Trade Regulation Rule Relating to Power Output Claims for Amplifiers Utilized in Home Entertainment Products

CourtFederal Trade Commission
Citation88 FR 56780
Published date21 August 2023
Record Number2023-16792
Federal Register, Volume 88 Issue 160 (Monday, August 21, 2023)
[Federal Register Volume 88, Number 160 (Monday, August 21, 2023)]
                [Proposed Rules]
                [Pages 56780-56787]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office []
                [FR Doc No: 2023-16792]
                16 CFR Part 432
                RIN 3084-AB62
                Trade Regulation Rule Relating to Power Output Claims for
                Amplifiers Utilized in Home Entertainment Products
                AGENCY: Federal Trade Commission.
                ACTION: Supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.
                SUMMARY: The Federal Trade Commission (``FTC'' or ``Commission'') seeks
                public comment on proposed amendments to the Trade Regulation Rule
                Relating to Power Output Claims for Amplifiers Utilized in Home
                Entertainment Products (``Amplifier Rule'' or ``Rule''). The proposed
                amendments modify the previous proposal by updating a required test
                condition (total harmonic distortion), improving differentiation
                between power output disclosures that comply with the Rule's testing
                methods and those that do not, and modernizing as well as clarifying
                Rule language considering the foregoing modifications. Additionally,
                the proposed amendments now formalize prior Commission guidance on
                applying the Rule to multichannel amplifiers.
                DATES: Written comments must be received on or before October 20, 2023.
                Parties interested in an opportunity to present views orally should
                submit a request to do so as explained below, and such requests must be
                received on or before October 20, 2023.
                ADDRESSES: Interested parties may file a comment online or on paper, by
                following the instructions in the Request for Comment part of the
                SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. Write ``Amplifier Rule Review;
                Project No. P974222'' on your comment and file your comment online
                through If you prefer to file your comment
                on paper,
                [[Page 56781]]
                mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission,
                Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite CC-5610
                (Annex A), Washington, DC 20580.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Hong Park, Attorney, (202) 326-2158,
                [email protected], Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection,
                Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Mail Stop CC-
                6316, Washington, DC 20580.
                I. Background
                 The Commission promulgated the Amplifier Rule in 1974 to address
                sellers' failure to provide essential pre-purchase information
                regarding the performance of home entertainment amplifiers.\1\
                Specifically, manufacturers described their products' performance
                through power output claims (e.g., ``25 Watts''), but tested their
                amplifiers under a variety of conditions and procedures. Thus,
                consumers could not effectively use advertised wattage claims to
                compare brands or determine how individual amplifiers would perform. At
                the time, the Commission noted, ``[s]ince the mid-50's the [audio]
                industry'' had failed ``to agree upon a single industry standard which
                is meaningful to the consumer.'' \2\ Accordingly, the Rule standardized
                the measurement and disclosure of some, but not all, performance
                characteristics of power amplification equipment to ``assure that . . .
                performance characteristics are based upon conditions of normal use by
                the consumer, i.e., conditions which are encountered in the home.'' \3\
                 \1\ 39 FR 15387 (May 3, 1974).
                 \2\ Id. at 15388.
                 \3\ Id. at 15392. Merely testing amplifiers under identical test
                conditions will not produce useful consumer information if the test
                conditions differ significantly from normal use conditions.
                 Under the Rule, sellers making certain power claims (i.e., for
                power output, power band or power frequency response, or distortion
                characteristics) must disclose power output measured under specified
                test conditions. For example, amplifiers must be tested at an ambient
                air temperature of at least 77 [deg]F (25 [deg]C).\4\ The Rule,
                however, does not specify values for three test conditions that
                strongly affect power output measurements: (1) load impedance; \5\ (2)
                rated power band or power frequency response; \6\ and (3) total
                harmonic distortion (``THD'').\7\ Instead, the original Rule required
                disclosure of these values wherever sellers made certain power
                claims.\8\ In 2000, the Commission eliminated this disclosure
                requirement in ``media advertising'' but retained the requirement in
                product brochures and manufacturer specification sheets.\9\
                 \4\ This requirement prevents testing with cooling equipment
                while driving amplifiers to high power outputs that would overheat
                amplifiers during normal use. See 16 CFR 432.3(d) (``The
                preconditioning and testing shall be in still air and an ambient
                temperature of at least 77 [deg]F (25 [deg]C) . . . .'').
                 \5\ The current Rule sets a default load impedance of 8 ohms for
                measuring power output but permits measurement at a different load
                impedance if the amplifier is designed primarily for that impedance.
                16 CFR 432.2(a). ``[T]he lower the load impedance utilized in
                testing . . . equipment, the higher the output of the amplifier.''
                39 FR 15387, 15390 (May 3, 1974). For example, an amplifier that
                outputs 550 watts into 2 ohms might only output 350 watts into 4
                ohms and 215 watts into 8 ohms. See Speaker Impedance Changes
                Amplifier Power, Geoff the Grey Geek, (last visited Mar. 22,
                 \6\ High quality amplifiers can output a broad range of
                frequencies, such as the sounds of all the instruments in an
                orchestra, at high power. Lower quality amplifiers can only output
                certain frequencies, such as 1 kHz (e.g., the sound of a trumpet),
                at high power, and output lower frequencies (e.g., a timpani or
                bass) or higher frequencies (e.g., a piccolo) at lower power. Power
                output measurements made at a single frequency or over a limited
                power band do not permit consumers to distinguish between these
                quality differences in amplifiers. The Commission has stated ``a
                measurement [on a 1 kHz test signal] is inherently deceptive to the
                consumer who expects that a piece of equipment represented as being
                capable of a stated power output will deliver that power output
                across its full audio range.'' 39 FR 15387, 15390 (May 3, 1974).
