While working on your electrical project, you might come across an amplifier. An amplifier is an electrical device used to enhance any electrical signal, for those who don’t know. For instance, if you are a lover of loud and chest-thumping music, you will need an amplifier to increase the sound and quality of your speakers.
That said, you don’t want to overpower your speakers as there is a decent chance that they might get damaged permanently. In order to avoid such inconvenience, first, you need to know how to test amplifier output with a multimeter.
Given the simplicity of an amplifier, you might be wondering why you would need to know how to use it? It is because there is more to amplifiers than meets the eye. For starters, you cannot use all amplifiers on all types of speakers. Not knowing how to use your amplifier, you might connect an incompatible amplifier to your speaker and end up blowing it.
How Does an Amplifier Work?
To get a better understanding of an amplifier, you need to know how it works. So before we share the steps to test an amplifier, we would like to share how an amplifier works. An amplifier has three main components that you need to know about.
When you look at the amplifier, you will see a 12-volt power wire connected to the battery. You will also see a ground wire; this wire should be connected to the chassis ground, and the other wire is to turn on and off the amplifier.
The RCA wire is where the input signal comes in. The RCA has three or more color-coded plugs extended to three color-coded jacks.
The output wire is used to give you the amplified signal. This wire is also an RCA cable since RCA cables are best for carrying input and output signals for an amplifier.
First off, you need to know what kind of amplifier you need and which you will be operating. From a basic amplifier such as a sandbox, simple speaker, or other sound sources to complicated amplifiers found in cars and other vehicles, they all have the same functionality but different looks. All of these amplifiers enhance the sound quality, but their working and power specifications are different.
If you are working on a car amplifier, you need to know everything about it. Most probably, you will find all the necessary information you need on your vehicle’s manual. Once you have an amplifier in front of you, you need to determine which wire is used for testing. Finding the testing wire is a bit tricky. At first, you might get confused between multiple cables.
Try to locate the main plug among those multiple wires. Doing so will make your search easier. Usually, the central pin with a 12-V mark or the close mark indicates the testing wire. If you can’t find the testing wire, you can refer to the manual or google the amp model to check its specifications and wiring.
How to Test Amplifier Output With a Multimeter
Those were some basics of an amplifier, so let’s proceed to the testing process.
Step 1: Prepare the Multimeter
When testing your amplifier with a multimeter, the first thing you should do is to get the multimeter ready for the testing process. The configuring process of a multimeter is easy and quick. In order to start the configuration process, you need to find the correct wires and sockets.
Start by connecting the black probe and a common socket, and the socket is most likely labeled as COM. After that, connect the red wire to the socket with a label A on it. If you are unsure which socket to connect the red wire to, pick the one with the highest amperage. In most cases, it’s the socket with the highest amperage to which you connect the red wire. That said, we would also recommend you confirm that by referring to the user manual of the amplifier.
After connecting the wires to their corresponding sockets, you need to turn the multimeter’s dial to the required settings. Different devices may have different settings, and therefore keep in mind that the wires will always connect to their corresponding sockets.
Step 2: Test your Amplifier
Basic or external amplifiers are easy to locate and operate. On the other hand, internal amplifiers such as those in your car need a bit of searching. That said, amplifiers in older vehicles are more accessible to locate than those in newer models. The latest vehicle models come with hidden amplifier settings. The best way to deal with them is to read the user manual to get an insight into what you are working with.
After locating the amplifier, you need to locate and check out its wires. As we mentioned earlier, the amplifier you are using might not have the same setting. That is where you refer to the provided manual and look for wires that can be tested, and those must be left out. After finding the correct wire, turn it on. You would see and could tell by the meter of the multimeter that your amplifier is working or not. In case your amplifier doesn’t work, you can repair or replace it as you see fit.
You may or may not understand the problem. Below are a few tips to understand the problem with the amplifier. You can use these tips to detect the fault and try to solve it, if possible.
- If your amplifier does not start, the battery is likely either fused or not working on both sides. If that is the case, you will need to change the fuse.
- Sometimes the protected mode is enabled. In such cases, you need to disconnect everything and assemble everything from the beginning. If the amplifier still isn’t running, that means there is nothing wrong with your amplifier. Your speaker or device might be damaged.
- In case there is a problem with the output of your amplifier, you will have to check all the settings and the output source as well.
- Commonly the output of your amplifier is either low or distorted. For instance, even on the highest volume, the output sound is low. It may be hearing some kind of noise in the background. In that case, you need to clear all the variables and reset all the settings. You can also try turning up and down the volume to see if that impacts the output and accordingly change settings. If the problem still goes on, that means that there is something wrong with your speakers.
- Sometimes your amplifiers will turn on and off, so you will need to restart the whole system. You can also try to solve the problem by double-checking all the settings and the wiring. But if the latter doesn’t work, you will have to go to your last option, which is to restart it.
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A faulty amplifier could damage your speaker and devices. That’s why you need to ensure that your amplifier is functioning correctly. To ensure that your amplifier is working correctly, you need to test your amplifier and detect the fault. The best way to test your amplifier is to test it with a multimeter. We have shared the procedure you can follow to test your amplifier. You can use this procedure to detect the fault and try to solve the problem if possible. Just make sure to carefully follow the steps because there is a risk of messing things up. This testing process is simple, straightforward, and affordable as well.
John Fleming is the senior editor for Audiophilez.com, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. He is a graduate of Music Production and Technology. Before Audiophilez, John began his career as a staff writer for two different magazines, where he became a skilled storyteller across different mediums. When he isn’t writing, he can be found biking, reading books, and playing the piano.