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Power, Sound Pressure Level, let's make it clear

juin 21, 2019

Still in 2019 there is quite some confusion around about all that concerns measuring a speaker output in general. Concepts like "power", "sound pressure level" and similar are very often abused for marketing purposes, and we at Partybag don't want to do that. We would much like our customers to be informed in an honest way about what they are doing.

We know many of our customers are professionals, but not necessarily in the audio field. The most common case is simply someone who needs a speaker to do whatever he/she likes or needs, and has a right to understand what to expect. So let's try to explain this in simple terms without becoming too technical. All in all, if you are an audio professional you already know this, so move along! 🙂

Now: how loud is a speaker? There are two ways you can figure that out.

  1. Search for the Sound Pressure Level (SPL) in the specifications. That's the measure, taken with an instrument called a Sound Level Meter, generally at 1m distance straight in front of the speaker, that is most closely related to what your ear perceives as "loud", and that's what we like to report in our technical specifications. Compare that with other speakers you know, compare that with a table like this one, get your own idea.
  2. Try it. Try. It. Seriously, there is no better way. In the end it's you who will use it to do your own thing, it's not a matter of show-off between different datasheets. And while you are at it, you can get also an idea of the sound quality, that is entirely another story, and in the end figure out if it's ok for you. So go to one of our shops, come visit us in Reggio Emilia, ask a friend who owns it, that will always be the very best way no matter what.

What about power then? Power is that thing power companies charge you for at the end of the month, and that's not even so true because they actually charge for energy provided (at least that's how it works in Italy). Power is an electrical measure, not an acoustical one. A speaker does precisely the job of transforming electrical energy into sound pressure, and it can do that in so many different ways that the "power" figure barely tells you anything about what you are expected to hear. It depends on so many constructive details of the speaker that it's basically pointless to talk about that unless it's about power consumption, and by the way in a battery powered speaker you don't want this to be high, right?

Also, people use tricks and in many cases you read about "peak" power, that doesn't mean "the power I experience when I listen to techno at maximum volume" but a power that can be substained for a very very short time meaning a few seconds or way less, there is not even a standard. Are you listening to music for a few seconds? We really doubt that, that's why we use good batteries. The power that makes more sense (but still you could just not care about) is RMS Power. Without too many technical details, it's an average power that can be substained, and the number is normally a half or even a third or a quarter of the "peak power". Again, there is not a fixed standard definition for peak power. And yes, music can also include short peaks or bursts, and peak power is also needed, but that's definitely not the reason you read peak power around, or even just "power" unspecified. It's just a cheap way to say "hey look I have more power!".

But wait: isn't, for example, a 200W speaker louder than a 100W speaker?

As we said before: it depends on how the speaker is designed, on the components, on many factors. But suppose you take two otherwise identical speakers and feed one with 100W and the other with 200W, what will the difference be? The answer is: just 3dB of Sound Pressure Level that means: audible, but just a little. Not so impressive, to be fair. In exchange for what? A much higher stress on the batteries, so either a reduced range or the need for larger batteries, more weight, more waste of space and so on.

Power is basically the last and easy resource you can use to gain some extra Sound Pressure when nothing else works. That's why at Partybag we don't take part in the pointless race of showing off a higher power figure, but we focus on efficiency and on the best possible tradeoff between sound pressure, battery duration, light weight and comfort.

In the end don't mind power, mind SPL. Or even better, test our Partybags yourself! We have nothing to hide.

P.S. there are also other important parameters such as frequency response, directivity... but that's for another day. Let's start from the basics and enjoy the next weekend, with Partybag hopefully!

Partybag Staff


Partybag  |  © 2024

Partybag® is a registered trademark of Louder S.R.L. | Headquarters: via S. Rigo 23, 42123 Reggio Emilia (Italy) | VAT: IT-02597380357 | REA: RE-296410 |Share Capital: 22’000 € f.p. | Phone: (+39) 366 422 7751 | e-mail: info@partybag.it | Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Louder Srl is under license. All the products and brands mentioned and represented are registered trademarks of their respectives owners.

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