                 \7\ The output of an amplifier driven to increasingly higher
                power will distort and sound different from the original
                performance. When the Commission promulgated the Rule, it received
                evidence that distortion limits during testing affect power output
                measurements. For example, the same amplifier might output 20 watts
                if driven only until the output reaches 0.5% THD, and output 30
                watts when driven to 5% THD. The Rule requires disclosure of the THD
                during testing so consumers can determine the value of power output
                measurements. See 39 FR 15387, 15391-92 (May 3, 1974).
                 \8\ 16 CFR 432.2 (1974).
                 \9\ 65 FR 81232 (Dec. 22, 2000).
                 Pursuant to its ongoing regulatory review schedule, on December 18,
                2020, the Commission published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking
                (``ANPR'') seeking comment on the Amplifier Rule. 85 FR 82391 (Dec. 18,
                2020). Specifically, the ANPR sought comments regarding possible Rule
                improvements, the continuing need for the Rule, the Rule's costs and
                benefits, as well as whether, and how, technological or economic
                changes have affected the Rule.
                 In response, the Commission received 530 unique comments, including
                from amplifier and speaker manufacturers, amplifier sellers and
                purchasers, and engineers or journalists in the audio field.\10\ All
                but one commenter supported retaining the Rule.\11\ Based on this near
                universal support, the Commission concluded there was a continuing need
                for the Rule.
                 \10\ These comments are available at In this
                publication, commenters are referred to by name, the acronym for the
                notice to which the commenter responded (either ANPR or NPRM), and
                the number assigned to each comment. For example, the comment to the
                ANPR from Garry Grube, which was assigned ID FTC-2020-0087-0187 on
      , is referred to as ``Garry Grube (ANPR 187).''
                 \11\ The one commenter did not provide a substantive comment.
                 Although commenters overwhelmingly supported the Rule, some
                recommended amendments. For example, many commenters urged the
                Commission to require uniform power band, load impedance, and THD
                limits to prevent manipulation of these three test conditions.\12\
                 \12\ For instance, Alan McConnaughey (ANPR 5) commented, ``More
                rules should be [enacted] to require 8 ohm ratings so everything is
                apples do [sic] apples.'' Jim McCabe (ANPR 378) commented that
                amplifiers should be tested ``driven from 20 to 20k'' to ``stop the
                lying.'' Danny Anonymous (ANPR 4325) commented that, ``[t]o
                eliminate confusion, just use Output Watts@1%THD.'' See also, e.g.,
                comments from Dennis Murphy, Philharmonic Audio (ANPR 525) and David
                Rich (ANPR 548). In all, twenty-seven commenters recommended
                specifying the load impedance; 36 recommended specifying the power
                band to be 20 Hz to 20 kHz; 26 recommended specifying a THD or
                requiring a low THD; and 159 recommended, in conjunction with a
                recommendation regarding multichannel amplifier testing, specifying
                values for all three test conditions.
                 Consistent with these comments, Commission staff found this
                manipulation ubiquitous in the marketplace. Specifically, staff found
                dozens of examples of the same equipment advertised with significantly
                different power output claims (e.g., some sellers advertised a
                [[Page 56782]]
                model with 45 watts output per channel, while others advertised the
                same model with 100 watts per channel \13\). Using specification sheets
                on manufacturers' websites, staff confirmed these widely divergent
                claims resulted from different testing parameters.
                 \13\ See, e.g., Onkyo TX-8220, Crutchfield, (last visited on
                Oct. 1, 2021); Onkyo TX-8220,,
                (viewed on Oct. 1, 2021; advertisement subsequently revised).
                 Based on the comments and staff's review, the Commission found
                requiring disclosure of test conditions is unlikely to prevent
                deceptive power output claims. Test conditions are highly technical and
                require complex calculations to convert claims into apples-to-apples
                power output comparisons. Thus, the average consumer is unlikely to
                understand or use the disclosed test conditions to avoid deception.\14\
                This problem is amplified by the fact that consumers now shop online
                more frequently, providing fewer opportunities to listen to equipment
                before purchasing.
                 \14\ Staff has surveyed numerous academic articles finding that
                consumers are not able to effectively comprehend highly technical
                disclosures; no surveyed research found to the contrary. See, e.g.,
                Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl E. Schneider, The Failure of Mandated
                Disclosure, 159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 647, available at The Commission promulgated the Rule
                so consumers would not need to perform complex calculations to
                derive useful power ratings. It found that, prior to the Rule,
                consumers had to ``deduct 10 to 25 percent [from the ``music power''
                ratings previously claimed] and divide by 2'' to derive power
                ratings that reflected normal usage. 39 FR 15387, 15388 (May 3,
                1974). Additionally, the Commission has previously concluded that
                ``an insufficient number of consumers . . . understand the meaning
                and significance of . . . disclosures concerning power bandwidth and
                impedance.'' 63 FR 37238, 37239 (July 9, 1998).
                 To address widespread misleading power output claims, the
                Commission published a notice of proposed rulemaking (``NPRM''),
                proposing an amendment to the Amplifier Rule to standardize the three
                test conditions.\15\ Specifically, the Commission proposed the
                following standard values: (1) a load impedance of 8 ohms; (2) a power
                band of 20 Hz to 20 kHz (except for self-powered subwoofer systems);
                and (3) a THD limit of less than 0.1%. Staff's review found amplifiers
                are generally designed to drive a nominal load impedance of 8 ohms; 20
                Hz to 20 kHz covers the normal range of human hearing; \16\ and 0.1%
                THD does not audibly distort a signal. Several commenters suggested
                these test conditions, and many manufacturers' specification sheets
                already disclose power outputs tested at 8 ohms, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and
                at THD limits of, or slightly below, 0.1%.
