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Oldsmobile Forum: Car Audio Amplifiers.
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Old June 30th, 2005
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OK well i know some people have wondered what the purpose of a Amplifier is, and what does all the jibberish mean that you see associated with them? Well this write up is for those who want to know these questions, and other questions.

Amplifiers
The purpose of a amplifier is to take the low level signal from the head unit and change it into a high level signal for driving the speakers. Amplifiers range in power from about 20watts/channel to over 1,000/channel. The price range can be anywhere from $50-$1000+, depending on features, power output (wattage) and quality. A amp sometimes has as little as 1channel (or MONO) to as many as 8channels. The most popular amps are 2-4channel amps, however MONO amps are gaining on them.

Amp Power Ratings
Extra things may be built into a power amp. These features can include but not limited to:

*Built-in Active Crossover (see below)
*Equalizers
*Signal Processing
*Speaker-Level Inputs (see below)

When shopping for a amp, consider that all power ratings are NOT created equal. Some of the low-quality brands will lie about their power output. This is a VERY good reason to stick to the brands well known for their quality, and power output. The ONLY TRUE measure of a amps power is its RMS (or continuous) rating. RMS is the root mean square and is the amps average output (sometimes @12volts, or 14.4volts)

Terms you see

*Bridgeable- This allows 2channels of a amplifier to become 1channel (usually by using the + of 1 channel and a - of another) for greater power. This will work with subwoofers as well as speakers.

*Channels- The more channels the more speakers/subwoofers can be used.

*Class- This is the way a amplifier operates. There are 3 types MOST LIKELY to be used, classes are A, A/B, and D. Class A amplifiers are least efficiant in terms of power consumption, staying on continually. Although it does have better sound than the Class A/B. They are VERY rare in car audio. Class A/B amps are more efficiant than Class A and are more commonly used. Almost all amps are Class A/B. Class D amps are usually used as high powered subwoofer amps and are the most efficiant. It produces less heat and less current draw.

*Crossover/Filter- This can be VERY usefull especially for multpile Frequency of adjustment. A Filter is a crossover that only effects 1 channel, doesn't split the frequencys, just reduces the range of them.

*THD%- Also known as Distortion and Total Harmonic Distortion. It measures how much a amp will change a input signal its provided with. Anything below 0.1% is negligible and will NOT be heard. Usually a 3%THD can be without being heard, but all high quality amps will have a THD% of below 0.1%.

*Efficiency- The ratio of power input (from the battery) to power output (to the speakers). A 100watt amp with a efficiency of 50% would take 200watts of power from the battery, and output 100watts to the speakers. The left over 100watts will be used as heat. The HIGHER the efficiency the better.

*Power Supply- The 2 most common types are the IC chip and MOSFET power supply. The IC chip is what is used in most head units and are only capable of producing 20watts/channel. MOSFET is most common, and has a smoother and better sound than the IC chip.

*Pre-amp Inputs- This is a set of connectors (for RCA cables) that will accept low level pre-amp signal from a source, or processing unit.

*Pre-amp Outputs- Also known as RCA outputs, they pass on low level signals to another amp or processing unit. These will sometimes be filtered outputs. Most headunits come with 1 or more pre-amp outputs. The higher the pre-amp voltage the better the signal. 2v and up is most common, and produce a good signal.

Well that concludes this write-up, if you have any questions, post and ill try to answer.
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