2.9 What is a "stiffening capacitor", and how does it work? [JSC]
(note capitals) is a trademark of Autosound 2000. However, "stiffening capacitor" (note lowercase), as a generic term, refers to a large capacitor (several thousand microfarads or greater) placed in parallel with an amplifier. The purpose of doing so is to provide a sort of reserve power source from which the amplifier can rapidly draw power when it needs it (such as during a deep bass note). The electrical theory is that when the amplifier attempts to draw a large amount of current, not only will the battery be relatively slow to respond, but the voltage at the amplifier will be a little lower than the voltage at the battery itself (this is called line drop). A capacitor at the amplifier which is charged to the battery voltage will try to stabilize the voltage level at the amplifier, dumping current into the amplifier. Another way to think about it is that a capacitor in parallel with a load acts as a low pass filter See section 3.10 What is a crossover? Why would I need one? [JSC]
, and the voltage level dropping at the amplifier will appear as an AC waveform superimposed upon a DC "wave". The capacitor, then, will try to filter out this AC wave, leaving the pure DC which the amplifier requires.
Note: This topic is widely debated, and this explanation is limited at best. More discussion regarding stiffening caps will be added later.