Amps, Volts, and Watts are all important units of measurement to understand within the music world. Not only will knowledge of these units keep you and your equipment safe, but it will also help you get one step closer to achieving your desirable sound. Let’s take a look at the difference between amps, volts, and watts.
Difference Between Amps, Volts, and Watts?
From Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary we have the definitions of amp, volt, and watt:
Amp: a unit for measuring the rate at which electric current flows.
Volt: the force of an electrical current.
Watt: A unit for measuring electrical power.
So, volts x amps = watts
Those definitions are quick and simple, but they still might leave you scratching your head as to the exact differences between them. Let’s take a look at each unit individually and how they relate to one another.
An amp, or ampere, measures how much electrical current is flowing. To make things simple, we can look at a wire as a garden hose for this example. How much water is coming through that hose is likened to how much electrical current, or amps, is flowing through that wire. But amps alone do not mean much without understanding voltage.
Think of volts as a measure of ‘push’, or ‘pressure’. How fast those amps are being pushed depends on the amount of voltage. 10 volts have less ‘push’ than 110 volts.
Watts is the amount of energy consumed, or how much ‘power’ is being generated. Usually, musicians will look at an amplifier and check how many watts it has to determine it’s volume potential. Generally speaking, more watts equals more volume, but that is a blanket statement that can sometimes be misunderstood.
We know that volume is measured in decibels (db), and every time an amp’s volume increases by 10 db, our ears perceive that as twice as loud. But an increase from a 50-watt amp to a 100-watt amp alone, will only give about a 3 db increase – so what gives?
An important factor in perceived loudness (volume) is not just watts, but something called Speaker Sensitivity, as well. The higher the Speaker Sensitivity the more highly efficient the amp will be at taking that electrical energy and converting it to acoustic energy (or sound/volume).
It’s important to keep in mind that every amp (or electrical device for that matter), needs a distinct voltage to run correctly. The proper voltage required will be listed on the back or another area of your amp. Be sure to check that number out before plugging in because if you overload your amp you could fry it.