Do Watts Matter in Speakers? Not as Much, Here’s Why

Do Watts Matter in Speakers? Not as Much, Here’s Why

When we are looking for speakers, and we are new in the field and looking for the best price, we make the very serious mistake of looking only for power expressed in watts.

Beginners look for the equipment that says it has the most watts, believing that this will make it sound better and louder; And not only that, but we also believe that the more Watts the speaker says it has, we think that’s even better. And this is wrong.

Many of us fall into the “Watts Error” when we think that the bigger that number is (300, 500, 1000,) the speaker will be heard better and louder. But the ear does not hear watts. It hears decibels.

In this article, I will explain whether watts matter and what we should look for when looking for speakers.

Watts – Not the Only Indicator of Sound Quality

Watts are a unit of power linked to the amount of energy needed to do work.

When looking for speakers, the useful data would be the effective power, the amount of continuous power expressed in Watts at which an amplifier can work.

When we are beginners in audio and sound, we believe that the higher the number of Watts in a speaker (without paying attention to other details that are even more important), the greater the amount of sound will be greater and with good quality. That is not right. 

Watts are neither a measure of loudness nor hearing quality nor sound clarity or clarity. Power and loudness are not the same.

It is as if we believe that a tractor will go from 0 to 60 mp/h in 4.5 seconds, just because its engine has much more power than the engine of any car.

The sound quality and the loudness depend on many specific conditions, even more, important than just the power expressed in WATTS. Although the sound will be perhaps louder, it will not have the clarity and clarity to be audible and pleasant.

What do you want to get, sound or noise?

Clear, crisp, and enjoyable sound will sometimes be annoying, annoying, and stressful noise at the same wattage

Pay attention to that because annoying noise is what you get using the same music when you do not check the most important conditions of your audio equipment, and you only stay with the watts.

When you learn everything I explain, you will get much more volume and clarity from a good 200 Watt speaker than from a 500 or 1000-watt speaker.

What Power Really Means in Speakers?

To further understand this concept, we will explain what the different ways of measuring speaker power mean:

1. Watts PEAK or PMPO – From its acronym “Peak Music Power Output.”

This value represents the maximum level of power that a speaker amplifier can withstand for a few milliseconds before burning out. For example, a high point of a drum drum, or a trumpet blast, just before your amp breaks down.

The PEAK Watts were invented without any scientific methodology to support them and refer to the power output of all the amplification channels added together, using a 5000Hz test signal with a load impedance close to 0 Ohm. an instant just before the equipment burns out.

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2. Watts RMS – From its acronym in English, “Root Mid Square.” 

This value represents the average and constant power level that an amplifier gives. It is a scientifically verifiable value based on a mathematical formula and is closer to the real thing in the continuous use of the device.

Watts RMS is the “real watts,” and although the value of the real power (Watts RMS) is more important than the peak power (watts PMPO), the consumer audio industry is based on the ignorance of the buyer and their inability to verify the specifications of the speaker, and thus deceptively shows a maximum resistance power limit on the face of its products.

You are not interested in the power limit, the one just before your equipment burns out or just before your speakers blow up.

We are looking for the power of continuous and permanent work, without the equipment suffering any damage and the sound quality it delivers is the best quality you can get from the equipment.

This deceptive revolution started several years ago with the AIWA brand and was quickly followed by all of its competitors. Taking advantage of the ignorant and macho culture in which what is bigger, bulky, and flashy, will be more impressive to show off.

In other words, it simply covers macho psychological deficiencies, regardless of the quality of the speaker.

What Matters More Than Watts for Speaker Loudness?

The average consumer continues to mistakenly believe that the more Watts you have, the louder it sounds.

Saying the above would be like stating that a normal 70-watt incandescent bulb shines brighter than a 40-watt fluorescent bulb. And both illuminate the same. And one is of fewer watts than the other. The same goes for audio.

There are cases that a 200 Watts RMS amplifier with a pair of good speakers (labeled between 200 to 300 Watts RMS, and with a sensitivity between 98 and 101 dB) will give you much greater loudness (that is, volume) and clarity than any other. 

In loudspeakers, sensitivity is an important measure of sound pressure, which, in low-quality speakers, is around 89dB, in good ones around 98dB, and in excellent ones between 99 and 101 dB or more. 

This measurement is obtained by applying 1w of power to a speaker on a musical note with a frequency of 5khz, listening while standing 1m away.

Although the difference in sensitivity seems small in numbers, in reality, physically and audibly, the difference between one decibel and the one that follows it is very much in volume.

A vacuum cleaner generates around 75dB in sound volume. Now imagine any sound at 100 watts. And at 130dB (the sound of the turbines of a commercial jet at 150 ft away), your ears ask for mercy.

One more example. We would obtain this by carrying out a test with a very good quality loudspeaker (without a resonance box). The measurement is carried out while standing in front of the loudspeaker at a distance of 1m.

