Best Car Amplifiers for Upgrading Audio System (2018 Reviews & Guide)

Amplifier plays an important role in the car audio system. It powers the car speakers and boosts the signal from the CD player, radio and other inputs. A good car amplifier can take your car sound system from ordinary to spectacular. Choosing an amplifier for a car audio system is not easy as there are various things that you need to consider.

Types of Car Amplifiers 

Mono Channel Car Amplifiers

This is a single channel amplifier. It has been designed to give power to the subwoofer. Class D amplifiers fall into this category and they produce more power than multi-channel ones. Due to their efficiency, they are used to power subwoofers.

Two-Channel Car Amplifiers

The two-channel car amps can power two speakers. Class A or Class AB belong to this category. They can handle two subwoofers. If the vehicle doesn’t use rear speakers, then two channels is an ideal choice.

Class A uses a single transmitter to transfer the sound wave. The transistor never turns off. Class A has the highest sound quality as there is no interruption.

Class AB combines the best features of both class A and B. When audio is absent, no current runs to the transistors. This makes it more efficient. Two transistors are used. Minimal current goes through them at all times. This eliminates the problem of crossover distortion.

Three-Channel Car Amplifiers

The three-channel amplifier is like two amplifiers built into one. Class D and Class AB are built into a single amplifier.

A subwoofer runs the Class D monotype. This means the two speakers can run off the other two channels. As the circuitry is different the three channels cannot be bridged together.

Four-Channel Car Amplifiers

The four channel amplifiers are versatile and power the entire speaker system. It is an ideal choice for vehicles that need a subwoofer but no rear speakers.

Five-Channel Car Amplifiers

It is similar to a three-channel amplifier as it combines two amplifiers. The mono amp powers the subwoofer. A separate four channel amplifier provides access to front and rear end speakers. The amplifiers are easy to install as all wiring is contained in one place.

Six-Channel Car Amplifiers

It is less common than the other types. A convenient and versatile choice for large audio systems. The amps can run up to six speakers and a subwoofer. Usually found in large SUVs.

Classes of Car Amplifiers 

Class A

Class A amplifier with its simple design is the common type. It is the best sounding of all amplifier classes. This is due to low signal distortion levels. The amplifier is always on. The output transistors are the main way for the current to go through at all times.

Class B

Class B amplifiers are different from Class A, as they can be switched. If no audio signal needs amplifying, the internal circuitry will switch off the output transistors. This improves efficiency.

Class AB

Class AB combines the features of Class A and Class B amplifiers. Current flows through the transistors at all times. 

When there is no audio signal, the circuitry reduces the amount of current. As there is not much distortion, it increases efficiency.

Class D

The current to the transistors is switched on and off in Class D amplifiers; and different from class A, B, and AB, the transistors of class D amps conduct the switch very quickly. Class D amps come with a switched output signal. The signal is then directed to the analog input signal. 

Although Class D is the efficient amp, the switching and pulsing method in higher frequencies can have a lot of distortion. The distortion is removed with a low pass filter. There are many mono subwoofer amps belonging to Class D amplifiers. The size and power make them one of the most popular amp classes for full range speakers.

What Are the Top Brands of Car Amplifiers? 

The top brands of car amplifiers include BOSS Audio, Planet Audio, Rockford, Pioneer GM, Alpine, Hifonics, Kenwood, Rockville, Lanzar, and CT Sounds.

Read reviews about the different products. Compare the pros and cons, so that you can make an informed decision.

How to choose car amplifiers? 

Best Car Amplifiers

There are many important factors that you need to consider when choosing an amplifier.

Number of Channels

A number of channels refer to the number of speakers that an amplifier is designed to power. A mono amp powers a single speaker. It can also handle one or two subwoofers.

Two channel amps power a two-speaker system. Three channel amps power a three-speaker system and four channel amps power a four-speaker system. If you want to power four speakers with a subwoofer, then five channel amps are the best.

Class

Based on the design of the circulatory, amplifiers are classed as A, B, A/B, and D. Car amplifiers fall in the A/B or D category. Class A amplifiers offer the best sound quality. Class B amps pass electrical current when audio signals are available. Class B produces the most distortion.

Class A/B are a hybrid version of Class A and Class B. They have better efficiency than A and produce no distortion. Class D amps switch the transistors on and off. They yield higher levels of efficiency and the distortion gets blocked by using a filter.

Power

Based on the design of the circulatory, amplifiers are classed as A, B, A/B, and D. Car amplifiers fall in the A/B or D category. Class A amplifiers offer the best sound quality. Class B amps pass electrical current when audio signals are available. Class B produces the most distortion.

Class A/B are a hybrid version of Class A and Class B. They have better efficiency than A and produce no distortion. Class D amps switch the transistors on and off. They yield higher levels of efficiency and the distortion gets blocked by using a filter.

Size

The size of the amplifiers depends on the application. One of the important things you need to remember is that different size speakers produce a different sound. Even when the speakers are of the same size they can produce different sound characteristics. Choose a size that best suits your car audio system.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of the amplifier is dependent on CD player and speakers. Choose an amp that has low deviation and wide frequency response. Look for the distortion number. The amp gets better when the number is lower. 

