how many watts goes into a surround or rear speaker? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
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how many watts goes into a surround or rear speaker?

Hi all, does anyone have a rough idea of how many watts on average goes into a surround or rear speaker? I know it depends on the AVR used or the volume, but I'm interested in knowing a rough percentage relative to the front speakers. so if there is an average of 50 watts going into the front speakers while watching a movie, how many do you think are going into the surround or rear? half? a quarter? 10%? Has anyone on the internet tested this?

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post #2 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 08:02 AM
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This question is probably more appropriate for the Audio theory, setup section of the forum.

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post #3 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 08:17 AM
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Glossary:
- avg. surround watts (ASW)
- avg. LCR watts (ALCRW)
- % surround content relative to LCR content (% SCR2LCRC)
- playback level relative to LCR (PLR2LCR)

Best guess:
- ASW = ALCRW x % SCR2LCRC × PLR2LCR
- E.g., if a movie has 50 ALCRW and 65% SCR2LCRC at a 75% PLR2LCR, ASW = 50 x .65 x .75 = 24.375

Last edited by eljaycanuck; 02-21-2019 at 09:00 AM.
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post #4 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 08:18 AM
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Its going to just come down to the receiver specs, and trust me they try to lie about that with fine print and *'s real fast. Alot of advertised output is 2 channels driven. So just do your research. I thought denon or klipsch or someone does list actually output with all channels driven. Hopefully someone can tell you which one. But it should all be fairly equal. I know my Outlaw 1050 had slightly different ratings for the speakers.

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post #5 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trilkb View Post
But it should all be fairly equal.
It can't be equal. if you are watching a typical action movie for example, put your ear to one of the surrounds or rears. its nowhere near as loud as the front speakers.
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post #6 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
Hi all, does anyone have a rough idea of how many watts on average goes into a surround or rear speaker? I know it depends on the AVR used or the volume, but I'm interested in knowing a rough percentage relative to the front speakers. so if there is an average of 50 watts going into the front speakers while watching a movie, how many do you think are going into the surround or rear? half? a quarter? 10%? Has anyone on the internet tested this?
Well it depends. First of all the AVR doesn't really matter, at least not in context of your question, it is merely a source of power. There are a couple of factors, first and foremost is what is the sensitivity rating of the surrounds and the front. The second question is what kind of SPL are you looking for? How far away are you sitting? And lastly how loud was the source mixed in regards to the surround channels, they vary from movie to movie.

Lets assume a sensitivity of 90db 1w/m, which is fairly average. You may or may not know but that determines how loud the speaker will be at a given wattage. Every time you double the watts you add about 3db of volume. So 1 watt will get you 90db, 2 watts 93db, 4 96db, 8 99db, 16 102db, 32 105db, 64 108db, at 1 meter from the speaker. Assume you sit 2 meters away, double the distance from the source and the SPL drops by about 6db so at your sitting position it would be about 102db from the front speakers. 102db is about as loud as a gas lawnmower for reference. I have NO source for this, but I would assume the surround channels are mixed to about the same "reference" volume maybe a little less, so you could assume about that same amount of power is going to them.

All that said the "Reference Level" you hear people talking about is 85 db at the listening position with 105 db peaks. So to get "reference level" SPL at your listening position only takes about 2 watts of power. Most movie theaters are set at reference level, so consider how loud it was the last time you saw a movie in the theater and thats the volume level. Most people don't listen that loud at home, some do, but most don't.

TL;DR No I don't know that anyone has measured it. Mainly because there isn't a set way to measure it, you could send a test tone to all the speakers and measure the SPL and work backwards, but thats not accurate in the real world with something like a movie or even music.
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post #7 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
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thanks for the detailed answer, but you're over thinking this. it has nothing to do with speakers or what AVR i'm using. Just looking for a rough percentage relative to how much power is going to the fronts. ie: 50%, 25%, etc. eljaycanuck gave a rough answer to my question. basically, i'm wondering if a pair of 50-100 watt in-wall speakers would be fine in my basement for surrounds and rears. If what eljaycanuck said true, it would be more than enough. now my question would be, if I raise the gains on the surrounds and rears to +5 or higher on my Denon AVR-X3400H, would I hear distortion from those 50-100 watt speakers if my master volume is at -20db or higher?

