FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Speakers

Forget for a minute how the sound gets to your home theater. Forget that it might have traveled a mile in digital form, 80 miles in analog form, or come through a wire with megabits of digital video. Forget that it could be eight different channels and that the distance between your receiver and speakers might be covered by a wire or a radio-frequency signal. Forget, if you can, the name of the band that’s playing or the person who’s speaking. Concentrate on the speakers themselves.

Electricity that’s been encoded using variable frequencies hits the magnets inside your speaker, and they begin to move. They shake a delicate piece of paper or plastic in just the right way, and it begins to vibrate too, possibly up to 20,000 times per second. Your speakers MAKE sound, they don’t just reproduce it. Oh sure, they are making sounds that are a reproduction of other sounds, but it’s those speakers that you hear, not the original source.

As you listen you hear incredibly subtle variations of volume and tone and you recognize a melody you remember, or hear an earth-shattering boom from an action movie.

Now here’s food for thought… speaker technology is sure amazing, and it’s been around for 125 years. Back when people made clothes by hand and the most important tool on a farm was a horse, someone passed electricity through a magnet, attached it to a membrane, and made sound. Seriously.