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Impedance

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Drive units and complete loudspeaker systems are also rated in terms of their
impedance.

This is the load presented to the amplifier, where a low impedance means the
amplifier will have to deliver more current, and hence 'work harder'.

A common nominal impedance is 8 ohms. 'Nominal’ means that this is
averaged over the frequency range of the drive unit or loudspeaker, and you
will find that the actual impedance departs significantly from nominal according
to frequency.

Normally this isn't particularly significant, except in two situations:

  • At some frequency the impedance drops well below the nominal impedance.
    The power amplifier will be called upon to deliver perhaps more power than
    it is capable of, causing clipping, or perhaps the amplifier might even go
    into protection mode to avoid damage to itself.

  • The output impedance of a power amplifier is very low – just a small
    fraction of an ohm. You could think of the output impedance of the amplifier
    in series with the impedance of the loudspeaker as a potential divider. Work
    out the potential divider equation with R1 equal to zero and you
    will see that the output voltage is equal to the input voltage. However, give
    R1 some significant impedance, as would happen with a long run
    of loudspeaker cable, and you will see a voltage loss. Make R2
    – the loudspeaker impedance – variable with frequency and you will now see
    a rather less than flat frequency response.

To be honest, the above points are not always at the forefront of the working
sound engineer's mind, but they are significant and worth knowing about.

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David Mellor

Acoustics

Acoustics

In this course, trainer Joe Albano explains how sound interacts and is modified by the listening environment. Learn the powerful influence of acoustics on our perception and the propagation of sound.

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David Mellor