Help please choosing AMP wattage for a newbe

After many years, I am finally in a position to put a nice system together - but not all at once..

Here is my dilemma.

I just purchased a Classe SSP 600 and I now need to purchase the amps. The amps I would like to purchase are Pass Labs X 350. My speakers are rated at 200 watt max. The reason I want the 350 is because next year I will upgrade my speakers and want an amp robust enough to handle future needs. However, I don't want to ruin my current speakers - Martin Logan Clarity and Dahlquist 28s.

Is there a way to make sure I don't damage my speakers before they are upgraded?

I appreciate the feed back.
Speakers are usually damaged by using an amp that is too low in power rather than too high. When an amp is overdriven it will go into clipping and pass DC current through to the speakers , heating them up and eventually burning them out. The power rating usually denotes the constant power input they are able to handle. Music consists of constantly changing power levels, with peaks usually lasting only a short time. I myself use a 275 watt amp with speakers rated at 50 watts and have no trouble. Unless you play hard rock at a constant , extremely high level you should have no problem. Speakers rated at 50 watts can withstand 500 watt peaks, 200 watts is a high power rating in any case.
Well said Stan......
Max wattage is a pretty useless figure. Min wattage and efficiency mean much more. Keep in mind that a 92db rated speaker will require 1/2 the wattage to hit the same volume as an 89db rated speaker. My main amp is only 20 watts and I never run out of power. However, 94db speakers are much less hungry than logans.
An 86db speaker will need 10 times the wattage to equal that of a 96db rated speaker (usually a horn).
Every 3db requires a doubling of wattage.
Percieved volume will double with an increase of 10db. So, you have to increase by 10 times to double volume. 1 watt on a 90db speaker will need about 9 watts to double the volume. The problem is that to double it again, 20db increase will take a ton of power (approx 75 watts) will achieve around 110db which is THX rated levels.
Now do that for an 86db speaker and you are looking at 175-190 watts to hit the same levels as that 90db speaker.
For example: you can plug in a 15 watt light bulb into a 20 amp circuit. The light bulb uses what it needs, If your fears were correct, the light bulb would explode the moment the current was turned on, because the 20 amps available is WAYYYYY more that the light bulb needs. Since that doesn't happen, your fears are also not going to come true.
(everyone is free to trash my analogy... however, it is a decent one for a electrical layperson)
The one exception would be a drunken partygoer turning the volume up to 100% on a heavy metal song.. this is a different problem than the one you seem concerned about.

yep.... just don't stand on the gas pedal and you'll be fine.
I wouldn't buy an amp until the final choice of speakers is made.

The amp/speaker match is the most important in every system.

There's a good chance you won't need 350WPC.


I wouldn't buy an amp until the final choice of speakers is

I fail to see the reasoning here as to why speakers should be bought first, than an amp. Unless some esoteric speaker choice is ultimately made such as high eff horns are on the top of the short list. If someone is eyeing high current amp (s), I doubt horns are a recurring thought.

it looks like even money to me either way. Speakers then amp or amp then speakers. Both areas offer many choices of fine matches regardless which comes first.
Always buy the speakers first. They are the final element of your system and have the job of turning electrical energy into sound waves. The only other component which has a task like this is the turntable. They make far more difference than the amp. How will you know which amp to buy, you can't hear the amp without the speaker? Chose the speaker you like best and then chose an amp that maximizes it's qualities. If your favorite speakers are horns, you don't need 500 watts. If they are Apogee's , then SET is out. The amp is a tool to get the best performance out of a speaker, if you don't know what speaker you are using , how will you know which tool to select?
Stanwal got it right Blindjim.

Although most amps will work with most speakers, few combinations are optimal.

So you buy a speaker (the most subjective and personal component in any system) that pleases your listening preferences and then an amp which is a very close electrical match.

Read and learn.
"Although most amps will work with most speakers, few combinations are optimal."

