Speaker power handling

I'm currently demoing some Dynaudio Focus 140 speakers rated at 200 watts rms/iec @ 4ohms.
With my older PSE amp rated at 195 w@ 4ohms the sound is good.

Now my concern is to try my Classe CA400 that is rated at 800w @4ohms without having an expensive repair bill. I do at times listen at higher volume settings with peaks around 95+db.

Should I resist temptations trying the Classe?
Too much power should not be a problem. Generally speaking it is better to have the headroom which prevents the dangerous distortion an underpowered amp would produce when clipping. You may find that you cannot turn the volume knob up very far however without getting earsplitting SPLs. Given the Dynaudio tendancy to beg for power this may not be much of a problem.
Speakers are far more often damaged by too little rather than too much power. I often use a 350 watt amp with speakers rated at 50 watts with no problems. Using a normal amount of caution you should have no problems.
Use the classe and don't look back!! Dyns don't lie when they get the juice!
The three previous posters are correct. I would add only that if you hear a loud banging/clanking sound on big bass passages at high volume, the voice coil is banging against the magnet, you are going too far, and need to back off immediately.
Ok then, this makes me a bit more confident to give it a try.
Previously driving my Magnepan 3.6r's with the Classe didn't seem to be enough power.
I'm aware of too low of power and clipping resulting damaging the tweeters, and sometimes too much power melting the woofers.

I read a few online articles that were more orientated towards dj's/pro audio and thus my concern with 4 x the recommended power of my amp.

Thanks for the replies
I would add only that if you hear a loud banging/clanking sound on big bass passages at high volume, the voice coil is banging against the magnet, you are going too far, and need to back off immediately.

I have had this experience with too much power, and it is terrifying.

Be advised.
You are only using 10-15 watts at your sound pressure levels. The problem you may have is bottoming out woofers at higher levels with the more powerful amp. Sometimes the smaller amp will play louder without bottoming out and the fact remains the smaller amplifier is usually better sounding.
"and the fact remains the smaller amplifier is usually better sounding."


That's exactly what I said when I looked at your photos.
Gee, Rrog, was that meant as a slam? I looked at SnoFun3's system and was quite impressed. It seems to me he is having some big-time fun with both of his systems...

Athough the Dynaudios have some of the best drivers in the industry the Focus 140 is a midget of a speaker. I'd recommend larger speakers if you want to play loud. I'd also question your logic of having so much invested in amplification and the intention to invest relatively little in new speakers.

Those little midgets are unlikely to do anything close to realistic bass sound.

See this plot from Stereophile

You can see they have a huge hump around 80HZ and port noise/distortion in the lower midrange (red curve)
Shadorne has a point. If you want to listen at high SPLs, big speakers with large drivers are the way to go. Although the amplifier is capable of providing ample current to drive the speakers, small bookshelves usually can't play that loud and will distort easily when overdriven. You are probably getting some distortion with the Focus 140 when listening at 95db peaks(assuming a listening distance of 3m from speakers).
Not at all.
It seems to me you are having some big time fun too.
going to a 3db more sensitive speaker would be like doubling amp power.
Sticking with Focus may preserve 'house sound' you apparently like.

I had a Pioneer SX727 a LONG time ago and ended up hating it. Amp? just ok, while the FM tuner wouldn't hold frequency and would 'jump' periodically.
Sure looked neat, though.
The demo of these tiny monitors was to get a sense of the Dynaudio house sound without lugging around their larger series floorstanders.
Although small, they sound surprisingly larger and for a 2 way design they are very coherent.

Shadorne: Thanks for pointing out the 80hz. hump as there was something going on in that region that I just couldn't figure out. Although with a 3 foot rear wall spacing for the rear port it wasn't standing out.

My room is about 17x20x8 leading to an open hallway with diy Owen Corning absorption panels on the side and rear walls.
My main criteria is for smooth midrange and high frequencies so I am open for other suggestions without spending over 3k. My Magnepans just didn't work in my room.

I've been doing this audiophile stuff for over 25 years and only 4 speakers have been in my setup. I have not been exposed to many other brands so Audiogon is a good resource for information and appreciate the feedback so far.

Hello Yagimax,

By Stereophile :
The Dynaudio Focus 140's estimated voltage sensitivity was 86.1dB(B)/2.83V/m, which is slightly below the average of the speakers Stereophile has reviewed,

You never did list your listening distance so i will use 9 ft , your speaker will require 128 watts to achieve 95 db @9ft listening distance, so you must be a lot closer for you to get 95 db with your PS audio, maybe 6 ft ? at 6 ft the speaker would require 95 watts...

