When I first started working as a speaker designer, many of the engineers where I worked referred to speakers as transducers.
In fact, many of the senior speaker design engineers called themselves “transducer designers”.
At first, this confused me, and perhaps it confused you, too.
The term “transducer” gets used interchangeably with the term “speaker” because speakers are a type of transducer.
Speakers use electrical energy to move a diaphragm or cone, which in turn produces sound waves that people can hear. Therefore, a speaker is converting electrical energy into acoustic energy. We call this conversion process transduction.
Besides speakers, microphones are also transducers. Microphones convert acoustic energy (sound waves) into electrical energy, which can then be amplified and sent to speakers.
We also use the term transducer for other devices that convert one form of energy into another. For example, piezoelectric transducers convert mechanical vibrations into electrical signals.
Transduction is a fundamental principle in all forms of audio production and it is important to understand the role of transducers in order to create good-quality audio.
In this article, I will explain why we classify speakers as ‘transducers’, covering:
- What is a transducer?
- Why is a speaker a transducer?
- What is the difference between a transducer and a speaker?
What Is A Transducer?
A transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another.
Examples of energy which can be converted include electrical energy, mechanical energy or acoustical energy.
In the context of audio technology, speakers are transducers that convert electrical energy into acoustical energy.
Why Is A Speaker A Transducer?
A speaker is a transducer because it takes energy in the form of electrical signals and converts it into sound waves which can be heard by people.
The electromechanical system of the speaker makes this conversion possible. The system comprises several components, such as voice coils, magnets, diaphragms and a suspension system.
Through the electromagnetic motor of a speaker, an input signal (electrical energy) is converted into mechanical energy through the motion of a speaker cone and suspension system.
In return, the motion of the speaker cone and suspension system (mechanical energy) moves the surrounding air molecules, creating acoustic energy in the form of sound waves we can hear.
What Is The Difference Between A Transducer And A Speaker?
A speaker is a transducer. There is no difference between a speaker and a transducer, as a speaker is a type of transducer.
As mentioned, a transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another. Speakers are transducers that convert electrical energy into mechanical energy, which then moves air to produce acoustical energy.
In a nutshell, speakers work by taking electrical energy and converting it into sound. This conversion of energy is a type of transduction.
When I first started working in the audio industry, the term “transducer” used to describe speakers really confused me. I wondered why would you use a word that sounds so complicated to describe a speaker!
The speaker industry is full of complicated terms that are used interchangeably. The term “speaker” and the term “transducer” can be used interchangeably, as a speaker is a transducer.
As a speaker designer, it is important to understand the concept of transduction. In a speaker design, you are converting electrical signals into sound and converting energy from one state into another.
You must work with electrical energy from the audio signal going into the speaker; mechanical energy as the cone and suspension system of the speaker move, and acoustical energy as the speaker outputs sound.
If you hear someone referring to a speaker as a transducer, then they are not wrong, since a speaker is a type of transducer.