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A “Test” To Evaluate Your Knowledge Of Power

At first glance, it may seem that the question is not even related to audio. Don’t be fooled. Principles are principles.

By Pat Brown July 22, 2016

With the wealth of knowledge about power available here on ProSoundWeb it’s a good idea to constantly evaluate our knowledge of power, or actually, your knowledge about power.

Rather than submit you to the typical “right or wrong” questions with exact numerical answers, I’ve elected to provide a different means of self-evaluation.

The test is “open book”, based upon the information shared in the article series and other resources, and I can tell you up front that the answer to every question is “It depends!”

But what’s really being asked is “What does it depend on?”

At first glance, it may seem that the question is not even related to audio. Don’t be fooled. Principles are principles.

You already know this stuff – you just may not know that you know it! Each question also paves the way for a short review of the concept.

That’s it!

Now relax, take out a sharpened number 2 lead pencil and…sorry about that.

1) I want to paint my living room walls and need to buy paint. How much will I need if the ceiling height is eight feet?

Obviously, estimating of the amount of paint requires more information. What we need to know is the area to be covered, which can’t be determined by the ceiling height alone.

The total length of the walls is needed to get the area (length x height). The paint store would also need to know how many windows are in the walls (they can subtract this area from the total), and how absorbent the surface is (one or two coats?). Only then can the required amount of paint be determined.

It’s equally ridiculous to calculate an amplifier’s output power by using its peak voltage rating. As with the wall, the area of a waveform must be known to determine how much power is generated.

This requires amplitude information (like ceiling height) and knowledge of length (time). We also need to know how much to subtract for higher crest factors (less intense program – like windows in the wall).

And lastly, we need to know how much the load will soak up (porosity of the surface). Think of one coat as eight ohms and two coats as four ohms. And two ohms? Don’t even think about it!

2) Which stock will yield the greatest earnings?

We’ve all learned this one the hard way. Stock A has some high amplitude values, but doesn’t last long. Stock B has lower “highs” but is more consistent over time.

Like painting walls and electrical waveforms, it’s all about area. An amplifier can have a very high peak rating, but may fizzle when loaded for long spans of time (that all-day outdoor show). Make sure that you look at the long-term continuous output power when shopping for amplifiers.

Short-term peak ratings are large numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story.

3) Which song will make the loudspeaker hotter?

This should be obvious by now. Grungy, highly compressed rock and roll has a much lower crest factor (more area) than an “audiophile” recording of a sitar solo.

Both types of music may occasionally light the clip light, but the R&R is much more likely to toast the loudspeaker.

Read the rest of this post


About Patrick

Pat Brown
Pat Brown

Principals, Synergetic Audio Concepts
Pat & Brenda Brown lead SynAudCon, conducting audio seminars and workshops online and around the world. For more information go to


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