With so many choices out there for pro audio amplifiers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If only it were as simple as choosing between “commercial” or “residential.” But these days, with homes turning into offices and vice versa—there’s a lot more gray area in between. Luckily, PMC is here to navigate all that for you. Let us help you break down the options to find just what you need for your unique clientele.
Commercial amplifiers are designed and built to last in challenging environments, with commercial-grade power supplies that allow them to be left on 24/7 while remaining safe. The two most common types of amplifiers for commercial applications are power and mixer amplifiers.
Power vs. Mixer
Power amplifiers generally have a single input, meaning they can amplify the signal from a single source. This is a great choice if the amplifier is only going to be used for paging or background music, but not both. A power amplifier is also a great choice if the application calls for the use of a console mixer with multiple connecting sources. The single output from the console would then connect to the amplifier.
Mixer amplifiers like those from Yamaha Commercial Audio or Atlas Sound are ideal for applications requiring more than one source to be used at once. For instance, restaurants and retail stores would find it helpful to use one input for background music and another for a paging microphone that can automatically lower the volume of the music when a page is being made. Mixer amplifiers are available with multiple common inputs including mic/line, RCA, or balanced 3.5mm. Designed with convenient options such as rack mounts and input modules for almost any signal input, these mixer amplifiers are made to run 24/7 and last in such commercial environments.
The Rise of DSP in Pro Audio
Installing pro audio amplifiers with built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing) has also become standard practice in the AV world. This is the process of directing an audio signal through computer-based processing algorithms. As opposed to requiring heavy analog gear that crowds equipment racks with delay units, reverb units, crossovers, equalizers, and more—DSP configures all of that input routing, room tuning, speaker tuning, and limiting built into one sleek amplifier. With more simplified system design, less equipment and even less cabling messes, brands such as QSC and LEA’s CONNECTSERIES offer high-level DSP options and make great choices for any pro set-up.
Handle the Heat with Informed Integrating
Another important factor when considering an amplifier is how it handles heat. Amplifiers can generate a lot of internal heat when they are being used, especially for extended periods of time. Typically they are made with internal fans that will pull air, usually from the front of the unit, and push it out the opposite direction. But if these air passages become blocked by being placed too close to a wall or other obstruction that prevents airflow, the amp will overheat and shut down to prevent thermal damage. Similarly, installing an amplifier in an equipment rack that includes venting out the top will not fare well when mounted with another device directly above it.
It seems obvious but also worth mentioning that installing amps in damp environments, such as in certain restaurant or bar locations should be avoided. Neither should they be placed in high-traffic or public areas where it could be accidentally mistreated or haphazardly used by an untrained hand. For tight or difficult spaces, we also recommend LEA’s CONNECTSERIES amplifiers which are designed to provide a range of different mounting options with rear rack supports for additional product stability—plus built-in mounting brackets for surface mounts that can be rotated and used to properly secure the unit.
Bringing it Home: Residential Audio
The two most basic options for residential applications are 70V and 8 ohm amplifiers. How do you know which to choose? As always, it depends on the application.
Quite simply, 8 ohm systems are less expensive and work quite well for rooms of 50 people or less when talking about a home or even a classroom environment. 8 ohm systems are cheaper because they do not have the extra expense of a transformer, making them cheaper to manufacture.
In an environment requiring four or more speakers, a 70V amplifier is the better bet. It’s common to use 70V amplifiers for larger residential systems such as lengthy wire runs may be needed for a large amount of speakers. Wiring them to an 8 ohm amplifier can be a bit tricky, as 8 ohms require two wires. With a 70V amplifier, speakers can instead be “daisy chained” together with one long wire until enough speakers have been connected. This results in a reduced signal loss for applications such as background music, public address, or voice reinforcements. Plus, with less wire to buy, this can also drive down overall cost depending on the size of the application.
Think “Size” and “Smart”
Since home setups and smaller commercial spaces may not have a dedicated rack room, integrators will likely need to tuck the amps behind the television display. A micro amplifier like the Beale D21 and Tru T100 ensures that you are taking up as little space as possible when size is an important factor. These amplifiers can be used to drive a pair or speakers or a soundbar.
Beyond “Remote” Controlling
As with most other residential systems like security, lighting, thermostat and more, smart products allow us to control anything with our mobile phones these days. Using IoT/Cloud technology, integrators can install “Smart Amplifiers” which can be connected to the Cloud and remotely controlled or monitored—even when away from home.
No matter the application, PMC has your customers covered. For more products, check out all our amplifier offerings here for anything commercial, residential, and beyond.