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Bullhorns and Megaphones: What’s the Difference?

Megaphones and bullhorns concept. A vintage, wooden megaphone is compared to a current-day bullhorn, with the tagline, "The Evolution of Megaphone to Bullhorn. Then & Now."

Maybe you’ve already been using bullhorns and megaphones for a while, or perhaps this is the first time you’re looking to purchase. Either way, you may have wondered: is there a difference between the two? And does that mean you’ve been looking at the wrong products? Learn more about what each term really means, its history, and the models that we recommend.

Is There Really a Difference?

Technically, yes. 

Megaphones came first. These are defined as horn- or cone-shaped tubes that make sound audible over greater-than-normal distances. Bullhorns are actually a type of megaphone, but are defined as those that project sound electronically

It’s that simple.

That being said, most people use these terms interchangeably today, to the point that distinguishing them isn’t so important when you decide to go shopping. You can use either term and still find the products you’re looking for, without having to worry about ending up with a simple plastic tube you could have easily fashioned yourself. Not that there’s anything wrong with traditional megaphones — they share a long history with the Olympics and cheerleading, after all.

How Long Have Bullhorns and Megaphones Been Around?

You might think the 1908 Olympics were a long time ago, but megaphones have arguably been in use for far longer. According to Acoustical Engineer, Native Americans and the ancient Greeks both used versions of “speaking horns” to communicate with large crowds and during theater performances, respectively.

By comparison, bullhorns are still babies, having only been around since the 1950s after the development of microelectronics.

How Do Bullhorns and Megaphones Work?

Bullhorns and megaphones depend on the concepts of directivity and acoustic impedance. Again, Acoustical Engineer offers the best summary of each: directivity measures “how much sound energy goes in what direction,” while acoustic impedance measures the amount of resistance that sound encounters as it crosses different forms of matter. For example, when you speak, the sound from your vocal cords encounters acoustic impedance from the air as it leaves your mouth — so much so that some of that sound is even reflected backwards.

Megaphones ease this transition so that more sound is able to pass from you into the air, allowing it to be audible farther away.

Bullhorns operate on the same principles, but offer expanded range thanks to electronic components like microphones and amplified speakers. Most bullhorns are handheld units, although some get large enough that they require these components to be separated. The THUN-1200, for example, is designed to be carried with a shoulder strap, while allowing users to communicate through a corded microphone similar to those you see on mobile two-way radios.

What Are the Best Options?

Below, you’ll find a full breakdown of each of the bullhorns that ThunderPower currently offers, including their ranges and the industries or activities that benefit from them the most. As of this blog post, all of our units are also on sale!

THUN-150. Operating at 15 watts, this bullhorn can project sound up to 600 yards. It requires eight (8) AA batteries, and is ideal for teachers, parade operators, event organizers, tour groups, sporting events, and cheerleading.

THUN-120. Similar to the THUN-150, this unit also operates at 15 watts and takes eight (8) AAs, but increases its maximum range to 800 yards. This comes in handy for coaching and cheerleading, as well as theater productions, school and university crowd control, parades, fairs, and farmers’ markets.

THUN-250. This bullhorn offers 25 watts of power, reaches up to 1200 yards, and requires six (6) C batteries. It’s designed to work best for teachers, coaches, demonstrators, law enforcement, and preachers.

THUN-450. Eight (8) C batteries gives this model 35 watts of power and a range of up to 1400 yards, which is perfect for political rallies, outdoor festivals, religious congregations, and sporting events.

THUN-1200. Commonly referred to as “The Earthquake Maker,” this is the loudest and biggest bullhorn we carry. It packs a punch at 45 watts, giving you a range of up to 2000 yards, and only requires eight (8) C batteries. This model is ideal for military training, law enforcement, firefighters, security professionals, and mass gatherings.

Are You Ready To Buy Your Next Bullhorns or Megaphones?

It doesn’t matter what you call them, it only matters that you’re heard. If you have any questions about the information above or the megaphones and bullhorns that we offer, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 877-782-7073. Our experts are ready to help you find the best models to fit your needs.