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How do I choose the right amplifier power for my speaker system?

Published: Fri August 06, 2004  News Feed

Ideally you should pick an amplifier that can deliver power equal to twice the speaker\'s continuous IEC power rating. This means that a speaker with a \"nominal impedance\" of 8 ohms and a continuous IEC power rating of 350 watts will require an amplifier that can produce 700 watts into an 8 ohm load. For a stereo pair of speakers, the amplifier should be rated at 700 watts per channel into 8 ohms.

A quality professional loudspeaker can handle transient peaks in excess of its rated power if the amplifier can deliver those peaks without distortion. Using an amp with some extra \"headroom\" will help assure that only clean, undistorted power gets to your speakers. Some professional amplifiers are designed so they have additional headroom. These amps can cleanly reproduce transient peaks that exceed the amplifier\'s rated power. In this case select a model with an output power rating equal to the continuous IEC power rating of the speaker. Consult the amplifier manufacturer or owner\'s manual to learn more.

In some applications, such as critical listening in a studio environment, it is important to maintain peak transient capability. For these applications, use an amplifier that can deliver 6db (or four times as much) more power than the continuous IEC power rating.

If budget restraints or legacy equipment force you to use an amplifier with less power, extreme care should be taken to see that the amplifier is not driven into clipping. It may surprise you to learn that low power can result in damage to your speaker or system.

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