An amplifier is an essential part of any home theater, car audio, or studio. The amp powers your speakers and tells them what to play.
However, is an amplifier bad for your speakers?
An amplifier isn’t bad for your speakers. Some speaker types actually need one. Passive speakers won’t work without an amplifier because the output signal is too weak. However, the amplifier can damage your speakers if it malfunctions or sends too much power.
This article will explain how an amp can damage your speakers if you use the wrong one.
You’ll also learn how to buy the correct amp for your speaker setup.
How an Amplifier Can Damage Your Speakers
As the name suggests, an amplifier increases the power of the audio signal going from your audio source to the speakers.
An audio source can be a variety of things. Most commonly, it’s your TV, car stereo, computer, and phone.
These audio sources aren’t powerful enough to power a bunch of 100 W speakers. Built-in TV speakers use somewhere between 5 and 10 watts.
So, you can see why you need an amplifier. Can it ever be the other way around, though? Can an amp overpower your tiny speakers?
In most cases, an amp will only deliver the amount of power your speakers require.
However, the current limiter in the amp can malfunction and send more power than the speakers can take.
This is especially common in older amps — if your amplifier is older than you, it might not have a way to limit overload.
So, don’t connect your expensive new speakers to a 30-year-old amp. If you have no other option, don’t blast the speakers at full volume.
That’s because the higher the volume, the more power your speakers require, and the greater risk to your speakers.
You can usually tell that an amplifier is doing damage to your speakers.
When speakers reproduce sound at a higher volume than physically possible, the sound gets distorted. You’ll hear clipping, buzzing, knocking, and all other sorts of horrible noise.
Lower the volume, and the problem will disappear. That’s a tell-tale sign that the amp is sending too much power and damaging your speakers.
Don’t worry if you do this only for a few seconds. It takes much more than that to kill your drivers.
However, if the volume is set extremely high, the speakers will start to smoke in seconds.
Can an Amplifier Be Too Powerful for My Speakers?
An amplifier can be too powerful for your speakers. Distortion happens when the signal from the amp is too strong. If the signal is significantly stronger than your speakers’ maximum wattage, they’ll stop working.
If this happens, you can still use the amp with your speakers. But never turn the volume up too much. As soon as you hear distortion, turn the volume knob down.
It’s best to play it safe and go with a lower wattage in the first place. You don’t need 4 100 W speakers for your home, no matter how loud you like your music.
Note that your subwoofer will need about 50–100 W at the very least. It’s your largest speaker, and it often works the hardest, too.
If you have 2 large 100 W speakers, I can suggest the perfect amp for you.
The Damgoo 2.0 Amplifier Board (available on Amazon.com) is affordable and feature-rich.
It has over- and under-voltage protection, circuit protection, and it supports Bluetooth 5.0.
What Happens if an Amplifier Isn’t Powerful Enough?
If an amplifier isn’t powerful enough, your speakers won’t get enough power to work at full capacity.
You can still use the amp, but you have to turn the volume up higher than normal. Additionally, the amp may overheat and stop working.
When an amplifier is working at full capacity, the sound quality will suffer. You should always have some extra headroom.
A more powerful amplifier delivers cleaner power and a better signal to the speakers.
Due to this, it’s better to have a slightly overpowered amp than an underpowered amp. Make a plan before you buy any speakers or an amp.
You want to have 1.5-2x more watts on your amp than what the speakers need. For example, 5 20 W speakers and a 100 W subwoofer need a 300–400 W amp.
But if you want surround sound without the hassle of checking for compatibility, get a complete home theater.
Logitech has some of the best home theaters on the market, and the Z906 5.1 System (available on Amazon.com) is no exception.
It’s easy to set up, and the sound you get is phenomenal.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about the speaker and amp power when you get a home theater in a box.
Can an Amplifier Be Too Powerful?
An amplifier can be too powerful for your speakers. If the amp has a significantly higher wattage than the speakers need, you’ll get distortion at higher volumes.
It’s bad for your speakers because too much power reduces their lifespan.
However, this isn’t a major concern most of the time. Some audiophiles even argue that you can’t have too much power on your amp.
If you fall into that category, it’s essential to remember that powerful speakers can kill a weak amp.
In addition to powering your speakers, the amp processes audio. If there’s no headroom, you’ll overwork your amp.
Additionally, very powerful amps can be very expensive.
So, there’s no need to go overboard by connecting 2 20 W speakers to a 1,000 W amplifier – not only is it more power than you’ll need, it will also set you back a pretty penny.
Furthermore, if you crank up the volume in this kind of setup, the speakers will blow.
How Do I Know if an Amplifier Is Too Powerful?
You can tell that an amplifier is too powerful because the sound will get clipped and distorted. Your speakers will struggle to reproduce the sound at volumes higher than intended.
Clipping only happens when the speaker is using too much power. It might sound cool on a bass guitar.
But you don’t want to hear any clipping coming from an expensive home theater.
You can hear what clipping sounds like in this sample on YouTube:
Note that clipping and distortion only happen if your amp is broken, damaged, or otherwise faulty.
To figure out the issue, check the power rating on your speakers and add the numbers together.
If they’re close to or even exceed the amp’s wattage, that’s your problem. But if the amp rating is all right, then you need a better amp.
How Do I Choose the Right Amplifier for My Speakers?
You should buy an amplifier that has about twice as much power as your speakers require. Also, make sure that the amplifier supports the impedance rating on your speakers.
While you can get an amplifier with the same power rating as the speakers, doing so isn’t a good idea as the amplifier will overheat.
Going with twice the speaker power rating on your amp is the safest choice. However, if you don’t want to spend extra money, 1.5x the speaker wattage is also good.
Speaker impedance also matters. Amps usually have an impedance range expressed in ohms.
Your speakers must have an impedance rating that doesn’t exceed it.
Incorrect speaker impedance has the same risks as too much or too little power.
Can You Connect Powered Speakers to an Amplifier?
You should never connect powered speakers to an amplifier. Powered speakers already have a built-in amplifier, and if you combine them, the speakers will get too much power and may get damaged.
You can only use an amp to power passive speakers. These speakers don’t have a built-in amp.
The signal must be amplified before it gets to the speaker. That’s why you can’t connect passive speakers directly to the audio source.
Connecting powered speakers to an amplifier is a common mistake.
Powered speakers usually use the 3.5 mm jack, but they sometimes use RCA that amplifiers also have.
Never connect powered speakers to an amp. The resulting signal is so strong that your speakers will blow before you even get the chance to lower the volume.
An amplifier is required for passive speakers to work. However, make sure not to use an amp with powered speakers, as they’ll receive too much power, causing them to blow.
When choosing an amp, ensure it isn’t too much more powerful (or has way less power) than what the speakers need, according to the manufacturer’s specs.