Best Amp for Component Speakers: Get Crystal Clear Sound in Your Car

Our top picks for the best amps for component speakers

An aftermarket car audio head unit closeup.
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Not too many people are proud of their car’s factory sound system. For this reason, getting the best amp for your component speakers is essential. With an aftermarket amp, you’ll get more power, excellent sound clarity, and fantastic volume. However, you will need to pick out the best amplifier for your component speakers that won’t let you down. Lucky for you, we have compiled a guide to help you get the best stereo amp for your vehicle. 

Best Amp for Component Speakers  Overall: Rockford Fosgate R500XD
Best Value Amp for Component Speakers: Kenwood KAC-910D
Best Amp for Component Speakers Honorable Mention: JL Audio Slash

Benefits of an Amplifier

  • Better sound quality. Underpowered component speakers are one of the most common causes of low sound quality. An amplifier gives your car audio a power source that can drive your speakers without straining. Unlike your in-dash stereo, an external amp can be developed without compromises and isn’t limited to available space.
  • Extra power for upgraded speakers. A factory audio system may not effectively power newly-installed aftermarket speakers that are louder and more powerful than the factory ones. They require more power and peak, something that your stock audio system cannot provide.
  • Power a subwoofer. Subwoofer speakers require more power than your stock audio system can provide. Investing in a separate amplifier will help produce the power needed to fire up a subwoofer. 

Types of Car Amplifiers

Mono-Channel Amplifier

As the name suggests, the mono-channel amplifier only has a single channel. Since it only has one channel, it produces more power than other multi-channel amplifiers. Due to their limited use, mono-channel amplifiers are ideal for powering subwoofers. Bass speakers only require one channel. 

Two-Channel Amplifier

Two-channel amplifiers have two distinct channels. They can run two speakers or bridge together to provide more power for a single component speaker. Two-channel amplifiers have two Classes, A and AB. Class A amps use a single transistor. They are advantageous since they produce a sound that is clear and direct. A significant drawback is that they use more energy, creating a lot of heat in the process. Class AB two-channel amplifiers are made of two transistors. This circuitry makes it more energy-efficient and reliable.

Three-Channel Amplifier

Ideally, this is two amplifiers connected to one. A three-channel amplifier is a combination of Class AB and D circuitry into a single amp. Since there are three channels, two are used for the component speakers and one for the subwoofer. Three-channel amplifiers are popular since they offer a good solution for limited space in vehicles that have compact interiors. However, if you are looking to get your audio system fully amplified, you are better off with other types of amplifiers.

Four-Channel Amplifier

This is perhaps the most common type of car amplifiers. The four-channel amp has four outputs with a capability of powering two speakers with a subwoofer or two front and two rear speakers.

Five-Channel Amplifier

Like a three-channel power amplifier, the five-channel amplifier is like two amplifiers connected to one. It is a four-channel amplifier connected to a mono-block amplifier. This amplifier has the capability of powering four speakers and a single subwoofer. The single channel line is reserved for the subwoofer since it requires more power.

Six-Channel Amplifier

The six-channel amplifier is relatively widespread and only used for specific purposes or in larger cars with much more space. This amplifier has the capability of powering six individual speakers. The subwoofer takes up two channels, while the remaining four channels power the front and rear speakers.  If you are looking to build a high-spec car audio system for your vehicle, the six-channel amp is your best bet. 

Top Brands

Kenwood

Kenwood is a famous Japanese audio company established in 1946. The company first came to America in the early ’60s before expanding to the rest of the world. The company started as “Trio's Products” before changing its name to “Kenwood” to sound more American. Kenwood develops a wide variety of audio equipment, including high-quality speakers, subwoofers, audio players, amplifiers, and components. Kenwood is synonymous with quality audio, making it one of the world’s largest manufacturers. The Kenwood KAC-910D is one of its quality products. 

Rockford

Rockford was founded back in 1973 by American inventor James M. Fosgate. The company has a reputation for superior, quality audio products. Rockford amplifiers were an instant hit after its introduction to the car audio market. Fans praised it for its unique builds and excellent audio performance. Even after the founder left the company in 1981, Rockford continued to expand into the corporation it is today. The company still produces a wide variety of audio systems for cars and households too. One of its popular audio amplifiers is the Rockford Fosgate R500XD.