It's quite possible you were clipping your PS audio to achieve such a high level, so i would expect much better sonics from the higher power amp when listening at such a high level, yes very much so.

Most if not all speakers will benefit from more power..
My listening distance is around 9 feet with nothing between me and the speakers. Several months ago my tiny Paradigm Titans were destroyed with too much power applied so I chickened out trying it again.

My local dealer also carries B&W, Audio Note,Harbeth and Sonus Faber amongst others. The Audio Note E's just did not fair well in my room with various tube amps resulting in boomy bass. So my quest continues!

My source is a Mac Mini with a Sim Audio Moon 300d dac.
Weseixas, Not true!
Rrog .. regarding ?

If listening at 9 ft and you do require 95 db , then go for the bigger amp ....

Port noise would be in significant, because it is rear firing, the only way to do vented speakers for hi-fi listening IMO. The rear vent makes the speaker sensitive to wall placement and with a -3 db down point of 40 hz, it will not be bass shy ( relative)if placed correctly. I would be more concerned about it being overdriven and pushed into distortion at 95db, where his current PS audio amplifier would quite possibly be clipping at that point.....

"Most if not all speakers will benefit from more power".
09-07-10: Yagimax
Several months ago my tiny Paradigm Titans were destroyed with too much power applied so I chickened out trying it again.
As you may have known, power doesn't destroy speakers. As mentioned by a few others, too much power is not a problem. It is highly likely the SPL limits of the Paradigms that are exceeded that caused the damage. The user controls the amount of power delivered to the speaker via remote, and the fate of the speaker lies in the wisdom of the listener when turning up the volume on the amp.

In other words, too much power on a powerful amp is not the cause to the destruction of the Paradigm Titans. It is the amount power delivered to the speakers which the user has control upon that damaged them. To avoid this, a speaker with higher SPL ratings/capabilities will be more appropriate(usually big speakers with large drivers). Otherwise, avoid listening to music at high volume levels. The Dynaudio Focus 140 may play louder than the Paradigms but still you have to practice caution when cranking it up. Pay more attention to the excursion of the drivers and distortion in music if you don't want to damage the speakers with your powerful Classe amp.
Although small, they sound surprisingly larger and for a 2 way design they are very coherent.

Dynaudio make their own "pro" drivers and are much higher quality than what most manufacturers use. So you can get away with a smaller Dynaudio than you could with almost all other models. The advantage of the small woofer is that is does a great midrange and this means the speakers have an awesome off axis response that is very even and smooth.

The lateral response is awesome

You have chosen a very good small monitor but it is not suited to your large space if you ask it to play loud (at realistic levels) - you should really look into a three way.

I'd suggest to look into ATC SCM 40's ( another budget priced studio monitor ) they can play louder and will exhibit the same revealing character that Dynaudio 140 do and may still fit you budget. However, the bass on the SCM40 will be much less boomy and may not work for you if you find yourself really happy with the 140's. (The 140 being +5db at 80 HZ is going to tend to sound like one note bass no matter what you do to try and EQ it - this is a common trait of most small ported monitors that have huge bass extension and is not meant as a specific criticism of the 140 - as other designs do this too)

I am not sure that any of the other speakers you mention are actually going to be an improvement on the 140's.
Thanks again for the replies. Another speaker in my current home theatre setup that I have dragged into my 2 channel system on occasion is an older pair of Paradigm Studio 100 v2 speakers that just crank and sound fantastic for the first 10 minutes. Then listening fatigue sets in with too much of a forward sound and harsh HF.

My Classe amp drove them with ease. If I could find similar performance with smoothness my search would be over.
"...peaks around 95+db." I wouldn't recommend you go overboard with that classe on the Dyna's.

Ok, "peaks" normally last for milliseconds & don't usually kill speakers, but about 100W is more that what many drivers can take for any amount of time -- and that doesn't get you your 95dB...!

I think a bigger speaker (i.e. in size) is indicated. Try the ATCs recommended above. They're pretty rugged (but not bullet proof!:)).
My Classe amp drove them with ease. If I could find similar performance with smoothness my search would be over.

The Paradigm's tilt upwards in the treble - if you turn the treble down then they may work better for you. If they sound harsh then you may have trouble driving them (they are like a 2 ohm load in the bass and may cause amp clipping/IMD distortion making the mids and treble harsh). Great speakers but not a smooth load.
Please explain your position...

I will stand behind mine that i have never encountered a speaker that did not sound better on a bigger amplifier. I'm also not from the school of small amp sounds better than a big un ! never experienced that before after trying many, many over the years ...

i guess first we need to define what is considered a small amplifier..