                 \15\ 87 FR 45047 (July 27, 2022).
                 \16\ The Commission's NPRM proposal excluded amplifiers in self-
                powered subwoofers used in systems that employ two or more
                amplifiers dedicated to different portions of the audio frequency
                spectrum from being tested over a power band of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The
                Commission has previously recognized that, while ``stand-alone . . .
                amplifiers . . . must reproduce signals covering the full musical
                frequency bandwidth,'' ``self-powered subwoofer systems . . .
                incorporate crossover circuitry that filters out frequencies above
                the bass range,'' and the amplifiers in self-powered subwoofer
                systems only amplify bass frequencies. 64 FR 38610, 38613-4 (July
                19, 1999). Consequently, the Commission proposed to limit the power
                band for testing self-powered subwoofer amplifiers to the
                frequencies within those amplifiers' intended operating bandwidth.
                The proposed amendments would require testing amplifiers in self-
                powered full-range loudspeakers, such as full-range Bluetooth
                speakers that output more than two watts, over a power band of 20 Hz
                to 20 kHz.
                II. Comments Received in Response to NPRM
                 The Commission received nine unique comments in response to the
                NPRM.\17\ Seven either broadly supported the regulation of power output
                claims or the standardization of test conditions.\18\ Two of these
                commenters, however, expressed concern about the THD limit. They
                explained many vacuum tube and solid state amplifiers ``would not be
                able to qualify for a power output claim'' under the proposed 0.1%
                limit.\19\ Accordingly, they recommended the Commission allow
                manufacturers to disclose their chosen THD level rather than setting a
                fixed limit. Additionally, one commenter recommended replacing the term
                ``total harmonic distortion'' with ``THD with noise,'' or ``THD+N,'' to
                align the Rule with the Commission's original intent.\20\
                 \17\ These comments can be found at The Commission received a total of 11
                comments. However, two of these comments neither responded to the
                NPRM nor discussed any aspect of the Rule. A third comment raised
                concerns outside the scope of this proceeding (e.g., health risks
                posed by amplifiers) and did not supply any supporting evidence. See
                Chelsy Graves (NPRM 5).
                 \18\ See, e.g., Travis Surprenant (NPRM 2) (``It needs to be a
                uniform rating to ensure consumers are comparing products on a level
                playing field.''); Peiyan Wang (NPRM 4) (``A uniform testing method
                could provide convenience for consumers to compare different
                products.''); Kiet Hoang (NPRM 10) (``I believe it needs to be a
                uniform testing method in order to provide the customers to compare
                the products on a comparable basis.'').
                 \19\ Dennis Murphy (NPRM 9) (stating that all the tube
                amplifiers reviewed by the audio publication Stereophile over the
                past 10 years and many solid state amplifiers could not meet the
                0.1% maximum THD requirement); see also E.W. Blackwood (NPRM 7)
                (``0.1% total harmonic distortion (THD) is too restrictive and would
                have an impact on many manufacturers.'').
                 \20\ E.W. Blackwood (NPRM 7).
                 Only one commenter opposed the Commission's proposal in its
                entirety. The Consumer Technology Association (``CTA'') stated the
                Commission's proposal is unnecessary for component audio devices
                because manufacturers ``generally already use [the Commission's
                proposed] parameters to test their devices.'' \21\ As for integrated
                audio devices, such as soundbars, CTA stated that standardizing the
                power output test conditions would be irrelevant to consumers.
                According to CTA, consumers do not evaluate ``specific technical
                capabilities of individual components,'' such as power output, but
                rather look to the ``immersive audio experience'' reviewed in online
                videos and other online sources. Therefore, CTA urged the Commission to
                reject the proposal, or at a minimum, to narrow its application to
                component audio devices and not integrated audio devices.
                 \21\ CTA (NPRM 8).
                III. Analysis and Additional Proposed Amendments to the Rule
                 After reviewing these comments, the Commission reaffirms its
                proposed approach of standardizing power output test conditions
                governing impedance, power band, and distortion. The Commission
                proposed standardizing these conditions based on the vast majority of
                comments,\22\ as well as Commission staff's research, indicating
                standardization is necessary to eliminate conflicting and confusing
                power output claims. CTA's comments do not change this conclusion. CTA
                asserts such standardization is unnecessary with respect to component
                audio devices because manufacturers ``generally'' use the Commission's
                proposed standard. However, staff found numerous instances of sellers
                advertising component audio devices using power output standards that
                differed from each other and from the Commission's proposal.\23\ CTA
                [[Page 56783]]
                contends power output information is irrelevant to consumers of
                integrated home audio equipment. In contrast, Commission staff easily
                found multiple instances of sellers advertising such equipment using
                power output claims, presumably because they believe consumers find
                power output information relevant to their purchasing decision.\24\
                 \22\ See 87 FR 45047, 45049 (July 27, 2022).
                 \23\ See, e.g., Denon PMA-600NE Stereo Integrated Amplifier,
      , (last
                visited on Mar. 22, 2023) (advertising 70 watts at 4 ohms, 1kHz, THD
                0.7%); Onkyo A-9110 Home Audio Integrated Stereo Amplifier--Black,
      , (last visited
                on Mar. 22, 2023) (advertising 50 watts at 4 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.9%
                THD); Russound P75, Crutchfield, (Mar. 22, 2023) (advertising 60
                watts into 8 ohms, 1kHz, 1% THD).
