History of the Loudspeaker

Keaton Robbins | August 14, 2020

A group of subwoofer speakers

Loudspeakers have proven to be a staple in the world in many ways. They’re used at all kinds of sporting events including football games, cheerleader meets, and just about any place where a voice needs to be heard over a lot of other noise. Here’s a look at the history of the loudspeaker.

In this article

  1. The First Loudspeakers
  2. Moving Coil Drivers
  3. Direct Radiator
  4. Ribbon Loudspeakers
  5. The Duplex Driver
  6. Do You Love Learning About Audio History?

Sign Up for Free Today

Find the perfect voice for your job today, or sign up as a talent to start booking voice over work on Voices.

Sign Up for Free

The First Loudspeakers

In 1877, Ernst Siemens released a more advanced version of an electric loudspeaker after Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, had patented a similar invention in 1876. At the same time, both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were experimenting with similar devices. Edison received a British patent while Tesla did not. In 1898, Horace Short developed a mechanism for amplifying sound using compressed air and he sold the rights to Charles Parsons. Record companies then began selling record players that used loudspeakers with this system.

Moving Coil Drivers

In 1898, Oliver Lodge developed a system of moving-coil drivers and later, Peter L. Jensen established a practical application for them, but the pair was denied patents so they couldn’t sell their invention to record companies. In 1915 they decided to develop their own company, Magnavox, and it became successful.

Direct Radiator

In 1924, Chester W. Rice and Edward W. Kellogg patented something called a direct radiator, which used moving coil drivers. They were able to adjust the properties of the coils until they lowered the frequency at which the cone began to replicate noise. Sometime around this period, Walter H. Schottky developed the very first ribbon loudspeaker that used diodes.

Ribbon Loudspeakers

Ribbon loudspeakers used electromagnets to energize coils. The energy then went through these coils into a second pair of connections to the driver in the system. This worked as a power supply and amplifier for the loudspeaker. Then, in the 1930s, loudspeakers began to combine drivers in order to make the sound amplification better. In 1937, the “Shearer Horn System for Theatres” was introduced to the film industry by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The system was invented by James Bullough Lansing, John Kenneth Hilliard, and Douglas Shearer. A system was even mounted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, this one designed by Rudy Bozak, who worked for Cinaudagraph.

The Duplex Driver

In 1943, Altec introduced their Duplex driver, which dramatically improved sound quality and performance. Their Voice of the Theatre hit the market in 1945, and it was immediately tested by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. By 1955, it was the industry standard. Since then, there have been many improvements to both sound quality and strength, which is why loudspeakers are still in use today.

Do You Love Learning About Audio History?

You may also love learning about the history of the recorded voice, and the history of the compact disc!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Avatar for mac
    August 4, 2019, 7:52 pm

    that did not help

  • Avatar for Prabhakar V
    Prabhakar V
    March 22, 2024, 2:07 pm

    Very useful and interesting information. Thank you