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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Monitor Speakers

6. Terminology

We’ll now take a closer look at some of the terminology used surrounding monitor speaker specifications:

Power Rating

This is the measurement which people often get a bit over-excited by and is also the figure which is most frequently misinterpreted. The power rating alone doesn’t tell you how loud your speakers will go - other specifications such as the sensitivity and impedance of a speaker all make a difference to the actual volume that it can achieve, not to mention how liberal the manufacturer is with their specifications! The power rating is measured in Watts and can be described as ‘RMS’, ‘program’ or ‘peak power’. As mentioned in the text above, it is now most common to match the RMS rating of an amplifier with the program rating of a speaker. Peak power can have so many different meanings that it is best avoided altogether.

Frequency Response

Frequency response is a measurement of the range of frequencies a speaker can reproduce. Although there are a multitude of theories concerning the range of human hearing, it is most commonly defined as ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz (20kHz). Most modern speakers extend up to 20kHz at the top end, but smaller enclosures can find it difficult to reproduce lower frequencies, with many ‘cutting off’ at around 60Hz. These frequencies are particularly important to producers of some genres of music, dance in particular, and anyone involved in mastering should have speakers capable of reproducing these frequencies. Those with smaller monitors may want to supplement the low frequency response of their near-fields with a separate subwoofer. As with all specifications, the devil is in the detail, and it’s important to compare like with like. The most common definition of the upper and lower limits of frequency response are the points where it starts to drop by 3dB or more – figures without a definition of the ‘cutoff’ point are meaningless!

Bi-Amping / Tri-Amping

This is an amplification method using multiple amplifiers connected to a speaker cabinet in such a way that individual amps drive individual speakers - this means that the crossover is placed before the amplifier stage rather than after. Active speakers use this system by default, but passive speakers can be driven with multiple external amps and active crossovers in this manner, and this is the method typically used with larger monitoring setups. Bi-amping describes a 2-way system, tri-amping a 3-way and so on.

Cutoff Frequency

Speakers that feature a high pass filter or low pass filter will usually either have a pre-determined cutoff frequency, or have a choice of two or three user-defined selections. These filters are used to adjust the speaker’s frequency range to suit different room acoustics, or to raise the low-end cutoff when used with a subwoofer in a 2.1 or surround-sound setup.

Crossover Frequency

Woofers are designed to reproduce bass frequencies, whereas tweeters are specifically for high frequencies - a crossover is therefore required to send the relevant frequencies to the separate drivers. The crossover frequency is the frequency at which the audio signal is divided.

Impedance

Measured in Ohms, impedance is the combination of the electrical resistance of a speaker and its ‘reactance’. This figure is not as important as it once was due to the prevalence of powered and active designs, but is vital when matching amps and speakers, particularly when connecting a number of speakers together such as in a PA system. Most single speakers are now rated at either 4 or 8 Ohms, and most modern amplifiers are capable of driving a variety of different impedances.

SPL

The term SPL is an abbreviation of ‘Sound Pressure Level’, and as with power rating it is a measurement that can be confusing as it is commonly presented in several different ways. The basic measurement involves playing a sine wave through the monitor with an SPL meter positioned at a set distance - usually one metre. As all manufacturers measure this specification differently though in terms of how long the measurement is taken over, at what frequency and at what level of acceptable distortion, it is very difficult to use this figure for accurate comparison. There currently being no industry standard, manufacturers often use this vagueness to their advantage, calculating impressive ‘on spec sheet’ results, with some even providing purely theoretical figures based on the speaker’s design characteristics.

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Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
  2. Participation

    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
    2. To take part in the competition you must answer all questions correctly, fill in the registration form and submit your entry to Thomann GmbH by pressing the "send" button.
      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
  3. Qualifying Entrants

    1. Staff of Thomann GmbH and any cooperation partners and their dependants are excluded from participation.
    2. Should these conditions of participation be violated, especially by using illegitimate means, Thomann GmbH reserves the right to exclude persons from the competition. In case of such violations prizes can be withdrawn and claimed back subsequently.
  4. Announcing the winner

    1. The winners will be notified by Thomann GmbH by email or in writing and their names may be published on the homepage www.thomann.de. The winner accepts this form of publication explicitly.
      Should for whatever reason the winner not claim their prize, then a new winner will be drawn.
    2. The prize presented to the winner may not be identical to the item description. There can be deviances regarding the model, colour etc.
    3. The merchandise prizes will be sent by Thomann GmbH or by one of its contracting delivery companies, per freight forwarder, courier or postal service to the postal address indicated by the winner.

      The delivery is free of charge. Only extra transport costs and customs/duties must be covered by the winner. In the case that the delivery has to be made through a freight forwarding company the freight forwarding company will contact the winner to arrange delivery timings.
    4. An exchange, cash alternative or replacement prize is not possible.
    5. The claim to the prize or replacement of the prize cannot be assigned to a third party.
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    1. The participant accepts explicitly that Thomann GmbH saves all necessary data for the duration of the competition and forwards them exclusively for purposes related to the winning process to the respective cooperation partner, who is also permitted to save the personal data only for the duration of the competition. The participant is free to withdraw his entry at any time. Please direct the withdrawal to:

      Thomann GmbH
      to the data protection officer
      Hans-Thomann-Straße 1
      96138 Burgebrach, Germany
    2. Thomann GmbH is obliged to consider the regulations for data protection according to the Federal Data Protection Law (BDSG) valid at the conclusion of the competition. In this context the general data protection regulations under notes regarding data protection should be noted.
  6. Liability

    1. Thomann GmbH will be released from any obligations by handing out the prize.
    2. Thomann GmbH is not liable for the insolvency of a cooperation partner and the resulting consequences for the implementation and processing of the competition.
  7. Other

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