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Q&A: How many watts are needed to cover 3000 sqft?

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Question by : How many watts are needed to cover 3000 sqft?
I am throwing a party in a large space and need to get speakers that will be loud enough for everyone to hear. How many watts will i need?

I haven’t a clue about technology!!


Best answer:

Answer by JAS
With respect to the loudspeaker system, please be aware that the typical home audio, direct-radiator loudspeaker system will unquestionably be inadequate, especially if one of your goals is to achieve reasonably good audio quality throughout a broad area. I recommend that you strongly consider renting an appropriately-sized pro sound loudspeaker system from a pro sound dealer in your area.

On the subject of loudspeaker systems, you need to keep in mind that the mid-to-high frequency sound reproduced by a loudspeaker becomes more and more directional as the wavelength decreases in proportion to the radiating area of each of the drive units in a loudspeaker. This is the major reason why the amplitude at high-frequencies rapidly drops-off as you move off the loudspeaker’s axis. Therefore it is often advantageous to use multiple loudspeakers whenever possible to ensure sufficient coverage. Furthermore, for large rooms it is beneficial to use horn-loaded mid-to-high frequency drivers in order to reach listeners in the back of the room. However horns have a downside when used with a disproportionately small quantity of loudspeakers relative to the room size and that is that most mid-to-high frequency horns are often fairly directional and provide a relatively narrow dispersion pattern, especially as the horn throw increases. On the plus side mid-to-high frequency horns help to increase the overall sensitivity and ensure controlled coverage at the farthest reaches of a large room. (Please note, if you choose to use horn-loaded pro sound loudspeakers you need to position the high-frequency horn above the nearest listener’s head – or at least 7 feet or roughly 2m above the floor.) In addition to virtually any good set of full-range, horn-loaded loudspeakers you should also use separate, dedicated subwoofers crossed-over to the full-range loudspeakers between 63 and 100 Hz using an active crossover unit. For a 3,000 sq. ft. room you would likely need no more than two adequately-sized—preferably pro sound—subwoofers. To get the most out of your loudspeaker system in a large room you should strongly consider using a stereo or mono graphic equalizer and/or loudspeaker management system. With anything less you’re likely to have disappointed listeners.

When it comes to audio amplifier power there are several factors that you will need to decide before you can begin estimating the proper amplifier power required to cleanly produce the desired sound pressure level at the farthest room boundaries. The following, which relies upon the use of a simple online calculator, provides the quickest and easiest approach. (Another equally simple alternative is to consult a knowledgeable, competent pro sound dealer/installer.)

First, if you are using (or intend to use) externally-powered loudspeakers, you will need to know the loudspeaker manufacturer’s specified “sensitivity” for the chosen loudspeaker. You also need to decide on the quantity of individual loudspeakers that will be needed to ensure adequate coverage. It’s important to remember that every time you double the quantity of loudspeakers it’s equivalent to increasing the sensitivity by 3 dB (assuming the loudspeakers are identical.) You will also incur an additional 3 to 4 dB of room gain whenever you’re using a loudspeaker system indoors. Next, you will need to know the distance from the loudspeakers to the farthest listener/boundary. You also need to choose a desired sound pressure level for farthest listener; under most circumstances you would likely be satisfied with a target of 95 dB give or take. Finally, you need to choose how much amplifier headroom you want in order ensure reasonably clean sound during transients and momentary loud music passages; 3 dB is a fairly reasonable minimum, however 6 dB is a better choice in my opinion.

I have included the following example to illustrate the process of determining the required amplifier power for a basic pro sound loudspeaker system— the Electro-Voice® Zx4—that I’ve chosen arbitrarily.

Electro-Voice® Zx4

Zx4 Specified Sensitivity (@ 1W/1m): 100 dB.

To ensure adequate coverage and greater sensitivity I’ll use at least two Zx4 loudspeakers. Therefore the total sensitivity for two Zx4 loudspeakers becomes approximately 103 dB at 1m with 1W of power.

Not knowing the exact dimensions of your 3000 sq. ft. room I will assume a distance from the loudspeaker system to the farthest listener of approximately 15 meters (or 50 feet.)

As mentioned earlier I will be using a target sound pressure level of 95 dB at the farthest listener’s distance, less 3 dB of ‘free’ room gain, which—for the purpose of calculating the required amplifier power—results in a room-compensated target SPL of 92 dB. It’s also worth remembering that people are much less sensitive to higher sound levels as the frequency decreases (especially for frequencies below 200 Hz or so.) Therefore sound pressure levels that are 6 to 10 dB or more above average mid-band levels are not uncommon.

Finally, I chose to use 6 dB as the value for amplifier headroom, especially when dealing with such minimal amplifier requirements and a high-sensitivity loudspeaker system.

Once you have all the basic criteria I recommend plugging it into a simple online calculator such as the Crown Audio calculator titled “Amplifier Power Required,” to which I’ve provided a link below, to quickly and easily calculate the required amplifier power. Using the values above I obtain a result of 71 watts, which is best rounded-up; in this case to a minimum of 100 watts per loudspeaker. Please keep in mind that the results in my example applies only when using two Electro-Voice® Zx4 loudspeakers and the criteria I chose above. If you use other loudspeakers and/or other criteria you will need to recalculate the required amplifier power.

Ultimately the key is to ensure that you use enough amplifier power to provide sufficiently clean, undistorted sound (with preferably no more than 1% THD at any spot) throughout the room. When in doubt just remember that more amplifier power is better than not having enough.

One last note: you should make every effort to utilize a high-performance, mono or stereo (depending on your loudspeaker configuration,) 1/3-octave constant-Q graphic equalizer. This will provide the best, most effective method to properly adjust and optimize the loudspeaker system response for a given room.

######################## RESOURCES ########################

Crown Audio “Amplifier Power Required” calculator

Secrets of Amplifier and Speaker Power Requirements Revealed

Eastern Acoustic Works
– [PDF] Tech Guide: How Much Amplifier Power Do I Need?
– [PDF] Interaction of Low Frequency Drivers and Subwoofers
– EAW Technical Papers

JBL Professional
– [PDF] Technical Note “Danger: Low Power”
– [PDF] Speaker Power Requirements
– [PDF] Sound System Design Manual – 1999 Edition (Part1)
– [PDF] Sound System Design Manual – 1999 Edition (Part 2)

RaneNotes – Equalizers

Audio DesignLine
– Using the Decibel – Part 1: Introduction and Underlying Concepts
– Using the Decibel – Part 2: Expressing Power as an Audio Level

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