                 \24\ See, e.g., Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 Channel 1000W
                Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Soundbar with Dual 10'' Subwoofers (Wireless) & 4
                Rear Surround Speakers. Enjoy Plug and Play Explosive Bass & High
                End Cinema Surround,, (advertising 1000 watts);
                Bobtot Home Theater Systems Surround Sound Speakers--1200 Watts 10
                inch Subwoofer 5.1/2.1 Channel Home Audio Stereo System,,
                visited on Mar. 22, 2023) (advertising 1200 watts); Rockville HTS56
                1000w 5.1 Channel Home Theater System/Bluetooth/USB+8'' Subwoofer,
      , (last visited on Mar. 22, 2023) (advertising 1000
                 Based on the comments, however, the Commission modifies its NPRM
                proposal in three ways. First, it proposes replacing the Rule's
                reference to ``total harmonic distortion'' with ``total harmonic
                distortion plus noise'' (``THD+N'').\25\ As one commenter observed, the
                modern audio equipment industry distinguishes between THD and
                THD+N.\26\ THD measures only the discrepancy in harmonics between the
                original audio signal and the amplified signal (harmonic
                distortion).\27\ In contrast, THD+N measures both harmonic distortion
                and noise introduced by the power line, the electronics of the
                amplifier, and other sources.\28\ When the Commission originally
                promulgated the Rule, it intended the term ``total harmonic
                distortion'' to capture both harmonic distortion and noise signified by
                the broader term THD+N.\29\ The modified proposal preserves this
                original meaning.\30\
                 \25\ See infra proposed 16 CFR 432.3(e).
                 \26\ E.W. Blackwood (NPRM 7).
                 \27\ Typically, the original audio signal used in measuring
                distortion is a sinusoidal wave with a defined frequency called a
                ``fundamental frequency.'' Amplifying the original audio signal may
                generate harmonics, which are sinusoidal waves with frequencies that
                are a positive integer multiple of the fundamental frequency.
                Harmonic distortion is the measure of the harmonics introduced into
                the amplified output signal. See THD And THD+N--Similar But Not The
                Same, Audio Precision, Inc., (last visited on Mar. 22, 2023); What Is
                Total Harmonic Distortion Plus Noise (THD+N)?, Audio Interfacing
                (Nov. 15, 2022),
                gnal.; Understanding, Calculating, and Measuring Total Harmonic
                Distortion (THD), All About Circuits (Feb. 20, 2017), https://
                 \28\ See, e.g., What Is Total Harmonic Distortion Plus Noise
                (THD+N)?, Audio Interfacing (Nov. 15, 2022), https://
                gnal.; More About THD+N And THD, Audio Precision, Inc. (Feb. 1,
                ; Not All Distortion Is Created Equal--A Guide to THD & THD+N,
                Bandwidth Audio, (last visited Mar.
                22, 2023).
                 \29\ For instance, the Commission's intent to include noise in
                using the term ``total harmonic distortion'' is demonstrated by its
                explanation of Sec. 432.3(a) when it first promulgated the Rule.
                That section requires AC power lines for testing equipment capable
                of using AC as a power source. The Commission explained that testing
                cannot artificially eliminate the ``hum and noise factor'' present
                in AC power lines by using a battery to power equipment capable of
                AC power. 39 FR 15387, 15393 (May 3, 1974).
                 \30\ The modified proposal also reduces the burden on industry.
                Measuring THD+N is simpler because it does not require the
                additional step of separating harmonic distortion from noise for
                measuring THD. See, e.g., THD And THD+N--Similar But Not The Same,
                Audio Precision, Inc., (last visited on Mar. 22, 2013) (``[T]he test
                setup [for measuring THD] is inherently more complicated than the
                THD+N technique.''); What Is Total Harmonic Distortion Plus Noise
                (THD+N)?, Audio Interfacing (Nov. 15, 2022), https://
                gnal. (``[I]n practice THD+N is easier to measure than THD.'').
                 Second, the Commission proposes raising the THD+N limit to 1.0% to
                address commenters' concerns that a significant number of amplifiers on
                the market cannot qualify for any power output claim under the NPRM
                proposal's 0.1% limit.\31\ Staff research confirms that a number of
                entry-level solid state amplifiers cannot rate the power output at a
                0.1% THD+N limit but most can rate at a 1.0% limit.\32\ Although the
                new proposal allows a higher percentage of distortion, research
                referenced by commenter Dennis Murphy indicates the average consumer
                cannot audibly detect distortion at the 1.0% level, especially when
                listening to content typically played on home audio equipment, such as
                music and movie programming.\33\ The Commission
                [[Page 56784]]
                recognizes some amplifiers would not qualify for a power output rating
                even at the 1.0% THD+N limit. However, these sellers may voluntarily
                disclose power output ratings that do not conform to the FTC's testing
                standard, provided their disclosures comply with the Rule's
                requirements governing ``Optional Disclosures'' set forth in Sec.
                 \31\ See infra proposed 16 CFR 432.3(e).
                 \32\ FTC staff examined graphs of THD+N vs. 1kHz continuous
                output power into 8 ohms for a sampling of solid state amplifier
                devices on 8 out of 30 devices were not capable
                of generating any power output at a maximum THD+N threshold of 0.1%,
                but all 30 devices were capable of generating a power output at a
                maximum THD+N threshold of 1.0%. Similarly, FTC staff reviewed a
                sampling of solid state amplifier devices available on
       Out of the 50 devices reviewed, 10 advertised
                power output ratings at THD levels that exceeded 0.1% but that were
                within the 1.0% limit. As for vacuum tube amplifiers, many of the
                reviews on did not provide the THD or THD+N
                level for the rated power output. However, FTC staff's online
                research suggests that these amplifiers generally produce a higher
                level of distortion than solid state amplifiers. See, e.g., Why
                Tubes Sound Better, Ken Rockwell,
                %2C%20an%20octave%20above (last visited on Mar. 22, 2023) (``Tube
                amplifiers have much more distortion than solid-state amplifiers . .
