Looking for a new home theatre system for your great new TV or perhaps some new monitors for your ultimate workstation desk? There has never been a better time for you.

Speakers with the nature of sound quality that used to only be available to professionals are now making their way into the consumer market, great quality while retaining an affordable price tag is the name of the game. This can bring up a few other concerns like, how loud will my speakers be, or what amplifier will I need to power them.

In the modern world, where we buy most of our technology online, it’s no longer a simple task to head into a shop to listen to them for yourself. The below is a simple guide to understanding the specifications and power ratings of any speaker you want to buy.


The sensitivity of a speaker is a rating of how efficiently the speaker converts the electrical energy to mechanical energy, the mechanical energy in this case is sound. Speaker sensitivity is measured in a unit called sound pressure level or SPL, SPL is in turn expressed in decibels or dB.

The SPL measurement will be how many dB of sound a speaker can produce with 1 watt of power at 1 meter distance. SPL does not represent the overall power of the speaker, just how efficiently the speaker uses the power available to it.

A common rule of thumb is that the dB will increase by 3 when the power is doubled. For example, a 4-watt speaker with an SPL rating of 90dB will have a maximum loudness of 102dB at 1 meter distance.


When looking at the sheer power rating of a speaker to use the SPL to calculate the overall speaker loudness, there is a very important distinction to be made between rated power systems. The leading systems to rate power are RMS and PMPO.

  • RMS – The RMS power also known as continuous power is the safe output power level. These ratings signify an output which is sustainable without causing any damage to the speakers or AMP.
  • PMPO – The PMPO power or peak power is the rating which signifies the power ability in short bursts of time. This power rating is not continuous and, if used for longer periods of time, will damage the speakers or amplifier.

At this point you may be wondering why PMPO exists at all. Why would they include a power rating which will inevitably damage your equipment? For all intents and purposes, PMPO is included on some sound systems mainly as a marketing gimmick. A bigger number of watts will always look better than the smaller number, which would likely be RMS.

When looking into a new sound system, be sure to find the wattage in RMS rather than PMPO or peak, as this will much better describe what the sound system is realistically capable of. When no rating system is mentioned, try to find your own on sites like Rtings who provide comprehensive details on a sound systems real world performance.

Last modified: November 3, 2021