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HQ 963006

May 3, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963006 gah

TARIFF NO.: 8518.29.80

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
1000 Second Avenue, Suite 2100
Seattle, Washington 98104

RE: Annunciator (back-up alarm) speakers

Dear Port Director:

This is in reply to your request, dated March 26, 1999, for internal advice on the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of a speaker imported by Electronic Controls Company (ECCO). Our decision includes consideration of submissions made by counsel for ECCO dated March 10, November 2 and 19, and December 22, 1999, and January 27 and April 4, 2000, as well as consideration of points made at a meeting with counsel and the importer on December 16, 1999.


The merchandise is an enclosed speaker for a back-up alarm or an annunciator, used to produce a warning signal that sounds when vehicles used in industrial settings are geared or traveling in reverse. In HQ 951798, dated August 7, 1992, Customs classified the same ECCO speaker in subheading 8518.29.00, HTSUS, as a loudspeaker. In NY 818470, dated March 1, 1996, Customs classified what was termed an ECCO annunciator, described as the noise-producing component of a back-up alarm in current subheading 8531.80.9040, HTSUS, as electric sound signalling apparatus. After inspection, your office has described the merchandise as the speaker portion of the annunciator classified in NY 818470. As a result, you seek clarification of which ruling is controlling for classification of the merchandise.

Counsel has provided samples and a schematic drawing of the speaker. It includes a metal basket, about two inches in diameter at the open end of the speaker where the sound is emitted. The open end shows the phonemic cone, the concave side visible from the outside of the assembly. The sides show the enclosed metal basket, also concave, in which the cone sits, and the terminals for the battery connection. The other end of the assembly, the base, contains a magnet, surrounded by top and bottom plates. Inside the assembly, a coil wound around an extension on the back of the phenolic cone connects the cone to the terminals where the electricity comes in.

After importation, the speaker is assembled with a circuit board (including an oscillator) into a plastic and metal housing. This forms the complete back-up alarm.


Is the annunciator speaker classified in heading 8518, HTSUS, which provides for microphones...loudspeakers, whether or not mounted in their enclosures; headphones, earphones and combined microphones/speaker sets; audio-frequency electric amplifiers; electric sound amplifier sets, or in heading 8531, HTSUS, which provides for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 FR 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

Heading 8518 provides for, in pertinent part, loudspeakers, whether or not mounted in their enclosures. The EN for the heading indicates that loudspeakers function by converting electrical variations or oscillations into mechanical vibrations which are then reproduced as sound and communicated to the air. It further states that the heading covers loudspeakers of all kinds presented separately, regardless of the particular purpose for which such apparatus may be designed.

Heading 8531 provides for, in pertinent part, electric sound signalling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens... burglar... alarms), other than those of heading 8512.... The EN for the heading indicates that electric sound signalling apparatus, horns, sirens etc. produce sound either by a vibrating reed or by a rotating disc set in motion electrically. Note 2 to section XVI, HTSUS, sets forth the classification for parts of apparatus. Subsection (a) states that parts which are goods included in any of the headings of chapter...85 are in all cases to be classified in their respective headings. Thus, at GRI 1, if the speakers at issue are specifically described as loudspeakers, they are classified within heading 8518 rather than as parts of a larger apparatus, such as those captured by heading 8512 or 8531.

Counsel for ECCO explains that an annunciator operates in the following manner. A timer chip in the alarm produces a square wave of constant frequency that turns on and off a power transistor at a constant frequency. The sound wave causes the speaker diaphragm to vibrate at a constant frequency that produces a single audible tone. The timer chip and buffer transistor form the circuitry which attaches to the speaker. The timer and transistor are not imported with the speaker assembly.

Counsel claims that loudspeakers are designed for audio reproduction of sounds that functionally involve a wide range of frequencies. The ECCO speaker, on the other hand, is unworkable for use as a loudspeaker. ECCO provides test results on the speaker and support data from an independent laboratory. The test results indicate that the ECCO speaker tested at 90 decibels has a frequency range of 1250 to 1600 Hz with a variation of plus or minus 6 decibels. Speech communication contains useful information in the frequency range of 300 Hz to 3000 Hz, which is the typical bandwidth for communications speakers. Audio loudspeakers require much larger bandwidth, or frequency range, than communications speakers, but may accomplish such range with two or more speakers.

As noted above, the EN to heading 8518 indicates that the scope of the term loudspeakers includes any speaker that functions by creating vibrations from electrical variations, reproducing them as sound and communicating them to the air. The ECCO speaker is a typical moving coil speaker that functions in this manner. The test results indicate that they do reproduce sounds of a particular range and communicate them to the air. Further, the term includes speakers regardless of the particular purpose for which such apparatus may be designed. Clearly, the scope of the term loudspeaker thus includes speakers for back-up alarms.

In fact, industry sources indicate that audio speakers often contain two or three speakers, woofers and tweeters, each designated to cover a particular and limited range of frequencies. Thus, the commercial definition of loudspeakers includes those designed to pick up only a specific range, rather than the full range of speech or music sounds.

Finally, counsel claims that the speaker’s peak response is achieved by enclosing the metal basket structure behind the moving cone diaphragm. All speakers, regardless of end use, are enclosed to prevent sound in one part of the speaker from interfering with the sound from another part. The metal enclosure of the speaker does not change the speaker’s frequency capabilities in any significant manner. The speaker still reproduces sound within a narrow range of frequencies.

The holding in HQ 951798 remains controlling over the classification of the instant speakers. NY 818470 covers two articles, neither of which is the speaker at issue here.


The back-up alarm speaker is classified in subheading 8518.29.80, HTSUS, which provides for loudspeakers, whether or not mounted in their enclosures; other; other.


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