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post #8 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 09:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
It can't be equal. if you are watching a typical action movie for example, put your ear to one of the surrounds or rears. its nowhere near as loud as the front speakers.
That doesnt have anything to do with power output. Maybe I misread his question.

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post #9 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trilkb View Post
That doesnt have anything to do with power output. Maybe I misread his question.
or maybe I don't understand how all this works. so if one speaker is alot lower in volume than another speaker, it doesn't mean that speaker is getting less power from the AVR?

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post #10 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 09:57 AM
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My understanding is that it all has to do with how the track is mixed. Some movies have more surround content than others, like full voices from computer systems on ships. But how loud it is has to do with the level the mixer sets them to, not what the amp puts outs, until you get into really high volume levels. EDIT: but even then I think the entire receiver will have issues

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post #11 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
It can't be equal. if you are watching a typical action movie for example, put your ear to one of the surrounds or rears. its nowhere near as loud as the front speakers.
It all has the potential to be equal. Any new AVR has the same "Amp" for each channel so each channel can use the same amount of Watts if needed. Really old AVR like my old Yamaha had 75 watts to the L and Right and 15 watts to the surrounds (I forget what the center was).

If you had an Oppo and connected the analogy outputs say to the wrong input (Right channel to Right Rear) the AVR amps would have no trouble playing the full watts to the Right Rear.
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post #12 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
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yes all the channels can produce the same amount of power, but when the content going to a surround speaker is a very quiet ambient sound, the AVR is not sending the same amount of power to it as it would if there was a loud explosion. or am I wrong about that?

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post #13 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljaycanuck View Post
Glossary:
- avg. surround watts (ASW)
- avg. LCR watts (ALCRW)
- % surround content relative to LCR content (% SCR2LCRC)
- playback level relative to LCR (PLR2LCR)

Best guess:
- ASW = ALCRW x % SCR2LCRC × PLR2LCR
- E.g., if a movie has 50 ALCRW and 65% SCR2LCRC at a 75% PLR2LCR, ASW = 50 x .65 x .75 = 24.375

So, basically, 25%?
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post #14 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m0j0
So, basically, 25%?
Rounding to the nearest percentage: 24%.
Rounding to the nearest 1/2 percentage: 24.5%.
A precise formula demands precise results.
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post #15 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
yes all the channels can produce the same amount of power, but when the content going to a surround speaker is a very quiet ambient sound, the AVR is not sending the same amount of power to it as it would if there was a loud explosion. or am I wrong about that?
That is only because of the mix. You would need to look at the input signal for each channel for a movie and then do the math. You will come up with a different number for each movie. Technically someone could mix a movie with all channels at full and draw the same wattage from the AVR to all channels.
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post #16 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
thanks for the detailed answer, but you're over thinking this. it has nothing to do with speakers or what AVR i'm using. Just looking for a rough percentage relative to how much power is going to the fronts. ie: 50%, 25%, etc. eljaycanuck gave a rough answer to my question. basically, i'm wondering if a pair of 50-100 watt in-wall speakers would be fine in my basement for surrounds and rears. If what eljaycanuck said true, it would be more than enough. now my question would be, if I raise the gains on the surrounds and rears to +5 or higher on my Denon AVR-X3400H, would I hear distortion from those 50-100 watt speakers if my master volume is at -20db or higher?
But again it depends on how the track is mixed, some mixers might send more to the surrounds than others. Really it's not a big deal when running via an AVR, your Denon may be quote at 105w per channel but that is 2 channels driven, but it is highly unlikely your get 105w with ALL channels driven, that's the case with many avr's. But if your running your surround 5db "hot" it's unlikely you will hear distortion. It depends on the speaker, some don't do high volume really well, Sony Cores come to mind. My point with my initial post was that the speaker may handle 50 to 100 watts, but its very unlikely you will max them out unless you like to listen way above reference level, or they are not very sensitive. But as @eljaycanuck mentioned in his post it depends on how much of the mix is sent to the surrounds.
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post #17 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by liffie420 View Post
But again it depends on how the track is mixed, some mixers might send more to the surrounds than others.
so its possible for a mixer to send alot of power to the surrounds even when there is a low volume ambient sound going to the speaker? If that's the case, would you hear alot of hiss along with that ambient sound? realistically, do mixers send more power to the surrounds/rears?

