Best Car Audio Capacitor: Reviews and Buying Guide
A great audio sound system can be a wonderful thing - listening to dramatic bass drops and amazing highs can send a thrill even down the most jaded audiophile. The world of audio equipment isn't short on different things to maximize this experience either - with all sorts of speakers, tweeters, equalizers, crossovers, among many others. Regardless of what you have or want to be installed, your system won't do much unless it has the best car audio capacitor for you. These devices may be small but can improve sound quality by giving your rig the power it needs.
What to Look Out for when Purchasing a Car Audio Capacitor
There is a wide range of caps on the market today. When searching for the one that is best for you there are few features you need to keep in mind.
- Number of Farads: All capacitors are rated in the amount of power they can hold via a farad. A single farad of capacitance is necessary for every 1,000 watts your system is pulling. More is better though, as higher farads often translates to a faster recharge, along with giving yourself more flexibility in upgrading your system in the future. Most audio capacitors range from as low as 2 farads to as high as 50 farads.
- Number of Terminals: This is important for a couple reasons. Simpler and smaller capacitors typically only offer a couple to keep the amp powered up, while larger ones offer multiple terminals to provide power to all sorts of different equipment. Extra terminals can also be used as a distribution block, making installation a little bit easier.
- Electrolytic vs Carbon: Keeping aside inputs and farads for a moment, there are roughly two types of capacitors. Electrolytic models typically have a faster recharge rate, white carbon variants can hold more power in its reserve. Recently there has been the inclusion of hybrid models that offer the best of both worlds.
- Voltage and Amperage Meters: Voltage readings come pretty standard for even the most basic of capacitors. These are typically located on top of the machine in either a blue or red LED light and allows you to know how much power is being retained in your system at any given time. Larger models offer an amperage meter as well for more information.
- Protection Circuits: Only found in the most creme-de-la-creme models, these circuits provide an extra bit of safety for your power system so the capacitor is much less likely to short circuit anything.
Top 5 Car Audio Capacitors Picked By Experts
To help you get started on picking the best car audio capacitor here is a suggested list on what we see as the best models on the market today. This list has been made as a cross-section of audio capacitors as a whole.
If you're someone who needs a considerable amount of power to keep everything running look no further than the DS18, which is rated at 50 farads. For a step lower that will still provide a tremendous boost, there is the Rockville 20 farad model. For smaller rigs, there is both the Stinger and Power Acoustik, which are rated at 5 farads. If you only need a tiny bump, the SOUNDQUEST 2 farad will get the job done.
1. DS18 50 Farad Extreme Ion Capacitor
One of the largest capacitors on the market today. The DS18 holds a mammoth 50 farads of power to make sure everything in your car is working at maximum efficiency.
The product itself comes in an amplifier style housing and comes with a digital voltage and amperage on an easy to read digital display.
The input and output terminals are rated for both 0GA and 4GA - and are also in an amplifier style. To give you peace of mind this extreme ion capacitor has an alarm that automatically triggers when the voltage drops below 10 volts or above 17.5. Because 50 farads is a bit overkill for some systems, this product also comes in a 15, 5, and 2-farad equivalents.
Many reviewers comment the incredible boost their system has gotten - no more worrying about the lights dimming or their audio rig straining under the lack of power anymore!
2. Rockville RXC20D 20 Farad Ion Capacitor
This amazing Rockville capacitor has everything you need to power a booming sound system. The 20 Farad hybrid capacity will keep everything powered consistently. There are 5 different gauge input and output terminals, along with a stealth removable cover. The amperage and voltage are easy to read as it has a non-harsh 24-volt blue led light. This monitoring is accurate and in live-time, so you know exactly what your capacitor's capabilities are.
The amplifier style housing has tough terminals that are bolted down and made of platinum. To keep everything functioning normally even under the most stressful situations there is a built-in IC-Controlled voltage protection circuits throughout. The style of capacitor can be upgraded to 50 farads, or you can go smaller with a 4 or 2-farad variants. The outside of this Rockville unit is composed of a glossy black finish with chrome trim.
3. Stinger SPC505 5 Farad Hybrid Capacitor
This 5-farad capacitor will keep your subwoofer and the rest of your sound system working smoothly even under the most intense beats. The top of the unit has a simple to read voltage monitoring system that lights up. Accepting both 0GA and 4GA inputs and outputs, or a combination of 1 each.
This unit has been shown to maximize bass response, stabilize your car battery voltage, and minimize headlight dimming. It can do all of this in such a small package by combining the capabilities of both an electrolytic and carbon capacitors. This feature, coupled with the ability of fast cycling allows it to recover at an extremely fast rate.
