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Glossary of Speaker Terms

This page presents some of the more popular terms used to describe the performance of a loudspeaker in a musical instrument amplifier. While some are standard terms used in the design and manufacture of loudspeakers, the rest are subjective terms traditionally used by musicians to describe the overall sound of a particular loudspeaker and are generally related to its frequency response and its inherent anomalies that occur at high volumes. Have a speaker term you want to add or see explained here? Please Write Us

  • Aggressive

    This speaker is much more aggressive than the one it replaced.


    A speaker is said to be aggressive when it exhibits a sharp, or snappy response to pick attack, etc. Usually indicative of a lightweight, low mass cone structure and a large magnet. In the time domain, such a quick response to pick attack would normally be accompanied by overall brightness in the speaker, but careful design and selection of the cone, dustcap, etc. may be employed to avoid an accentuated top end.

  • AlNiCo Magnet

    I prefer AlNiCo magnet speakers over Ceramic magnet speakers.


    AlNiCo is a type of alloy (mixture of several metals) magnet which was used extensively in loudspeakers between 1930 and 1960. The price of cobalt (the 'Co' in AlNiCo) began to skyrocket, so the industry was forced to develop other types of magnets. Powdered ferrite magnets were developed using the ceramic process and subsequently became the standard magnet for loudspeakers. Oddly enough, AlNiCo magnets are still the most widely used magnets in the world, being employed in everything from weapons systems to analog meter movements, to debris separator grates in manufacturing processes. The unique properties of AlNiCo magnets which make them desirable for musical instrument speakers are discussed on our Let's Talk Speakers Q & A page.

  • Attack

    This speaker has excellent attack.


    Similar to aggressive, attack has to do with how quickly the speaker reacts to the input signal commanding it to move. Accuracy is also very important, because if the cone moves too quickly it will overshoot or move farther than it is supposed to, then retreat, then move back out. The result is what is called ringing and can cause the note to sound overdone, or clicky. The challenge to the speaker builder is to design a system that will respond adequately to these quick attack notes (such as single note picking leads), while designing in adequate system damping to control the ringing.