the whole point of this thread for me is to decide whether to spend $500 per speaker for one that can handle 50-250 watts or spend a quarter of that on a speaker that does 50-100 watts. both speakers have good reviews. I don't want bad sounding speakers in my basement, but I don't want to overspend for nothing either. gene4ht on this forum said there is not much content coming out of the surrounds/rears and don't need to spend alot of money on them and it makes sense. i'm just looking for more opinions. no offense gene4ht.

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post #18 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
so its possible for a mixer to send alot of power to the surrounds even when there is a low volume ambient sound going to the speaker? If that's the case, would you hear alot of hiss along with that ambient sound? realistically, do mixers send more power to the surrounds/rears?

the whole point of this thread for me is to decide whether to spend $500 per speaker for one that can handle 50-250 watts or spend a quarter of that on a speaker that does 50-100 watts. both speakers have good reviews. I don't want bad sounding speakers in my basement, but I don't want to overspend for nothing either. gene4ht on this forum said there is not much content coming out of the surrounds/rears and don't need to spend alot of money on them and it makes sense. i'm just looking for more opinions. no offense gene4ht.
Well no sending more power equates to more volume. To be perfectly frank, I think there is a general consensus of order of importance when it comes to speaker "value" in HT. LCR first, then sub, and last are surrounds. I would absolutely get the cheaper surrounds. You will be fine, and if you listen at -20db on you AVR your not going to blow up your surrounds. I can almost promise you your AVR is not sending a full 105 watts to each channel when all are driven. I think almost every AVR maker fudges the number a bit. I think a common number i have seen thrown around is that surrounds do about 15% to 20% of the work compared to the front and sub. Up front the center does most of the work that is all your dialog. Get the cheap surround you wont regret it. I will give you an example. In my living room from my front stage, I have a pair of JBL Studio 590's and an Emotiva C2 center all paired with a Rythmik LVX12 sub. Add that up not counting the AVR, is almost $3000 in speakers (if I bought the JBL's at full price lol) For surrounds, a pair of Dayton Audio B652's that retail for $30 for the pair. I have never had a single issue with power going to them, I think the loudest I have got was -12 or -15 on the AVR. No distortion no hiss nothing. And one of them runs about 6 or 7 db "hot" compared to the others because the only spot I have to put it is 4 or 5 feet further from the other surround. That B652 has a 40w RMS and 75w peak power rating and they are not sensitive at all at 86db which means they need more power to get the same volume as my other speakers. Never had an issue.
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post #19 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by liffie420 View Post
Well no sending more power equates to more volume. To be perfectly frank, I think there is a general consensus of order of importance when it comes to speaker "value" in HT. LCR first, then sub, and last are surrounds. I would absolutely get the cheaper surrounds. You will be fine, and if you listen at -20db on you AVR your not going to blow up your surrounds. I can almost promise you your AVR is not sending a full 105 watts to each channel when all are driven. I think almost every AVR maker fudges the number a bit. I think a common number i have seen thrown around is that surrounds do about 15% to 20% of the work compared to the front and sub. Up front the center does most of the work that is all your dialog. Get the cheap surround you wont regret it. I will give you an example. In my living room from my front stage, I have a pair of JBL Studio 590's and an Emotiva C2 center all paired with a Rythmik LVX12 sub. Add that up not counting the AVR, is almost $3000 in speakers (if I bought the JBL's at full price lol) For surrounds, a pair of Dayton Audio B652's that retail for $30 for the pair. I have never had a single issue with power going to them, I think the loudest I have got was -12 or -15 on the AVR. No distortion no hiss nothing. And one of them runs about 6 or 7 db "hot" compared to the others because the only spot I have to put it is 4 or 5 feet further from the other surround. That B652 has a 40w RMS and 75w peak power rating and they are not sensitive at all at 86db which means they need more power to get the same volume as my other speakers. Never had an issue.
thanks. keep in mind that the MLP is about 15 feet away from the surround and rear speakers. i would probably put them at more than +5db hot. my rears in my family room are at +5 and they are about 3-4 feet away from me. I wonder what Audyssey will put them at.

