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In electrical terms a load is something that dissipates power and does some work. The work done may take many forms, including generating heat as almost always happens as a side effect of work being done. Without a load no power can be transferred. A speaker is the load for a power amp. In order for current flow to occur a complete circuit must exist. In order for the circuit not to be a short-circuit (a decidedly bad thing) a load must be present to the power amp. The power amp drives power through the circuit by way of increasing the voltage at its outputs and as a result the load (speaker) draws current and does work. In this case two major forms of work occur: The speaker moves and generates sound, and heat is produced. Any device you plug into an electrical outlet can be considered a load (toaster, light bulb, etc). Plug in too many devices drawing too much current and you will “load down” the power delivery system (another bad thing). In order to protect against this power delivery systems have fuses and circuit breakers to break the circuit when current flow gets too high. Many power amps employ current limiting devices in their output stages to limit current flow without interrupting the audio. It’s sort of a self regulating protection system (back in the old days the amp just blew up). An important thing to understand is that a load will DRAW from an available pool of power all of the current it needs to operate at the given voltage. This is somewhat simplified, but in principle remains fundamentally true for all electrical systems. A speaker’s impedance rating is an indication of what kind of load it presents to an amplifier. An appliance’s current or amperage rating is exactly the load it will place on the electrical system. The reason a speaker cannot be rated in exact terms of current usage is because the voltage and frequencies presented to it constantly change. Impedance is a way of approximating a speaker’s resistance to a varying voltage and frequency signal.

Also related to us is acoustical loading. The efficiency of a loudspeaker depends to some extent on the acoustic load placed on it by the way it couples to a cabinet and the surrounding structures. A speaker placed in the throat of a horn, for example, will see a higher acoustic impedance than a speaker placed in a free space.

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