Almost Everything you wanted to know, or did not want to know about speakers

      I see a lot of "which is better" questions in the audio forums from most people listening to games or music. Some in audio creation, and others, well, for whatever else you can think of for your cans, intended purpose or not. 

     I get many questions about what setup I use at my house if my wedding DJ setup looks like it does, and that is almost always followed by "well,I use a pair of ______ out of a _______ with a ________ @40000000 watts! I bet I could be a DJ too!" I usually respond with the polite reply of "maybe" followed by "in your bedroom" in my head. 

You see, the problem is not one born from stupidity, but from lack of knowledge. Now this is not a rant about Pro gear vs. audiophile gear. It is about selecting the right gear and how to know what to expect out of it.  

 Let's first dispel a myth or two,

1) if you want it louder, just add speakers!

While this is only partly a myth, it is a total myth when you look at it in terms of the amount of sound delivered to a certain area. Wattage is actually only a small part of volume, it is actually three parts, wattage, Ohm's, and sensitivity. The last being of utmost importance. Sensitivity measures in decibels, how loud a driver is when powered by 1 watt of power at 1 meter away. This measures the efficiency of the driver. In theory, a 1 watt speaker at 4" in diameter could rupture the planet with sound waves. Of course, that is Mathematically improbable, it is not beyond possibility. now,the part that is not a myth is area. if you are measuring the area affected by sound, more speakers will increase the coverage area. more on that later. 

"brand here" speakers can handle 900.000.000 watts!, Manufactures do not actually lie as much as they cheat. They give numbers based on signal tests, These drivers will perform as promised IF you run them in the EXACT same way as the test was run. Further, they can cheat by extending the test parameters into the "pink" zone (20kHZ) where any driver can put off an insane amount of power.  speaking of power, there are typically three types used by the major brands. RMS, program and peak

RMS (route means square) This is a very complex subject. So to stick with simplicity, we will simply say that it is the wattage (not volume) at which the driver was meant to operate on a continuous level. 

program This is the amount of wattage the driver can take in low but sustained amounts. 

peak This is the level at which clipping occurs most, it is a number that represents the maximum temporary spike in voltage the driver can handle before permanent, and often irreparable damage is done.

"UberCable will 'Transform' your listening experience!" nope...not a bit, not one little bit. they can stop it from sounding BAD at long cable runs. But that can be fixed by thicker cable. The ONLY thing a "premium" cable is good for is gutting your wallet for a product that has a chance of surviving a puppy attack of .000002. Even if it does not have to contend with pets or children, it must survive YOU. So durability is the name of the game in cables


most run-of-the mill PC speakers will give a very short spec list because they do not anticipate you using your giant magnavox speakers from 1992 on them. But even with these small systems, they adhere to the same principles of the big ones. If it runs at 25 watts RMS it is assumed that that 25 watts is under a certain load, often 2-4 OHMs and each audio channel can take that load or higher. Adding more speakers in a series will cut the ohms down and push more wattage. This sounds like it should equal a louder speaker. It does not, It simply takes away wattage from the other speakers and adds it to the new ones, 

but what does all this mean in terms of "which sounds the best?"  a lot has to do with the material the cone is made from and the box it is in. the size and height of your room also have a LOT to do with great sound. Does your room have a lot of echo? get rid of with with acoustic tiles, carpet or even blankets. 

Get your speakers off the floor and not facing each other! "sound ally is created when two speakers share too much sonic room and it sounds awful. when speakers are on the floor, they do the opposite of sound ally and create what is called "dead zone" proper height should be about ear level. If you can wall-mount your speakers. 

if you are hard core, get double or triple pane windows to isolate sound.

I hope this helps even just a bit for those new to speakers. If you have any questions, don't hesitate, I will answer what I can.


RMS (route means square) This is a very complex subject. So to stick with simplicity, we will simply say that it is the wattage (not volume) at which the driver was meant to operate on a continuous level. 

RMS is root-mean-square (root = square root, mean = average, square = power of two).

It is the equivalent DC value of an AC signal. In other words, it is the average power a speaker can output over a virtually infinite time domain.

A general rule is an amplifier's maximum power output should be within 180% and 220% of a speaker's RMS value. So a loudspeaker with an RMS of 250 W should be matched with an amplifier with maximum power output between 450 and 550 W.


When you say "uber cable". Are you referring to just digital, or digital and analog. 

If it is just digital, then you are right. Digital cable either works or it doesn't. 