JL Audio

JL Audio is an American audio products company that was founded back in 1975 by James Birch and Lucio Proni. The company started manufacturing home speaker systems and kits. In 1980, as the car revolution began, Speaker Warehouse, JL Audio’s sister company that specialized in speaker repair and sales, ventured into car audio systems, designing subwoofers. Before long, Speaker Warehouse was the leading dealer of JL Audio products and the go-to place for high-end audio equipment in South Florida. One of its bestselling products is the JL Audio Slash.

Amplifier Pricing

  • Under $200: There are a variety of amps for component speakers available at this price. However, the audio products you are likely to find at this range only have the basic functionality with low power output. Depending on the company, products at this price range are popular due to their low cost and decent performance.
  • Under $200- $800: The best amplifiers in the car audio market are available at this price range. These amplifiers have extra features, more power output, quality sound, and durable builds.
  • Over $1000: There aren’t a lot of amplifiers in this price range. These units are the best of the best. They have multiple functionalities, superior quality builds, features, and sound. These products are designed with the highest-quality materials to offer the best performance. 

Key Features

Amplifier Class

There are four different Classes of amplifiers: A, B, AB, and D. The categories refer to the internal design of a specific amplifier’s electronic circuitry. For example, Class A amplifiers are known for high-frequency sound but are inefficient due to high operating temperatures. Class B amps, on the other hand, are energy-efficient but experience distortion during peak frequencies. Class AB amps have excellent high-frequency sound, are energy-efficient, but have lower performance compared to Class A. Class D amps are energy efficient, have superb low-frequency sound, but have feeble high-frequency audio.

Gain/Bass Boost

Gain is the setting that lets a user match the output voltage of the head unit in the car to the output voltage of the amplifier. It's important to note that some head units will have more output voltage than others. The level or gain feature in the amp is responsible for matching the output voltage of the amplifier to the signal that it receives from the vehicle’s head unit. Therefore, if the GAIN or LEVEL is set too high, you will be over-amplifying the sound, relaying a distorted signal to the subwoofers.

Crossover

Part of the preamp process involves some circuitry known as crossover.  The crossover is a process where full range audio signals fed into the amplifier split electronically into separate frequencies. The crossover is like a traffic cop directing the flow of traffic. Directed frequencies are reproduced by specialized speakers such as tweeters and woofers. Car audio systems have two types of crossovers: the active crossover and the passive crossover.

Frequency or Filter Adjustments

Once the amplifier crossovers have been set to the appropriate frequency range, users can dial them even further by using filters. The main idea behind the filters is to send the specific music frequencies to the speakers that can reproduce them. When a user sends all the frequencies to all the speakers, it causes the amplifier to work harder, forcing the component speakers to try to play frequencies they aren’t designed to handle. Therefore, incorrectly setting your vehicle’s crossovers and filters will cause distortion and could potentially damage your amplifier, speakers, and subwoofer. 

Other Considerations

  • Amplifier Inputs: The automobile amp inputs transmit the signal from your car’s in-dash head unit to the vehicle’s amplifier. If it's an aftermarket head unit, it will have RCA preamp outputs that will allow you to connect the receiver directly to the car amp. Some stock car stereos don’t have preamp outputs, meaning you won’t be able to join the amp to the in-dash unit. If this is the case, consider shopping for an amplifier with speaker level inputs.
  • RMS Power: RMS means Root Mean Square and refers to the amount of continuous power, measured in watts, which a specific amplifier can produce. Manufacturers often brag about the peak power ratings on amps. The peak power rating isn’t an accurate indicator to consider when looking for an amplifier to buy. The peak power is the maximum wattage an amp can deliver during sound peak. Therefore, the peak power is not sustainable and is achieved intermittently during music playback.

Best Amp for Component Speakers Reviews & Recommendations 2019

Best Amp for Component Speakers Overall: Rockford Fosgate R500XD

Rockford Fosgate R500XD
Amazon

Rockford Fosgate is one of the most respected manufacturers in the car audio industry, especially when it comes to building high-quality amplifiers. The Rockford Fosgate R500XD is no different. This amp is designed explicitly for deep-hitting subwoofers and can be used in both cars and trucks.

The best feature in this amplifier has to be the sound quality. It also has a durable, unique aesthetic look. There’s hardly any clipping or distortion with this car amp. It also has an impressive cast aluminum heat sink. Amplifiers produce a lot of heat, but this amplifier rarely runs hot due to thermal sensing technology. It’s the perfect amplifier for endurance.

