RMS Power v Program Power v Peak Power

by Andrew Bishop

The time has come for clarity and to stop following the pack by quoting Peak or Program Power when it comes to speaker outputs as it just adds to the confusion and makes it harder for every buyer.

RMS x 2 = Program Power

RMS x 4 = Peak Power

For clarity, this is why.


The RMS power rating is the measure of continuous power that an amplifier can output, or a speaker can handle. RMS power is derived from Root Mean Square which is a statistical measurement of the magnitude of a varying quantity and is applied to voltage or current.


The AES (Audio Engineering Society) publishes a standard for the measurement of loudspeaker component parameters. Generally speaking, this standard calls for a 2-hour test using pink noise with specified dynamics and with a frequency content that matches the component`s frequency range. Although it is a standard for components, it is often extended to the different ways on an active system. The rating always derives from RMS voltage or current measurements, therefore the rating corresponds to average (“RMS”) power.

800w RMS = 1,000 to 1,100 AES approximately.


The program power rating is the maximum wattage that the speaker can handle in bursts. Therefore the program power is double the RMS rating. The term Program Power is outdated and derives from old swept sine wave power tests. Nowadays, it holds no real meaning.


This form of power rating refers to the maximum amount of power the speaker can handle in an instant without damage. Often times this rating could be reached with a big bass hit or a very loud note in a song as it’s played using the correct amplifier. We do not recommend that you use the peak, max, PMPO or dynamic power rating when configuring your system because it does not reflect the products capability under everyday use. Manufacturers still advertise peak power because most consumers are unaware of its meaning. Peak power is used to make a product seem more powerful than it actually is, sometimes even four, five or six times more powerful than the RMS rating. Please ignore Peak Power Ratings.

When buying an amplifier for speakers I recommend a ratio of 1.5 to 2 times amp power to speaker power. 

It is ok to use a 1200W amp on a 1600W speaker, but you would probably be far from getting the most out of it. Just don't let the amp clip because you could easily cook the driver. More on this next time. Call me on 01765 698233 if you need more help or send us an enquiry online.

RMS is the only trusted measurement and should be checked when buying any PA.