Speaker size does matter both in terms of the speaker driver size and the size of the enclosure but this will also depend on the size of the room they are being used in.
Larger and well-designed speakers will perform and fill larger rooms better while smaller speakers are better suited for smaller rooms and near field-listening. However, in general, larger speakers can handle more power and sound better when compared to speakers with smaller drivers and small enclosures.
Larger speakers usually come as 3-way or 4-way speakers (or more) with tweeters for the highs, mid-range woofers, and woofer for the low frequencies.
Tweeters need to be small for better transients and reproduce the high frequencies with ease for sound clarity but the woofers need to be much bigger. The size of the woofers can vary with the mid-range woofer being smaller than the low-frequency woofers for more accuracy.
Larger woofers (8 inches or more) can push more air (higher sound pressure level) for more efficiency at playing the lower frequencies. The larger the driver is the more depth and power it can handle.
Smaller speakers such monitors usually have a tweeter (usually the same size as that found on larger speakers) and a mid-range woofer (usually between 4 and 6 inches). These speakers need to be paired with a good subwoofer to handle the lower frequencies.
With that said, you can find great sounding small speakers with great sonic characteristics but they tend to be significantly costlier. This is because it takes a lot of planning, effort, and money to fit more power and components needed to make small speakers sound great which drives the price up.
However, sound quality can be very subjective and what I may consider being a great sounding and impressive speaker may not be that good to you.
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What makes one speaker better than the other?
Bigger does not always mean better as you can have a larger speaker that is poorly designed. Poorly designed speakers have poor sound quality regardless of the driver or enclosure size.
To start with, a speaker will need to have a well-designed enclosure that should not vibrate as the drivers create pressure within. The speaker should have great separation for each driver so that the air movement from one driver does not affect the movements of another cone.
Crossovers also need to be well made for impedance control and smoother transitions between the various drivers.
The tweeters reproduce more detailed highs for better clarity and the midrange sound should have a stronger and more accurate presence. Bass response should also be equally great and should not be boomy.
Imaging, musicality, dispersion, and dynamics should be great with little sound coloration and low distortion but should not sound boring. The sound from a great speaker should be natural and lifelike just as the person recording intended.
Speaker driver size Vs Wattage
The Speaker driver size is measured from the diameter of the cone in inches. For consumer speakers, the size can range from as low as 1 inch for the tweeter to as high as 18 inches for subwoofers.
The bigger the driver the higher the SPL (sound pressure level). This is because larger cones can push more air and create more pressure within the enclosure but this will also mean that the cone will encounter movement resistance due to the larger surface area.
What this means is that larger cones need more electromagnetic force and hence more power (wattage) to move back and forth for sound reproduction. On the same note, smaller drivers will require less power for cone displacement but will be more prone to distortion/clipping with an increase in wattage.
However, the amount of power a speaker need will also depend on the quality of the driver and the enclosure design. This is where sensitivity comes in.
Sensitivity is a measure of how efficient a speaker can convert 1 watt of power to sound (decibels) at a distance of 1 meter.
When looking for a speaker it important to look at the sensitivity rating to determine how powerful it is and the larger the number the better.
An example would be 2 speakers of the same size but speaker 1 has a sensitivity rating of 80dB and speaker 2 has a rating of 110dB. Speaker 1 will require more power to reach the same sound pressure level as speaker 2 at a lower wattage (for every 3 decibels you will need to double your wattage).
Room size Vs Speaker size
Bigger speakers have more power, better projection capabilities, and bigger frequency response but depending on the acoustic properties and size of your room, a large speaker may not be the right one for you.
The speaker you buy will also depend on how close you intend to listen to it. Different speaker sizes will produce sound with different wavelengths. If you are too close to a big speaker, you may not appreciate the sound quality and full effect of the speaker but someone that is several meters away will enjoy the quality as he/she will be within the right range for that particular speaker.
For near-field listening, get a small speaker and pair it with a great subwoofer for a wider frequency range and vice versa.
Here are some general size guidelines on which speaker size to use for different room sizes;
- Under 600 ft³- Small speakers/monitors
- 800 ft³ to 1500 ft³- Medium-sized speakers
- 1500 ft³ to 3000 ft³- Large-sized speakers
- Over 3000 ft²- Massive tower speakers
You should also consider your listening habits and how you intend when choosing the right speaker size. Certain speakers will be more suited for certain people.
Acoustic characteristics and points of reflection will also matter when it comes to speaker sizes. If the points of reflection on the ceiling are farther away and have a house that is built with materials that have better acoustic characteristics such as wood and thick carpeting, you may be better off with large speakers.
Always strike a balance between the size of your home theater or media room and how open it is with the right speaker size. Ensure that they properly complement each other for great staging and sonic characteristics.
Does speaker size matter? (final verdict)
Speaker size matters and larger speakers are usually better than smaller speakers. This is because they are more powerful and can push more air efficiently and with more scale, the more the manufacturer has to work with (more flexibility).
But size is not the only factor that drives speaker performance as there is a lot that goes into designing and making a great sounding speaker.
Some smaller speakers can perfume better and have better imaging than some larger speakers and, therefore, you should not base your buying decisions based on the size of the speaker alone. There is a lot to consider including your room’s layout and what you love listening to.