RMS, PMP, dynamic power —all these jargon terms written on the amplifier specs sheet can make it a challenge to figure out the power rating. Yes, we know the wise man’s approach — just look for the value with watts, and you’ll have the power.
Unfortunately, this trick will only lead you deeper into the labyrinth because all of these terms use watts!
So, how will you find the power rating? Well, the easiest way is to use a reliable amplifier wattage calculator. This calculator is an online tool that displays wattage ratings and graphs after inputting some values.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss the topic of amplifier power in detail. From the basic understanding of power to calculators, this ultimate guide will explain everything you should know about finding the right amplifier power. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
What Is Amplifier Power?
The amplifier power refers to the amount of power an amplifier is putting out. In simple terms, it tells us the total power output available for the loudspeakers to draw. Its unit is wattage/watts, denoted by W.
Knowing this power rating can help you pair an amplifier with the right speaker. As a result, the audio system can handle musical peaks with more ease. There is less strain on the equipment, which results in better sound clarity and overall quality.
But, the thing that makes amplifier power a complex subject is its calculation. Unlike other specs, the power output of an amplifier does not get measured. Instead, it has to be calculated.
And to make things worse, marketing managers try to confuse the buyer by using a lot of different power-related terms. These include RMS, dynamic power, continuous power, and whatnot. Usually, the amplifier power rating details look like this:
150W RMS per channel at 8 ohms
20Hz – 20kHz, <0.1% THD+N
Sounds confusing, right? If you’re lucky, there might be a single term mentioned in the specs sheet. But, while these calculated values do have some significance in revealing the power rating, they aren’t exact calculations.
They still do not tell you what the accurate output power is. Hence, you have to calculate it yourself. You can either do that through manual calculations or a reliable online calculator.
How Is Amplifier Power Calculated?
Finding out amplifier power is a simple process. So, if you’re a math geek and don’t mind a few calculations, there is no need to use a calculator for amplifier power. You can do it yourself using Ohm’s law.
Ohm’s law is a formula describing the relationship between voltage, current flow, and resistance. It states that the flow of current is directly proportional to voltage. However, it is inversely proportional to resistance.
So, we can state Ohm’s law as Current=Voltage/Resistance. Mathematically, the power formula will be I=V/R
For a better understanding, here’s a recap of some basic terms:
- Voltage (volts/V) is the pressure or force that pushes the charged electrons to move in the wire.
- Current (amperes/I) is the stream of charged electrons moving through the wire.
- Resistance (ohms/Ω) is the opposition to the flow of current.
Given all this, you can calculate the amplifier power by putting the values in the formula. You will easily find any two of three values independently mentioned in the amplifier’s technical specification sheet. Or, they may also be printed on the back of the product.
How to Use an Amplifier Wattage Calculator
As mentioned before, an amplifier wattage calculator is an online tool that helps you find the right power output. It’s the easiest method since you only have to input the values. Plus, there’s no chance of accuracy errors.
To use, simply input the required values in the given spaces, click on the calculate option, and wait for the results. The results displayed are the amplifier power.
Some calculators will display the results in numbers, whereas others will provide graphical representations too. This quick data is quite useful in comparing the performances of different amplifiers. Tech-savvy people can use it to rate equipment and build a phenomenal home theater setup.
However, the measurement type required by each calculator is different. Like Ohm’s law, they don’t just need voltage, current, and resistance. Instead, there are multiple values you need to provide.
Important Terms Related to Amplifier Power
Here are some important terms you should know before using these calculators.
The watts-per-channel or WPC is the amount of power that an amplifier can supply to the speakers on each output channel. With that being said, only one speaker is attached to a channel.
Since it tells how much power is being transferred to a single speaker, we can use it to determine loudness. You will receive louder audio with higher WPC and vice versa. Most amplifiers offer watts-per-channel ratings between 20 to 200-watts.
The continuous power rating tells the power that the amplifier can handle comfortably for a prolonged period. It is not the highest power but the average efficient power. Typically, people also refer to it as average continuous power and sustainable power.
However, one incorrect term that most manufacturers shamelessly use is RMS power (sometimes written as continuous RMS power). RMS stands for root mean square, a statistical measure to calculate the average of obtained values over time.
Mathematically, we can define it as the square root of the square mean. These derivations are important to determine the average of alternating signals (the ones that go above and below zero on the waveform).
The signals that go below zero are negative values. And so, taking their square is necessary to convert them into positive ones. Hence, the term RMS power is inappropriate for expressing continuous power.
Dynamic power is the highest amount of power that the amplifier can handle and supply to the speaker. However, this measurement is for occasional, short bursts of extreme power that should hardly last a few milliseconds. Otherwise, your amplifier will become damaged.
So, never rely only on those impressively high wattage numbers. Pay close attention to other valuable figures as well. Most people refer to dynamic power as instantaneous or peak power.
Peak Music Power
With all these marketing tactics, it won’t be wrong to claim that peak music power or peak momentary performance output is no more than bait. The term doesn’t reveal any significant power data.
Instead, it states an unbelievably high wattage value to lure in customers. It’s highly recommended to ignore these values.
Peak to Peak Voltage
The peak to peak voltage tells the maximum difference between the positive and negative amplitudes of the waveform. It is relevant to the interpretation of graphical results in calculators. You will find it measured in volts (V).
The Best Amplifier Wattage Calculators
There are numerous amplifier wattage calculators found online. However, each one functions differently to deduce power output. So, we’ve done the research for you and compiled the very best options below!
Geoff is an AV installation expert who has created this wonderful website to share his valuable knowledge and experience with others. He has also integrated several free calculators, and one of them is the Amplifier Power, Voltage, and Current Calculator.
