Last Updated on September 8, 2023 by Norvan Martin
When considering the sound quality of a speaker, many people think about loudness and sound quality. When it comes to loudness, we talk about speaker power and wattage. However, what is speaker wattage and does wattage affect the loudness and clarity of a speaker? When buying a speaker, should buy one with a high watt rating and not pay attention to other factors? Are higher watt speakers better and how many watts make a good speaker?
In this article, we will answer all these questions and more.
How Many Watts Is A Good Speaker?
The best wattage for a speaker depends on what you want to use it for. For example, the best wattage for a home speaker is between 20 and 35 watts. For a small party, you need a speaker that is pushing around 35 to 50 watts and for a mid-size gathering, you need about 60 to 100 watts.
Please note that if you are talking about cheap portable Bluetooth speakers, then it won’t be anywhere near satisfying loud.
When choosing speakers based on power, you should also consider the sensitivity of the speaker (its Sound Pressure Level or SPL). In other words, always choose speakers with the highest sensitivity rating (SPL measured in dB/m) given comparable wattage output. We explain further below. Speakers with high sensitivity ratings can go loud with very little power.
As an example, Klipsch offers a wide range of highly sensitive speakers including the RB-41 II bookshelf speakers which are affordable and highly sensitive (91dB @ 2.83V). This means that they can play rather loud with fewer watts.
Look at the maximum acoustic output of the speaker or how loud it will play for a given power input without blowing up. This is the speaker’s efficiency or SPL. Higher efficiency speakers will require less power for the same acoustic output. The wattage simply represents the power handling capacity of the speaker, meaning how much power you can push to it from an amplifier.
What Are Speaker Watts Really?
What are speaker power ratings or wattage? Speaker wattage has several meanings depending on how you are looking at it. In high-powered systems that use passive speakers, it refers to the total amount of power that a speaker can handle from an amplifier.
On the other hand, you could see it as the total amount of power a speaker requires from an amplifier.
However, many people take speaker watts to mean the amount of power a speaker can produce or how loud a speaker is.
Matching Amplifier To Speakers Wattage
In cases where you are connecting a passive speaker to an amplifier, the wattage of the passive speaker will refer to how much power the speaker can handle from the amplifier. Push more power from the amp to the speaker and you risk damaging it at high volume.
It is therefore important that you match the speaker’s power rating to that of the amplifier. This means that you use a speaker that is able to handle the same or more power than the amplifier provides.
Do not connect a passive speaker to an amplifier that is pushing more power than the wattage of the speaker. If the amplifier output wattage surpasses that of the speaker, then it may play so loudly that you will start to hear some distortion, and you may end up damaging it!
If your amplifier is pushing more power than the speaker can handle, the speaker will sound louder, but the sound quality will not be good and you may end up blowing the speaker altogether!
Speaker Wattage and Distortion
We already spoke about the fact that if your amplifier is pushing more power than your speaker can handle, you may end up damaging the speaker.
If not, this will at least lead to distortion. Distortion is a weird-sounding crackle and hum that you will hear in your audio as your speaker struggles with the overload of power.
If you need your speaker to be louder, and you have a more powerful amplifier, you need a speaker with higher wattage. Matching your speaker wattage to that of your amplifier will prevent the annoying distortion issue and keep your speakers safe.
How Loud Are Different Wattage Speakers?
The loudness o any speaker will certainly depend on how powerful your amplifier is and where your volume knob is set to. Below, we will consider a comparison with your amplifier set to maximum power output and your speaker set to maximum volume.
How Loud Is A 3 Watt Speaker?
3 watts is not very loud, but it is loud enough to fill a small room easily. However, a cheap 3 watt Bluetooth speaker will not be loud and probably won’t sound great. On the other hand, HiFi speakers with high sensitivity (SPL) can go very loud with just 3 watts per channel.
How Loud Is A 30 Watt Speaker?
A 30-watt speaker is reasonably loud for casual listening. It is loud enough for amid sized room and a small gathering. Again, a cheap Bluetooth speaker of 30 watts will not sound good. However, a higher-end 30-watt speaker with a high SPL will be loud and clear.
How Loud Is A 1000 Watt Speaker?
A 1000 watt speaker can be extremely loud and can easily fill a large room. Such a speaker can be used for house parties and similar gatherings. This of course assumes that you are providing maximum power from the amplifier (the 1000 watts required).
Are Higher Watt Speakers Better?
