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What Makes a 'Good' Sound?

Posted by Jonny Williams on
What Makes a 'Good' Sound?
Of course, everyone has their own perception of what sounds 'good'. Some people may want lots of bass, and some may just want to have good vocal clarity. You can't please everyone but what you can do is give them options.

When establishing BoomBocs, it was always the number one priority to design the sound first and foremost. There was no way we'd build a speaker that didn't sound any good! We were just lucky our eyes were as good as our ears and so our products ended up looking the business too.

The More Watts the Better, Right?
Pffft, don't be ridiculous! It's a common misconception that the higher the Wattage, the louder and more powerful the speaker is. Sadly, many people take the Wattage value as a reference when to deciding whether the speaker is any good or not. If you believe this to be true, we've got news for you....

It's 2022 and technology is very clever. With advancements such as DSP (read on), the Wattage of a speaker doesn't matter anymore. Perceived "loudness" is a thing, meaning you can use smaller amps that weigh less and don't have to work as hard, so the longevity of the product is sustained.

Speaker Drivers
There are many factors to be considered when designing a sound. You should probably have a good idea of which drivers you want to use at the first instance. The characteristics of your driver(s) play a big part when it comes how the enclosure reacts and how the air is pushed through it.

BoomBocs Portable Speaker Design
Early BoomBocs ACADEMY Sketch

The Enclosure
For us, the biggest, most important cog in the machine is the speaker enclosure and making sure it allows air to flow efficiently. After all, sound is just the vibration of air particles so we need to give them an easy ride in order to deliver our required sound.
BoomBocs Speaker Enclosure Design
BoomBocs ACADEMY Concept Sketch

The enclosure box the speakers and electronics are housed in also contributes a vast amount to the overall sound of the speaker. To ensure the box works in conjunction with speaker movement back and forth, the air-flow must not only be stress-free, but also positively contributory to the desired sound. If when the speakers move, the air behind them does not have somewhere to go, it ends up putting unwanted pressure on the back of the drivers. Not only does this mean the drivers have to work harder, likely resulting in distortion, but the build-up of air pressure in the box causes the enclosure to resonate and create its own sound. This is not what we want as we end up hearing more of the enclosure than we do of the speakers.

How do we overcome air-pressure building by giving it some relief? Read our Blog on Bass-Reflex Porting.

Back to the Drivers...
We are a little different to other manufacturers due to the fact that our drivers are exposed. Does this make them more vulnerable? Potentially, however, we make every effort to ensure they are not at risk of damage whilst maintaining the highest audio quality possible.

BoomBocs Speaker Design
BoomBocs ACADEMY 2-Way Speaker Configuration

For example, in our STUDIO model we opted for aluminium drivers to make them less susceptible to penetration by a foreign object. Does it change the sound? Well, obviously an aluminium driver will sound different to a traditional paper driver. Paper tends to have a much more rounded sound where some of the high frequencies are less prominent. The low end is very full and provides a lot of 'warmth' to the sound. Aluminium is very punchy in the lower region with the high end sounding very clear. There are pros and cons to each but both work well and can be adapted for the application you need them for. We feel the aluminium drivers compliment the sound of STUDIO, giving it an impressive kick drum punch and pristine vocal clarity.

Something else to note is that paper is much more flexible and requires much less power to move. Aluminium is more rigid and requires a more powerful amplifier to move air. This was something we had to incorporate when designing STUDIO to ensure we created the impressive sound we desired. We managed it ;-)

The Power Horse Amplifier
For a portable speaker, there is only one amplifier option and that's a Class-D amp. You need something lightweight and powerful and that's exactly what you get with Class-D.

Yes, it's digital, so what does that mean? Well, it actually doesn't mean much at all and yet it means everything! In this day and age, in order to maintain your audio signal from source (i.e Spotify) to speakers, you want to put it through as few processes as possible. When you stream wirelessly, you're already sending your music digitally so the fact that it's being amplified by something digital means it doesn't need to go through another conversion, losing less information again.

Read our Blog on Digital v Analogue.

Back in the day, amplifiers had valves and huge capacitors. They would take ages to warm up, they were heavy, noisy and they'd often break due to the amount of heat they created. Now that we live in a digital world and everybody's used to a digital sound, we can design much smaller amps, that are light, powerful and dissipate a lot less heat.

BoomBocs Speaker Class-D Amplifier
Hand-wired Circuitry During BoomBocs ACADEMY Development

DSP and Tuning
We touched on this above but now we're going to get into one of the greatest technological advancement in audio history.

Digital Signal Processing is now what we use to make small speakers sound like big speakers. Have you ever listened to a small speaker and thought; wow, where is all that bass coming from? That'll be the DSP working hard behind the scenes.

It's a piece of hardware with associated software, allowing us to manipulate the sonic characteristics of a speaker in order to create a desired sound.

Nowadays, having great speakers, a well-designed enclosure and powerful amp just isn't enough. Add in the DSP and you have all the tuning options you'll ever need.

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