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Clean vs Dirty Power – Car Audio Talk

clean vs dirty power

Clean vs Dirty Power – Car Audio Talk

Matthew Allen Clark administrator of Real Car Audio Help on Facebook
Last night I was doing some research and came across an forum argument about “clean” and “dirty” power so without us starting an argument I am going to ask a question without adding my opinion (until later) I want to know everyone’s views on this especially you elder statesmen like my self who have been doing this for decades.

So question:
Give me your best definition of what is meant by “clean” power when talking about an amplifier?

The foundation of this discussion is Distortion.

Distortion is any departure from the original. That’s not a dictionary definition.

Listen to examples of audio distortion, provided by 

How to Prevent Distortion

I believe this entire debate is full of holes, and how deep do we want to take this?

In terms of audio amplifiers “Dirty” vs “Clean” power tends to mean
1) A broad judgement of quality of the amplifier.
2) The way in which the gain or input sensitivity was adjusted

I have never seen or heard this lingo used by audio amplifier designers. That doesn’t mean it never happens but this is street talk, not engineering talk.

this is street talk, not engineering talk

Back to distortion.

What is the job of an amplifier?

It takes a signal of some lesser amplitude and multiplies it to greater amplitude. By the nature of the devices required to make that happen there will be a change other than increased amplitude away from the original signal, aka distortion.

This isn’t always a bad thing. How much distortion can we hear? Does it change if we’re listening to a sound system in headphones vs a car sound system while driving on the highway?

That is to get you thinking about perception, which is an aspect of audio playback systems that I find extremely fascinating.

Clean vs Dirty power

Remember this is laymen’s terms and not engineering talk. I’m not an engineer and I would be happy to reach out to someone if the interest is great enough.

My perspective on this is “Clean Power” is amplifier output of sufficiently low distortion that it is not an influence on sound quality. In other words, it’s just making the music louder and we call that characteristic “transparency”. It is assuming the gain or input sensitivity is set in a way that does not introduce excessive clipping under normal use.

As an aside, I said “excessive clipping” very deliberately. I do not promote setting an amplifier so that it never clips.

Further reading:

Barry Schanz
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