In the world of audio, there are two main types of speakers: 4 ohms and 8 ohms. But what’s the difference? And which one should you choose for your home entertainment system?
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of each type of speaker, so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
For those unaware, the ohms refers to the speaker’s impedance. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how this works.
The 8-ohm speaker will offer you more power than the 4-ohm model, but at the cost of lower volume at the same sound setting and sometimes more distortion at higher volumes. However, it’s more affordable. 4-ohm speakers are generally more expensive and used in the more high-end models. It all comes down to your budget and personal preference.
Impedance Effect on Speakers
The ohm rating of a speaker tells you nothing about how difficult it is to power. You can easily get a 4 ohm 96dB speaker loud, but if you want to drive an 8 ohm 84 dB speaker, it will be hard for it to get loud enough without a bigger amp.
It’s important to ensure that the amp you are using is rated for the same impedance as your speakers, otherwise, it can cause some damage.
A 4-ohm speaker is more difficult for an amp to drive, requiring more current for higher volumes. This is where you want to be careful with what amp you get. A cheap amp might fry itself at high volumes, and possibly your speaker too.
This can happen if your amp has a cheap power supply and cannot supply the required current which can cause a fuse to blow. So do your research!
The 4-ohm speaker has less resistance than the 8-ohm speaker, thus, requiring more watts at the same voltage than if you were to use an 8-ohm speaker.
I also have a great post on 2-ohm vs 4-ohm here.
Series vs Parallel Setups
A lot of people get confused by this, so I’m going to try and explain it as simply as possible. It’s actually really easy!
When wiring your speakers, you have two main options: series or parallel.
In a series setup, the positive terminal of one speaker is connected to the negative terminal of the next speaker, and so on. This creates a daisy chain where the voltage is summed at each connection point.
In a parallel setup, all the positive terminals are connected together, and all the negative terminals are connected together. This separates the load between each speaker, and the current is divided equally.
In a series setup, the impedance of each speaker is added together, while in a parallel setup, the impedances are separated. This is important to remember when choosing your speakers and wiring them.
If you have a 4-ohm speaker and an 8-ohm speaker, and you wire them in series, you will end up with a 16-ohm speaker. If you wire them in parallel, you will have a 4-ohm speaker.
In other words, if you have a pair of speakers and connect them in series, the impedance doubles. If you connect them in parallel, the impedance halves.
Still not sure? Here’s another example.
If one speaker is 16 ohms and another is 32 ohms:
- Series: 16 + 32 = 48 ohms
- Parallel: 48 / (16 x 32) = 10.66 ohms
You only need to worry about series and parallel setups if you have multiple speakers. If you only have one speaker, then it doesn’t matter which wiring type you choose since there are no other speakers to connect them to!
Which is Better for my Setup – 4 ohms or 8 ohms?
>write a comprehensive article on which is better for home theatre, 4 ohms or 8 ohms
There are a few things you should consider when choosing between 4 ohm and 8-ohm speakers. The first is the amplifier power.
- If your amplifier is rated for 4-ohm speakers, you should use 4-ohm speakers.
- If your amplifier is rated for 8-ohm speakers, you can use either 4-ohm or 8-ohm speakers.
So if you already own an amp and don’t want to go out and get a new one, this can affect your decision.
In terms of sound output, a 4-ohm amp will be louder at the same volume setting, but an amp can distort at a higher volume with a lower impedance speaker.
With an impedance of four ohms, the current flow is more consistent which makes it easier on the amplifier and should result in longer component life.
However, if you’re looking to buy new speakers, then the decision may be easier – go for eight-ohm speakers.
They are generally more affordable and easier to find than four-ohm models, plus they work with a wider range of amplifiers.
Manufacturers generally only use 4-ohm speakers for their high-end models, which are obviously quite expensive. Some people believe 4 ohms offers an improvement in sound quality and its ability to create “natural sound”, but others beg to differ.
You’d really need to hear it yourself to make a decision. These speakers require a much more powerful amp though, so it could get costly.
I’d recommend you go into your local audio store and have a listen to the different options. If they know what they’re doing, they might show you the difference in sound quality between different ohms.
So the answer? It depends. If you are on a budget or want something that will easily work with most amplifiers, go with the 8-ohm speaker. It’s more affordable, and there are more options.
If you want the absolute best, top-flight models and have the budget and amp power, go for the 4-ohm speaker!
What if I am using a Receiver?
If you’re using an A/V receiver with your home theater system, then the impedance of your speaker doesn’t matter as much because the receiver will handle the impedance for you.
Most receivers have an impedance switch that will match the impedance of your speaker. This is a great feature because it means you don’t have to worry about frying your amp or speaker.
However, if you’re using an older receiver without this feature, then be sure to check the specs to make sure it can handle the impedance of your speakers.
If You’re Using a Receiver Without an Impedance Switch:
Use series wiring for higher impedances (i.e., 32, 64 ohms) and parallel wiring for lower impedances (i.e., 16, 32 ohms).
For more information on how to wire your speakers, please see the following link:
So in conclusion, a 4-ohm speaker will need to be supplied with more power than your amplifier. In doing so, it can play music louder at the same volume, and some believe it’s a more natural sound. One thing that isn’t debatable is a 4ohm speaker will offer low distortion when paired with a high-quality amp.
An 8-ohm speaker is generally more affordable and does not require as much power as the 4-ohm speaker at the sacrifice of less volume and sometimes more distortion.
It comes down to personal preference at the end of the day, but for the vast majority, 8 ohm is more suitable.