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  1. #1
    Hey gang, I wrote this article a few days ago and have been asked to post it up here as well.



    Choosing an amplifier is about more than just watts.

    When speaking to anyone about achieving quality music in car audio most people simply focus on the speakers rather than the amplifier. They often speak about speaker build quality and power handling, enclosures, porting, fibrefill, loading and speaker cable. You donít really need to worry about the amplifier so long as itís powerful enough right? Just like when youíre considering the purchase of a new car; the only thing you need to look at is the power output of the car alone right? Wrong.

    When choosing an amplifier to power your speakers there are more stats than just power output you need to think about before you splash a couple of grand on an amp that will sound like rubbish. For those among you dreading an upcoming lecture on amplifier classes, resistors, capacitors, transistors, transformers and power supplies relax, Iíll keep this to plain English for the explanation of which stats to look out for. High power output is important but quality amplifiers are not just about sheer power. Mining dump trucks have over 6000 horsepower but that doesnít make them spectacular performers. Besides power there are certain other important figures that must be taken into consideration when choosing a suitable amplifier. Weíll go through a few of the more commonly found stats.

    Damping Factor
    Damping factor describes an amplifiers ability to control a woofer cone. Itís the ratio of rated load impedance to the internal impedance of an amplifier. The higher the damping factor the more efficiently an amplifier can control unwanted movement of the speaker coil. High damping factor is crucial for subwoofers and the higher the damping factor the better. It is debatable if anything over 50 is audible. Damping factor is calculated by dividing the speaker impedance by the output impedance of the amplifier. In other words the damping factor will decrease as the speakers impedance decreases. This means an amp optimised at 4 ohms will provide tighter bass than when theyíre running at 2 ohms. A lower damping factor will leave bass notes sounding soft and undefined, regardless of the amplifiers power output. You can see by this that a smaller 100 watt amplifier with a high damping factor can often sound better than one twice itís size with a low damping factor.

    Slew Rate
    Sometimes referred to as damping factor for tweeters, the slew rate describes the amplifiers ability to accurately control fast direction changes of a speaker cone or dome. Have you even turned your stereo up to discover that your cymbals sound like someone throwing a brick through a glass window? Thatís because the amplifier simply wasnít fast enough to accurately reproduce the high frequency ring of the symbols. Measured in volts per microsecond, a low slew rate softens the definition of a sound signal which blurs transients and causes the sound to appear muddy. A high slew rate means the amp responses faster which ultimately results in crystal clear highs.

    Total harmonic distortion
    THD is the measurement of the how much the amplifier can distort the sound signal through the introduction of added harmonics or overtones. THD figures are usually given as percentages and a THD figure below 1% are generally inaudible to most people. However, distortion is a cumulative phenomenon so if your head unit, eq, crossover and amplifier are all rated at less than 1%THD each, together they could produce 5%THD which may well be noticeable to most of you.

    Signal to noise ratio
    Noise leaking into the sound signal is an ever present problem in car audio. The Signal to noise ratio is a measurement of noise level in the amplifier compared to the level of the signal. A higher S/N ratio signifies a greater difference which is better. Technically speaking, itís the ratio expressed in dB of signal power at a reference point in a circuit to the noise information that would exist if the signal were removed (the noise floor). The maximum signal to noise ratio of the amp can be seen as a measure of realistic fidelity. This ratio is how much absolute noise it produces compared to the highest signal voltage it can pass without distortion. Many companies combat noise by utilising balanced line systems.


    Stereo separation
    Separation is not spoken about much but this refers to the amplifiers ability to maintain the separation between the right and left channels. This is essentially what allows an amplifier to reproduce an accurate sound stage. Each individual instrument is after all, are recorded in itís own location in the sound stage and you should be able to hear this in the same way when itís played in your car.

    Just a final few points to remember while youíre looking at specs. Youíll find many are followed by the term ĎA weightedí. Put very simply, ĎA weightingí is a way of colouring the figures a little to make them appear more attractive. Loading is another issue to consider. Watch the impedance of speakers when choosing them because while most amps are stable at low impedance levels, theyíre not overly efficient nor performing 100% when loaded down. Your cars engine is 8000rpm stable but itís unwise to try and keep it there for long. By the same token many amps are 2 and 1 ohm stable but this is for intermittent spikes (as music is dynamic it causes the speakers resistance to continuously change during playback), not continous everyday running.

    These are some of the more important figures to observe when buying amplifiers. Itís not simply just a matter of buying which ever amp outputs the most power. Itís a matter of taking all the figures into consideration and choosing which amplifier best suits your needs.

    vti-2 edit: updated title

  2. #2
    Needs more time... Array
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    This one's a Sticky.......thanks Marty!
    Got a question? Check out the FAQ - http://www.ozhonda.com/go/faq

  3. #3
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    Hey Marty, just out of curiosity, do you do any reviews or that sort of stuff for magazines?? which ones in particular, may I ask??

