Have you ever cupped your hands to your mouth when yelling to a friend? If so, you've naturally created a megaphone to funnel sound to your friend's ears. Sound naturally moves out in all directions from its source, which is why you can hear people talking to your side. As the sound travels, it loses force. Those closest to you hear you loud and clear. Those further away will hear less. But sometimes you want to direct the sound ahead of you a longer distance and that's where the megaphone comes in.
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A megaphone is essentially just another method of cupped hands. Because the megaphone is so much longer, it funnels the sound even further out before the sound starts to dissipate. A long megaphone, like the kind used by cheerleaders, is able to project the sound a greater distance than just cupping your hands around your mouth. People far away can hear what is being said. However, those close by, but to the side of the speaker, will not hear what is being said as well. This happens because the sound is not allowed to travel in all directions as it would do normally.
Powered Megaphones or Bullhorns
The modern megaphone is often called a bullhorn and is an important tool in crowd control. Cheaper than a public address system, a bullhorn can still be heard several hundred of feet away. Bullhorns have a distinctive bell shape and include a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeaker. The longer the bell, the further the loudspeaker is able to project sound. Battery-powered bullhorns come in a range of 5 to 50 watts. Even the smaller bullhorns can be heard at a distance, but one factor to consider is the types and size of batteries. An inexpensive bullhorn is no bargain if it runs through batteries quickly.