Having a suitable sound system in your home is essential, not only for listening to music but also because watching movies and TV shows from home is becoming the norm these days. But there’s nothing worse than not being able to hear what’s being said. Enter surround sound that allows you to get that “in-theaters” feeling in the comfort of your home but also begs the age-old question of which is more important: the amp or the speakers?
Amplifiers are more important than speakers because they are what power and control speakers in the first place. You can make great speakers sound poor without a proper amp. However, they do work together in a system, and if you are upgrading one of them, you should do the other one too.
Throughout this article, we’ll go over what both the amp and the speakers in your surround sound system do, and we’ll be talking about which of them is more important to the overall quality of your sound.
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What Do Amps and Speakers Do?
Before we debate which component of a sound system is more important, let’s discuss what each of these components does.
What Does an Amp Do?
An amplifier does just what the name says; it amplifies. It is best known in the music world because there are devices made being called an ‘amplifier.’ Still, in reality, they are an electrical device that amplifies any kind of electrical signal.
In terms of music, amplifiers take an incoming sound signal from a source, amplify the amplitude (and therefore volume) of the sound waves, and send them out to a sound-producing device like speakers. They don’t change any other aspect of the sound waves (like frequency or pitch); they only make the sound louder.
What Do Speakers Do?
Speakers, in a nutshell, are electrical devices that produce sound. They do that by taking an incoming signal from an external device and converting it to an analog signal (if the source is digital) and changing it into sound waves, which are then sent out of the speaker and heard by the listener.
Essentially, speakers enable us to ‘hear’ the electric signal produced by the music we are listening to or the movie or TV show we are watching.
Now that you have a basic knowledge of what each of the devices in question does, we can move on to discussing which one is more important.
Which One Is More Important Between the Two?
The answer to this question is a bit of a complicated one because, in reality, neither is more important than the other in terms of improving your home sound system. However, in all likelihood, you’ll hear a much more significant difference in the sound quality if you get a higher power amp playing through mediocre speakers than you would if you had great speakers being powered by an inadequate amplifier.
So if you want a short and sweet answer, an amplifier is technically more important than speakers. Still, nothing is ever that simple, and getting a better amplifier won’t guarantee that you’ll suddenly have spectacular sound.
Your amplifier and speakers work together in synchronicity to produce the sound that you hear, and they need to be able to do that well in order to produce good sound. Having one half of the system be the best device that money can buy and the other half a rather mediocre device will only produce results as good as the lousy device can deliver.
In all truth, if you want to have a sound system that gives you good sound, you’ll need to have a good amplifier paired with good speakers. However, if you’re on a budget and want to upgrade your sound system in sections, your amplifier is an excellent place to start.
You also need to keep in mind that there are some amplifiers that just don’t ‘gel’ with some speakers, no matter how hard you try, but we’ll talk a bit more about matching your amp and speakers in the next section.
Make Sure Your Amp and Speakers Will Work Together
If you’re going to upgrade your sound system at home and aren’t going to buy a set with both an amp and speakers included, you’ll need to make sure that the amplifier and speakers you get will be able to work properly with one another. Otherwise, this whole operation will have been a waste of both your time and money.
There are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration when trying to find the right amp-speaker pairing, which we’ll go over briefly in this section.
You’d think that when you’re trying to match an amp with some speakers, you should find devices that have the same power rating, but you’d be thinking wrong. The power ratings you see on your speakers tell you the minimum as well as the maximum power that the given speaker needs. This does not include RMS power or constant power. However, it is always better to use an amp that offers a little more power than the maximum rating of your speakers.
This will allow you to have more control over the speakers and mean you’ll hear less distortion. It will also mitigate the damage that can be caused by pairing a low-power amp with higher power speakers and playing sound loudly. Getting a higher power amp will give you the best results and longevity you’re looking for.
Sensitivity and Impedance
The next problem you’ll be faced with when pairing an amp with speakers is the sensitivity and impedance ratings. The sensitivity rating shows you how much volume you’ll get for every Watt of power you supply these devices. Impedance is similar to resistance in that they both measure how much a circuit resists the current running through it.
You’ll most likely find these figures on your speakers, and it’s good to know what they mean. A speaker with a high sensitivity figure will need less power to generate a reasonable volume level. The lower the impedance rating on a speaker is, the less efficient it will be, and the more distortion you will hear. You’ll also need a higher power amplifier to power them.
So, if you want the best results, look for speakers with both high sensitivity and impedance ratings. The most common are 87 decibels sensitivity and 8 Ohms impedance.
Balance and Quality
The issue of balance has little to do with the workings of the amp and speakers you have and more to do with their relation to the room they are in. When on the lookout for a new sound system, make sure that you buy an amplifier and speakers that are neither too big nor too small for the room will be in; otherwise, you’ll end up with volumes that are always a bit too loud or too quiet.
It is also essential to get an amp and speakers of the same quality; if you don’t, you’ll hear it instantaneously, as you’ll end up with a thin or flat sound that can often come across as a bit tiny.
Making sure you have a good sound system will ensure that you get the best experience when watching a movie or show from home. However, it is best to upgrade your system piece by piece. That way, you’ll be able to get the best quality parts every time. When doing this upgrade, you should start with the amplifier since it will significantly influence the sound system you already have and then work your way to replacing the speakers.