If you are also including analog, then I think you need to go get more hands on experience. 


You also need to break down wattage into current and voltage. An amp can have really high wattage because it has a lot of volts and not a whole lot of amps. As you put it, it is simply another way for companies to cheat on their specs. 

Yes, I am including analog.  And no, I do not need more experience than what I have. (15 years) to say that Even two analog cables that are the same length and gauge are going to sound the same, no matter what special "give me your money" trick they use. At very long runs (50-75ft)there are some things that help against loosing some signal. But you could get the same out of thicker wire. If you are having to run speakers THAT far (50-75ft) without another speaker, there is a problem. the average 20ft speaker cable will have no audible loss. If you are spending money because of durability, that is fine. But if you just spent $150 on a 25Ft 16 ga Monster cable instead of $45 for the 10-12ga Mogami You have better ears than %97 of the rest of the planet.

I am not talking about that stupid monster crap or anything you can buy at best buy for that matter. I would not be surprised if mogami is better quality anyways. 

There is no doubt that there are companies who will try and scam you out of money. If there is a reputable RCA cable that use can buy for 30 bucks that uses good copper, then it will probably sound very similar to a 300 dollar cable that uses similar copper and has a fancy gold plated connector. That much is true.

The flip side of the argument is that there are just as many companies who will over charge you for basic cables as there are companies who make simply horrible cables. El Cheapo Walmart cables is a good example. I played around with them in my system for sheer curiosity because of this very argument I had with someone else. They damaged the sound quality by a lot. I did not even need to do a blind test. I literally stuck them in, hit play, said WTF, and ripped the cables right off. 

I compared it with the mogami cable that I made for a friend for 15 Just no comparison. 

On further inspection of the cable, the connectors looked like powder coated brass and after I cut the cable open, it looked like the copper might have been oxidized a wee bit more than optimal. So I went back and I got a second cable from a completely different walmart so that I could eliminate the potential for it to simply be a bad shipment. SURELY this one had to be better.........nope. 

Then the flip flip side to your argument is that there are companies that make make a uber fancy cable that does not rely on BS to make something sound good. Audio note has some pure silver RCA cables that my friend has. They are not pretty or fancy in any way. They make such a difference that 10 times out of 10 my friend and I could pick the audio note cable out over my mogami cable and a furtech cable that was given to me. 

Here is what my end conclusion for you is. The answer is that analog cables do differ in sound quality. However, it is very easy to hit a very practical sweet spot in the quality of RCA cable. I made my mogami cable for ~15 bucks and it does not sound all that different from a lot of 200 dollar cables I see at audio meets and shows. And while options like pure silver cables are too expensive to be realistic, they still do exist and they do sound better.  

So while what your saying can be used as a very broad and fairly accurate generalization, it still does not make it a stead fast truth. 

I am planning on buying an Ibanez tsa 15H (15 watt RMS head), Can I hook it up with the speaker (4 ohms) in my Peavy rage combo amp that rated around 40 watts (15 watt RMS)? 

Assuming you know what you are doing. but I would personally build my own semi-open back cab. and go with a celestion greenback 12'

if you are to hook up that Ibanez to the peavy speaker while the speaker is in its case, be sure to unhook it from the speaker first.    

Are you also asking HOW to do it?

Then what we are arguing is two different things, I am stating that a cable can not improve your sound by adding anything. You are stating that cheaper cables can make your sound WORSE due to poor design.I stated in the original post that cables can only keep your sound from getting worse. so, I am arguing that the absence of bad quality is not an improvement in is the way it SHOULD sound.  A test I once ran was using speakons vs. 1/4 connectors. the speakons DID have a noticeable increase in base. I found out why that is. The cable was thicker (hard to tell sometimes) and speakon connectors have more contact surface area. while this is an improvement, It is not something that only Mogami can brag about. ALL speakon type connectors will sound better than 1/4. If you are talking about RCA jacks, it is all in their thickness. most RCA jacks are thinner than a guitar cable and guitar cable has to be shielded, if not,  it is susceptible to RF. Large speaker cable is too thick with too much current to be. I DO conceed that RCA jacks are often made like PA style speaker cables, without shielding. but even WITH shielding, they will sound only they are supposed to. Adding nothing, taking nothing.      

as far as making your own cable...Hells yeah

How about this then. 

Copper brass mix< copper < silver plated copper < silver < carbon nano tube < graphene < the Dac output is solder directly to the input stage on the amp. 

