There are many different ways that an amp can fail but the two most common failures are shorted output transistors
and blown power supply transistors
(< those are not blown). There are several types of protection circuits in amplifiers. The most common are over-current and thermal. The over-current protection is supposed to protect the output transistors. Sometimes it doesn't work well enough to prevent the failure of the output transistors but it will work well enough to shut the supply down before the power supply FETs are destroyed. If the amp remains in protect mode, goes into protect mode or blows the fuse as soon as the remote voltage is applied, shorted output transistors are almost certainly the cause.
If the fuse protecting the amp is too large, if the protection circuit doesn't respond quickly enough or if the power supply is poorly designed, the power supply transistors may fail. If you see a lot of black soot
on the power supply transistors (near the power transformer
), the power supply transistors have failed. Soot on the board doesn't necessarily mean the transistors have failed. Sometimes, technicians don't clean up the mess from a previous failure.
In general, when a transistor fails, it will either short
(common for output AND power supply transistors) or open
(common for power supply transistors). Transistors act like valves. They control the current flowing through a circuit. A shorted transistor acts like a valve that's stuck open (passing too much current). In the case of an output transistor, the shorted transistors tries to deliver the full rail voltage to the speaker output terminal. If you've ever seen a damaged amp that pushed or pulled the speaker cone to its limits when the amp powered up (common on some Rockford amplifiers), that was almost certainly due to a shorted output transistor. When checking transistors, you most commonly look for shorted connections inside the transistor. You do this by using a multimeter to look for low resistance connections between the transistor's terminals.
I used the terms short and open on the previous paragraph. A short (short circuit) is a path through which current flows that should not be there. An open (open circuit) is a break in the circuit.