Picking the Right Wattage

You’ve taught your students how to express their thoughts in writing via the five Ws. Well, there’s another W that also plays an essential role in communication. It’s the W in Wattage, and it too is an integral part of classroom audio equipment.

Wattage is not something tangible that we can see or touch, but it’s definitely there for us to hear. A Watt is the unit of measurement defining electric power as the rate the electrical energy is transferred by an electric circuit. A higher wattage number reflects a greater amount of electric power used, which for a media player or PA system means reaching more students. Different-sized groups require audio equipment with different wattages, so more is not necessarily better. The powerful audio equipment used in a school auditorium isn’t necessarily the best choice for a classroom; it would be too loud and would cost more than the class budget allows. Conversely the perfect multimedia player (boombox or cassette) for a smaller kindergarten class might not be a good fit for a larger high school classroom as it’s probably not powerful enough.

But selecting the right wattage equipment for a specific class size still is a critical task. Numerous studies have shown that students perform better when they can hear better; and interacting with students in the classroom day-in and day-out, you know best how important it is to ensure all students can hear clearly. Whether it’s for English language learners to focus on the correct pronunciations in an ESL class or for primary grade students to practice reading fluency, being able to hear the learning materials clearly at an appropriate volume level (particularly while students are wearing headphones) is a key to help them succeed.

With so many different audio players featuring a great range of wattages, how do you choose the appropriate one for your class size? Here is a guideline we’d like to share on classroom multimedia player wattage vs. group size: A 2-watt multimedia player such as our Spirit™ is sufficient for a class size up to 40. Jean Hinkley, Grade 5-6 Library Media Specialist, at HT Wiley Intermediate School in Watertown, NY shared, “With the Spirit 1776, our entire class listen at the same time to a book on cassette or CD.” For a bigger class size of 60, the newly introduced 3.6-watt Spirit SD can assist you deliver the lecture. If your class takes place at a Science lab or a computer center, a 6-watt multimedia player such as the Music Maker™ series (2385-03, 2395AV-02, 2395IR) will ensure up to 75 students hear you clearly.  For a group size of 100, the 14-watt Performer Plus™ is the best choice within the Califone line. Carol Wegner, Physical Education Coordinator, at Willmar Public School Dist 347 in Willmar, MN shares that she uses the Performer Plus “as a PA system because it has enough power to be clearly heard during gym classes.”

  • 2 Watts should work for up to 40 people
  • 3.6 Watts should work for up to 60 people
  • 6 Watts should work for up to 75 people
  • 14 Watts should work for up to 100 people

There can be large variations in acoustics from classroom to classroom, and when used outdoors, factors like wind can alter even more how well people will hear, so use these numbers only as guidelines.

Using audio equipment with the appropriate wattage in the class not only helps students enhance learning experiences and improve abilities, but also prevents you from straining your voice to ensure you are heard clearly. Next time you select a multimedia player for your class, make sure you pick the right W to reach all ears.


Helping teachers and students with educationally appropriate classroom AV equipment since 1947.