  4. #4
    I still love HONDA! Array
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    Toe, have a look in InCar Entertainment magazine. He does a number of reviews there.
    euro77 by Jimmy (toE)

  5. #5
    I write for numerous hard copy and internet publications but the main one you'll be interested in is INCAR. I write three reviews plus most months.

  6. #6
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    Anyone ever hear of Solar Audio subwoofers???????

  7. #7
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    Might be big in Asia not in Australia I don't think :P
    Albert Einstein Two things are infinite: the universe & human stupidity; I'm not sure about the universe.

    Put your location in your profile, makes referring help easier!

  8. #8
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    Came across this goldmine of information. Source = http://www.ecoustics.com/Home/Car_Au...fier_Articles/

    http://carsound.com/articles/publish/printer_293.shtml >All Amped Up: The CEA-2006 Standard - Car Sound (9/04)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...interview.html >How the Class-T Digital Amp Chip Will Transform Car Audio - Crutchfield Advisor (7/04)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...interview.html >Interview about Mobile A/V Standards - Crutchfield Advisor (1/04)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...omparison.html >Comparing Car Amps: A Look Under the Hood - Crutchfield Advisor (10/03)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...ers_movie.html >Car Amplifier Installation Video - Crutchfield Advisor (9/03)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99.../oem_amps.html >Amp Up Your Factory System - Crutchfield Advisor (8/03)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...ier_noise.html >Troubleshooting and Avoiding Amplifier Noise - Crutchfield Advisor (8/03)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...standards.html >Numbers Games: RMS or Peak - Crutchfield Advisor (7/03)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...t_affairs.html >Big Amps Can Create a Big Stress For Some Cars - Crutchfield Advisor (7/03)

    http://www.caraudiohelp.com/car_audi...amplifiers.htm >Car Audio Amplifier Basics - Car Audio Help (1/03)

    http://www.caraudiohelp.com/how_to_i...tall_a_car_amp >How to Install a Car Amp - Car Audio Help (1/03)

    http://ccs.exl.info/amp_instal.html >Amplifier Installation and Wiring - Custom Car Stereo (7/02)

    http://ccs.exl.info/amps.html >What Amplifiers Specs Really Mean - Custom Car Stereo (7/02)

    http://www.caraudiomag.com/specialfe...0205cae_crown/ >JBL's 6,000 Watt Beast - Car Audio (5/02)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...mplifiers.html >Car Amplifiers: How to Choose - Crutchfield (4/02)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...ers_noise.html >Car Amplifiers: How to Suppress Noise - Crutchfield (4/02)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99..._glossary.html >Car Amplifiers Glossary - Crutchfield (4/02)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...fiers_faq.html >Car Amplifiers Frequently Asked Questions - Crutchfield (4/02)

    http://www.crutchfield.com/I-recsc99...s_install.html >How To Install Car Amplifiers - Crutchfield (4/02)

    http://www.caraudiomag.com/specialfeatures/0202cae_amp/ >The Untamed: High Power Amplifier Comparison - Car Audio (2/02)

    http://www.caraudiomag.com/archives/...atures02.shtml >Anatomy of the Power Amplifier - Car Audio (1/02)

    http://www.caraudioheaven.com/www/amphowtochoose.htm >How to Choose a Car Amplifier - Car Audio Heaven (11/01)

    http://www.caraudioheaven.com/www/amphowtoinstall.htm >Installing Your Own Car Amplifier - Car Audio Heaven (11/01)

    http://www.caraudiomag.com/archives/...atures02.shtml >Anatomy of the Power Amplifier - Car Audio (11/01)

    http://www.carsound.com/columns/clark/clrk0010.shtml >A detailed look behind the science of amplifier stability - Car Sound (7/01)

    http://www.carsound.com/columns/clark/clrk0008.shtml >Physics, Speakers, and Amps - Car Sound (3/01)

    http://www.edmunds.com/ownership/tec...1/article.html >Understanding Car Audio Systems: The Amplifier - edmunds (11/00)

    http://www.rayfes.com/caraudio/amp.html >An Introduction to Amplifiers - Rayfes.com (11/00)

    http://www.rayfes.com/caraudio/ampspec.html >Understanding Amplifier Power Specifications - Rayfes.com (11/00)
    Last edited by EuroDude; 06-04-2006 at 08:45 PM.

  9. #9
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    could some please, when they have free time, go through the above and remove the dead links.. the 2 i chose to look at were both dead.. and mods please delete this anytime.

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