Today, almost all cars come with an inbuilt audio system with an MP3 or a CD player and a built-in amp. However, the built-in amps are not external and are fixed into the head unit and are not very powerful.
And most often, when the car’s sound system does not produce the volume we want or produces flat music, we end up blaming the speakers. However, the fault does not lie in the car’s speakers but with the amplifier.
So, the best way to improve the loudness and sound quality of your car’s audio system is by installing a high-quality external amplifier.
Amplifiers help to improve the sound quality produced by the car’s audio system and adds sharpness and life to the sound produced by the speakers and subwoofers.
Best Car Amplifiers for the Money
How Does a Car Amplifier Work?
An amplifier is basically a piece of equipment that enhances the sound or audio signal sent from the MP3 or CD player to the speakers. Most often, since the basic audio signal from the player or the speakers is very weak, you need to use an amplifier to make the sound stronger, clearer and more powerful.
The kinds of amplifiers are determined by the number of channels, which are essentially the terminals, a positive and a negative, which supply power to the speaker and the more number of channels the amplifier has, the more the speakers that can be powered and better the sound quality.
Sometimes, you can “bridge” more than 2 channels to produce a larger power output, especially if you need to power a large speaker or subwoofer.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Amplifier for Your Car
You must understand the various types of amplifiers available and know the one that is right for you before buying one.
So, whether you are you are thinking of upgrading your existing amplifier or planning to install a new one, here are some factors you must consider.
Amplifier Class or Rating
Usually, amplifiers are classified on basis of their ratings which is related to the design and features of the electronic circuit and the ratings also depend on other factors such as the energy efficiency, operating temperature and sound performance of the amplifier.
Typically, car amplifiers are classified as Class A, B, AB and D.
Class A Amplifiers
These reproduce high-frequency sound perfectly.
They have high operating temperatures but are not energy efficient.
Class B Amplifiers
They are energy efficient and have low operating temperatures; however, at high frequencies, the sound gets distorted.
Class AB Amplifiers
Class AB amplifiers are energy efficient and reproduce high-frequency sounds well.
They also have low operating temperatures but the peak performance of AB Class amplifiers is slightly lower than the Class A amplifiers.
Class D Amplifiers
Class D amplifiers are energy efficient, have low operating temperatures and the sound reproduction at low-frequencies is excellent.
However, the reproduction of high-frequency sound is poor.
Of all the classes, the Class AB amplifiers are most preferred as they offer the benefits of both Class A and B amplifiers, while Class D amplifiers are best for sound applications that are low-frequency.
A channel is an electronic circuit which provides power to the speaker in the sound system in a car. Amplifiers having several channels can power multiple speakers.
So, how many channels are required for your car’s sound system?
The number of channels required really depends on how many speakers are connected to the audio system and each speaker requires its own specific channel for amplification.
Let us understand the types of car amplifiers:
Mono Channel Amps
These amplifiers only have one channel and usually, produce more power when compared to multi-channel amplifiers. Mono channel amplifiers are usually used to power subwoofers whose bass speakers require only a single channel.
The main plus of these amplifiers is that they produce plenty of power and very less heat while transmissioning signals to the speaker.
2 Channel Amps
These amplifiers have 2 separate channels and can power 2 speakers or be bridged to produce more power for one single speaker.
There are mainly 2 kinds of 2-channel speakers Class A or AB.
3 Channel Amps
In the 3 channel amplifiers, 2 amplifiers are combined into a single one with Class AB and D circuitry combined into one amplifier.
2 channels are used for the speakers while the 3rd is used for the subwoofer. This is a very good option when space is limited in cars that have compact interiors.
However, if you want a fully amplified sound, it is better to choose other kinds of amplifiers.
4 Channel Amps
This has 4 output cables that can power 4 speakers or a subwoofer and 2 speakers by bridging 2 channels.
Usually, most cars use 4 amplifiers that power 2 front and 2 back speakers.
5 Channel Amps
These comprise 2 amplifiers combined into a single one that has a 4-channel unit combined along with 1 single channel amp which powers 4 speakers and 1 subwoofer.
The single channel powering the subwoofer is more powerful as it needs more power.
This is a very commonly used layout that provides sufficient channels and provides excellent in-car sound.
6 Channel Amps
This is not very commonly used and is only meant for specific cars with large interiors such as SUVs.
The 6 channel amp can power 6 speakers or 4 speakers and a subwoofer.
If you’re looking for a high-tech sound system for your vehicle, then it is recommended that you use a 6 channel amplifier.
Size of the Car
The size of your car plays a very important role in the selection of the right amplifier.
