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Amplifiers


Amplifier power

Matching speakers and amplifiers is important. It's usually better to aim for the higher end of the manufacturer's recommended amplifier power. Speakers are more easily damaged by a low-powered solid-state amplifier that is struggling than by being over-driven. A small amp driven into overload produces a lot of high frequency distortion that is likely to burn out a tweeter. Small valve amps under heavy load just fade gracefully! The sound stage will shrink and music will lose its dynamics – basically boring.

Speaker impedance is important here, not just the average but also the minimum (not always quoted!) because that's a potential black hole for power. Sensitivity matters too – be cautious if it's much below 89dB/W. For music to be lively, not just loud, you need "headroom" so that the amplifier can respond instantly to sudden peaks. Liken it to two cars, one with a 1200cc engine and one with 3000cc. Both will do 80mph but the bigger engine has the reserves to respond instantly.

Without that acceleration music will sound undynamic and dull.