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post #20 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 04:34 PM
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I read some time ago sound of most movie films were distributed like this:

Center Channel: 75%
Left Channel: 10%
Right Channel: 10%
Surround (Atmos or ceiling included): 5%

As it seems these rates are almost certain... So you can draw your own conclusions....
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post #21 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 06:16 PM
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Power is a measurement of current. Current is the direct result (IIRC from my avionics work) of signals sent to speakers. The amount of current from second to second is probably determined by:
  • The impedance of the speaker;
  • The level set in the AVR for the speaker relative to other speakers;
  • The content playing from moment to moment.

There is no definitive answer unless you want some arcane formula that represents or defines all those variables. I highly doubt you'll get some answer like "Denons send 1/5 of the power to the surrounds while Yamahas send 1/8 of the power."
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post #22 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 06:36 PM
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[QUOTE=Blacklightning;57636994]It all has the potential to be equal. Any new AVR has the same "Amp" for each channel so each channel can use the same amount of Watts if needed.


Oops...what model AVR does that ^^^

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post #23 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 06:40 PM
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The only way you would get equal power to all channels via a AVR, would be to have the sound mode set to All Ch Stereo, and keep each channel at the same output setting.

Other wise during a movie/bluray, a surround speakers is probably getting about 25% of the channels rated power at best. As it doesnt take much to hear a passing plane, bullet, etc...
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post #24 of 46 Old 02-21-2019, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci View Post
Hi all, does anyone have a rough idea of how many watts on average goes into a surround or rear speaker? I know it depends on the AVR used or the volume, but I'm interested in knowing a rough percentage relative to the front speakers. so if there is an average of 50 watts going into the front speakers while watching a movie, how many do you think are going into the surround or rear? half? a quarter? 10%? Has anyone on the internet tested this?
...this can’t be answered with any accuracy because the content that you listen to will have variable levels...movies or music.

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post #25 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 04:47 AM - Thread Starter
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its ok, I think I got my answer. but I wasn't asking for accuracy, just a rough idea.

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post #26 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 07:15 AM
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[quote=Espo77;57639178]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacklightning View Post
It all has the potential to be equal. Any new AVR has the same "Amp" for each channel so each channel can use the same amount of Watts if needed.


Oops...what model AVR does that ^^^
All of them!
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post #27 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 12:30 PM
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^^^ “each channel can use the same amount of watts”

I don’t think so, as all of the AVR amplifier specs don’t claim any more continuous watts then what it can do using only two channels. Therefore each channel cannot use the same amount of watts, continuously.

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post #28 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Espo77 View Post
^^^ “each channel can use the same amount of watts”

I don’t think so, as all of the AVR amplifier specs don’t claim any more continuous watts then what it can do using only two channels. Therefore each channel cannot use the same amount of watts, continuously.
The specs usually claim the maximum # of watts (continuous/full range) into two channels. An AVR that claims 100W/ch (continuous/full range) into 2 channels may not be able to do 100W into all 7 or 9 channels, but I don't see why it can't do 20W/ch (continuous/full range) into all 7 or 9 channels.
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post #29 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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a little off topic now, right now I have a 3.1 setup. if I connect 4 extra speakers (surround and rears), will I need to raise the master volume up to get the same db level?

Family Room: Onkyo TX-NR 646 AVR, Polk Audio RtiA3 fronts, Polk Audio CSiA4 center, BIC America F12 sub, Polk Audio RC-65i rears
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post #30 of 46 Old 02-22-2019, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocci
... right now I have a 3.1 setup. if I connect 4 extra speakers ... will I need to raise the master volume up to get the same db level?
The only way to know for sure is to connect the 4 extra speakers and find out.

If the sound level:
- drops noticeably, you need to raise the volume; but,
- remains roughly the same, you don't need to raise the volume.
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Last edited by eljaycanuck; 02-22-2019 at 01:06 PM.
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