                .''). ``In addition, one commenter stated he independently evaluated
                all of the tube amplifiers reviewed by and found
                that ``none achieved THD levels as low as .1% over a 20 Hz to 20kHz
                bandwidth into 8 Ohms, even when driven with as little as 3 watts.''
                Dennis Murphy (NPRM 9).
                 \33\ Dennis Murphy (NPRM 9). Mr. Murphy noted ``the published
                research has found that consumers cannot begin to detect distortion
                on music program material until it reaches at least 1% [THD] . . .''
                Id. (citing Mark Sanfilipo, Human Hearing--Distortion Audibility
                Part 3, Audioholics (Apr. 22, 2005), available at The web page cited by Mr.
                Murphy references 6 studies, 4 of which support the notion that the
                average consumer cannot detect distortion below 1%. Other internet
                sources seem to support this conclusion. See, e.g., What Is Total
                Harmonic Distortion (THD)?, Lifewire, (last visited Mar. 28, 2023) (``As
                long as THD is less than one percent, most listeners will not hear
                any distortion.''); Understanding Amplifier Power, Geoff the Grey
                (last visited on Mar. 28, 2023) (stating THD or THD+N ``should be 1%
                or less'' to avoid inflated power output claims achieved at
                unacceptably high levels of distortion); cf. Blind Test Results Part
                II: ``Is High Harmonic Distortion in Music Audible?'' Respondent
                Results, Archimago's Musings (June 6, 2020), available at (informal online listening test showing 31% of listeners
                detected only a ``small difference'' in sound between a 0.0000002%
                THD sample and 3.0% THD sample, 21% detected ``very little to no
                difference,'' and 18% detected ``no noticeable difference'').
                 \34\ 16 CFR 432.4. Both the current and proposed versions of
                this section mandate that Optional Disclosures be less conspicuous
                and prominent than the disclosure of the FTC power output rating and
                that they use testing methods that are generally recognized by the
                industry, among other requirements.
                 Third, the Commission proposes requiring sellers to use specific
                language to clearly distinguish power output disclosures under Sec.
                432.2 from Optional Disclosures under Sec. 432.4. By standardizing the
                test conditions for power output claims under Sec. 432.2, the
                Commission anticipates more sellers would also use Optional Disclosures
                to distinguish specific features of their products. While such claims
                can be useful to consumers seeking particular audio qualities, they
                raise the specter of confusion. To address this issue, the Commission
                proposes to amend both Sec. 432.2 and Sec. 432.4 to require sellers
                to designate disclosures that meet the FTC's standard with the words
                ``FTC Power Output Rating,'' and those that do not (i.e., disclosures
                that fall within the Optional Disclosures section) with the words
                ``This rating does not meet the FTC standard.'' \35\ This information
                should alert consumers to the type of power output claim being made and
                facilitate an apples-to-apples comparison across different brands and
                 \35\ See infra proposed 16 CFR 432.2(c) and 432.4(a),
                 Additionally, the Commission proposes making four non-substantive
                changes to update and clarify the language of the Rule. First, the
                Commission proposes eliminating language in Sec. 432.4 that currently
                incorporates Sec. 432.2's requirement to disclose the test
                conditions.\36\ As explained above, the proposed amendments to the Rule
                eliminate this requirement because such highly technical disclosures
                are unlikely to protect the general consumer from deceptive power
                output claims.
                 \36\ 16 CFR 432.4(a) (requiring ``such power output
                representation(s) complies with the provisions of Sec. 432.2 of
                this part; except that if a peak or other instantaneous power
                rating, such as music power or peak power, is represented under this
                section, the maximum percentage of total harmonic distortion (see
                Sec. 432.2(d) of this part) may be disclosed only at such rated
                 Second, the Commission proposes to consolidate all provisions that
                standardize test conditions into a single section. Doing so should
                improve the Rule's useability. Currently, the Rule has two sections
                that contain standard test conditions. Section 432.3 entitled
                ``Standard Test Conditions'' contains most of the Rule's test condition
                requirements; however, the requirement to test using ``minimum sine
                wave continuous average power output, in watts, per channel . . .''
                appears in Sec. 432.2(a). Consolidating these requirements into Sec.
                432.3 should make the requirements easier to find.\37\
                 \37\ See infra proposed 16 CFR 432.3(g) & (h).
                 Third, the Commission proposes modifying Sec. 432.3(e) to clarify
                that amplifiers must meet the standard for impedance, power band, and
                THD+N at all levels from 250mW to the disclosed level. Retaining this
                requirement from the current rule \38\ while standardizing test
                conditions should ensure the advertised power claim does not mask lower
                power levels at which the amplifier would not meet the FTC's standard.
                 \38\ 16 CFR 432.2(b).
                 Fourth, the Commission proposes updates to Sec. 432.4's
                prohibition against using an ``asterisk'' to make disclosures required
                under the Rule. The new proposal updates this language to similarly
                prohibit the use of footnotes and other notations typically used to
                obscure disclosures in advertising.\39\
                 \39\ The prohibition against using an asterisk is currently
                contained in Note 2 of Sec. 432.4. The Commission's proposed
                amendments eliminate Note 2, as well as Note 1 addressing the font
                style of certain disclosures, and move the substantive requirements
                of these two Notes into the main text of Sec. 432.2(d) and Sec.