Non shielded < shielded < double shielded

non cryo treated < cryo treated

Stranded< solid core

Higher ohms < lower ohms. 

However you can make all of that work on a budget is preferable to cheap RCA cables or speaker wire. 

Well, I agree with shielded is better than not on small gauge cables, I do not see how the rest is any better than a standard copper braid. as far as strand material, solid core vs. braided, Cryo-treated. If any of this DOES make a difference, it is not audible on short cable runs found in most houses. The BEST way to get more reliable sound, is fatter cable. As far as OHms go, better is subjective to need. do you  need 4 speakers to cover your area? does each channel of your amp go down to 4 Ohms or lower? then you are good daisy chaining 2 speakers per channel assuming each speaker is 8OHms. If you want loud in a small area, you want one speaker on each side at 2 OHms assuming they are 2OHms speakers.

The more speakers you need, the higher the OHm rating needs to be in order to not burn up  your amp

so eight speakers 4 per ch. need the amp to support down to a 2OHm load. However if your amp supports 2OHMs and you get 2OHm speakers, they will be as loud as they can possibly be with that amp.  

You can get LOUDER only by switching to a higher sensitivity speaker. My 15" Yamahas have a sensitivity rating of 98 dbl @ 1 watt @ 1 meter away, which is very sensitive for a driver that size.  there is higher, but those usually come in much smaller boxes.


Skinning effect on most of what I listed. 

The silver plated copper is going to be a cheap way of getting the "silver sound" without spending a whole lot. The copper core will act as a resistor and the signal will want to flow through the silver. Since silver is a better conductor, you will have less loss. 

Silver is well.....just a better conductor, and silver actually does sound noticeably better. All the other materials I was joking about. But in theory the other materials do not oxidize. 

Solid core is simple. It is literally a straight wire with a couple bends. Ideally the point is that the copper has not been twisted or bent to the point where the structure of the copper has started to break down. 

With most of these things I listed, I was being semi sarcastic. Like a spool of carbon nano tube would be thousands of dollars if you can even convince a lab to make it for you. 

Also, when I am talking about Ohms, I am talking about how many ohms of resistance the wire has. Obviously, the closer you can get to a perfect 0 ohm wire, the better. 




I'm going to assume you really know speaker audio like it's your life/career.

So, I'm going to ask a few questions, and I'd be very appreciative if you answer straightforwardly and with as much detail that you feel necessary.

  1. What are the Pros and Cons of Passive speakers versus Powered speakers.
  2. Receivers, what should I be looking for to give hint to better sound quality than another.
  3. Would you recommend building your own cabinets out of heavy woods for the drivers to colour speaker audio to taste?

Thank-you. I just really want to know as much as I can before I do go into gathering together a quality sound system for life.

Passive speakers allow you to choose your own amp. Active speakers have a cheap amp built in. If you are on a tight budget, then active speakers are easier to get your hands on. Passive speakers require a fairly healthy budget so that you can afford a basic amp and a set of speakers. 

2: There is no real trick to receivers. Marantz, denon, and harman kardon all make ok receivers. However, if you want high quality, then I recommend that you buy a true blue stereo amplifier. 

3: No. Unless you want to build a hundred speakers or more to test out different types of wood to figure out what will suit your taste exactly, I recommend that you get something prebuilt. 

1: Thanks, I figured so. I plan on spending about a car-level budget on this down the road.

2: The reason I want to go with the receiver is so I can put an Ethernet line to the receiver and also have the speakers power the audio for multiple systems, my PC, CRT TV system, turntable system, and maybe an OLED system. So if that could be done with a stereo AMP and DAC, what are some to look at?

3: The thing about this, is I know a few types of wood I'd like to try, and I already know the cuts of wood I'd need for this. This wouldn't be something short term done, this would be something I start in another 10 years or so. But as far as information that I've gathered no one really uses real wood in their cabinets to make their speakers sound more uniform and consistent rather than some having a more bright sound and others more muted.


Yeah, car level budget sounds about right. Honestly, if I never got into audio, I would probably have been able to afford a down payment on a house.............and I still have a long way to go before my system is even close to being good enough to call it done. 

2: I have no clue how your system looks, but if you want good audio, then you need a solid amp. Receivers are either really good low end audio solutions, or they are truly meant for home theater people. For audio.......ehhhhhhhh there are better solutions. Can you be more specific on how exactly you want the system to be setup? From what I am gathering, it sounds like all you really need is a dac and a couple of different digital and analog switches. But I could be completely wrong. 

