Small amplifier clipping

January 6, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

9 comments on “Small amplifier clipping”

  1. It doesn’t hurt to give yourself some extra headroom when buying an amplifier in case you change or upgrade your loudspeakers at some future point in time.
    If you’re not sure how many watts you need to drive your loudspeakers to the volume that you require (like) in your listening room, then you can always talk to someone from ‘PS Audio’ to get some reliable information.

  2. Since Fat Rat appears to be an official spokesperson for PS audio, you should know that if you ask PS audio for unbiased info about Amplifier efficiency, you might not get it. I called about another matter about a year ago and the very low power of my Pass Labs XA25 amp came up. The β€œTech” had never heard of Nelson Pass but was very dismissive of my class A low power amp. Funny, the rest of the audiophile world considers that amp world class.

  3. I have a pair of Zingali Overture 4 floorstanders which are rated at 93dB. I have a big old hybrid amp which outputs 150watts into 8 Ohms and 300 into 4 Ohms. I also have a cheap and very cheerful Reisong A50 mk 3 300b SET which is rated at 7.4 watts but probably actually only manages 3.5 W with a following wind. Both allow me to reach maximum comfortable volumes without any audible distortion, though I think a change of rectifier tube in the Reisong helps.
    I used to be impressed by power ratings. No more.

    Incidentally I also power Kef LS50s, often thought of as power hungry, with a 38 watt PrimaLuna. I rarely go over 9 O’clock on the volume control.

    So I’m with Paul. Certainly try and match speakers but quality of power is more important than quantity.

  4. I am surprised that more amplifier manufactures do not use True Clipping L.E.D.s such as Bryston, Adcom, and Soundcraftsman (I am sure there are many more). The PS Audio M700’s are very interesting but also do not have any true clipping indicators. Power claims 350 watts min does not say (RMS) I would assume RMS though. Very small and lightweight for that wattage they are most likely class C? If more amps had clipping indicators users would not have to guess if there amp was too small or is in danger of burning the tweets.

  5. FWIW, Amplifier clipping depends on several general factors :
    1. Type of Genre You like (amplified or acoustical music)
    2. Typical Volume level You listen to
    3. Room size and acoustic Characteristics
    4. Your Personal Hearing Acuity
    5. Speaker Efficiency (typically measured in DB, with 1 watt of input power, from 1 meter on axis-90db is general considered average).
    6. Rated Amplifier Power per channel, both channels driven.

    General rules:
    A. To safely cover 10db of Musical dynamic peaks without clipping (amplified music), amp needs 10X the sustained power output capability!
    B. To safely cover 20 to 30db of Musical dynamic peaks without clipping (acoustical non-amplified music), amp needs 20 to 30X the sustained power output capability!
    C. Speaker transducers get damaged Quickly and Easily with amplifier power outputs being Overdriven (clipping distortions) beyond their clean power demands. The higher Your demand for “Sustained” listening DB levels means the amp still Tries to cover the musical peak demands. If your amp can’t produce that 10-20-30X peak power demand, then clipping (sine wave becomes square wave=Voice Coil HEAT) begins to destroy driver transducers!!
    D. Having more power (extra headroom) is Much safer for Speaker Systems than having too little power. RARELY are speakers damaged due to handling high “clean power outputs”!!!
    E. Keep average listening levels Lower, Buy as Much Amp Power as you Can OR Buy Very Efficient Speakers…or Do All THREE!;)

    Here is a very good SPL Calculator to access Your power needs:


    1. Correction…B. [To safely cover 20dB “musical peaks” requires 100X the sustained amp output power and 30dB peaks requires 1000X the sustained amp output power!!]

      I knew this, but in my haste typed incorrect values (musical peaks Certainly demand much higher power requirements than I stated above)!

      Apologize for misleading anyone…my bad! πŸ™

  6. High speaker efficiency does not equate into sound quality. Nor does high wattage amplifiers equate to sound quality. Choose your speakers and amplifiers wisely. For most of your listening you will have plenty of power in a home. It’s sound quality at the loudness that you listen to your music most of the time that matters. There are amplifiers and speakers that sound wonderful at low to moderate loudness levels and others that don’t.

    1. Absolutely correct, Joe! High power or efficient speakers are not necessarily a Guarantee of fidelity sound, but due lend to less issues with amplifier clipping!

      I have neither (monitors are 86db efficiency powered by a 150wpc amp-powered sub w/500W amp), but with a synergistic audio setup, great room acoustics and a quasi-near-field listening position, have no issues reaching full range unclipped clean acoustical peaks of 110db…That is Loud (for me)! System fidelity is a Superb 3D blow-the-walls-down soundstage presentation that provides consistent precision imaging, toe-tapping, breath-taking, jaw-dropping entertainment and musical enjoyment!! Wrapping it up all into one word-LIVE! πŸ™‚


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