Higher watt speakers are not necessarily better than lower watt speakers. This is because speaker SPL or sensitivity determines how loud a speaker is. SPL or speaker sensitivity refers to the efficiency of a speaker.
As such, the more efficient a speaker, the louder it will be. If you have two 100 watt speakers, and you are feeding each with 100 watts, the louder speaker will be the one with the higher sensitivity.
How Many Watts Is Good For Bluetooth Speakers?
The wattage for most Bluetooth speakers will be in the range of about 15 to 30 watts. In fact, for most people who use Bluetooth speakers in their home, 20 watts is enough. If you need a speaker for a small get-together, anywhere from 50 to 100 watts is good enough.
Speaker Wattage For Room Size
Below is a table that outlines the average wattage you’ll need depending on the square feet of your room. Please note that this is the wattage sum for speakers and subwoofers.
|Room size in square feet||Wattage sum (peak)|
|Under 500||100 – 200 watts|
|Over 2000||4000 watts|
Do I Need To Worry About Speaker Wattage?
It depends. If you are just listening to moderate audio, say for example in your home, you may not need to worry about the power rating. As long as you have a speaker over say 20 watts, you should be ok.
If however, you are using your speakers for a party, for example, you surely need to worry about wattage because it ties into the loudness of your speaker.
Speaker Wattage and Sound Quality At Different Volumes
Speakers with low wattage will not sound good at high volume because you will have distortion. The distortion will occur because the speaker will struggle to handle the amount of power it is receiving.
However, it’s not all about watts, but the quality is also very important. For example, there are many 100 watt speakers that do not sound good at high volume. On the other hand, there are many low-watt speakers, say 10 watts that sound good when at maximum volume.
The quality metric you are looking for to avoid distortion is sensitivity. Speakers that are very sensitive will tend to produce high quality audio at low or high power.
What are Decibels And How Do They Affect Wattage in Speakers?
The real loudness of a speaker or anything else is measured by decibels (dB). What are decibels? Well, decibels are a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound.
It is a logarithmic unit of loudness. This really means that a small increase in dBs can mean a large increase in loudness. As an example, when the loudness of a speaker increases from 20dB to 40dB, that of course means that the decibels doubled. However, in this case, the perceived loudness of the sound will more than double, it will sound much louder.
It is very important to know that for every 3dB increase in loudness, you will require double the power/watts. For example, if takes 10 watts for a speaker to generate 90dB, it will require 20 watts for this same speaker to generate 93dB.
If you want the speaker to generate 96dB, then it will require 40 watts. It of course follows that if you want to generate a loudness of 99dB, then the speaker will require 80 watts and so on.
To learn more about how describes correspond to loudness, check out one of our decibel charts. Here is a quick one for your reference:
|dB Range||Everyday Sound|
|0 dB||Threshold of Hearing|
|15-25 dB||A Whisper|
|40-60 dB||Home or Office Background Noise|
|65-70 dB||Normal Speaking Voice|
|85 dB||Idling Bulldozer|
|105 dB||Orchestral Climax|
|120+ dB||Rock Concert|
|130 dB||Pain Threshold|
|140-180 dB||Jet Aircraft|
Speaker Wattage, Loudness and Sound Pressure Level (Sensitivity)
SPL stands for sound pressure level and is a measurement of the efficiency and sensitivity of a speaker. Speaker sensitivity is a measure of how efficiently a speaker converts amplifier power to acoustic energy or sound.
Keep in mind that this is referring to the efficiency of converting power to sound. To explain further, an efficient speaker should convert most of the electrical energy it receives to audio energy and not heat.
Of course, the more efficient a speaker is in reproducing sound, the louder it is. As such, SPL represents how loud a speaker is. In other words, the higher the SPL of a speaker, the louder it is a vice versa.
There is a corresponding relationship between power and SPL. When power doubles, the SPL increases by 3dB.
This means, that if you have two speakers, one is 50 watts and the other is 100 watts, the second will produce twice the power of the first. However, in terms of SPL, you will only get an increase of 3dB SPL.
Does Speaker Sensitivity Affect Wattage?
The sensitivity of a speaker directly affects how clear and audible its sound is at high volumes and low wattage. In other words, the more sensitive a speaker is, the less likely it is to produce distortion.
The sensitivity of a speaker will be written as something like 80dB at 1W/1m. This means that the speaker offers 80 decibels with one watt when measured a distance of one meter from the speaker. The more efficient the speaker is, the higher this number will be and vice versa.