Does the Rockford car amp have any drawbacks? Well, the angle of the wiring screws has an odd design. This amplifier has wiring screws that are at a 45-degree angle, which makes adjusting them in tight corners difficult. Also, the LED lighting on the remote and amp are really bright.  

Best Value Amp for Component Speakers: Kenwood KAC-910D

Kenwood KAC-910D
Amazon

The Kenwood KAC-910D easily scoops the best value amp slot due to its price tag, size, and ability to perform well all around. These amplifiers are built to ensure your in-dash stereo produces clear quality sound at any temperature. One of its outstanding features is the signal-sensing turn-on that eliminates the need to use a remote to activate the amplifier, merely turning on when the stereo is on.

Due to its compact design, the Kenwood KAC-910D car amp can fit virtually anywhere. It is the ideal car amp for truck cabs as well as small vehicles. It has a waterproof plastic casing that protects its circuitry from water damage. Users also enjoy powerful 45 watts RMS for each channel, with an impedance of up to 4 ohms.

Though the Kenwood KAC-910D is an affordable and practical audio system, its compact size works to its disadvantage, making it more prone to overheating. Also, if you are looking to blast your huge subwoofers, you are better off with an amplifier with a better power rating. 

Best Amp for Component Speakers Honorable Mention: JL Audio Slash

JL Audio Slash
Amazon

The JL Audio Slash is a mono-channel amplifier, and its manufacturer ensured that those attributes take the spotlight. The most outstanding features on this amp are its superb power and quality. With this unit, you get up to 600 watts RMS. 

The Audio Slash is also compatible with a variety of speakers and car audio systems. This amplifier features JL Audio’s Regulated Intelligent Power Supply technology. It can maintain a consistent power output over a wide range of load impedance and battery voltage.

Any drawbacks? This unit is pricey; users looking to have a little boost on their stereo are better off investing in much cheaper units. Due to its superior sound and advanced features, this amplifier can be a bit difficult to tune for individuals without car audio experience. 

Tips

  • It’s essential to set up your amplifier in a location that is far from all liquids and beverages. If you are going to install it in your trunk, make sure it fits on a spot that won’t get wet. Avoid sprinkling water when cleaning the amp enclosure; instead, use a dry rag.
  • Do not plug or unplug your amp from the speaker cabinets when the system is on or playing. There’s usually a slight short produced when you plug your amplifier in and out of the speaker. If you have to connect your amp to the speaker, make sure to plug the cable into the source unit first before plugging it into the amplifier.
  • Avoid moving the amplifier once it is on. Its filaments and parts in the tube are usually weak when hot. The slightest shock can lead to a malfunction.
  • Use the appropriate load. Impedance and load are very important when it comes most tube amp builds. It's important that the amplifier is set to the correct impedance that matches the speakers. When your amp runs on low impedance or mismatched settings, it strains the unit, affecting its efficiency and output. 
  • Store your amplifier in a controlled environment. The amplifier setup location is very critical to its durability. Avoid placing it in humid or damp conditions. These conditions are not suitable for your unit and could cause corrosion and rot. 

FAQs

Q: Do I need an amplifier if I have upgraded my speakers?

A: Yes, you do. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle’s system has the latest head unit and speakers; it won’t make a big difference to the overall sound if it lacks enough power. 

Q: How many channels do I need?

A: The number of channels required depends on what kind of power or how many speakers you are looking to boost. You can use a one-channel amplifier to power a subwoofer. A five-channel amplifier, on the other hand, will power two rear speakers, two front speakers, and a subwoofer.

Q: Do I still need to upgrade my head unit after purchasing an amplifier and new speakers?

A: Not if you do not want to. When shopping for an amplifier, get one that is compatible with your head unit. Some aftermarket amplifiers will not work with stock car stereos. 

Final Thoughts

Our top product for the best amp for component speakers is the Rockford Fosgate R500XD. This car amp is a premium product developed with advanced features. It’s famous for its high efficiency and quality output

If you are looking to purchase something more practical and affordable, check out the Kenwood KAC-910D. It will liven your sound system for a low price tag.

Do you have a better amplifier unit you’d like to recommend? Comment below and share your thoughts.