in speakers such as guitar speakers. I find that ferrite magnets have a lower “gnarl” sound, which can sound great for distortion and metal music; however, neodymium magnets have a brighter mid-range, something I love when playing a clean sound.
Since sound is subjective, many will argue against this.
Theoretically, since the BL (magnetic force) is similar in both magnets, we should not hear a difference due to magnet material, so I can’t say what is happening here. Finding the correct answer might require a PhD study or the difference in weight between magnets is simply shifting the resonance frequency of the speaker, which is what I believe is going on.
At the end of the day, any seasoned guitarist can tell you what magnet type they prefer for their sound.
In this article, I will delve into this topic, sharing my experiences and shedding light on the strengths and weaknesses of these two magnetic materials.
What Is A Neodymium Magnet?
Neodymium magnets, often referred to as NdFeB, NIB, or Neo magnets, are a type of rare-earth magnet. They are made from an alloy of neodymium, iron, and boron to form the Nd2Fe14B tetragonal crystalline structure.
This material is currently the strongest type of commercially available magnet, characterised by its exceptional magnetic strength and resistance to demagnetisation. I find that neodymium magnets are about eight times stronger than ferrite magnets of the same size in speakers.
Discovered in the 1980s, neodymium magnets have since become integral in numerous modern technologies, from hard drives to headphones and, of course, in speaker systems. Their impressive strength-to-weight ratio makes them particularly advantageous in applications where size and weight matter – such as speakers.
What Is A Ferrite Speaker Magnet?
Ferrite or ceramic magnets are made from iron oxide and strontium carbonate. These magnets were developed in the 1960s as a low-cost alternative to metallic magnets. They have a dark charcoal grey colour and are very hard and brittle.
Despite being less powerful than neodymium magnets, ferrite magnets have won over the audio industry due to their excellent cost-to-performance ratio. They are very resistant to demagnetisation and corrosion, making them durable and long-lasting.
In speaker applications, ferrite magnets are known for their ‘warm’ resonance, making them popular for many audio applications, including vocal, guitar, and bass speakers.
Are Neodymium Or Ferrite Magnets Better For Speakers?
The debate between neodymium and ferrite magnets in speaker applications is subjective and depends mainly on your specific needs and preferences.
Neodymium magnets are the way to go if you’re after a lighter, more compact speaker with impressive magnetic strength. They’re convenient for portable sound equipment or any application where weight and size are crucial considerations. However, their high cost can be a deterrent for some.
From my experience, I know that the cost of neodymium magnets can vary dramatically, especially if there is conflict in the regions where neodymium magnet materials are mined. I have seen neodymium magnets increase in cost by up to 29% over a year. This is a problem for speaker manufacturers. Therefore, the cost of neodymium magnets will influence speaker design for speaker manufacturers worldwide.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cost-effective solution and don’t mind a bit of extra weight, ferrite magnets could be your best bet. Their resilience against demagnetisation and corrosion makes them incredibly durable, and they’re known for offering a ‘warm’ resonance that many find desirable in audio applications.
Ultimately, the choice between neodymium and ferrite magnets for speakers boils down to a balance of factors, including cost, weight, size, and the specific sound qualities you aim to achieve. It’s always a good idea to experiment with both types to find the one that suits your individual sound preferences and setup.
|Strength||✅ 5-8 times stronger|
|Temperature Resistance||✅ Less likely to demagnetization|
|Workability||✅ Easier to machine and finish|
|Cost||✅ Much cheaper|
|Weight||✅ Much lighter|
Does The Magnet Type Impact Sound Quality?
The impact of the magnet on sound quality is a topic that often sparks much debate among audio enthusiasts and professionals alike.
In theory, as long as the magnet provides enough force to the speaker’s voice coil, the material of the magnet should not directly affect the sound quality. The magnet’s role is to provide the driving force for the speaker cone, producing the sound. However, the type of magnet can indirectly influence the overall design, weight, and cost of the speaker, which may result in perceived differences in sound quality.
For instance, the magnet’s weight can affect the speaker’s resonant frequency, which is a key factor in determining its tonal characteristics. Furthermore, the choice of magnet can also influence the speaker’s sensitivity, which is a measure of how loud the speaker will play at a given input power or voltage.
While some advocate that the difference in sound quality between neodymium and ferrite magnets is subjective, others firmly believe that certain magnet types can enhance sound properties. For instance, some guitarists prefer ferrite magnets for their warm resonance, while others might favour neodymium magnets for their brighter mid-range.
Therefore, while there’s no definitive answer to whether the magnet impacts the sound quality, as I cannot find any written experiments or academic papers to back this up, it’s safe to say that it can affect the speaker’s overall performance and the listeners’ subjective experience of the sound.
Experimenting with different magnet types in your speaker system is an excellent way to determine what works best for your sound preferences.
Both neodymium and ferrite magnets have their unique advantages and drawbacks when it comes to speaker applications.
Neodymium magnets, with their exceptional magnetic strength and compact size, are ideal for applications where weight and space are of primary concern. However, their high cost and susceptibility to price fluctuations can be a deterrent.
On the other hand, Ferrite magnets are a cost-effective alternative that offers durability and a warm sound resonance despite their additional weight.