These ATC speakers look interesting. Is there a dealer that carries them in the U.S. or Canada?
Vandersteen 2ci's since sold, were in my system for over 15 years. I'm not if the newer signature versions are more alive sounding as my 2ci's were a touch boring but polite.
Better watts......are better.
Better may mean better for a particular speaker. Some amps do not like hi phase angle loads....impedance being secondary. Some amps of the 'bulletproof' variety can thrive on weird loads.
I'd rather have 100 bulletproof watts than 500 wimpy watts.
The Classe is a bit overkill for the Dyna140 although it would sound superb.
If you are willing to invest that much in the amp, suggest you consider as what others have pointed out, a pair of ATC SCM19 or the SCM40. These speakers can play really loud without strain & paired with that classe , you should be happy!
Weseixas, With all things being equal it takes a lot more parts to make a more powerful amplifier. Higher parts count equals lower fidelity. This is why audiophiles are attracted to the sound of SET amplifiers. There is something special about the sound of these simple designs. The Naim Nait has always been a big hit for its sound quality even at 25 watts per channel. Whenever two amplifiers are designed the same the lower powered sibling has the preferred sound. If you have a power hungry speaker then you have no choice, but I hardling think this little Dynaudio Focus 140 needs 800 watts per channel. Totem has used these little Dynaudio drivers for years and a high quality 100 watt amplifier is a good match.

Wnat more slam? Getting a bigger amplifier. Want more of everything else? Keep it simple.

Hello Rrog,

If Yagimax wants to drive his speakers to 95 db 9 ft away he will need an amp with at least 300 watts /ch if not to have any clipping...

A bad power amp is just that, Bad, big or small. Speaking absolutely due to the dynamic power necessary to reproduce "live music" most if not all speakers will benefit from a big un, of course if this is not the goal and one has high efficiency speakers maybe some 25 watt deal could work at a moderate level.


Hello Yagimax,

I would go to the bigger and better amplifier first , you can upgrade the speakers later. You are most likely to damage your speakers clipping the lower powered PS audio than with the bigger amplifier.

Weseixas, The speakers power handling capability will be exceeded with 300 watts. Honestly, I do not believe speakers with a midrange size woofer are intended for this kind of abuse.

It is true tweeters can easily be damaged with too little power, but woofers can be damaged with too much.
Yagimax, Do yourself a favor and contact Dynaudio. I believe using an amplifier with 800 watts into 4 ohms is risky business with your little speakers.

Its obvious I got mixed up in a solid state crowd.
The Classe has been sitting idle since the sale of the Magnepans thus the temptation to try it.

My last audition was a single driver speaker with an 18w set amp. The midrange was fantastic but lacked dynamics.

I'm hoping to try something different this weekend after another visit to the dealer.

Not a SS crowd, it's more a sounding like live music crowd. -)

Not because an amp has 800 watts mean he will be using it all, nor will yagimax be using 300 watts rms, most likely 300 watts music peak and only if he decides to go crazy with the volume, if not i don't expect any issues...

Guarantee it will be the best he has ever heard those dynaudio's..

Weseixas, It takes a lot more than a 5.5" woofer to sound like live music no matter how much power you have.

Did you think the Dynaudio speakers were rated at 200 watts continuous? I would guess their 200 watt rating is a peak musical signal rating.

Its nice of you to give Yagimax a guarantee of best sound, but if his Classe amp sounds so great, why is he using his PSE amplifier?

Not sure Rrog,

I was only addressing the power situation, not his subjective reasoning for choosing one over the other. I think he did state he has never tried the bigger amp on that speaker as yet.....

I do agree the speaker is small for large scale music, that aside it will still sound it's best when being driven by the larger amp IMO and i never suggested 200 watts RMS, but it will require close to 300 watts peak to meet his db criteria, with out clipping .....

Just saying !!!

I'm using my old PSE amp because of the lower power and easily within the limits of the Dynaudio without worries.
With fussy speaker loads the Classe easily bests the PSE including the Bryston 4bsst.

Dynaudio also distributes the German made Octave tube amps which I'll borrow this weekend along with hopefully a larger Dynaudio speaker.

As suggested, these monitors may be to limiting for my space and requirements.

Yagimax, I would say you are headed in the right direction. I would like to know what you think of the Octave and Dynaudio combination. Do you know which amp you would be trying out, V70, V80?
I think they only have the 40 watt integrated on the floor. I have tried it at home before, paired with a single driver 94db. efficient Fostex speaker.

It will be interesting comparing the sound with this amp driving a 4 ohm load of the Dynaudio. I'll then try the Fostex speaker again for a back to back comparison.