Alnico vs. Ceramic Speakers

ince I offer some amps with Alnico Speakers and some Ceramic Speakers with many of my amps I thought I would provide a brief article on the differences between the two. In general I offer amps stock with the magnet type that would have originally came with a vintage model unless I have a strong preference for the other type of speaker in that model.

What is Ceramic and Alnico?

They are both materials used to make magnets. Alnico is made from rare earth metals (Aluminum, Nickel and  Cobalt) hence the name which is simply their respective abbreviations on the periodic table of elements. As the name suggests rare earth metal are rare thus they cost much more.  Initially all magnets on speakers were Alnico until Ceramic Magnets where invented.  Ceramic magnets are made of Strontium Ferrite which a much cheaper and more abundant material.

Tonal/Physical  Differences:

Ceramic speakers are heavier because their magnet must be heavier to achieve the same power (all other thing equal).

Alnico speakers compress at high volumes; ceramics do not

Alnico speaker breakup quicker that ceramic (I.E. ceramic speaker have more headroom)

Ceramic speakers tend to have smoother breakup

Alnico speaker sound warmer  and slightly darker. Ceramic tend to be brighter but not as warm

Ceramic speakers are less expensive. This is especially true for speaker designs with larger magnets

So which is best?

Both are good and have their applications.  It’s really up to the listener which one they prefer. If bright, clean, and punchy are the tones you want go Ceramic. If warm, detailed, and easy breakup sounds better to you try Alnico.