That's been my experience - and hard learned. To me, putting an audio system together is like trying to build a Superbowl team; there's more to it than just matching the numbers - there's personalities to deal with. That's right! I said personalities. I have no tech knowledge so I use what I know. I wish you luck.

"Always buy the speakers first. They are the final element of your system and have the job of turning electrical energy into sound waves."

Buy the speakers first as they are the final element?

That simply doesn't make sense to me.

"Read and learn."

“Quid pro quo”, Bill.

... "Buy and try" or better still, "it's what's up front that counts" or perhaps, "All roads lead to Rome".

Here's what I've learned from experience. I've found speakers in general aren't too unlike other components. In fact I believe placing the bulk of the funds into those items in front of them is the better path. This is also my experience.

In a perfect world we would all be able to sample or audition in our homes this piece or that, these speakers or those until we find the ones wwe truly want to live with till God comes.

it ain't... and we don't.

Few if any I suspect lay out immense bucks for their “final” speaker right off. Evacuating the budget and then adding a cjheapie int or amp, source and wires to run them with.

Perhaps we should ask, huh? Just how many folks bought their dream speakers as their first speakers?

But it’s easy enough to point to I guess. It just aint a practical method for many if not all.

I’d rather have any day a great front end and then mid priced speakers than to lay out for mega priced speakers possessing a mid level front end. Always. I’ve seen this proven out time and time again in my home and at dealerships.

It’s also a safer way to go as well.

Thankfully, we live in a world which allows us to proceed at what ever rate or in whatever fashion we choose.

Even if your aim was at buying the best speakers your budget allowed for, then placing the remainder into the front end, I’d still disagree that plan equates to better or the best sounding system.

When it is proven to me that superior transducers overcome inadequacies in a systems electronics then I will have learned something else. So far however, I’ve not seen it as the case in fact.
FWIW, I'm in the Audiofeil, Stanwal, Phaelon camp: choose your speakers first.
That was the classic Linn position, spend ALL the money on the front end. You can do it this way. But the fact remains , if it doesn't come out of the speaker you won't hear it. The variation in speaker sound is far greater than in front ends or amps. Nobody suggested that you immediately purchase the most expensive speaker system you can. Try to see what kind of sound you like and then purchase a used pair of speakers part way up the chain of that type of sound. You may love them forever or trade them off in disgust but you will not be out an exorbitant amount of money. The whole question is governed by your musical taste. What kind of music do you like to listen to and at what level. If you are a vinyl user there is something to be said for putting 50% or more in a turntable. If you use CD the case is different. Technology is advancing and by the time the rest of your system catches up to your expensive CD player it is likely that something cheaper and better will be available. The central thing in audio is to learn what kind of sound you yourself like. I see all these letters searching for THE BEST. There are many kinds of good sound , and even more of bad. But THE BEST does not exist.
That's an approach I can and have lived with.

The main issue as I see it is this… finding the sound you like. I had no idea eight years ago when I returned to this hobby I was indeed more taken by the sound of tubes until I heard some very good ones. Add to that I also find SS a nicety and even a real plus from time to time, so I am on occasion confounded.

Throw in the limitations on choices in and about my area in regard to both electronics and loudspeakers, and still more difficult it becomes to determine which is best for me.

Consequently I chose to go along the path of front ends having the priority over speakers. That does seem to work well too. Naturally, having speakers on the same level would indeed be a plus. Having the ‘right for me’ speakers yet a better one.

Having gone through about sixteen pairs of speakers in this same span, and far less turn over in electronics by and large, I do get your intent I think.

For me it has come to this… there’s tons of speakers out there. Way too many for me to investigate or audition in person. I neither have the time, inclination, or funds to pursue the exact units I’d want which will work the best for me, with my gear. Then of course it follows, I don’t know which ones are truly the best for me anyhow.

So I settle. I compromise. I accept what it is that I can live with that has the least flaws pretty much, and that I can afford, and give it my best shot.

