Power Handling: All you need to know!

What you should know about speaker power handling before you upgrade your speakers...

December 5, 2011

Different speaker manufacturers use differing methods to determine power handling. At Celestion, every speaker is rigorously power/longevity tested using an in-house developed noise source. From this test, we find out how much power the speaker is capable of using and how much will destroy the speaker outright. By skilful analysis of the test data, we calculate a suitable power-handling figure.

The value chosen is low enough so there's little or no risk of damage, but highenough for the speaker to fulfil the application it was designed for. It is NOT an absolute limit above which you must never go, more like a "speed limit" You can exceed the limit if you want, but it's not recommended and if you do, theremay be trouble ahead...Generally, you can safely run a 60-watt Celestion speaker at 60 watts and it'll keep going all day long.* Connect it up to 100 watts and it might work for anhour or more before it incinerates. "Over-power" any speaker and it'll workfine for a while; just don't bank on it lasting.

(* Extreme use can break a speaker at lower-than-rated power levels. Forexample a sustained drop-tuned Metalcore pummelling through vintage-typespeakers would almost certainly cause damage.)

Power Handling for Combined Speakers

If you mix different speakers with different power ratings in the same cabinet, it's important to be aware of the combined power handling of the cabinet itself. Unfortunately it's not quite as simple as adding together the two power handling values.

As a rule of thumb, the cabinet power handling should be calculated as a multiple of the lowest rated speaker. For example in a 2x12 containing a 60-watt speaker and a 30-watt speaker, overall cabinet power handling is 2x30-watt = 60-watt. In a 4x12 containing 2x60-watt speakers and 2x30-watt speakers, overall cabinet power handling is 4x30-watt = 120-watt.
Back to Guitar Tech