Customers have complimented that this product works well and has a stable voltage output despite its small size. The housing itself is a black aluminum that looks ultra slick with the red LED display.
4. Power Acoustik PCX-5F 5 Farad Capacitor
This affordable Power Acoustik product is extra slick and provides excellent performance. This 5-farad capacitor has a streamlined digital voltage meter powered by LEDs. This lighting is taken even further with its combination of accents and a chrome finish. This product also comes with a terminal post for a ring terminal.
For extra protection, there is a built-in polarity and voltage alert indicator. Also part of this capacitor is the auto-shutoff feature - after just a few minutes of inactivity from the car battery, the machine shuts itself off. This ensures that your battery isn't drained of power if you leave it sitting for a while.
Many users have said that upgrading their system with this capacitor immediately improved bass quality, cut back on distortion, and made light dimming a thing of the past.
5. SOUNDQUEST SQCAP2M 2 Farad Capacitor
It may be small, but you shouldn't underestimate it! This excellent SOUNDQUEST capacitor is rated at 2 farads. The top of the device has a red LED that is easily visible even at night, it allows you to know with just a glance at how many voltages it's holding. Built into this machine is a reverse polarity warning and a 20-volt surge capacity.
The exterior is a brushed aluminum and has terminals with a satin finish. The default style is a brownish hue, but an alternative version is available with a black housing.
Many people have said that this audio capacitor is great for small systems that suffer a bit from buzzing and other white noise, while also smoothing out surging - improving any fluctuations they may have had with the lighting in their vehicle.
What is a Car Audio Capacitor?
Capacitors have been around for a long time - going back as far as 1745 in Germany. Originally called condensers, these devices are now used in a huge variety of electrical setups. There are many different materials they are made out of - everything from ceramic, polyester, and aluminum to name a few.
In large car audio applications, they can be a small but integral part of the whole system. A car audio capacitor also called a cap, is an electronic component that holds energy. Think of it like an extra storage tank for power - but unlike a battery, it can charge and discharge in faster than a blink.
The purpose of these devices is to compensate for the sudden jolts of energy that are needed in certain moments, that the battery alone can't give. In audio terms this allows for a smoother power source to draw from, putting less stress on your speakers, amp, and in likely case subwoofer.
A car with a power hungry audio system that doesn't have a capacitor will likely suffer from dimming of lights. This is a result of the battery unable to power everything efficiently at once, which is most obvious during particularly loud notes. A cap doesn't improve sound quality per say, but it does keep your amplifier and the rest of your equipment working at peak performance.
Other than dimming lights, a car with a power shortfall might also suffer from a marked deterioration in sound quality. Capacitors are often measured in farads, among other characteristics.
Audio Capacitor Installation Tips
While it isn't rocket science, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when installing an audio capacitor. Make sure you have everything you need to install it - including wires, wire cutters, electrical tape, gloves, and the capacitor itself.
- Remove the ground: When dealing with any of your vehicle’s electronic equipment you should remove it from its power source. In order to do this merely unclip the cable from the negative battery terminal. This will remove the possibility of your system suffering from any shorts.
- Do a slow charge on your capacitor first: The first charge for a capacitor is most important as a normal charge can fry it. Most capacitors come with some sort of wired bulb or resistor that can be attached to the terminals. If you don't have these you can use any 12 volts automotive light or small LED. Wire either the light or the resistor between the positive terminal of the battery and the capacitor. Let it charge for no longer than 30 minutes, or when the light starts to dim.
- Pick a spot close to the amplifier: Most likely you want your capacitor to be powering your amplifier, as this part of your sound system is pulling the most power. By picking a spot that is near it you are ensuring that the surge of power is going the shortest possible distance.
- Be careful when running the ground: This cable can go through the ceiling or down below the chair, whichever works best for you. When attaching the cable to the capacitor, you can do it either via the extra terminals that your capacitor may have, or a distribution block.
- Know the difference between positive and negative: When wiring remember that in most wiring setups red goes to positive and black to negative. When attaching to the amplifier apply it to the direct spots - its recommended to use the same bolt that the amp uses for the ground.
- That extra terminal: This isn’t a mistake, that extra terminal is for the built-in meter display. This is going to require a remote turn-on lead connection, similar to your amp. The reason for the separate power is because if this terminal was directly attached to the battery it could potentially kill it as the LED would constantly be pulling power. Smaller 18 GA wires should work.
If you find that your car audio system is struggling from a lack of power, especially when it hits those really low notes, then it's time to invest into an audio capacitor. When looking for an audio capacitor make sure to get one with the proper amount of farads, as this will determine how much juice it can hold and shoot out to your system. There are plenty of great models out there, but the best models contain a plethora of different terminals and have the ability to use both electrolytic and carbon mechanisms for action.