Don’t Get “Spec” Confused.

I think that elsewhere on my posts I mentioned that at one point, I had owned a hi-fi store and I had worked as a manufacturers rep, working with a group of dealers. In both of these roles, there was and is now a point of confusion, that of what constitutes “Wattage”. What is wattage, just what does it mean?  Generally speaking, wattage is a term used to indicate power, this usually has little to do with sound or sound quality. It is also a term that we find on loudspeakers.

In an amplifier,  wattage is used as indication of how much power an Amplifier/Receiver etc is capable of producing. It is usually rated at e.g. 100 watts per channel @ 8 ohms 20hz – 20,000 hz except in home theatre amplifiers which more often use a frequency of 1000hz. The other figures that become useful are amperage which indicates current and class “A” power. These measurements define how well the amplifier can drive speakers and how good it should sound.

In a Loudspeaker, wattage indicates….. I bet that you were going to say how powerful a speaker is right! Wrong, it actually indicates how much wattage it can handle. If a speaker is rated from 15-100 watts, this has no bearing on volume (actually though the more power an amp can provide, usually the louder a speaker can play). In many cases, you can actually destroy a speaker, using a rating as quoted on the speaker in 2 ways;

  1. If you use an amplifier of minimum wattage (in this case 15 watts per channel) you can very easily damage the speaker as the amp only has so much clean power, after that it begins to distort which creates heat at the voice coli of a speaker and will damage the voice coil.
  2. If you use an amplifer of too high a rating, you may blow the speaker from simply having too much power.

In a sense, wattage ratings on a loudspeaker are a true misnomer. The wattage rating does not address loudness or volume, but rather the amount of power necessary to make the speaker work well. I “gotta tell ya” it sometimes drives me crazy trying to explain this to people after they have been to a big-box store. The theory in most of these stores is “more is better”. The number of times I have worked with a customer who purchased a lopsided system (small amp /big speakers or vice verse) is truly disheartening, primarily due to being so advised to do so.

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gord@allthatjazzhifi.com