If a speaker is very sensitive, it will only require less power to produce a loud and clear sound. If a speaker is not very sensitive, it will require a lot of power to produce a loud sound. Of course, this points to the fact that you should look for speakers that are of better quality, not necessarily higher wattage.
Let us say that you have a speaker with a sensitivity rating of the 90dB at 1W/1m and has a power rating of 100 watts. This speaker will produce 90dB when it is powered with 1W and you measure the loudness from a distance of 1m.
Now let’s say you decide to double the power to 2W, the SPL of the speaker will increase by 3 dB to 93 dB.
This of course simply means that you can increase the SPL measure of a speaker by increasing the power that goes to the speaker. If you are dealing with a passive speaker, this simply means increasing the power that the amplifier is pushing.
It also means that if you want a speaker that is very good (good sound quality and loudness) when you are providing a small amount of power to it, then you need a speaker with a high SPL or a sensitive speaker.
How To Correctly Read The Power Handling Capacity of a Speaker?
In fact, when considering wattage, you need to understand whether it’s maximum or continuous wattage. In addition, you need to consider whether the speaker can sustain the power for long periods. To learn more, check out our guide on speaker RMS power.
Can I Connect An Amp With High Power Rating To A Speaker With Low Power Rating?
So the question is, can you connect an amplifier of a higher wattage to a speaker of a lower wattage?
Yes, you can do that, but you need to be careful. If you will be listening to the speakers at a comfortable, moderate volume then it is ok. However, if you increase the loudness too much, you run the real risk of damaging the speaker.
How To Get The Highest Power Output From A Speaker?
If you want to get the highest power output from your speaker, you shouldn’t just consider wattage. You should consider SPL as well. Remember, two speakers can be of the same wattage but produce different loudness at the same volume because in speaker has a higher SPL.
Get a speaker that has a high SPLrating because then you will get louder sound that doesn’t require a massive increase in power to the speakers. This means your amplifier doesn’t have to do a of work to power the speakers to produce a loud sound.
How Does Increasing Amplifier Power Affect The Loudness of A Speaker?
First of all, keep in mind that the general rule is, if you double the power of your amplifier, this will increase the speaker output by 3 dB.
Based on this rule, the following table shows the corresponding SPL based on wattage:
|Amplifier Power Output||Speaker Output Level Increase|
|10 watts||10 dB|
|100 watts||20 dB|
|1000 watts||30 dB|
How Many Watts Is A Good Car Speaker?
Most cars directly from the manufacturer are fitted with speakers that produce at least 20 watts RMS power. This is the lowest you should probably go. This should be four speakers, two inside the front doors and two behind the rear seats.
Most reasonably priced aftermarket speakers will give you just about 25 watts RMS or about 50 watts max per channel or peak power. You however need to make sure that your amplifier’s output matches the power handling capacity of the speaker.
Is 500 Watts a Lot for a Speaker?
A 500-watts speaker is a powerful speaker. Most speakers range from 20-200 watts, but 500 is definitely on the high end for a single unit. However, it’s not safe to say that a 500 watts speaker is louder than a 200 watts speaker.
What Happens if My Amp Has More Watts than My Speakers?
If you happen to have an amp with more power than your speakers, it’s not such a big deal.
The issue will only occur if you decide to crank up the volume and make settings to high levels. Doing that will make the speakers overpowered and potentially damage them.
Is a 1000 Watt Speaker Loud?
Yes, a 1000 watt speaker is very loud and you would be able to hear it in most parts of a large house.
However, if someone wanted their home entertainment system to blast the bass they may want two thousand watts for each channel.
So that there isn’t any distortion or risk of blowing out speakers with too much power.
Does Wattage Matter for a Speaker?
Yes, wattage tends to matter for a speaker. This is because the higher wattage, the more powerful the speaker is – although this has its advantages and disadvantages.
To conclude, the bottom line is that the higher the wattage of a speaker, the louder it will generally be. However, you need to consider speaker sensitivity as equally important. This is because, with two speakers of the same wattage, the one of a higher SPL will be louder and clearer if all else remains equal.
If your speaker is highly sensitive (high SPL), then you need less power from your amplifier. In addition, it can be of lower wattage and still produce a loud and clear sound.
All the best in your quest to find the right speaker that offers the power output, power consumption, and clarity you desire!
Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.