Electrical components such as wiring, transducers, connection quality and soldering affect sound quality.

Impedance

The total resistance to the current of an electrical unit is known as impedance. Speakers are between two and eight ohms of impedance. 

Speakers that have low impedance drop less voltage. This means they require more current to produce the same amount of power.

Compatibility

When choosing a unit, you can choose one with pre-amp outputs. This allows a direct connection from the receiver to the amplifier and enhances the sound quality. If the head unit has pre-amp outlets then amplifiers with speaker level inputs are required.

Installation

The installation process needs to be easy so that you can install it on your own. Get the right tools and products to complete the installation.

Price

The price of the best amplifiers will vary depending on its features. Compare the different amps and make the choice based on your budget.

Top 10 Best Car Amplifiers

BOSS Audio - ​​​​R1100MK

The BOSS Audio R1100MK is a class A/B amplifier. It is well known for its ability to produce great quality sound. Experience enhanced sound and performance at affordable price. The amplifier is the perfect choice for first-time car audio system buyers.

BOSS Audio ​​​​R1100MK amplifier

Pros

• High and low-level inputs.

• Remote subwoofer control.

• Switchable bass boost.

Cons

• Overheating

Planet Audio AC1000.2​​​​​​​

Planet Audio can power up your speakers or subwoofers or a combination of both. The sound can be customized with bass boost, fixed high pass crossover, and variable low pass crossover. If you are looking for a car amplifier with a subwoofer remote control, then this can be the preferred choice.

Planet Audio AC1000.2​​​​​​​​​ amplifier

Pros

• Variable low pass crossover.

• Fixed high pass filter.

• Variable bass boost.

Cons

• Overheats and go into protective mode quickly.

• Requires a lot of installation space. 

Rockford Fosgate R500X1D​​​​

Rockford Fosgate is a quality mono D car amplifier. It is a two-amplifier system. One amp runs highs or mids and the second runs subwoofers. If you want the best possible bass from the subwoofer, you can choose this amplifier.

Rockford Fosgate R500X1D​​​​ amplifier

Pros

• Remote punch level control.

• High-level inputs

• Cast aluminum heatsink.

Cons

• Draws quite a bit of power.

• LEDs on the remote knob and amps are too bright.

• The maximum sound is only 500w.

Pioneer GM-D9605

The Pioneer GM Digital series produces impressive power and delivers big sound without compromising space. It is an ideal choice for pickup trucks and compact vehicles.

Pioneer GM-D9605 amplifier

Pros

• Compact design.

• 5 channels.

• Variable low pass filter.

• Installation flexibility.

Cons

• Prone to overheating.

Alpine MRV-M500

Alpine MRV-M500 is a mono subwoofer car amplifier. The remote sensing automatic feature turns on when speaker level inputs are used. If your drive a compact car and want a great bass, then Alpine MRV-M500 is the right choice.

Alpine MRV-M500 amplifier

Pros

• Preamp outputs.

 • Variable bass boost.

 • Variable low pass filter.

• MOSFET power supply.

• Preamp and speaker level inputs

Cons

• Prone to overheating.

Rockford R300X4

The Rockford R300X4 delivers performance in a small package. The four-channel car amplifier can drive speakers with 50 watts RMS. If you are looking for an amplifier on a budget then R300X4 is an ideal choice.  

Rockford R300X4 amplifier

Pros

• Variable high and low pass filter.

• Class AB amplifier design.

• Preamp and speaker level inputs.

• Selectable bass boost.

• Cast aluminum heatsink.

Cons

• Prone to overheating.

• Low power.

Rockford Fosgate R400-4D

The four-channel car amplifier packs a lot of punch per inch than most Class D amps. There are no onboard fuses when installing multiple amps in a music system. If you want more music power in the limited car space, then this amp will play your music loud and clear.

Rockford Fosgate R400-4D amplifier

Pros

• Variable high and low pass filter.

• Class D amplifier design.

• Preamp inputs and outputs.

• Variable bass and treble boost.

Cons

• Overheats.

• Low power.

Hifonics Zeuz ELITE ZEX1350.1D

Hifonics Zeuz car amplifier is a mono subwoofer. The amplifier has the potential to completely redefine your music experience. It is small in shape and sleek to look at. An ideal choice for those looking to buy an affordable amplifier.

Hifonics Zeuz ELITE ZEX1350.1D amplifier

Pros

• Remote bass level control.

• Four-way system protection.

• Heavy duty aluminum alloy vent heatsinks.

• Soft start sound function.

Cons

• Overheating.

• Installation problems.

Planet Audio AC1200.4

The four-channel amplifier has an attractive design. It is affordable and gives great sound quality. The amp can boost your car audio system with a lot of power.

Planet Audio AC1200.4 amplifier

Pros

• High and low-level inputs.

• Class A/B amplifier design.

• Variable bass boost.

• Fixed high pass crossover.

Cons

• The size is slightly big.

• Few of the switches is reversed.

• Overheats when in use.

