Sensitivity - What Does it Mean?

When mixing different speakers, their sensitivity level influences tone. Here's what you need to know...

December 5, 2011

Sensitivity, measured in decibels or dB, is the figure we use to measure the overall "loudness" of a speaker. With 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 sensitivity (sometimes also referred to as SPL.)

So, for example if you listen to a 96dB speaker together with a 100dB speaker, 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 around 2dB, it will hardly be noticeable at all. 

It's debatable how significant the sensitivity difference of mixed speakers really makes the 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...
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