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The gains should be set to match the input voltage from teh deck you're using. If the head unit is only sending .1 V to the amp, then the gains woyuld probably be wound to max, if the deck however outputs the typical 4V, then the gains would be reduced to a level which matches the input voltage. The signal typically distorts when an amp is being overdriven at it's input stage (due to gains set incorrectly) or when the amp is simply being asked to push too much into the reactive load it's got hooked to it.

Typically any sort of driver protection built into passives is there to protect the tweeter, some employ self resetting thermal fuses, others simple bulbs which will glow when excessive current is trying to be passed to the high frequency circuit.

There's mention of drivers flapping. Which drivers do you have ? Do you have any sort of high pass filter set for them ?
 
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