This amazing wattage calculator only requires you to enter continuous power and load used (ohms). The tool calculates the peak power, peak to peak voltage, RMS voltage, peak to peak current, and RMS current. So, if you have insufficient amplifier power data available, you can use this online tool to determine other important values.
It also creates a detailed graphical representation of the power. We bet tech nerds will love this calculator. Thanks, Geoff!
The Biamp calculator is very direct and easy to use. It requires only four speaker-related values to find the perfect amplifier power for your needs. These include:
- Loudspeaker sensitivity
- Distance from loudspeaker to listener position
- Average continuous volume at the listener position
- Headroom for peak signals
It’s best to use this calculator if you have the speaker’s details. If not, then move on to the next option.
The Rapidtables Wattage Calculator is a simple and basic tool that provides the amplifier power using Ohm’s law. You have to put in any two of the four measurements: voltage, power, resistance, and current.
Since we’re finding power, you can use any two values. Once done, the calculator will tell the wattage required. For help, there is also an insightful explanation of how to calculate each value using formulas.
The Extron calculator is identical to the Biamp one. However, this option has additional features that give it a better edge. For example, you can skip the headroom if not required.
Also, if you’re using Extron speakers, select the model from the drop-down menu and get the sensitivity rating automatically. There’s no need to find the measurement from the manual or online pdfs. With that being said, others will have to find the data themselves.
How Many Watts Is a Good Amplifier?
Wattage is one of the most important considerations when buying amplifiers. The unit determines how much power the amplifier is putting out. However, the amount of watts present in a quality amplifier depends on your speaker power rating.
This means that your amplifier and speaker power specs should be compatible. A good rule is to choose an amplifier that delivers a power output equal to twice the speaker’s power rating. For example, if the speaker is 350-watts into an 8-ohm load, then an ideal amplifier power should be 700-watts into an 8-ohm load.
This doubling of power ensures there’s plenty of headroom available. Headroom refers to the difference between an amplifier’s normal and maximum operating levels (without distortion). Thus, the extra headroom provides your speakers with clean and undistorted power.
It also ensures that none of the audio devices become damaged in case of sudden peak power bursts. However, please note that some amplifiers come with built-in additional headroom, found in the product specifications.
In this case, there’s no need to choose an amplifier that has double the speaker’s power rating. You can go for slightly higher or even the same power ratings.
Relationship Between Power and SPL
When choosing amplifiers, people are quick to assume that a higher power (wattage) will produce a louder sound. While this may be somewhat true, the correct term to analyze an amplifier’s loudness is sound pressure level or SPL. A higher SPL means louder audio output.
Power and sound pressure levels have a complicated relationship —the doubling of power results in an increase of 3 dB SPL only. So, you cannot choose a 20-watts amplifier over a 10-watts one and expect it to be twice as loud.
The 3 dB SPL increase will make the 20-watts amplifier slightly louder than the 10-watts one. But, it will not double it. If you want an amplifier that sounds twice as loud as the 10-watts option, find one with a 10 dB SPL increase.
The Importance of Impedance
The power compatibility between the amplifier and speaker holds immense value. But don’t forget to match their impedance too.
This refers to the measurement of resistance faced by the audio components. Its unit is ohms (Ω). You can also call it electrical resistance.
Generally, it’s best to connect a speaker with a higher impedance to an amplifier of lower impedance. This ensures a safe pairing and boosts the overall performance.
However, avoid connecting a low impedance amplifier with a higher impedance speaker. For example, never attach a 4 ohms amplifier and 10 ohms speaker.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Receiver an Amplifier?
Believe it or not, even the pros get confused between receivers and amplifiers. Although they sound similar and people use them interchangeably, there are noteworthy differences. Here is a brief comparison:
- An amplifier refers to a device that takes the low-voltage signals from your source equipment and converts them into high-gain signals to power the speakers. You might already have an amplifier if you’re building a home theater setup. Without it, the speakers won’t have sufficient power to play the audio.
- The type of amplifier you choose makes all the difference. Dedicated audiophiles usually choose a standalone amplifier to get the best results. Meanwhile, others find receivers more convenient.
- A receiver is an all-in-one unit that comprises preamps, amplifiers, and even a tuner. It also features multiple inputs for video and audio. So, you don’t need to purchase separate components for a home theater.
Summing it up, a receiver is an amplifier with added functionalities. Its performance is not the same as a standalone amplifier, but it will get the work done for most people.
Can an Amplifier Become Too Powerful for Speakers?
Yes, an amplifier can become too powerful for speakers, especially when the amp is putting out an excessive amount of power. As a result, the speakers become damaged and produce lower-quality audio.
Similarly, using an amplifier that provides too little power to the speakers leads to clipping. This occurs when the signal forms are compromised to deliver the required amplifier power. Hence, distortion occurs in the produced sound.
Can a Speaker Be Too Powerful for Amplifiers?
Yes, if you do not match the power ratings of both devices, the speaker can be too powerful for the amplifiers. This can lead to overheating of the amp. It can also break the protective fuse and turn the unit off. Severe cases can even cause permanent damage to the audio equipment.
How Many Speakers Can an Amplifier Handle?
Typically, a high-quality amplifier can easily handle the load of two compatible speakers. But, you will have to cope with the slight negative effect on performance. It’s best not to overload an amplifier and use it to power a single speaker only.
For a recap, amplifier power is the total power output of the device with a unit of watts or wattage. Since amplifier power must be calculated, you can use a power formula or an amplifier wattage calculator available online. We’ve discussed the different options with the important power-related terms in detail above.
You can ensure that the calculated amplifier power is right for your speaker by comparing their compatibility. It should be twice the power rating of the speaker in case the amp has no additional headroom. Also, consider SPL and impedance compatibility.
We hope that this article was useful in resolving your queries. If you liked it, check out this article on the best amplifiers under $1,000!