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# Surround Sound System?

## Can someone explain to me in detail how a receivers and speakers work? I understand speaker power is measured in watts. What I don't understand is why a 60 watt speaker sounds like a 180 watt speaker as far as bass. Is there a myth to the wattage of speakers? Also, how do ohms come into play with audio systems. I am asking because I would like to build my own 5.1 surround system using a Marantz stereo with Definitive Technology speakers and don't want to screw anything up.

Wattage is not representative of much of anything in speakers. It is supposed to be the amount of power input a speaker can handle but in reality there are just too many factors to put a number on this. If you take a 1 amp use, it should work with less than 1 amp and fail with more than 1 amp. A speaker isn't like this, you can have a "100 watt" speaker and blow it out with 10 watts if conditions are right (maybe I should say wrong). You can also play it safely with 500 watts again if conditions are right.

Everyone knows a 100 watt light bulb is brighter than a 60 watt light bulb. (it's usually true) With a speaker, it isn't true. A 10 watt speaker can be louder than a 100 watt speaker. The wattage is not the means of describing output in speakers. In speakers you look at the sensitivity rating. Let's say the 10 watt speaker has a sensitivity rating of 95 dB 1 watt/1 meter. It will pay 95 dB 1 meter from the speaker given 1 watt input. The increase in output with increases in power is given by 10Log P/1. (10Log 10/1 = 10 dB) With it's rated maximum power input of 10 watts it will be playing at 105 dB. Let's say the 100 watt speaker is only 85 dB 1w/1m. 10Log 100/1 = 20 dB so it's maximum output is also 105 dB.

So, you understand that speaker power is measured in watts but hopefully what you now also understand is that speaker output is not measured in watts but rather dB SPL (Sound Pressure Level). Power and SPL are related and the relationship is described by the speakers sensitivity rating.

Ohms has to do with restriction of electron flow. Lower ohms makes electron flow easier. You would think this means that lower ohms would be easier for an amplifier to drive but this is not the case. Think of low ohms like a very large diameter water pipe. Water flows very easy through this large pipe but does that make the spigot's job easier? No, it makes it's job harder, it has to supply a lot of water flow (current) to supply the load (large diameter hose). If the diameter of the hose were really small, the spigot would easily supply enough water to keep the hose flowing at it's maximum potential. Speaker impedance is the same, a speaker that is 4 ohms requires twice as much current (flow) from the amplifier as one that is 8 ohms. You know what a "short circuit" is I assume. A short circuit is zero ohms and it attempts to draw infinite amps of current out of your amplifier. You're amplifier fails! You know what an "open circuit" is I assume. An open circuit is infinite ohms and attempts to draw zero current out of your amplifier. A 4 ohm speaker is getting closer to a short circuit relative to an 8 ohm speaker and an 8 ohm speaker is getting closer to an open circuit relative to a 4 ohm speaker.

You can study voltage and current division by Googling the topic. This will teach you how resistance (similar to impedance) works when you start putting things together in series and in parallel. Actual speaker impedance is different however. You have to know a little math to work with speaker impedance because it includes resistance and reactance. You can think of reactance as resistance with a phase component. Speakers include both capacitive and inductive reactance. To calculate voltage and current division in this case you use vectors. It can become quite complex and if you're not careful you can put together resistors, capacitors, and inductors in such a way as to have very erratic impedances. An improperly designed speaker system can have very low impedance at certain frequencies and be nominally 4 or 8 ohms at other frequencies. With such a speaker you could be constantly blowing up amplifiers not understanding why. You think the speaker is 8 ohms and should work fine but you don't realize that a crossover design flaw causes the speaker to drop below 2 ohms at the crossover frequency.

In your case, you are planning on using name brand equipment as opposed to building so you don't really need to understand impedance on such an in depth level. Just know that when you put speakers in parallel the impedance is halved. Make sure you don't put a load on your amplifier with a total impedance lower than it can handle. The amplifier can always handle higher impedance, it's lower that it will have problems with. Going higher impedance however there is less power. Power is determined by the voltage across the load and the current through the load. For example 2.83 volts across 8 ohms produces 1 watt and 2.83 volts across 16 ohms produces 1/2 watt. So if you put two 8 ohm speakers in series on the same amplifier you get 1/2 power and you divide that 1/2 power between the two speakers so each one gets only 1/4 power.

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# Other Career Questions

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