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1W – 98 dB … (This sound is extremely loud !!!, and you only use 1 watt)

10W – 110dB

100W – 124dB

1000W – 133 dB … (This sound would be really unbearable)

Now, experimenting with a poor-quality speaker:

1W – 89 dB

10W – 95dB

100W – 102dB

1000W – 110 dB

The scale is just an example so that you have an idea. It means that with 1w in a medium-quality speaker, you get 89dB, compared to a high-quality one that gives you 98 dB, you are losing 9dB of volume, and this is a lot!

To understand how much volume you are losing, check the following:

If you are standing in front of your good quality speakers at 1m frontally, and then you move away, say 6 meters, so that you continue to have the same sensation of the same sound volume as at 1m, you would only need to increase your volume by one dB if you move away at 15 m, about 2 dB more, and at 30 or 40m, 3 dB more.

Here we see that between 1m and 40m, the difference is about 6db. Now it considers the difference of 9 dB between a speaker with a low sensitivity of 89 dB and another with a good sensitivity of 98 dB.

You don’t need much power with a good quality speaker to increase that 6 dB. On the other hand, you need almost ten times more power with a poor-quality speaker.

Now, do you realize how much quality and quantity of volume you are losing by choosing your speakers wrong? And worse if they are installed in an acoustic box that was not technically and dimensionally designed. 

A poorly designed baffle can spoil the clearest sound from any high-quality speaker. It can even dull the sound, prevent it from scattering, and drastically decrease clarity and volume.

On the other hand, the volume knob of your amplifier is not graduated in dB, although the screen printing says so. With it, you control the output watts that your amplifier will apply to the audio signal that it sends to the speakers.

Why Sensitivity Matters Equally as Watts for Quality?

600 watts applied to a speaker with 84 dB sensitivity will sound much less than 100 watts applied to a speaker with 101 dB sensitivity.

Suppose your baffles (understand resonance acoustic box) are correctly designed and have very sensitive speakers of the highest quality installed. In that case, they can move and displace much more air with little power than others of less sensitivity.

The sensitivity of a speaker defines how efficient it is at transforming electrical energy into kinetic (motion) energy and what can mean by higher sound pressure and higher audible volume by applying little power to it.

A lot of power is not always equal to a lot of quality volume, and it can be equal to a lot of distorted, muffled, or squeaky noise and annoying.

The volume and clarity of your audio equipment depend 65% on the quality and sensitivity of your speakers and the design of your speakers, and 35% on the power of your amplifier, according to my personal experience.

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The fact that an amplifier says that it is capable of delivering a power of 100 watts or 1000 watts does not really tell you how loud it will sound or how crisp and clear you will hear it since this depends on:

1) The sensitivity of your speakers

2) A good well-designed loudspeaker (baffle) where all frequencies are dispersed and amplified thanks to a solid resonance

3) A low harmonic distortion of your amplifier avoids adding parasitic noise to your signal since any parasitic noise increases and is amplified along with the music.

Why Do Rms Watts Matter the Most?

Suppose that a speaker with 5000 Watts PEAK gradually turns up the volume. I assure you that you will never get to hear 5000 Watts before the distortion is so annoying that you have to reduce it or turn it off.

When looking for speakers, you should not be interested in the Peak watts but the RMS Watts. In many cases, the real power (RMS) is between 1/10 and 1/20 of the Peak/PMPO value.

There are three parameters to compare RMS power specifications:

1. Frequency range: the bandwidth in which the measurement is carried out. It is not the same to measure the power of an amplifier using only sharp test signals or to use the entire range of frequencies in the audible spectrum (Treble, medium, bass, and sub-bass).

2. Load impedance: The load to which the amplifier was subjected to obtain the measurement can be 16, 8, 4, or 2 Ohms.

3. Harmonic distortion is the distortion that an amplifier produces at the power that makes the measurement. 

In most cases, doubling the power causes a 10-fold increase in distortion, so if an amplifier gives us 100 Watts at 4 Ohms of 20-2000Hz with 0.01% harmonic distortion, it likely sounds the same as one. 200 Watts at 4 Ohms from 20Hz to 20KHz with 0.1% harmonic distortion.

Of course, the 200W will sound louder but also more distorted than the 100W. Then it’s not that smart to choose more watts, right? Better look for sound volume but with quality.

You have to look for high real power (RMS) speakers with a small harmonic distortion to guarantee high volume and fidelity. 

And complement it with well-designed baffles with an acoustic box that disperses all frequencies according to the working power of the speakers installed in it and speakers with high sensitivity within the power range that they will work.

When you go to buy speakers, you can review the technical specifications of each one. Those of good quality always bring them very clearly. The others do not.

All this that we now know means that we can distrust all the products that are bought, simply because we already have a broader vision of how the word power is handled in the audio industry, and it will help us next time to make a better decision.

The finest equipment always marks their equipment with real watts (RMS) because they know that the consumer is more careful and knows better how to measure power. 

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and researching audio equipment. Tray has over 12 years of experience DJing at home and events.

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