We use a number of input and output devices in our daily lives to connect to the computer. Each of these devices combined creates a system that allows us to send and receive information.
A speaker is one such device that generates sound when connected to the computer or another device.
So, does that make the speaker an input or output device? Read ahead to find out the definition of input and output devices as well the speaker’s role in the framework of a computer system.
What are input and output devices?
The primary function of all input and output devices is to communicate with the computer. An input device works as a bridge between the computer and the user to send information to the system.
Input devices typically convert the user’s input into digital data which is then sent to the computer. A few common examples of input devices are keyboards, microphones, and webcams.
These devices all accept input from the user in various forms (keypresses, sound, images, etc.) and then convert that into digital signals so the computer can process them.
In contrast, output devices receive data from the computer and then convert it into a human-readable form as output. As such, they are incapable of receiving input directly from the user.
Monitors, headphones, and projectors are some perfect examples of output devices as they require data from the computer to generate output.
Depending on the particular type of your device, the generated output could be in the form of texts, images, sound, etc
Is a speaker an input or output device?
Speakers are considered output devices by definition in reference to computer systems. As they receive sound data from the computer in the form of electrical energy and convert it into sound waves via drivers and various working principles to generate audio as output.
We use speakers in our day-to-day lives to generate audio from other devices such as computers, music players, and mobile phones. The role of a speaker is to receive sound data and then convert it into audible sound.
The sound data from the computer is first sent in terms of digital signals. These digital signals then need to be converted to analog signals or electrical energy before they can be outputted as sound waves.
This is done via a digital to analog converter known as a DAC which is put in between the speaker and the computer. When the speaker receives the electrical signal, it then converts that into mechanical wave energy via its drivers.
Upon receiving the electrical signals, the moving-coil drivers convert the analog signals into audible sound waves via principles of electromagnetism.
To sum it all up, the speaker is responsible for receiving audio from the computer or other devices and then produce sound output for the user.
Why is a speaker an output device?
Whether a piece of hardware is considered an input or output device is defined primarily in relation to the computer system.
As we mentioned before, if a device receives input from the user and outputs it as information that the computer can process, it’s considered an input device.
Conversely, output devices can only receive input from the computer and output it to users or other devices.
The role of speakers is to receive audio signals from the computer and then transform it into mechanical wave energy to reproduce the processed data in terms of audible sound.
Unlike other input devices such as microphones, a speaker can’t receive direct input from the user or send data to the computer.
Since speakers can only accept input from the computer and output it in a human-comprehensible form, it by definition is an output device in relation to the computer system as a whole.
What is a transducer? Are speakers and microphones transducers?
A device that is used to convert one form of energy to another is called a transducer.
Since speakers and microphones convert electrical energy into mechanical wave energy and sound waves to electrical signals respectively, they essentially act as transducers.
Although a speaker is made out of several different components, the transducer is the key element of the entire device.
It’s in charge of receiving the audio signal as electrical energy and turning it into mechanical wave energy using various working principles to turn the AC waves into diaphragm movement to produce sound.
Alternatively, a microphone works the exact opposite way. The microphone uses its drivers to convert the sound input into audio signals for the computer to process.
This is why speakers and microphones are considered transducers as they both convert one form of energy to another.
What are the input and output of a speaker?
So far, we’ve explained why speakers are output devices in relation to computer systems. However, if we consider the speaker as our reference point, we can see that it comes with both an input and an output.
We’ve outlined the separate inputs and outputs of a speaker below to give you a better idea:
The speaker receives input in terms of audio signals in the form of electrical energy. These audio signals are transmitted via the different input connectors that come with the speakers.
They can range from a single female TR jack to separate RCA or XLR jacks. Some speakers are also capable of receiving input wirelessly.
The output of a speaker is the sound it produces in the form of mechanical wave energy. After the inputted audio signals are converted to sound waves, it is then reproduced by the dynamic drivers so users can hear.
What are the examples of output devices?
Any piece of hardware equipment that converts information from the computer into a human-readable form is considered an output device.
There are several output devices that you can use with computers. We’ve prepared a list of some common output devices as examples below:
A monitor receives data from the computer and displays that information in the form of texts, images, and videos to a user.
Printers receive information from the computer, and which is then converted to text and graphics output on a piece of paper.
Similar to a monitor, a projector takes data from the computer and projects it onto a surface or screen as images, texts, or videos.
Headphones convert the audio signal it receives from the computer to transform it into waves for audible sound.
Is a microphone an input or output device?
As we mentioned previously, a microphone receives sound waves as input and then converts that to audio signals which are then sent to the computer. So, the microphone by definition is an input device in reference to the computer.
Unlike speakers, microphones are unable to convert electrical signals into acoustic waves and cannot be used for output.
Are headphones an input or output device?
Similar to speakers, headphones are also primarily considered output devices. However, headsets that include both mics and headphones are considered both input and output devices since they serve two functions.
Headphones without mics can only receive a signal from the computer and convert it into sound using its drivers while headphones with mics can both receive and send audio signals to the computer at the same time.
Is a speaker internal or external?
You can find speakers in various shapes and sizes. Depending on your computer setup, it’s possible to have either internal or external speakers or both.
The in-built speaker on your motherboard is what’s primarily referred to as an internal speaker. It’s a very basic form of speaker that can mostly create monotone beeping noises.
On the other hand, external speakers can be connected to the computer separately to generate and amplify audio.
When connected to a computer, a speaker can only output the information sent in terms of sound. In summary, it is considered an output device because it receives audio signals in the form of electrical energy and then converts them into acoustic waves to produce sound as output.
Note that the input and output device definitions here are primarily determined in reference to the computer system and not the device itself.