For instance, you cannot use a large amplifier with a subwoofer in a small car or use a small amplifier with a couple of speakers in a large SUV.
So, check the dimensions of the interiors of the car, as well as the trunk before selecting the amplifier.
Type of Music
The kind of music you listen to most of the time will influence the choice of the amplifier.
For instance, if the music you like has plenty of bass, then look for an amplifier that can power a subwoofer or bass speakers.
On the other hand, if you prefer more delicate music, look for an amp that can power 4-6 interior speakers that will give you detail and clarity.
A very important factor to consider when buying a car amplifier is the power and it is very important that the speakers of your sound system are not underpowered.
Always buy your speakers and then select the amplifier that is most suitable to power the specific speakers.
If you’re using the speakers that are pre-installed in the car, then check the RMS value of the speakers and then choose an amplifier that can deliver around 75%-150% of the RMS value.
There are so many options for sound systems and amps out there and you can spend lots of money. However, it is a good idea to set your budget limit of what you want to spend for your car’s audio system and buy an amplifier to suit your budget.
Buying the right type of amplifier for your car can be a challenging task, especially with so many technical details to keep in mind and so many options available.
We have reviewed some of the top amplifiers available that can help to make your decision easier.
Best Car Amplifier Reviews
Pioneer 2,400-Watt Class D Mono Amp
If you are a music lover and are looking for an amp suitable for your car, then the Pioneer Class D Mono Amp is a great choice. The amplifier offers high-quality clean sound.
With an RMS rating of 1200 Watts, the Pioneer is quite a powerful amplifier which produces powerful bass from any subwoofer. The Pioneer amp is well-crafted, sturdy and durable.
The amp is 50% smaller than amps in the A and B categories and also runs much cooler. The amp also comes along with a wired bass remote control which lets you to adjust the bass.
The low pass filter on the amp lets you adjust the bass and tone according to your preference.
- Power efficient.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Reasonably priced.
- Not compatible with all types of subwoofer models.
- Can get quite hot.
Where to Buy
The compact Pioneer Class D Mono Amp is very versatile and can be installed practically anywhere.
Don’t be fooled by its small size, the Pioneer packs a punch and is sure to completely transform your music experience.
Rockford Fosgate Prime Class D Amplifier
The Rockford Fosgate Amplifier is an excellent top-quality mono amplifier that has a rating of 500 Watts and an RMS of 2 Ohms. If you’re looking for an inexpensive amplifier for the car, then the Rockford Fosgate R500X1D is a great choice.
The amplifier is compact in its build but offers a powerful performance. The amplifier is equipped with a wired remote. It also has a cast aluminum heat sink with a top-mounted control panel.
The design of the amplifier ensures that the current consumption is reduced from the charging system. The compact build of the Rockford Fosgate Amplifier makes it extremely convenient to place inside the car and the stylish gloss and matte finish is sure to complement the interiors of any car.
- Design of amp prevents overheating and short-circuiting.
- Lightweight and easy to install.
- Produces good sound quality.
- May vibrate a lot when the amplifier volume is maximum.
- Does not have auto turn-on feature and you have to use remote.
Where to Buy
Overall, the Rockford Fosgate Amplifier is an inexpensive amp that offers excellent performance.
Having a compact, sleek design and packed with features, the amp is sure to offer you a wonderful musical experience while driving in your car.
Alpine 5 Channel Amplifier
Manufactured by Alpine, the award-winning manufacturer of audio systems for vehicles, the Alpine 5 Channel Amplifier is an extremely well-designed amplifier with attractive front panel controls that can add to the stylish interiors of your car.
The wiring of the amplifier is not complicated and makes it very easy to install and use. The versatile amp is very compact and you can use it to power the entire car including the subwoofer.
The Alpine amplifier is very versatile and produces top-quality, clear sound.
- The small footprint of the amp makes it very versatile to install anywhere.
- Sleek and compact design.
- High-quality, powerful sound.
- Quite pricey.
- Not suited for 2 channel.
Where to Buy
Although the amplifier is on the expensive side, the high-quality sound and its excellent performance make it worth the money spent.
Rated as one of the best amps on the market, the Alpine 5 Channel Amplifier is sure to make your driving experience a complete joy.
Choosing the right amplifier for your car is extremely important if you want to improve your car’s audio system. Under-powered speakers will only ruin your entire listening experience by producing low-quality sound.
So, it is a good idea to evaluate the various amps available in the market and determine the one that is best for your vehicle on basis of your car type, make and the kind of music listening experience you want to have.
top image by AUTOSOUND ITAJAI FONE: (CC BY-SA 2.0)