BOSS Audio AR1500M

The slim design of the BOSS amp packs power and performance. If you are looking for pure bass then the BOSS Audio AR1500M is the best choice. The sound can be customized using features such as switchable bass boost, variable low pass crossover, and remote subwoofer control.

BOSS Audio AR1500M amplifier

Pros

• Remote subwoofer control.

• High and low-level inputs.

• Variable low pass crossover.

• Cheap price.

Cons

• Overheats.

How to Install Car Amplifiers? 

Installing car audio amplifiers requires time and patience. You need to remove panels and an assortment of wires that run through the vehicle to complete the installation process.

Before you start the installation process, you need to get the accessories necessary for the installation.

Installation Accessories

  • Power and Ground Wires: Wiring is not included with car amplifiers. The power and ground wires have to be thick to accommodate the electrical current. Measure the length to determine the length of wire you will need. 
  • In-Line Fuse: Necessary to protect the wire. 
  • Amplifier Wiring Kit: The best way to get all these items is to choose the amplifier wiring kit. The kit includes power and ground wires, fuse and turns on wires. 
  • RCA Cables and Speaker: Wire RCA cables are available in various lengths in stereo pairs. Speaker wires with 18 – 14 gauge works fine during the installation process.

After you get all the accessories, choose a location to mount the amplifier. It is advisable to follow the manufacturers’ recommendation when mounting the amplifier. Ensure that it is secure.

You can choose to install the amplifier on the firewall (passenger side), under the seat, trunk or hatch area. Install the amp at least three feet from the stereo. This can help avoid noise radiating from the electrical system of the car.

The system wiring needs to be concealed and secured. The wiring can run under the door scuff plate, dash, kick panel or pillar trim panel.

Installation Steps

  • Place the amplifier on a solid surface. Ensure that the surface does not conduct electricity. Avoid placing it on a metal surface. 
  • Disconnect the negative battery terminal. 
  • Pass the wire through the firewall. If no hole is available, you have to drill a hole using a power drill.
  • Run the wire to the battery. 
  • Install the inline fuse holder to the power wire. 
  • Connect the wire to the amplifier. Secure the wire. 
  • Run the RCA cables from the back of the head unit to the amp. 
  • Connect speaker wires from the amplifier to the speakers. 
  • Connect the amp negative terminal to the vehicle chassis ground.
  • Insert the main power wire fuse. This needs to be done after all the wire connections are in place. 
  • Connect the negative battery terminal. 
  • Set the input level to the lowest setting. 
  • Set bass, treble and loudness level to zero. Set equalizer to a neutral position. 
  • Insert a CD with your favorite music. Play music and adjust the settings.

How to Tune Car Amplifiers?

Buttons and knobs of car amplifiers need to be tuned and adjusted the right way. This can make the speakers perform at their best. Distortion is caused if the tuning is not done properly. The distortion can interfere with the music played and it can sound bad.  

Look for detailed and specific instructions in the owner’s manual on how to tune the car amplifier.

  • The music sound system needs to be turned off before you start the tuning process.
  • The RCA cables that connect it to the amplifiers have to be removed.
  • The system can be turned back on. Increase the volume on the radio to maximum level.​
  • When you are turning the volume to max, ensure no music is played on the system.​
  • By disconnecting the RCA cables, you ensure that nothing plays through the amplifiers.
  • If you have speakers that run off the radio and you have a subwoofer amplifier that you want to set, disconnect the speakers for safety.
  • Only if you are sure that no music is playing in the system, connect the speakers.
  • Set the volume to minimum. Plug in the RCA cables and speakers. Turn the gain on the amplifier to zero. 
  • The bass boost and crossover filters need to be set to off.
  • Get the audio system back on.
  • Play a tune and gain up. Do this on the amplifier till you hear distortion. Slowly bring it down until the music becomes clear again.

What is Difference between Max (Peak) Power and RMS Power?

The amplifiers continuous power is measured using RMS power rating. This is the amount of power that most people actually use to rate amplifiers. The power rating show more than a half of the wattage output over a fixed period of time.

Peak power is known as the amount of power an amplifier can create in a short period of time. The amplifier does no emit the power on a continuous basis. The power is emitted as a rapid burst.

Max (Peak) Power: The maximum amount of power that an electronic device can handle is known as max power. When you use the right amplifier, you can reach this power rating with a loud noise in a song or with a big bass hit. Avoid using the maximum power rating, when you configure the music system. Peak power can make the product look more powerful.

RMS Power: The measure of continuous power that an amplifier can output is RMS power. A different RMS power rating is given by each manufacturer and this can make it unreliable.

Do Amplifiers have Impact on your Car Batteries?

Best Car Amplifiers

If you have a high-performance car audio system, it is advisable to listen to music when the engine is turned off.

Car batteries have limited capabilities and they can get affected if you run multiple applications at the same time. Speakers consume power that the amplifier provides.

Hundreds of car amplifiers are available in the market. Buying and installing the correct amplifier is not always easy. Knowing about the different types of amplifiers can make it easy to choose one that matches your specific needs and requirement.

Micheal
 

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