Audio Transducers are very much in a sense the basic ingredient in almost all speaker design, and have been for 85 years. The first examples of amplified sound were created by very large ( 10 lbs. ) Magnet and voice coil assemblies attached not to speaker cones as we see them today, but to veneered panels overlaid in fabric and trim that in turn were set into large wood cabinets containing a radio set and a 200 + watt amplifier.
By the late twenties, large corrugated cardboard cones laminated with varnish had replaced the solid panels, not because they sounded better; on the contrary, the older, all wood cabinets had a much richer tone and since the entire cabinet helped augment the sound, everyone standing around the set felt like they were "right there". What set solid "transducering" on the sidelines was the rush to develop a more efficient diaphragm material to work with the smaller, less power hungry magnet structures being then developed by RCA Victor Corp., an upstart in the industry at the time. Unlike countless music fans who turned to large, console stereo furniture in the sixties, thru 1911 to 1931, wealthy individuals and Town Halls were about the only places that could afford the big, floor standing radios.
The breakthrough in speaker design came to be almost simultaneously with the start of the Depression. By using thin, cloth impregnated cardboard suspended across a ridged form, RCA Victor Corp. was able to cut amplifier size 90% to 20 watts. This meant that cabinet size could shrink accordingly; and subsequently also the price. From an average cost of $200.00 in 1925 for a floor model down to $15 to $20.00 in 1932 for a table radio that almost everyone could afford.
Together, the seriousness of the times and the popularity of radio as an escape, cemented what was once considered a frivolous indulgence into a national craze. Everyone was listening to smaller, less expensive radios, so for the big, very expensive tube amplifier radios, and the heavy transducers they used, both progress and the Depression helped pull out the plug.
As America's love affair with music and radio grew, Jukeboxes made their appearance on the scene around 1947, because they were out of necessity quite large, back came the big drivers; only this time they didn't need quite as much power. WW II and Korean Veteran radio operators came home from the wars and created the first ground swell of "Hi-fi" by using their skills and knowledge gained in the war to create the first Monaural Hi-fi systems. And in order to get the realism and effect they wanted, of course bigger was better!