At the heart of every car audio system are amplifiers, subwoofers, and speakers. From an experienced point of view, getting the right match between the three is critical in building a high-performance audio system in your vehicle. This simple task, however, proves more difficult than most people anticipate. In addition to an entire list of factors that contribute to the ideal sound system, power ratings are among the most confusing and misunderstood aspect that most car owners face when trying to assemble a decent system. For starters, choosing the right product can be tricky if you don’t understand the difference between RMS and Peak Power ratings.

Power ratings are a very confusing aspect indeed, especially for amateur music lovers looking to build a custom system. Along with other power specifications, you will usually find a list of ratings on your car speakers and other audio equipment; most of which you won’t understand. You might choose to ignore the ratings altogether and go for brands, but trust me when I say that you will not enjoy the final outcome. If you are going to spend your hard earned money installing that choice subwoofer and surround sound speaker set in your car, you should have a basic grasp of what the power ratings mean. Here’s a comprehensive guide that will help you understand the power ratings:

Car Speaker Power Rating

When it comes to the power ratings in your car audio component this is simply defined as the highest input of power allowed to flow through the unit. But first, let’s get one thing clear, do not get confused between amplifier power ratings and speaker power specifications. Speakers do not in any way generate power in an audio system, the amplifier does. Speaker power specifications refers to how much power your car speakers are able to receive from an amplifier before it becomes distorted. Driving your speakers too hard and too far, leads to overheating, distortion and finally, permanent damage that renders your speakers unusable. You must have come across terms like Peak Power and RMS power ratings when shopping for audio equipment. So, what exactly do these ratings mean?

Peak Power Rating

First off, let’s shed some light on peak power. For car speakers, the peak power handling value tells you the maximum power levels that your speaker is capable of comfortably utilizing in short bursts. Most manufacturers and audio equipment brands prefer to stress on the peak power rating by putting it on all their equipment to make it seem like they push more wattage than they actually do. While this may sound better, it may be confused with the RMS. If you decide to utilize the peak power not only will you disturb the neighbors but you’re sound equipment will not hold up for to long. As the subwoofer’s cone is moving back and forth, it will begin to depreciate in value. Ultimately after a few weeks (if you are lucky) the sound quality of the amp will rattle and you will quickly realize what a mistake that was because you will either have to restore some of the parts or just buy a new unit.

RMS Power Rating

RMS power is what any audio expert will instruct you to base any purchasing decision off of. Referred to as continuous power handling, RMS simply stands for the Root Mean Square wattage. The RMS wattage rating on your car speakers represents the amount or level of power that it can handle on a regular basis and is in fact recommended by the manufacturer. This is the average power it can handle while being used on a day to day basis without experiencing any distortion or breakdown of quality. For example, if your speakers are rated at an RMS or average power handling rating of 150 watts maximum, then there is a probability that the speaker could handle a peak power of about double that wattage, but if you want to be able to use your speakers for a few years never venture into the peak rating. However, if the same figure of 150 watts is stated as the peak power value, then the RMS power handling should be approximately 75 watts, the power input you should be enjoying your music at.


RMS and Peak values are two totally different things playing a vital part in your sound systems quality. These technical details should be compared when matching your car’s speakers/subwoofers with amplifiers. As a consumer, you should be keen not to compare Peak and RMS ratings when matching your equipment. Instead, you should match either two Peak values or two different RMS values. If you get the values to match, you will be able to get the best performance from each component in your audio system. Unfortunately, when power outputs are not properly matched your parts can overheat and even start smoking creating a huge safety risk. Be sure whenever investing in new audio equipment; the power output decision is based on RMS Wattage and the amplifier can hand the speakers and subwoofers you choose.