We often run into players who assume that a PA speaker’s Power Rating (also known as Watts or Wattage Rating) directly reveals their apparent loudness. In other words, they believe that a PA speaker with a higher power rating will be louder than one with a lower rating. The short answer to this is, maybe – but maybe not. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at what the power rating actually determines as well as the factors that contribute to a speaker’s apparent loudness.
Speaker Specs And Apparent Loudness
A speaker’s power rating details the amount of power that it can safely handle. If your loudspeaker is rated for 300 watts of power that means that it can safely handle 300 watts. Depending on how the manufacturer determined the speaker's power rating, it could realistically handle more power, but that’s not suggested for obvious reasons (taking a look at our Common Causes Of PA Speaker Damage article, you can easily see that pushing your speakers past or close to their limit is a recurring theme).
Getting back to loudness, a 300 watt rated speaker with 300 watts of power being pumped into it might sound as loud as a 1000 watt rated speaker with the same 300 watts of power being delivered to it – but then again, it may not. So while a speaker’s wattage rating is certainly a factor in determining the apparent loudness, other characteristics such as dispersion, efficiency and sensitivity (also referred to as a speaker's SPL rating) also contribute to this. To add to that, a speaker made to produce only a small range of frequencies might be able to achieve a greater amount of volume than one made to produce a greater range of frequencies.
Because of all of these factors, it’s not safe to assume that a 500-watt speaker will be louder than a 200 watt one (even if that is often the case). Another thing to keep in mind is that – all other things being equal – doubling the power of a speaker will only give you 3dB more volume (which isn’t all that much when you think of the big picture). For example, a speaker that is rated with an SPL of 98 dB and has a power rating of 500 watts will actually have comparable volume capabilities as a speaker with 95 dB of SPL rated at 1000 watts. This is a perfect example of why all specs should be taken into consideration (and well understood) when shopping for speakers.
As you can see from the information above, while a speaker's power rating can contribute to its apparent loudness, it's only a small piece of a bigger puzzle. By taking a look at all of the loudspeaker specs together, you will have a clearer picture of what a certain one can bring to the table.
If you're in the market for a new set of speakers and are having trouble figuring out which is right for you (or have questions regarding the purchase of any other piece of gear we carry) don't hesitate to chat with one of our friendly PAL pros by using the live chat feature below or by calling us toll-free at 1 877-671-2200!
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Aside from specs, what other factors determine your choice in loudspeakers?
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