What’s the best speaker for you? Well it depends on a number of things. For example, do you want to provide music or just voice paging? The type of speaker also depends on how large an area you want to cover with sound, the background noise and where you want to place it. This article reviews how to select the right speaker for the job. We will review the sound output which is measured in decibels (dB), the sound quality, the power required at the speaker, and the various types of speakers that can be used indoors or outdoors.
Power and Sound Output
Speakers are rated at dB at 1 Watt and 1M away from the speaker. DB or decibel is the measure of sound level output. For example 60dB is the sound of normal conversation. 120dB is the sound of amplified rock concert, and by the way experts recommend using earphones when the sound level is continuously over 85dB. For more about sound levels take a look at our other article, “How Loud is Loud
”. A Watt is the electric power that comes from the amplifier
Speakers can be powered by more than just 1 watt. As a matter of fact the more power we use (the bigger the amplifier), the more sound we will get. If a speaker has a rating of 94dB@1W/1M then what happens when we increase the input power to say 4 watts? It turns out that every time we double the power, we get an additional 3dB of sound out. So if we double the power to 2 watts we reach a sound level of 94+3 = 97dB, and if we double the power again we get another 3dB or 100dB of sound.
Let’s take a look at an actual speaker. Suppose we have the Quam QH16T paging horn, mounted on the side of the building. The specification says we get 110dB@1W/1M. The specifications also say that this speaker is rated at 20Watts maximum. This means we can power the speaker with up to 20W without damaging the speaker. At the maximum power we will get about 122dB of sound. This is sound level at 1M from the speaker and it’s pretty loud so don’t stand too close to it.
Sound Level and Distance from Speaker
The further away you are from the speaker the less sound you hear. The sound level goes down 6dB every time we double the distance from the speaker. For example, the horn that provides 122dB of sound at 1M will have a sound level of (122-6)116 dB at 2 M from the speaker. At 4 m the sound is 110 dB, etc.
Speakers are also rated by the angle of coverage. The coverage is measured in angle. If you are directly in front of the speaker it will sound much louder than if you are off to the side. For example the Penton PBC6T mounts on the wall and it can best be heard at an angle within 115 degrees.
If the speaker is mounted on the ceiling, you would like to select one that has as wide a coverage area as possible.
Sound Quality or Frequency response
Just like your home stereo system the wider the frequency range of the speaker the better the sound quality will be. The specifications will tell you the range of frequency response for the speaker. If you are playing music, you want a frequency range that’s as wide as possible. Better speakers will cost more so you have to first determine what you want to hear. For, example, the Penton LIS8T72 ceiling speaker has a very good frequency response of 60 to 20,000 Hz so it’s great for both music and voice paging.
Where they are placed
There are a variety of speakers available, some mount in drop ceilings, others go on the walls. There are those you can use outdoors and others that are only used indoors. As we discussed the sound level changes the further away you are and the further off centered you are form the speaker. If you place a speaker in the ceiling it will sound very good when you are close to it. The higher the ceiling the more dispersion you will get. So if you have a room with 10 ft ceilings you may be able to hear the speaker when you are about 5 ft of center, but if you have a ceiling that’s 20 ft tall you can be 10 ft away for the center of the speaker.
If you have a drop ceiling and the room is small use the Penton LIS8T72 ceiling speaker or the Quam System 5/70. These are easy to install because they just replace a ceiling tile. If you want to save money, use the small round speakers that require a cut out of the ceiling tile such as the Quam C5 or Penton RCS ceiling speakers.
If you have a long hallway, there are speakers that send the sound, in two directions, down the hallway. You can select the Cell10BDT or the Quam System 11 bi-directional speakers. Outdoors you can use a weatherproof horn type speaker such as the Penton PH20T or the Quam QH16T paging horn.
There are powered speakers available that include the amplifier inside the speaker assembly. This can make installation easier, but they cost more. Some powered speakers use low power audio connections and others connect to the Ethernet Network. The Digital Acoustics
SPKR-11-BD-P is an example of a bidirectional speaker that attaches directly to the network. It’s similar to the Quam System11 in performance, but it’s very easy to install, since all you need is network connection. It comes with special software that allows you to send pages or music right from your computer. For more about network attached paging systems take a look at our article “Paging over IP
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The best speaker for you depends on where and how you want to use it. Speaker performance is provided by the specifications which tell you the power, frequency response and angle of sound available. You may also select the speaker for the ease of installation or even how it looks.
If you need help selecting the right speaker, just contact us at 1-800-431-1658 or 914-944-3425 or use our contact form