                432.4(a) and (b).
                 Finally, the Commission proposes formalizing its guidance regarding
                how channels in a multichannel amplifier must be driven when measuring
                power output under the FTC standard. The FTC standard requires all
                ``associated channels'' to be fully driven when measuring power output
                of the amplifier.\40\ In 2010, the Commission found that ``associated
                channels'' for multichannel systems include, at a minimum, the front-
                left and front-right channels used for stereo programming, and issued
                guidance stating that power output measurements that do not meet this
                floor violate the Rule.\41\ While ANPR commenters proposed a variety of
                alternative standards for driving multichannel amplifiers,\42\ and the
                NPRM specifically solicited evidence regarding normal usage of
                multichannel amplifiers,\43\ no commenters to either the ANPR or the
                NPRM provided evidence regarding real-life use of multichannel systems.
                Accordingly, considering the Commission's 2010 finding and in the
                absence of any evidence supporting an alternative, the Commission
                proposes to modify Sec. 432.2 to formalize its long-standing guidance
                on ``associated channels'' for multichannel amplifiers--the front-left
                and front-right channels used for stereo programming must be driven
                 \40\ This requirement is currently in Sec. 432.2(a). The
                proposed amendments consolidate this requirement with the other
                standard test conditions in Sec. 432.3. See paragraph accompanying
                fn. 37 supra.
                 \41\ The Commission based its guidance on the finding that
                ``[t]he left and right front channels of home theater multichannel
                amplifiers are responsible for reproducing a substantial portion of
                the musical soundtracks of movies, as well as a substantial portion
                of the program content of music CDs and DVDs.'' 75 FR 3985, 3987
                (Jan. 26, 2010).
                 \42\ Commenters to the ANPR proposed fully driving 2 channels,
                fully driving 3 channels and partially driving the remaining
                channels, and driving 5 channels at 70%, among other proposals. See,
                e.g., Leo Nolan (ANPR 67); Gene DellaSala (ANPR 6); Jason Jenkins
                (ANPR 70). In its response to the NPRM, CTA correctly observed that
                none of the commenters supported their respective proposals with any
                evidence of how channels are driven in typical use in the home. CTA
                (NPRM 8).
                 \43\ 87 FR 45047, 45049--50 (July 27, 2022). As the Commission
                stated in the prior 2000 proceeding to amend the Rule, ``[t]he
                controlling consideration in determining the proper interpretation
                of `associated channels' is whether audio/video receivers and
                amplifiers would, when operated by consumers in the home at high
                playback volume, be required to deliver full rated power output in
                all channels simultaneously, or whether such maximum stress
                conditions would more likely be restricted at any given moment of
                time to certain sub-groupings of available channels.'' 65 FR 80798,
                80800 (Dec. 22, 2000).
                 \44\ See infra proposed 16 CFR 432.3(h) (``Associated channels
                for multichannel amplifiers shall include, at a minimum, the left
                front and right front channels used for reproducing stereo
                IV. Request for Comments
                 The Commission seeks comments on all aspects of the proposed
                requirements, including the likely effectiveness of the proposed Rule
                amendments in helping the Commission combat unfair or deceptive
                practices in the marketing of amplifiers utilized in home entertainment
                equipment. In particular, the Commission seeks comments on each of the
                modifications to its NPRM proposal. It also seeks comments on other
                approaches to addressing unfair and deceptive practices, such as the
                publication of additional consumer and business
                [[Page 56785]]
                education material. Commenters should provide any available evidence
                and data that supports their position, such as empirical data, consumer
                perception studies, and consumer complaints.
                 You can file a comment online or on paper. For the Commission to
                consider your comment, we must receive it on or before October 20,
                2023. Include ``Amplifier Rule Review; Project No. P974222'' on your
                comment. Your comment, including your name and your state, will be
                placed on the public record of this proceeding, including, to the
                extent practicable, on the website.
                 Postal mail addressed to the Commission is subject to delay due to
                heightened security screening. As a result, we strongly encourage you
                to submit your comments online through the
                website. To ensure that the Commission considers your online comment,
                please follow the instructions on the web-based form.
                 If you file your comment on paper, write ``Amplifier Rule Review;
                Project No. P974222'' on your comment and on the envelope, and mail
                your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office
                of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex A),
                Washington, DC 20580. If possible, please submit your paper comment to
                the Commission by overnight service.
                 Because your comment will be placed on the publicly accessible
                website,, you are solely responsible for
                making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive or
                confidential information. In particular, your comment should not
                include any sensitive personal information such as your or anyone's
                Social Security number, date of birth, driver's license number or other
                state identification number or foreign country equivalent, passport
                number, financial account number, or credit or debit card number. You
                are also solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not
                include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or
                other individually identifiable health information. In addition, your
                comment should not include any ``[t]rade secret or any commercial or
                financial information which . . . is privileged or confidential''--as
                provided in section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and FTC Rule
                4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2)--including, in particular, competitively
                sensitive information such as costs, sales statistics, inventories,
                formulas, patterns, devices, manufacturing processes, or customer
                 Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is
                requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled
                ``Confidential,'' and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c). In particular,
                the written request for confidential treatment that accompanies the
                comment must include the factual and legal basis for the request, and
                must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from
                the public record. See FTC Rule 4.9(c). Your comment will be kept
                confidential only if the General Counsel grants your request in
                accordance with the law and the public interest. Once your comment has
                been posted publicly at legally required by FTC
                Rule 4.9(b)--we cannot redact or remove your comment, unless you submit
                a confidentiality request that meets the requirements for such
                treatment under FTC Rule 4.9(c), and the General Counsel grants that
                 Visit the FTC website to read this publication and the news release
                describing it. The FTC Act and other laws that the Commission
                administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and
                use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all
                timely and responsive public comments that it receives on or before
                October 20, 2023. For information on the Commission's privacy policy,
                including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, see
                V. Rulemaking Procedures
                 The Commission finds that using expedited procedures in this
                rulemaking will serve the public interest. Expedited procedures will
                support the Commission's goals of clarifying and updating existing
                regulations without undue expenditure of resources, while ensuring that
                the public has an opportunity to submit data, views, and arguments on
                whether the Commission should amend the Rule. Pursuant to 16 CFR 1.20,
                the Commission will use the following procedures: (1) publishing this
                notice of proposed rulemaking; (2) soliciting written comments on the
                Commission's proposals to amend the Rule; (3) holding an informal
                hearing, if requested by interested parties; and (4) announcing final
                Commission action in a document published in the Federal Register.
