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More Power – Amplifiers

more power

More Power – Amplifiers

Do you find your sound system never seems to get loud enough? Maybe it gets loud but the details in your music keep getting more crunchy and grungy as you rotate the volume knob to the right. Distortion rises to an offensive and speaker-threatening level. Instead of giving you pleasure the music makes you mad.[1] 

Often the determined audio enthusiast turns to a bigger amplifier(MORE POWER). 

More Power, More Channels

I believe if we can’t turn it up loud and keep it there reliably then what is the point?

Might we still be in the danger zone after increasing amplifier power? It depends.

More Power Justification:

  • Increase the watts and dB SPL must go up
  • I want nothing but clean power for my highly dynamic recordings
  • The bass is overpowering everything else(more power for mids and highs)
  • Adding more speakers and I want or need more amplifier channels
  • More power means greater headroom

What is ‘Headroom’?

Headroom is the difference between the maximum output power of the amplifier and the maximum signal you ask it to output. If you want 50W at most and the amp can put out 100W, it has 3 dB of headroomHeadroom is a good thing, because it means when you push the amp hard, it won’t distort. [2]

I stopped experimenting with this extra headroom several years ago. The thirst for more power for my speakers peaked with a maximum of 250W RMS per 6.5″ midbass woofer, which I stepped up from 90W RMS.

That’s almost 3X the power. Must’ve kicked butt, right?

It was not what I hoped for. Nothing broke and I didn’t harm myself or nearby small animals. Something happens as we add more power to our speakers that I don’t think can be understood until it’s tried.

Apparent Power vs Distortion 

This article is not going to take a deep dive into that subject. I will say now that if we double amplifier power that theoretically gives us another 3 dB of clean dynamics, assuming the music has adequate dynamic range. Along with that is the thought that some distortion is completely tolerable to most people, and distortion from the speakers can not only be enjoyable but it adds to our perception of how loud the music seems to be. 

During the years that have passed since that 250W per woofer experiment I have also dropped the power all the way down to 18W RMS on similar woofers. How was it?

18W per speaker got bizarrely loud. Distortion increased a lot more obviously and earlier as the volume at the radio increased.

You might hate me for ending the article here, but remember that this is an ongoing message. Maybe it’s strange to say it could even become a discussion. Leave a comment with your questions below.


  1. There’s a Biological Reason Why Some People Get Chills When They Listen to Music
  2. amplifier “headroom” explanation? AmigaPhreak 

Barry Schanz
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