Sensitivity – What Does it Mean?

Sensitivity, measured in decibels or dB, is the figure we use to measure the comparative “loudness” of a speaker. Using an input signal of one-watt, we measure the output signal from the speaker at a distance of one metre. For a 12″ guitar speaker this commonly gives us a value of between 96 and100dB. This is what we refer to as the sensitivity.

For example if you listen to a 96dB speaker together with a 100dB speaker at the same output level, the speaker with the lower value will sound quieter. The closer the two values are, the less noticeable that difference will be. For a difference less than 2dB, it will hardly be noticeable at all.

When mixing speakers, it’s debatable how significant the sensitivity difference is to the overall sound. Some say a big difference produces an “uneven” sound. Others suggest that the complementary tones of mixed speakers outweighs any problem with unmatched sensitivity levels.

At Celestion we would advise mixing together speakers with a sensitivity difference of no greater than 3dB. We believe this minimise the likelihood of hearing significant differences in loudness, while enabling you to get the full benefit of each speaker’s characteristics.

In the end it’s down to personal choice and the best thing to do is take notice of what your ears tell you!