                 The Commission, in its discretion, has not chosen to schedule an
                informal hearing and has not made any initial designations of disputed
                issues of material fact necessary to be resolved at an informal
                hearing. Interested persons who wish to make an oral submission at an
                informal hearing must file a comment in response to this publication
                and submit a statement identifying their interests in the proceeding
                and describing any proposals regarding the designation of disputed
                issues of material fact to be resolved at the informal hearing, on or
                before October 20, 2023. 16 CFR 1.11. Such requests, and any other
                motions or petitions in connection with this proceeding, must be filed
                with the Secretary of the Commission.
                VI. Preliminary Regulatory Analysis
                 Under Section 22 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 57b-3, the Commission
                must issue a preliminary regulatory analysis for a proceeding to amend
                a rule if the Commission: (1) estimates that the amendment will have an
                annual effect on the national economy of $100 million or more; (2)
                estimates that the amendment will cause a substantial change in the
                cost or price of certain categories of goods or services; or (3)
                otherwise determines that the amendment will have a significant effect
                upon covered entities or upon consumers. The Commission has
                preliminarily determined that the proposed amendments to the Rule will
                not have such effects on the national economy, on the cost of sound
                amplification equipment, or on covered businesses or consumers. In
                developing these proposals, the Commission has sought to minimize
                prescriptive requirements and provide flexibility to sellers in meeting
                the Rule's objectives. The Commission, however, requests comment on the
                economic effects of the proposed amendments.
                VII. Regulatory Flexibility Act Requirements
                 The Regulatory Flexibility Act (``RFA''), 5 U.S.C. 601-612,
                requires that the Commission conduct an analysis of the anticipated
                economic impact of the proposed amendment on small entities. The
                purpose of a regulatory flexibility analysis is to ensure that an
                agency considers potential impacts on small entities and examines
                regulatory alternatives that could achieve the regulatory purpose while
                minimizing burdens on small entities. The RFA requires that the
                Commission provide an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
                (``IRFA'') with a proposed rule and a Final Regulatory Flexibility
                Analysis (``FRFA'') with a final rule, if any, unless the Commission
                certifies that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on
                a substantial number of small entities.
                 The Commission believes that the proposed amendment would not have
                [[Page 56786]]
                significant economic impact upon small entities, although it may affect
                a substantial number of small businesses. Specifically, the proposed
                change in the disclosure requirements should not significantly increase
                the costs of small entities that manufacturer or import power
                amplification equipment for use in the home. Therefore, based on
                available information, the Commission certifies that amending the Rule
                as proposed will not have a significant economic impact on a
                substantial number of small businesses. Although the Commission
                certifies under the RFA that the proposed amendment would not, if
                promulgated, have a significant impact on a substantial number of small
                entities, the Commission has determined, nonetheless, that it is
                appropriate to publish an IRFA to inquire into the impact of the
                proposed amendment on small entities. Therefore, the Commission has
                prepared the following analysis:
                A. Description of the Reasons That Action by the Agency Is Being Taken
                 The Commission proposes amending the Rule to standardize testing
                parameters to assist consumers in understanding power output
                disclosures for amplifiers and to eliminate claims regarding power
                output that are likely to deceive consumers.
                B. Statement of the Objectives of, and Legal Basis for, the Proposed
                 The Commission promulgated the Rule pursuant to Section 18 of the
                FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 57a. The proposed amendment would standardize
                testing parameters for amplifiers to prevent deceptive claims regarding
                power output and assist consumers in understanding power output
                C. Small Entities to Which the Proposed Amendments Will Apply
                 The Rule covers manufacturers and importers of power amplification
                equipment for home use. Under the Small Business Size Standards issued
                by the Small Business Administration, audio and video equipment
                manufacturers qualify as small businesses if they have 750 or fewer
                employees.\45\ The Commission's staff estimates that a substantial
                number of the entities covered by the Rule likely qualify as small
                 \45\ U.S. Small Business Administration, Table of Size Standards
                (Eff. Aug. 19, 2019).
                D. Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance
                 The Commission is proposing amendments designed to simplify the
                Rule and provide clearer amplifier power output measurements for
                consumers to use to compare products. While the amendments modify the
                Rule's testing requirements, FTC staff does not anticipate that these
                changes will result in higher costs for covered entities because
                manufacturers already test power output for their amplifiers; in many
                cases under the conditions specified by the proposed amendments.
                E. Duplicative, Overlapping, or Conflicting Federal Rules
                 The Commission has not identified any other Federal statutes,
                rules, or policies that would duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the
                proposed amendment.
                F. Significant Alternatives to the Proposed Amendment
                 The Commission has not proposed any specific small entity exemption
                or other significant alternatives because the proposed amendment would
                not impose any new requirements or compliance costs.
