Humans are very similar in nature, and even though someone might need a speaker for the home and someone a speaker for a party, we similarly perceive loudness.
In speakers, wattage rating only means the maximum wattage the speakers can handle without damage to passives. It does not by itself imply how loud it’s going to be, otherwise for actives means the amplifier wattage built into it.
For example, putting 20 watts into a speaker can be more than you’ll ever need. My example would be the JBL Flip 5, which has a signal-to-noise ratio over 80dB and pushes the highest decibels above 85dB.
To not overcomplicate things, we’ll describe the loudness of specific wattage speakers using simple terms in this article.
What we considered determining the speaker loudness by wattage
Even though we usually look at RMS watts, we decided to look at PEAK numbers in this study, as companies usually use that number when advertising for products.
We won’t be fooled by fake advertising since we’ll add sensitivity to the mix. Also, as examples, we’ll only take speakers from prominent companies for which we know RMS watts (and that they’re good).
Since wattage is not the only factor when determining loudness, we decided to take a few models of speakers of the same wattage, look at the SPL or SNL value, and then determine how loud speakers of specific wattage are. Then we’ll compare it to real-world usage so that you can get an impression of how loud they really are.
For smaller wattage speakers where the decibels are not listed in specifications, we tried to read as many reviews as possible and come up with the best conclusion about the loudness of a specific speaker.
3-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker, alarm clock speaker
These are usually Bluetooth types of speakers like this one on Amazon.
A 3-watt speaker is loud enough to get a good sound in a small room but not loud enough to host a dinner or any event with more than two people involved.
These speakers’ volume is not loud as the TV and will certainly not entertain a crowd, but for an area of 100 sq foot, like workspace, it does the job very well.
5-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker, alarm speaker, computer speakers
An example of computer speakers would be these.
A 5-watt speaker is loud enough to listen to audiobooks when taking a shower but not loud enough to listen to outdoors with outside noise.
They are great for a small area where the conversation will be light and with less than five people.
10-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker, computer speakers
Here’s an example of a 10-watt waterproof Bluetooth speaker on Amazon.
A 10-watt speaker is loud enough to hear the music in a medium-size room perfectly, but not loud enough to do that with more than ten people partying and chatting.
10-watt speakers are not loud enough for movie viewing, but if you decide to take a shower and want to listen to some music, you will hear them in the bathroom with the doors closed.
20-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker
An example on Amazon is this one with an SNR value of 85dB.
A 20-watt speaker is loud enough to use at a family barbeque and suitable for small areas at home and outdoors, but not loud enough to cover a large area to host a party.
I have it on a shelf at the foot of my bed. Its placement is roughly ten feet from my television. The sound is great, and it can get loud.
30-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker, motorcycle speaker
A 30-watt speaker is loud enough to play in the backyard when doing yard work but not loud enough for hosting a party in bigger areas outdoors.
My 30-watt Bluetooth speaker fits in a drink holder on my motorcycle and is loud enough I can hear it up to 60mph when driving.
40-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker
Here’s a perfect example of a solid 40-watt speaker on Amazon that is not only loud but also sounds great.
A 40-watt speaker is loud enough for an outdoor dance fitness class and when playing in the yard or indoors, but not loud enough to host an outdoor party with more than 15 people.
Sounds easily get lost outside, and for larger gettering, you’ll need more wattage.
50-watt speaker loudness
Type: Bluetooth speaker
For example, this one with 100dB SPL @1w/1m:
A 50-watt speaker is loud enough to host a party in a medium-size room but not loud enough to use while working in a factory.
I used this wattage for hanging by the fire and chilling by the pool, and I must say I was very pleased.
80-watt speaker loudness
Type: Soundbar, Bluetooth speaker
The best example on Amazon would be this speaker with a huge 105dB sound.
Independent reviewers on YouTube had tests in which the speakers of this wattage reached 105-106 dB ma.
An 80-watt speaker is loud enough to use for hunting, loud enough for a boat underway or a loud job site, and even too loud for background music.
This wattage will adequately fill up a large 25-foot square room with loud party music.
100-watt speaker loudness
Type: bookshelf, soundbar, Bluetooth
usage: backyard parties, music classes, home theater
A 100-watt speaker is loud enough for teaching elementary music classes with a music source and a lav mic, also for backyard parties and barbeques, but not loud enough to host a large (50+ people) party outdoors.
This is the speaker with which my friend was able to do classes of 40 to 50 people quite easily. He also used it outdoors for several classes and covered a fairly large area quite well. Also makes a great radio by the pool!
200-watt speaker loudness
Type: PA speaker, Bluetooth (party speaker)
A 200-watt speaker is loud enough to have a good sound when playing in a medium-sized warehouse with 50+ people, and in general, very loud for any indoor event or an average-sized venue outdoors.
This is the 200-watt speaker me and my fam used to bring when going on vacation:
500-watt speaker loudness
A 500- watt speaker powerful enough for band practice vocals with live drums.
600-watt speaker loudness
Type: PA speaker
With average SPL @1w/1m 118dB, a 600-watt speaker is loud enough to handle vocals in a small practice space and stand up to drums and guitar.
800-watt speaker loudness
Type: party speaker, stage monitor, PA speaker
With the average maximum SPL @1w/1m being 122dB, 800-watt speakers are loud enough to host a party with 100+ people.
1000-watt speaker loudness
Type: PA speaker
With an average maximum SPL: 126 dB (dB SPL @ 1 m), a 1000-watt speaker is loud enough to host a party with 120+ people and too loud for use as home speakers.
In honesty, it’s not meant for that because of the speaker’s build, plus it will get too loud, but if you gave your couch in the backyard, you should okay.
2000-watt speaker loudness
From the perspective of a part-time mobile DJ, these wattage speakers are loud enough to hold their own for all music and speaking genres.
A pair of these would work great for an acoustic guitar/vocal performance at a medium-sized venue.
Are watts the most determining factor when looking at loudness?
Back to basics. “Is it correct that just because a speaker has a high wattage, for example, 100 watts, that it will be louder than a lower wattage speaker?”
In a word, no. There are a few points of confusion here.
First, speakers don’t “have” wattage. A watt is a unit of power and, if your speakers don’t have power amps built-in, they don’t have any. Non-powered speakers may have wattage ratings, but this just shows their capacity to handle power.
If a speaker is rated at 100 watts, it can handle 100 watts of power. Depending on how the manufacturer came at this rating, it may handle more than this. A 100-watt speaker with 100 watts given to it may be the same volume as a 1000-watt speaker with 100 watts delivered to it. Then also, it may not.
A speaker’s capacity to handle power is one aspect that will show how loud it can be. Efficiency, sensitivity, and dispersion factors will contribute to its evident loudness.
Further, a speaker delivering only a narrow range of frequencies may get much louder than when attempting to reproduce a full range of frequencies. It is not safe to tell a 500-watt speaker will go louder than a 100-watt speaker (though it is usually the case).
Similarly, you also have to keep in mind that you only get 3dB more volume (all other things being equal) each time you double the power, which isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Achieving a 3 dB increase in sound pressure needs twice the amplifier’s power. So if one speaker is 3 dB more sensitive than another, the less sensitive speaker will demand twice as much power to reach the same sound pressure level (on-axis) as its more sensitive counterpart. An increase of 6 dB is equivalent to twice the sound pressure. A gain of 10 dB produces twice the perceived loudness.”
When selecting speakers, one has to look at these problems at once. For instance, all other things being identical, a speaker with a sensitivity of 98 dB (usually rated as dB SPL with 1 watt applied measured at a 1-meter distance) that is taking 500 watts will really be the same volume as a speaker rated at 95 dB sensitivity taking 1000 watts.
This is an excellent way to illustrate how dangerous specs can be in the hands of people who don’t actually understand them.
What is SPL and how do we measure it?
SPL means sound pressure level and is likewise generally referred to as efficiency and sensitivity. This parameter defines how loud a speaker is. A higher SPL correlates to a louder speaker.
A speaker is put on a baffle with the cone facing an anechoic chamber (a room designed to prevent sound reflections). A microphone is put 1 m away and centered on the speaker. During this test, the speaker plays tones at different frequencies from 20Hz-20kHz.
StartingtoDJ utilizes Loudspeaker Measurement System (LMS) to devise the result. The plot, generally known as a frequency response graph, displays frequency on an x-axis (in Hz) versus SPL on a y-axis (in dB).
SPL ratings are very helpful and represent speaker output when comparing one manufacturer’s speaker to another product of the same manufacturer. However, it can be misleading when comparing two separate manufacturers’ ratings.
The issue is that an industry-standard way of representing SPL does not exist, and we all come up with the issued rating differently.
StartingtoDJ utilizes the frequency response curve and considers the functional frequency range of a given speaker for issued SPL. We feel this is the most usual “real world” output. It is also sufficient to issue an average of the mid-band piston response, a standard over the whole 20Hz-20kHz range, or a calculation from T/S parameters.
The goal here is not to validate StartingtoDJ’s method or accuse others of doing it incorrectly. It only points out differences, and comparing various manufacturers’ SPL ratings may not be an exact comparison.
What is SNR, and why do we use it to determine loudness in Bluetooth speakers?
In terms of definition, SNR or signal-to-noise ratio is the ratio between the preferred information or the power of a signal and the unpreferred signal or the power of the background noise.
Also, SNR is a measurement parameter in science and engineering that matches the desired signal level to the background noise level. In other terms, SNR is the ratio of signal power to the noise power, and its unit of expression is commonly decibels (dB). Also, a ratio larger than 0 dB or higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise.
The key to device performance in Bluetooth technology is the device’s ability to determine the spread signals as real information from any background noise or signals on the spectrum.
SNR is the distinction between the desired signal and the noise floor in basic terms. Also, in terms of definition, the noise floor is the specious background transmissions created by other devices or by devices that unintentionally cause interference on a matching frequency. Therefore, to show the signal-to-noise ratio, one must find the quantifiable discrepancy between the desired signal strength and the undesirable noise by removing the noise value from the signal strength value.
Hypothetically talking, if your Bluetooth speaker’s radio receives a signal at -75 dBm (decibels per milliwatt), and the noise floor is -85 dBm, then the resulting signal to noise ratio is 10 dB. This would then reflect the signal strength of 10 dB for this wireless connection. As I am sure you are aware, in terms of connectivity in wireless networks, the professionals state a requirement of an SNR of at least 20 dB to surf the web.
Although SNR is routinely used to quantify the transparency or strength of electrical signals, it can also spread to any signal (transmission). For instance, it is employed to explain isotope levels in ice cores, biochemical signaling between cells, or audio sound transparency for car amplifiers and source units (DVD, CD, or Digital).
However, with audio elements, the SNR is always a positive value. For instance, an SNR of 100 dB means that the audio signal level is 100 dB higher than the noise level. This, in turn, implies that an SNR of 100 dB is better than one that is 95 dB.