Amplifiers: To Protect Speakers, Account For Peak Power, RMS

Whenever possible, look to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to yield the best results and minimize the likelihood of damage to your loudspeakers.

Amplifiers: To Protect Speakers, Account For Peak Power, RMS
Ideally, you would purchase amplifiers that the loudspeaker company endorses and use the presets already configured within the amplifier.
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The technological advancements in live sound amplifiers over the last couple of decades are truly impressive.

Modern amps often have built-in DSP (signal processing with which to “tune” your loudspeakers); network connectivity to control and monitor system health; and more efficient power delivery that allows for extremely powerful, yet lightweight designs. These advancements, however, often make it even more confusing to make an informed choice.

Regardless of whether you do the limiting in the amps or in standalone DSP, do it somewhere!

The goals for a system designer remain the same: maximize the potential of your sound system (PA); somehow protect the PA from damage; and keep electrical power consumption, heat dissipation, and weight (particularly for touring) as low as possible.

With all of the options available, how do you find the best fit for your PA? I hope to bring a little clarity to what I believe are the key considerations.

Many loudspeaker manufacturers make it a fairly easy decision, thankfully, assuming your budget allows you to follow their recommendations (many of the available amplifiers today are remarkably expensive).

Whenever possible, though, following the manufacturer’s recommendation will likely yield the best results and minimize the likelihood of damage to your loudspeakers. And because many of the amps available today have DSP, loudspeaker manufacturers will often also provide tuning presets that you can load into the amplifiers, to get the best sonic performance from your system.

For example, the JBL VTX rig at Lakewood Church could be powered by any suitably powerful modern amplifier. However, the manufacturer recommends Crown iTech HD amps, and provides tuning presets for them. This made the choice easy for us, as the pairing of these loudspeakers and amplifiers just works, and it sounds great with little effort. Then there is the additional comfort factor of knowing it will be unlikely that we will “blow up” the loudspeakers, as JBL has helped to ensure the amplifier settings will prevent the loudspeakers from ever being overloaded.

Many other loudspeaker manufacturers do the same thing, and some take it a step further. d&b audiotechnik, for example, supplies their own amplifiers, making the process even simpler. And then there are companies like Meyer Sound, who (with a few exceptions) make exclusively self-powered loudspeakers (with amplifiers built into the loudspeaker cabinet).

Ideally, then, you would purchase amplifiers that the loudspeaker company endorses and use the presets already configured within the amplifier. However, sometimes you need to figure it out on your own, and that’s what we’ll talk about now.


More About Brad Duryea
Brad Duryea is an audio engineer based in Houston, Texas, where he is the director of audio technology for Lakewood Church. He can be reached at brad@bradduryea.com or via Twitter: @bradduryea.
Get in Touch: brad.duryea@gmail.com    More by Brad Duryea

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Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Budgeting · Volunteers · Amplifiers · Crown · d&b audiotechnik · JBL · Loudspeakers · Manufacturer's Recommendation · All Topics

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