                VIII. Paperwork Reduction Act
                 The current Rule contains various provisions that constitute
                information collection requirements as defined by 5 CFR 1320.3(c), the
                definitional provision within the Office of Management and Budget
                (``OMB'') regulations implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act
                (``PRA''). OMB has approved the Rule's existing information collection
                requirements through April 30, 2024 (OMB Control No. 3084-0105). As
                described above, the Commission is proposing amendments to simplify
                power output measurements by standardizing test parameters. The
                amendments do not change the frequency of the testing or disclosure
                requirements specified under the Rule. Accordingly, FTC staff does not
                anticipate this change will result in additional burden hours or higher
                costs for manufacturers who already test power output for their
                amplifiers, in many cases testing amplifiers under the conditions
                specified by the proposed amendments. Therefore, the amendments do not
                require further OMB clearance.
                IX. Communications by Outside Parties to the Commissioners or Their
                 Pursuant to FTC Rule 1.18(c)(1), the Commission has determined that
                communications with respect to the merits of this proceeding from any
                outside party to any Commissioner or Commissioner's advisor shall be
                subject to the following treatment. Written communications and
                summaries or transcripts of oral communications shall be placed on the
                rulemaking record if the communication is received before the end of
                the comment period. They shall be placed on the public record if the
                communication is received later. Unless the outside party making an
                oral communication is a member of Congress, such communications are
                permitted only if advance notice is published in the Weekly Calendar
                and Notice of ``Sunshine'' Meetings.\46\
                 \46\ See 15 U.S.C. 57a(i)(2)(A); 16 CFR 1.18(c).
                List of Subjects in 16 CFR Part 432
                 Amplifiers, Home entertainment products, Trade practices.
                 For the reasons stated above, the Commission proposes to amend part
                432 of title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:
                1. The authority citation for part 432 continues to read:
                 Authority: 38 Stat. 717, as amended; (15 U.S.C. 41-58).
                2. Revise Sec. 432.2 to read as follows:
                Sec. 432.2 Required disclosures.
                 Whenever any direct or indirect representation is made of the power
                output, power band or power frequency response, or distortion
                characteristics of sound power amplification equipment, the
                manufacturer's rated power output shall be disclosed subject to the
                following conditions:
                 (a) The rated power output is measured in compliance with the
                standard test conditions in Sec. 432.3;
                 (b) The rated power output is disclosed clearly, conspicuously, and
                more prominently than any other representations or disclosures
                permitted under this part;
                 (c) The disclosure of the rated power output is clearly and
                conspicuously labeled ``FTC Power Output Rating''; and
                 (d) The disclosures or representations required under this section
                shall not be made by a footnote, asterisk, or similar notation.
                3. Revise Sec. 432.3(e) and add paragraphs (g) and (h) to read as
                Sec. 432.3 Standard test conditions.
                * * * * *
                 (e) Any power level from 250 mW to the rated power shall be
                obtainable at all
                [[Page 56787]]
                frequencies within the rated power band of 20 Hz to 20 kHz without
                exceeding 1.0% of total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) at an
                impedance of 8 ohms after input signals at said frequencies have been
                continuously applied at full rated power for not less than five (5)
                minutes at the amplifier's auxiliary input, or if not provided, at the
                phono input. Provided, however, that for amplifiers utilized as a
                component in a self-powered subwoofer in a self-powered subwoofer-
                satellite speaker system that employs two or more amplifiers dedicated
                to different portions of the audio frequency spectrum, any power level
                from 250 mW to the rated power shall be obtainable at all frequencies
                within the subwoofer amplifier's intended operating bandwidth without
                exceeding 1.0% of total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) at an
                impedance of 8 ohms after input signals at said frequencies have been
                continuously applied at full rated power for not less than five (5)
                minutes at the amplifier's auxiliary input, or if not provided, at the
                phono input.
                * * * * *
                 (g) Rated power shall be minimum sine wave continuous average power
                output, in watts, per channel (if the equipment is designed to amplify
                two or more channels simultaneously), measured with all associated
                channels fully driven to rated per channel power.
                 (h) Associated channels for multichannel amplifiers shall include,
                at a minimum, the left front and right front channels used for
                reproducing stereo programming. Provided, however, when measuring the
                maximum per channel output of self-powered combination speaker systems
                that employ two or more amplifiers dedicated to different portions of
                the audio frequency spectrum, such as those incorporated into
                combination subwoofer-satellite speaker systems, only those channels
                dedicated to the same audio frequency spectrum should be considered
                associated channels.
                4. Revise Sec. 432.4 to read as follows:
                Sec. 432.4 Optional disclosures.
                 Other operating characteristics and technical specifications not
                required in Sec. 432.2 of this part may be disclosed. Provided that:
                 (a) Any other power output is rated by the manufacturer, expressed
                in minimum watts per channel, and clearly and conspicuously labeled
                ``This rating does not meet the FTC standard'' without the use of a
                footnote, asterisk, or similar notation to make the representation;
                 (b) All disclosures or representations made under this section are
                less conspicuously, and prominently made than any rated power output
                disclosure required in Sec. 432.2. Any disclosure or representation
                bold faced or more than two-thirds the height of any rated power output
                disclosure required in Sec. 432.2 is not less prominent; and
                 (c) The rating and testing methods or standards used in determining
                such representations are well known and generally recognized by the
                industry at the time the representations or disclosures are made, are
                neither intended nor likely to deceive or confuse consumers, and are
                not otherwise likely to frustrate the purpose of this part.
                 By direction of the Commission.
                April J. Tabor,
                [FR Doc. 2023-16792 Filed 8-18-23; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 6750-01-P

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT