Generally speaking there are four ways to make a speaker louder:
- Boost the input signal
- Funnel the speaker’s sound towards our ears (to lose less of the sound)
- Add more speakers
- Buy new speakers
The reality is that all speakers have a physical limit on how loud they can get, and they can reach that limit by maximizing the intensity of the input signal. Once we do that, however, we can really only trick our ears into thinking that the speaker is louder.
After that we’ll need to buy more gear.
So let’s go through each of these options and see how to make your speaker louder.
Speakers Have Limits On Loudness
All speakers work in the same basic way. You have an input signal that comes from a iPod, phone, TV or CD, then you may have a handful of devices that manipulate that signal, and finally the signal gets passed to the speaker.
This signal is electrical and can be made to be stronger or weaker. As you make an input signal stronger it causes the speaker to play louder.
However, every speaker has a wattage rating, which is basically a measure of how strong of an electrical signal the speaker can handle before it physically breaks the speaker.
The speaker magnet
The electrical signal that gets sent to a speaker needs to get converted into physical vibrations. It does this by running the signal through a coil which then emits a magnetic field.
There is a magnet in the shape of a ring around the coil emitting the magnetic field. The magnet vibrates because of the magnetic field. The intensity of that vibration is based on the the intensity of the magnetic field, and the intensity of the magnetic field is based on the strength of the electrical input signal.
If the magnetic field is too strong, then the magnet will vibrate to a point that the speaker physically breaks.
This is why you can’t simply increase the strength of the electrical input signal and expect the speaker to get louder indefinitely. It will get louder, but eventually it will break, and there’s no way (without opening up the speaker itself) to increase that limit.
1. Boost the Input Signal
Now you understand that every speaker has a physical limit on how loud it can be. Now let’s first discuss how we can get a speaker to reach that physical limit by boosting the input signal you send to it.
Just remember that a signal that is too strong will break/blow the speaker making it useless.
Preamps and power amps
A pretty traditional path of an electrical signal is from the signal device (iPod for example) to a preamp then into a power amp and finally into the speaker.
A preamp and power amp work together to bring the electrical signal from your iPod to a level that can create a magnetic field strong enough to make the speaker magnet work. If you plugged your iPod straight into the speaker, the signal would be very weak. So you use amplifiers to make the signal stronger to the point where the speaker works.
If your speaker isn’t reaching it’s full volume potential, then you can amplify the signal to that speaker with an amplifier.
But keep in mind that many speakers come with amplifiers built into them, and if you boost a signal too much, you can blow your speaker (signal too strong, magnetic field too strong, magnet vibrates too intensely and physically breaks your speaker).
So while yes, you can push the limits of a speaker by amplifying the signal you send to it, this may not be wise, because you can also break your speaker.
Many speakers today get their input signals via bluetooth. The bluetooth receiver is built into the speaker, which removes the opportunity to amplify that signal with a power amp. Or does it?
You may notice that when you connect to a bluetooth speaker with your phone, you can adjust the volume on that speaker by adjusting the volume on your phone. You can then further adjust the volume by changing the volume on the speaker itself.
So you do have some control over the strength of the input signal before it actually hits the bluetooth receiver.
I have never tried this, so I’m not sure how well it would (or wouldn’t) work, but you could presumably connect you phone to a bluetooth signal amplifier.
Watching this video it’s clear that a bluetooth signal amplifier can extend the range that a device like your phone could connect to a bluetooth speaker. But I’d be willing to bet that a device like this could also increase the intensity of the bluetooth signal, which would make the speaker louder.
2. Make the Speaker Sound Louder Without Increasing Volume
There is a maximum volume that any given speaker can reach, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our ears believe that the speaker is louder.
Think about it. If you turn away from someone and speak to them, it will sound softer. And if you turn towards them and cup your hands to funnel the sound of your voice towards them, it will sound louder.
We have a few tricks like this that we can use with speakers that make them sound louder without actually being louder.
This is the low hanging fruit, but still it’s worth mentioning. A speaker sounds louder the closer you are to it. That’s why earbuds can sound super loud when you put them in your ear, but then you might not even hear anything when you take them out.
One way to make a speaker sound louder is just to get it closer to you. This could mean propping it up on something to get it off the ground or it could just mean physically moving the speaker closer.
Funnel the sound
The sound coming out of a speaker gets spread out in all directions. Your ears are only in one direction. If you can funnel more of the sound in the direction of your ears, then the speaker will sound louder.
There are many ways to do this, but here are a few ideas.
A literal funnel on the speaker or your ear
Cup your hand and put it behind your ear, then look towards your speaker. I guarantee you it will sound louder.
Because your hand is catching some of the sound from the speaker and funneling it to your ear. This is sound that would normally just pass by your ear.
That’s all this method is really doing. It’s funneling some of the sound from the speaker that would normally pass by (or get sent in a different direction) and actually getting to you.
So the other side of that is funneling the sound leaving the speaker and sending it towards the listener. You could build something around the speaker in the shape of a “V” or you could use the next trick.
Set the speaker in the corner or against a wall
This is the same idea. If you set a speaker in the middle of a room the sound will go out in all directions, 360 degrees. But if you sit a speaker in the corner of a room, the sound that would normally be sent behind the speaker will bounce of the wall and get sent back out into the room.
This means that more of the sound makes it to your ears.
Another method that works (albeit not quite as well) is to back the speaker up against a wall. Same thing. Some of the sound that would normally get sent behind the speaker bounces of the wall and gets sent back in front of the speaker.
Put a bassy speaker on the floor
If your speaker puts out good bass you can get these bassy vibrations in your floor boards which actually can make it sound louder.
Now I wouldn’t recommend this for a carpeted room, because the carpet will absorb the sound rather than perpetuate it. But for any hard floor (wood or concrete for example) this trick should work great.
3. Add Another Speaker
The reality is there’s not a ton you can do to really make a speaker louder. Like we discussed, every speaker has a physical limit, and you can increase the input signal to the point where the speaker reaches its limit, but if we go any further then the speaker will break.
We can also make the speaker sound louder by funneling the sound that normally gets lost toward our ears. But beyond this, there’s really nothing we can do short of opening up the speaker and replacing parts.
Two speakers is always louder than one
But there’s another characteristic of sound that we can manipulate. When you go to a sporting event in a stadium and scream for your team, the players on the field won’t hear you. But if you get 10,000 other people to scream at the same time then the sound can be deafening.
We can actually double the loudness of a speaker by adding another speaker playing the exact same song at the exactly same volume.
Two speakers playing at a certain volume are twice as loud as one speaker playing at that volume.
And in fact we can take this even further by adding more speakers still. Three speakers is three times as loud, four speakers is four times as loud and so on.
Keep in mind that not all speakers are made to play together. If you plan to use this approach you’ll want to get a speaker with an input and output line so you can connect it to your current speaker setup.
4. Buy a New Speaker
We’ve been over this several times now, but not all speakers are created equal. Some speakers are just louder than others. If you’re willing to spend some money, you can get some seriously loud speakers.
I wrote a pretty extensively researched article about the loudest speakers you can find on Amazon, and there are several speakers for under $150 that will reach over 100 decibels at their maximum volume.
And for the right price, you can get speakers that reach over 120 decibels that will also sync together to create eardrum breaking levels of volume (I wouldn’t recommend this haha).
Regardless, probably the safest way to make your speakers louder is to just buy louder speakers (or you can try some of the speaker positioning tricks).
As we’ve seen, the reality is that it’s not always possible to make a speaker any louder than it already is. Basically our choices are boosting the input signal, funneling the speakers sound, adding more speakers or buying new speakers.
Funneling sound is really the only free option, so if you’re not willing to spend a little money then you’ll basically be looking for ways to position your speaker or funnel it’s sound to maximize its current output.