Speaker Cone Material:
There are dozens and dozens of different types of materials used in the production of speaker cones. Speaker cone material affects the sound quality, longevity and power handling capabilities of the unit.
The ideal speaker cone is lightweight, which helps with the speaker’s signal response capacity. When in operation, a speaker moves in and out to create sound waves, so the lighter the cone the quicker it will respond to the signals that it receives.
Cone rigidity is also an important factor in speaker cone material. If a cone is not rigid, it will flutter and introduce unwanted frequencies to the listening environment.
Paper/Treated Paper Cones: These cones can produce great sound, but for how long? Traditional paper speaker cones are frowned upon in the world of car audio. The mobile audio environment inherently contains a great deal of moisture and temperature variation. These two factors over time will wreak havoc on a paper cone and eventually it will deteriorate, rendering the speaker useless. Thankfully speaker manufacturers have developed synthetic material to combat these issues.
Polypropylene Cones: A step above Paper Cones and very popular in the car audio world, these cones are fairly rigid and are extremely moisture resistant.
Kevlar Cones: Yes, this is the same material used in body armor. Extremely lightweight, very strong and exceedingly rigid, these are the 3 things that you want in a speaker cone. Additionally this material possesses excellent damping capabilities which helps control unwanted vibrations. Of course Kevlar is not the only exotic material that possess these properties, other materials such as fiberglass, aluminum and flax fiber have also proven their worth in car audio. As far as which cone material is the best, that is up to your ears to decide.
This is a measurement of how efficiently the speaker converts power into sound. The less sensitive the speaker the less volume it will generate per watt. The more sensitive the speaker the more sound you will get out of the amplifier, lending to a fuller and more robust sound.
There are two power ratings when it comes to speaker power handling, Peak Power and RMS (Root Mean Square) Power. Peak Power is the amount of power the speaker can handle before it fails. RMS is the amount of power that it can handle comfortably and perform at its optimum. Any sound generated above the speakers’ RMS Power rating will cause damage to the speaker. With a higher powered speaker, the chance of failure at high volumes is less likely.
This is the frame of a cone type speaker. The speaker basket does more than just hold the cone in place. Like every other component of a speaker, the design and material greatly affects the sound of the speaker.
Design: One consideration of speaker basket design is back wave management. When a speaker is in operation, it produces sound waves from both the front and back of the speaker. The wave generated from the rear of the speaker, the back wave, can add unwanted frequencies or even cancel out desired waves and affect the overall sound of the speaker in a negative way. A well-designed basket diffuses the back wave allowing it to escape without coloring the sound of the speaker.
Material: It is important that the basket is rigid enough to endure normal operation without deformation or adding additional frequencies due to the materials resonant properties. Although they are more expensive, cast aluminum and magnesium perform much better than stamped steel baskets. Because of their thermal properties these baskets help dissipate heat that is generated when the speaker is in operation. In addition to these benefits cast material will not bend; it may break, but that would require a great deal of stress in order for that to happen.
Polymer composite baskets are the latest innovation in speaker technology. They are much cheaper to produce than stamped steel, speaker manufacturers are developing more and more speaker lines using this material due to its cost of manufacturing, lighter weight, resonant properties and rigidity.