Having had some Stereophile A rated speakers, and some B’s, my current mains satisfy. They are in my category of best so far. They likely aren’t my last pair though…. The next ones should be however, as I’m homing in. At least I hope so.

It’s a process for me, and for many others I believe due to the restraints I pointed out earlier on. Local availability, previews, and funding. Yes I do emphatically agree the best should mean ‘best for you’ as there really is no truly ‘best’ loudspeaker.

The one bit I keep coming back to is the part about if speakers are chosen first… “how will that make selection of the amp, preamp, source ”and cabling easier or better?” Unless you buy the whole system in which you previewed the ones that really floated your boat in the first place, I don’t understand.

In other words, How do you tell in advance how a speaker will react with components that haven’t been tried with it/them?... aside from perhaps the power requirements they may tend to enjoy?
The same argument can be used in reverse: how do you tell in advance how a component(s) will react with speakers that haven't been tried with it/them?
The way I hear it, speakers seem vastly more colored than most other components, and perhaps even more importantly speakers react more differently in different rooms or with different placement, with less user control, more so than most other components.
The old cliche' of "gabage in, garbage out" doesn't hold water with me. It doesn't matter at what stage the signal is contaminated, it's still contamintated. Just as a speaker can't make a poor input signal better, a "better" sources benefit can be negated going through poor speakers. The weakest link will cause problems regardless where it is. IMHO, it's just more likely that deviations from accuracy are more likely to occur at the speaker end, and especially in the speaker/room interface. If we accept that speakers and the speaker/room interface is more colored than other components, it makes sense (at least to me) to; 1. list the least colored speakers in ones budget, that will fit, and can be appropriately placed in the given room planned for use, and 2. of those, choose the ones whose "palatte" of colorizations is least objectionable/most acceptable to you, then 3. work back from there.


" The same argument can be used in reverse: how do you tell in advance how a component(s) will react with speakers that haven't been tried with it/them? "


it could as well be a lot simpler deal if the person bought into the aspect of built in synergy via one brand of power train, pre and amp too, and then find out what speakers that brand voiced them with. At that point though, you have the power components and speakers which yield you the designers ear, not your own.

I tried that plan early on too. Not a bad way to go.

I believe matching components together is a far simpler task. Their generation of the signal, enhancement, transmission of it, and their apparent flexibility or options, do not encounter some or even most of those problems associated with loudspeakers. Consequently, it is an easier task to amass a very good front end with which to begin the hunt for fine speakers... or merely those which work best for the end user.

Going down that road a mite more, it's easier to find devices which have significantly improve upon signal integrity.

Of all the transducers I've had or own now, each time an upgrade to the power train or source, or cabling was accomplished the sound quality escalated or improved or at least changed. Usually though, for the better.

I suspect the author here is on that same bent. I’d also bet the resultant quality and control of the loudspeakers on hand there increases if the higher power producing gear is in place. Spazz said too a speaker upgrade is in the plans to follow… and likely up to other ML units, or some such which require the sort of power being thought of now for the author’s preffs.

In all it is very probably “6 one way, half a dozen” the other which ever direction is taken.

As subjectively speculative as is the end result in either scheme, I guess I’m more fond of seeing increases through the speakers on hand along the way till they top out via upstream changes, then at that point, seek out suitable replacements as I’m figuring with my luck having a swinging door for speakers, the ‘best’ might be gotten rid of or overlooked due to inferior or just less synergistic electronics as the ongoing speakerage debuts continue as the front end is then not entirely formulated.



Which speakers are on your short list for the planned upgrade you mentioned?
Unless I am simplifying things, this questiuon bugs me out. I always felt a powerful amp is like a powerful sports car. Maybe the car can do 200 mph, but you don't have to go that fast. I think if you control your volume levels, you should be okay. You will probably go deaf before you fry a 200W speaker