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Short for piezoelectricity or piezoelectric effect. Piezoelectricity is an electric charge that occurs in some substances when they are squeezed or otherwise subjected to mechanical stress. It is also possible to cause these materials to vibrate when a voltage is applied to them. Quartz is one of the better known piezoelectric materials, and is commonly fabricated into small pieces, called “crystals” that are used for frequency standards. A crystal of specific size and shape will vibrate at a predictable and very stable rate when a voltage is applied. This makes them ideal for use in things like watches or clocks for digital audio equipment. Piezoelectric elements have also been used various types of transducers such as phonograph cartridges, microphones and loudspeakers. Piezo microphones can be quite small and still have relatively high output at a low cost; however, their less than ideal frequency response prohibits use in critical applications. Piezo loudspeakers usually come in the form of tweeters, or very high frequency elements. They generally have very low distortion in the 5 kHz and above range, but haven’t widely been used in sound reinforcement due in part to their relatively low output levels. It takes dozens of the average piezo tweeter to equal the output of one medium-sized compression driver.

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