Different Types of Speakers – Quick Overview

overview of speakers

Speakers are popular output devices. They are usually designed to function with different types of sound systems. Regardless of the type of speaker, they are primarily meant for audio output.

They operate by effectively converting electromagnetic waves to sound waves. They get audio input in either digital form or audio form from devices/ audio receivers.

Speakers that are analog convert analog electromagnetic waves to sound waves that can be heard by a listener. Digital speakers on the other hand have to convert digital signal to analog before producing sound waves.

The reason behind this is that the production of sound waves is always in analog form.

Amplitude and Frequency

The sound speakers produce is differentiated by amplitude and frequency. The level of pitch of sound is determined by the frequency.

Amplitude (loudness) depends on the changes made by sound waves from a speaker to the air pressure. Active speakers have the ability to amplify sound input via electricity.

Types of speakers

Speakers come in different types. The different types are defined by cost, sound quality and application. Here are the most popular types available in the market today:

Bluetooth Speakers

Bluetooth speakers have gained popularity in this era of smartphones and tablets. It is used to stream sound being played in devices. Bluetooth speakers are available in different sizes, shapes and are manufactured by different companies.

This technology was necessitated by the need to get rid of wires that can at times be a nuisance. Bluetooth speakers can be categorized into high-end portables, middle range and compact portable or ultra-rugged.

Portability: Bluetooth speakers are normally portable devices as they use batteries that are rechargeable. This is advantageous as you can carry them anywhere and effectively use them without worrying about a power source.

Durability: Not all Bluetooth speakers are sufficiently equipped to properly handle the external environment.

Rugged speakers are considered most durable with a capability of handling dunks, splashes, gunk and drops well. It is highly advisable to get Bluetooth speakers with IPX rating, shock and water resistance if you intend to heavily use them outdoors.

Audio quality: Generally bigger Bluetooth speakers produce loud and clear sound. However, this also greatly depends on the manufacturer.

Advantages of Bluetooth speakers are as follows:

  • Wireless – They will rid your office or home of wires and improve the aesthetics. They also save you the trouble of plugging and unplugging.
  • Portable design – They are mostly small in size enabling people to carry them to work, leisure activities or even the gym.
  • Power saver – They have minimal power consumption.
  • Sound quality – They have an excellent sound quality. This enables their use in office presentations, family entertainment and outdoor activities.
  • Ease of installation – It does not require technical soundness to operate.

Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf speakers are loud speakers that are compact and are generally used for home theatre or for shelf stereo applications in a home. They basically come in a compact form that allows them to be mounted on a stand or even placed on a bookshelf.

They are usually designed to be two-way and occasionally three-way. These designs have a midbase driver that is small and a tweeter. More often than not because of their smaller form factor, their output is limited to low end base.

Advantages of bookshelf speakers are as follows:

  • Cost – This type of speakers are relatively cheap to purchase.
  • Sound quality – Tend to have an overall better sound compared to Floorstanding speakers.

Ceiling and In-Wall Speakers

These types of speakers are applicable when an individual desires quality sound from big box speakers but does not wish to utilize any space on the shelves or floor of his premise.

They deliver quality sound from in-ceiling and in-wall installations in both home and commercial settings. In-speakers utilize wall cavities to produce desired sound effect. Tone controls and swivel tweeters features can be added to in-wall systems to increase their efficiency and convenience.

In-wall speakers are advantageous due to their visual appeal in a home, contribute significantly to their interior design of a home and save on space.

In-ceiling systems on the other hand have several advantages too. These include saving space, it utilizes the ceiling vacuum to produce high quality audio.

In-ceiling speakers are better than in-wall speakers as they don’t present difficulty in selecting where to place them. This is because ceilings lack paintings and decorations.

Center-Channel Speakers

A center channel speaker is an audio channel that is commonly applied in formats that are surround sound. The speaker and the center channel are normally connected, the speaker is then put at the center of a projected screen that is perforated or behind it.

Center channel speakers are used to anchor dialog to screens for listeners who are seated to the right side and left side of a home theatre. They come highly recommended for families that watch movies together. They are commonly placed below or above the video screen.

Floorstanding Speakers

This type of speaker is also known as tower speaker. Their sizes usually support them properly on the floor without requiring speaker stands or being placed on a bookshelf.

They have designs that are characterized by multi-drivers and also consist of a bass driver, a tweeter and midrange.

Their bass output and pitch is higher in comparison to bookshelf speakers. Their major limitation is that most of them tend not to be speakers that are not full-range. They are advantageous as they produce a louder sound compared to bookshelf speakers.

Multiroom Digital

Multiroom digital audio systems enable people to walk around their houses and have the capability of controlling the music that plays in each room of the house via a smartphone. Users are able to freely stream audio from an array of devices such smartphones to wireless speakers that are strategically positioned around a house.

It permits users to stream audio to many speakers simultaneously or to play different audio files in different rooms at the same time.

One of the major limitations to this system is the time it takes to connect and disconnect to different speakers around the house is time consuming.

The other is that it heavily relies on Bluetooth connectivity that requires the device being used to be in close proximity to the wireless speakers. Being in close proximity of the device has a negative profound effect on the quality of audio produced.

Music Systems

Music systems also known as stereo systems consist of a reproducer mechanism in which two microphones are connected two or more loudspeakers to produce a 3-dimensional sound.
Music systems have several advantages that include their relatively low cost compared to surround sound systems and they take a short time to completely set up.

Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor speakers are designed to facilitate listening to music outdoors like in backyards and patios. They are built with outdoor challenges in form of noise in mind. They are typically built to withstand harsh weather conditions during operation. Outdoor speakers are flexible as they are compatible with all home stereo amp or receivers.

CL3 rated wire connectors and speaker wires are highly recommended when using outdoor speakers. They are made of materials that do not absorb water making them very durable. They are advantageous due to their ease of installation that does not warrant hiring a contractor.

Satellite Speakers

Satellite speakers can be defined as speakers that carry the mid-bass on up in 3-piece system. It comprises of a pair of small speakers commonly called speakers and a speaker solely meant to produce bass called a sub-woofer.

Most of them are normally wired speakers and 90% of the sub-woofers in the system are always powered. This facilitates easier adjustment of the general sound quality from the system.

Sound Bars

A sound bar can be defined as a specially designed enclosure for a loudspeaker. It produces a significant stereo effect from one cabinet.

They are much wider compared to their height so as to achieve desired acoustic quality. They can be placed either below or above a display device.

Using sound bars is beneficial as they are relatively easy to set up, are cost effective to purchase and can be positioned with ease under a display device. Their main disadvantage is that they do not adequately fill a room with sound compared to stereo systems that have separate speakers.


This type of speakers is also known as satellite system. They primarily consist of speakers that are bookshelf sized to efficiently manage the highs/mids and an independent subwoofer to ensure bass frequencies is properly handled.

Subwoofers are speakers with low frequency that effectively amplify sound waves with bass. Subwoofers fall in two categories, these include passive and powered subwoofers. Passive subwoofers are smaller than powered subwoofers and produce less bass as well.

Passive subwoofers are relatively cheaper in comparison to powered subwoofers. Powered subwoofers on the other hand do not require an extra amplifier.

On-Ear Headphones

They are also known as supra-aural headphones, semi-open headphones, earpad headphones, closed-back headphones or open-backed headphones. They are typically designed to rest on top of an individual’s outer ear.

They vary from inexpensive ones that are portable to high-end models that are suitable to use at home. Their designs range from close designs that cover the ears to circumaural models that are fully sealed.

Circumaural models are preferred because of their sound isolation feature and their privacy benefit that prevent leakage of sound. They may be fitted with extra features such as track and microphone navigation controls. They may also be packaged with an extra earpad set and a carrying case. They are available in both coiled and straight cords.

They are advantageous because of their comfort during usage, are less prone to overheating ears and can easily be folded to facilitate easy transportation.

The limitations of these headphones are that they are less effective when it comes to isolating noise from the external environment. They produce a bass that is less powerful compared to their full-size models and at times compromises privacy by leaking sound to the environment.

Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Portable Bluetooth speakers are a wonderful way to enjoy your favorite music on the go. They are mostly used to wirelessly stream music anywhere and at any time.

The best portable Bluetooth speakers should be ultra-portable in design yet sufficiently rugged to withstand weather elements. Most of them have an excellent battery life of 6 to 40 hrs.

They may have mounts and straps to enable a user to carry them along on outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

Portable Bluetooth speakers are advantageous as it does not require any plugging in and connection of wires.

Their main limitation is that the Bluetooth technology only allows wireless sharing of audio files upto a maximum range of thirty three feet only.

Home Theatre Systems

A home theatre system is a comprehensive audiovisual system that creates an environment that imitates a movie theatre. It requires a large television and numerous speakers.

It is characterized by whispered dialogues and sound effects that can only be described as thundering. Speakers used in home theatre systems need to have wattage that equals the receiver outage. Home theatre systems are useful as they provide an exciting atmosphere when watching movies, watching games and playing games as well.

Surround Sound Systems

Surround sound systems use a technology that enriches the quality of sound produced from an audio source utilizing channels like speakers. These speakers essentially surround the person listening to give him a sound radius of 360.

It is usually characterized by a listener location, this is where audio effects are most effective. Surround systems are advantageous as they cause an immersive audio experience that is truly unparalleled. It is useful when playing video games as it permits a player to accurately detect location of characters that are considered enemies in the gaming environment.

Earbud Headphones

Earbud headphones also known as in-ear earphones are small earphones that can be inserted into the ear. They are preferred to over-ear headphones due to their ease of portability. The tiny earpieces of Earbud headphones require to be inserted in the ear canal.

Some models are even designed with clips for a secure fit. Earbud headphones that are wired are still preferred to their wireless models because of the limitations provided by wireless signals and circuitry.

Some are fitted with extra features such as a volume control with 5 buttons, over ear guides and multiple amateur drivers that have a crossover and are balanced.

Advantages of Earbud headphones are as follows:

  • They are extremely compact accessories and are light in weight.
  • Some models are fitted with track navigation system controls.
  • They are designed to provide medium to high isolation of noise from the external environment.
  • They offer minimal to nil interference with glasses, earrings, hairstyles or even hats.

Disadvantages of Earbud headphones are as follows:

  • The bass response and sound quality of these earphones cannot be compared to their full size models that perform much better.
  • When used extensively it has the potential of causing discomfort.
  • Some models of Earbud headphones are difficult to insert into and remove from the ear.
  • The dual-cable feature of Earbud headphones makes them highly prone to tangling.


Speakers come in different types and forms. Criteria for selection are mostly based on application and budget constraints of the buyer.