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Ensuring Power Supply Compatibility with Your Amplifier

on February 26, 2014

Decided to get an amplifier? Great!

Got a power supply? Well, of course you did.

The real question is, are you sure it’s the right fit for your amplifier? Let’s see.

Every amplifier requires a power supply from which the device takes power and subsequently forms the boosted signal. An amplifier without a power supply is useless. People go and buy random power supplies all the time to power up their amps, if it is for a car or a cell phone booster. The issue though, is that power supplies are very particular about which systems they work with. We encountered a guy who tried to power his car stereo amplifiers with his old computer’s power supply unit. He did manage to get sound, but the system blew up within a few hours since the power supply was not compatible with the car system.

What is a Power Supply?

In the simplest words, any device that provides electric power to an electrical circuit is a power supply. Power supplies themselves need to be connected to a primary power source like an outlet, battery, or solar panels etc, to obtain the energy that it forwards. In addition, the power supply consumes some energy when supplying power, itself. This energy too, is drawn from the primary power source. Now you’re probably wondering, there are so many electronic devices that don’t have a power supply with them. The reason being, many consumer electronics have a power supply hardwired into the circuitry, to prevent the need of standalone power supply. When you plug an electronic device into the power outlet, electricity flows in to the power supply, and then through it, to the device’ circuitry.

Amps and Power Supplies: The Relation

Instead of just providing energy to operate the amplifier, power supplies, in this case, serve a wider purpose. As mentioned before, the main purpose of an amplifier is to provide a boosted version of the input signal. The amplifier doesn’t modify the original signal though; it takes energy from the power supply to create a second signal that is an amplified version of the original input. Thus, ensuring the quality of the power supply that you use with an amplifier is essential.

Where Does Compatibility Come In?

We have been rambling about power supplies and current all this while without mentioning the keyword we set out to understand: compatibility. Well, we know power supplies are quite choosy, and thus they often cause issues when paired with devices they don’t get along with. These devices are, in more formal language, incompatible with the power supply in question. And when the power supply doesn’t get along, it tends to blow things up! Therefore, ensuring that the correct power supply is being used is critical, unless you want fireworks.

How Do I Ensure Compatibility?

Well, each amplifier model differs from the rest in some key aspects. All common amplifiers are divided into two major classes as far as power is concerned. You have Class A amps on one hand, and Class AB amps on the other. The standard market amplifiers are usually Class AB. The majority of amplifiers used for non-industrial purposes are in this category. So simple definition: Any amp that draws current even when it is not amplifying a signal is Class AB. Without going into technicalities, just check whether this is stated on the amplifier you intend to use and inform look for a power supply that is compatible with Class AB amps.

The other common category is Class A. Any amplifier that draws a large amount of current on a continuous basis is categorized as Class A. To handle the continuous current, a different power supply design is required. This is not to say that ensuring class compatible power supplies are the only thing one needs to keep in mind. There are several other important factors one must consider.

Power Output

Now we’re really going to delve in technical stuff. We will try to keep it as simple as possible, but some degree of technical jargon is going to be unavoidable from this point forth. When pairing a power supply with an amp or any other device for that matter, power output must be noted. Earlier, we talked about the car amp incident. That happened because the power supply used in that case had a much higher power output, compared to the car amplifier’s requirement. The power supply was not regulated and consequently led to disaster.

Peak Current

Electric current, more specifically, alternative electric current, is made up of waves of alternating voltages. The difference between the negative and positive peaks is the average or peak current of a device. When mating a power supply with a device, one needs to check whether the peak current on the power supply is compatible with the device. We did warn you beforehand that, technical jargon, to some degree, would be unavoidable!

Acceptable Power Supply Ripple Voltage

Each power supply uses a rectifier that converts alternating current to direct current. The alternating component here is called Ripple Voltage. Electronic devices, amplifiers not being exclusive, have a degree to which they can withstand ripple voltage from a power supply. Accordingly, a power supply that matches acceptable ripple voltage levels needs to be chosen and paired with the amplifier.

Too Much Technical Jargon!

The jargon part would probably be relatively incomprehensible for the average Joe. That is why, most electronic device manufacturers, particularly amplifier manufacturers, provide lists of compatible power supplies for each of their products. A call to their helpline or a bit of online searching will yield the list you desire in most cases.

In the amplifiers category, Wilson Electronics has proven itself time and time again. If you happen to be using one of our products, a complete listing of compatible power supplies with each type of amplifier has been provided on the website.

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