3: I would suggest that you buy a pair of decent speakers first and figure out what you like and don't like. If you do not like bright sound, I suggest you look at vintage audio gear. The Celestion 3 speaker can be sound on ebay for ~100 bucks for a decent pair and they are very clear and smooth. I think it would be a great place for you to start and get an idea of what you want to design for the future. 

  1. What are the Pros and Cons of Passive speakers versus Powered speakers.   A: Passive speakers on a sub-pro level, are built with all of their budget going towards acoustics and driver quality.  Active speakers (sub-pro) build in amps into the speaker box and often sacrifice better build material in order to compete in the price range of comparably priced passives. you will often find they have more plastic and metal than wood.
  2. Receivers, what should I be looking for to give hint to better sound quality than another. Your receiver is not really where you need looking for a pure signal almost Every brand can recreate your sound effectively, however there are some with more problems than others. TL can tell you More as I deal with power amps and mixers more than receivers.
  3. Would you recommend building your own cabinets out of heavy woods for the drivers to colour speaker audio to taste?  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO  This is why, Dense woods are less porous than dense woods. They are also HEAVY.  a speaker is not a guitar, the wood matters a bit less. I have literally seen particle board outperform a white oak build. The key to building speakers, is tuning them properly. At what frequency do you want your mains? what frequency do you want your sub? Also, dense wood will require more maintenance. This is because force ALWAYS takes the weakest link in a chain. If the board does not flex, something else will take its place. Often a tac or staple on a brace, sometimes even the glue even gives out, and if none of those give out first, "CRACK" right down a speaker wall.      if you are building, what size speakers are you looking at in terms of dimensions? what size driver? What brands do you like?

EDIT: just noticed you had a turntable in your system, Is this a Vinyl PLAYER or a DJ turntable? (numark, Gemini) 

As someone having master's degree in acoustics and signal processing, I've got to say that a lot of the information given in this thread is at best misconceived and often just flat-out wrong. I'd really like to go through all of it that is misguided instead of being the guy who yells "wrong!" without an explanation, but honestly there's just too much shit to peddle through. It'd be easier for me start out a new thread and explain these concepts rather than trying to right all the wrongs, so just take this as a warning to do a double-check on the information on this thread before making any decisions based on it.

One excellent resource is the website for all amplifier and amplifier-loudspeaker interaction related articles. I use it a lot myself, since I do like to design amplifiers even though I'm not an electrical engineer and often need guidance.

Another great site is Siegfried Linkwitz's (the co-inventor of linkwitz-riley crossovers) website at for directly loudspeaker and acoustics related articles, and even original research.

Pic pretty much sums up this thread.

You don't have to elaborate but which explanations in particular are incorrect/misconceived?

If "pink" is meant to be "pink noise" then it has no specific frequency, see here. I've never heard of any other pinks relating to audio.

Program: The normal operation power handling of the speaker. Different manufacturers might spec this in their own mysterious ways. OP's description isn't exactly wrong but perhaps has the potential to be misunderstood, because "low but sustained amounts" is a bit ambiguous. Program power is actually usually higher than continuous power, which is a more useful figure. Manufacturers like to talk about their program power because it has little meaning and they can be all like "mo powah" yeah...

Peak power handling of speakers has nothing to do with clipping. Amps clip, speakers do horrible things like distort, rip and burn (exceeding peak power, extended operation above continuous power rating). Exception to the rule: powered speakers. ;)

Speakers in series do not have reduced impedance. Rseries = R1 + R2 + ... + Rn. Speakers in parallel reduce total impedance: 1 / Rparallel = 1 / R1 + 1 / R2 + ... + 1 / Rn.

Speakon vs. 1/4" TS: Speakon is preferred for many reasons, none of them being sound quality. Big benefits include mo powah like PSL said, also locking, and more conductors- useful for bi/tri-amping. I've seen two sizes: smaller one has 4 contacts, bigger one has 8 contacts. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview. I think it's hilarious how one of the benefits was that it doesn't look like a mic or guitar cable, so nobody will use the wrong cord, then some genius decided why not use it for the power cords on gear, too! It locks, that's perfect!! Because nobody will ever screw that up... (jk, PowerCon are keyed to be incompatible afaik). As far as sounding better goes, well I suppose a biamped or triamped cabinet can potentially sound better than one using all passive crossovers, but you can do that with TS, too; you just have to use multiple connectors.

Well this is getting tiring, but you should get the idea.