We all know that dreaded feeling, that fear when the amp just goes off as you turn up the volume while you are listening to your favorite music. The room just goes silent out of sudden, and you are there in a confused state, wondering if you have just lost your amp or worse, this unforeseen event also damaged your speakers.
There are a lot of reasons for your amp to just shut off when you turn up the volume. And the following are the more common ones, the usual suspects which have caused this fiasco to ruin your music listening experience.
Your Amp is being overdriven due to high volumes
An amp will turn itself off as it detects clipping distortion due to the amp reaching its absolute limit of power output. This will damage your speakers’ tweeters thus rendering them almost useless for any type of music listening. This usually happens when you have a low RMS amp paired with hard-to-drive speakers that demands a lot of power. Speakers with low sensitivity or low impedance such as 4-ohms require more power than speakers that are higher in sensitivity and higher impedance such as 8-ohms.
If recently you have changed your amp or your speakers, you should check whether the new setup is compatible with each other, can your old/new amp able to drive your old/new speakers. You can also check directly with the salesperson that you have bought your amp/speakers from or play even safer by checking with the respective brand manufacturers.
Another common reason where people overdrive their amp is when they are either watching movies or listening to bass-heavy music. To produce bass especially deep rumbling ones require a lot of power, and even more so when you want it to be loud. I have a friend whose amp just goes into protect mode when the bass starts to hit hard. It is recommended to get yourself a powered subwoofer so that you can offload the bass production from your speakers to your sub, thus “protecting” your speakers.
Ultimately, it also depends on how loud you want your music to be, if you want to play very loud or maybe because you have a big listening area, you may want to get bigger speakers like floor-standings and a more powerful amp. Include 1 or 2 subs for good measure, get a sealed subwoofer if you mainly use your sound system for music or a ported version for movie playbacks.
Gains and Bass Boost
This may not be obvious at the start but is always worth the check. Setting your gains and bass too high will prompt your amp to go full power right from the get-go, but it won’t sound as loud as it should be thus making you think you’re not getting much volume.
Checking the connections for loose wires
It is wise to turn off all the power connected to your sound system (including your amp of course) before proceeding with the inspections. Look for any loose strands of speaker wires that may be touching the back panel of the amp or the back of the connecting speakers. Just one loose strand is enough to cause your amp to turn off by itself because of a short circuit. If you do find these loose strands of speaker wires, remove them and reconnect using new ones.
If you are using banana plugs for your speaker wire connection, check for any damages such as on the end of the banana plug has it been broken off, slight breakage, etc. Replace them immediately if they are compromised.
Checking the Speaker Wires itself
You’ve checked the connections and they are okay, no problem, but now it’s time to check the speaker wires themselves for any signs of damage and fraying. You should really check this quite frequently if you have pets at home. Take it from me, I used to own a pet rabbit and I let it go loose in the house whenever I am at home and have the time to monitor its movement (not an easy task). I was distracted by a phone call for a while and have lost track of where he is. By the time I have found him, he was already chewing on my speaker wires.
External damaged speaker wires are still easier to spot but internal damages are harder to see. There are cases where the speaker wires are been placed near areas with foot traffic and/or furniture (especially heavy furniture), there is a chance these speaker wires may be damaged internally by them. You may want to change these speaker wires to a new one and also lay them elsewhere to avoid these types of damages in the future. I have accidentally stomped on the wire connecting my subwoofer to my amplifier a substantial number of times, until I finally moved it out of the way by laying it along the wall. The subwoofer is placed behind my sitting area if you are wondering.
Overheating of the Amp
The more you drive your amp the more heat it will create, that is why it is recommended to ensure proper ventilation. Place your amp in less confined areas with good airflow, this should also apply to your other HiFi components since they also generate heat when working. If possible, try not to place it inside a cabinet but on a table or HiFi rack without anything sitting on top of the amp where it will block its vents/exhaust. It will be great if you can place your amp in a room with an air conditioner.
You should also clean your amp quite frequently, removing dust from the vents/exhausts so that heat can escape freely out from the amplifier. Doing all these is to prevent your amplifiers from overheating, as usually, amps have a fail-safe system in place where it will automatically turn off before the high heat level inflict any damages to the circuitry. You can only turn it back on when the level of heat has sufficiently dissipated.
Your Amplifier is not receiving enough current
It is possible for your amp to be underpowered, for instance, it is sharing a wall outlet or power stripe with other high-current appliances such as a fridge, heater, etc… It could also be sharing with too many electronic devices or more specifically other audio components such as power amps, powered subwoofers, and more. Try to at least provide individual wall outlets for audio components that require high power.
It could even be a faulty wall outlet, which you should engage an electrician to fix it asap to prevent any damages from happening to your electronic devices (just avoid using faulty wall outlets).
Circuits may be damaged if they are underpowered, that is why amps will turn themselves off to protect the circuitry.
To sum it all up
There can be a lot of factors where your amp will turn itself off when you turn up the volume, another reason may be a bad driver or crossover part in the system or if the wires are very close together which will short as the power of the amplifier goes up high enough to jump the gap between the wires. Or it could just simply be having bugs inside your amp, it may sound absurd but it could happen, even though is a rare occurrence.
These are part of the reasons why you should send your amplifier for servicing as the more you take care of your amp, the longer it could provide you with an amazing music listening experience.