‘DAMPING FACTOR’- WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN AN AMP?
You might have seen the damping curve mentioned in the specs of an amp and wondered what it actually means.
The damping factor of a system technically refers to the ratio of nominal loudspeaker impedance to the total impedance driving it. What this means is in simple terms is that the damping factor is the ability of an amplifier to control speaker motion once the signal has stopped.
If the amplifier output impedance is very low (high damping factor), the resistive, inductive and capacitive portions of the speaker impedance will have little impact on the amplitude or phase response at the output of the amplifier on the other hand if the amplifier output impedance begins to approach that of the speakers (damping factor of 1), the resistive, inductive and capacitive portions of the speaker impedance will have a major impact on the amplitude and phase response of the amplifier. What this would mean, taking the low frequencies of a speaker as an example, is that with a higher damping factor, the low frequencies are going to sound tighter, while with a lower damping factor the low end is going to sound muddy and indistinguishable.
Another thing affecting the damping factor of an amp would be the cables used in your setup.
A typical set of 10-foot 12-AWG speaker cables will have a series resistance of 0.0318 Ohms going back and forth. If these were driven by a zero Ohm amp (hypothetically speaking), the damping factor would be 200. 11-AWG cables that have a round-trip series resistance of 0.0252 Ohms would limit the damping factor to 317 if driven from a zero-ohm amplifier.
In conclusion, the choice of cables and the damping factor of the amp is going to determine how clear the audio is that comes from the speakers attached to the amp.