Amplifiers & Separates

Will Getting a Bigger Amp Help with Speaker Distortion?

You sometimes like it LOUD! You are not going to apologize for that. But you’ve run into an issue. When you start to blast your speakers, they start to sound weird. You’ve done some research and it seems like your speakers are distorting. They sound fine at lower volume so you’re pretty sure you haven’t damaged them but you wish they could play louder. Will getting a bigger amp help reduce speaker distortion when you crank up the volume? Let’s discuss!

Two Types of Distortion

When you are pushing the volume too high, there are two types of distortion: speaker and amp. When a speaker distorts, there several things that can happen. The cone material can break up. This means that the speaker is trying to push out so much volume that the rigidity of the cone material fails and it flexes. Mechanically, the driver can reach the end of its limits and you’ll hear a “clang.” Sometimes, you can actually push the speaker so hard that it can damage itself.

When amplifiers distort it is called clipping. This is when you’ve turned the volume dial up so far that your amp runs out of power to send to the speaker. Generally speaking, when a speaker distorts, you may or may not notice it. Especially in the case of cone breakup, it may not be evident at first. When an amplifier clips, it will send you running for your remote. Amplifier clipping sounds horrible (buzzing usually) which will have you immediately worried that you damaged your speaker.

More Power Doesn’t Stop Speaker Distortion

If your amplifier is causing the distortion and not your speaker, then a new, bigger amp will help. The only solution for running out of power is more power. If your speaker is distorting and not the amplifier, then pumping more power into the speaker won’t do anything good. In fact, it may push your speaker to failure!

If your speaker is distorting at high volume, then you need different speakers. Something with a high efficiency rating. Unlike power handling, a speaker that has a high efficiency rating indicates that the speaker can get very loud with very little power. This does not mean that you can place them in an auditorium and they will fill it with sound without distortion. But it does mean that they will get much louder with much less power.

Take Away

You can drive any speaker to failure if you try hard enough. Home theater speakers are meant for home environments. They are not meant to fill large volumes of air with concert-level sound. If you are trying to recreate the concerts of your youth, or trying to kickstart your DJ career, don’t use home theater speakers. You’ll just destroy them. Now that we’ve helped you identify what to listen for, you should be able to determine whether you need new speakers or a bigger amp. Good luck!

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