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AV Tip: How to Avoid Blowing Out Your Speakers

by January 28, 2013
How to Avoid Blowing Your Speakers

How to Avoid Blowing Your Speakers

Every so often some variation of this question gets asked on the Audioholics Forums, "Will I blow my speakers if I use amplifier X with speaker Y?" A good general answer is that so long as reasonable care is taken, odds are good your equipment will last for years to come. That is to say, if you detect strain or distortion, simply turn the volume down to the point where those problems go away. Bluntly, no you won't destroy your new speakers simply by the act of hooking them up to a receiver that can deliver something other than the exact amount of power they happen to be rated for, so go enjoy some tunes. Not satisfied yet? No problem, follow the few steps below to make sure your system stays rockin' for the long haul.

  • In a multi-channel system employing a powered subwoofer, set ALL of your speakers to "small" in the receiver setup menu and set the crossover frequency a little higher than manufacturer recommendations (we usually recommend 80Hz). Many manufacturers claim their speakers can play lower than they actually can, so to be safe try a crossover frequency that is a little higher than the lowest frequency a manufacturer claims a speaker can play. For example, if your speakers are rated to play down to 60Hz, try an 80Hz crossover.

  • Keep the volume on your receiver at least 5-6dB below its max setting. The volume adjustment on most receivers goes from -80dB (mute) to about +16dB (max). By staying below -6dB below that max setting you can typically avoid over-driving the receiver, which could potentially damage your speakers and receiver.  A good tip would be to set the max volume limit in the OSD menu if that is an option.

  • If you can't seem to get enough bass out of your subwoofer, instead of cranking up the volume try changing the location of the subwoofer. By placing a subwoofer in a corner you can boost the output, but sometimes at the expense of sound quality.

  • Lower the noisefloor in your room so that you don't have to turn the volume up so high.  That means lowering HVAC noise, closing a door to cut down on external extraneous noises.

Source:  Forum Member - Steve81, Cliff Heyne

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About the author:

Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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Recent Forum Posts:

MDS posts on June 04, 2014 14:38
CerwinVega, post: 1034038
There is a very important thing that you guys may be missing or did not know… The quality of your music files depends on how hard you can drive your amp and speakers as well. I only play 320kbps mp3 or Wav (Original audio disk, not burnt) I find that playing music at high levels on my x2 Cerwin Vega Xls-215's with a Wav file does not distort, does not even go anywhere near dangerous clipping levels ( I have x2 cv1800 rack amps) But at 256kbps or 128kbps, 64kbps ans so on the quality of music is ver very poor… Poor or low kbps WILL damage your audio equipment permanently!!!!

The bit rate has nothing to do with possible damage to amps or speakers. Modern music is unfortunately mastered to very high average levels: -12 dB or even greater is not uncommon and I have a Barenaked Ladies CD where the average level is -8 dB!. When a WAV file (1,411 kbps) is converted to a lossy format, it often introduces clipping in the waveform. Whether the bit rate is 64 kbps or 320 kbps it is the excessive clipping coupled with the very high average level plus high volume (read power) that introduces the possibility, but not certainty, that speaker damage may occur.
tcarcio posts on June 04, 2014 11:50
I am of the opinion that if you set things up correctly and don't overdrive your speakers you can run amps or recievers that have more power than your speakers are rated for and have no problems. I have run my setup for years with more power then called for and over the past 30 years have only blown one tweeter and that was about 3 years ago on a set of B+W 801 series 80 that I believe had more to do with age than power. My first pair of decent speakers were a set of Henry Kloss towers that I ran for years with 300w amps. I asked at the time I bought them how much power they could handle and was told it really wasn't an issue as long as I took care and didn't abuse them. Now I am not saying I am right and someone else is wrong but I have said before if you run your system correctly and keep your drunk nieghbor away from the volume control you should not have a problem, IMHO.
AcuDefTechGuy posts on June 04, 2014 10:32
Don't use amps greater 200W may help too. Using an AVR would be safest. Power kills speakers, not clipping.
3db posts on June 04, 2014 07:55
gmichael, post: 947411
Unless you have children who think that the volume knob only turns to the right.

You mean it turns left too? Gawd, who'd of thunk of that ? :o
tsweers89 posts on June 04, 2014 06:29
Good info here
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