Best Car Amplifiers: Your Guide to the Best Sound and Volume
Upgrade your existing car stereo system with these efficient car amplifiers
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON April 24, 2019
The purpose of a car amplifier is to boost a small audio signal to a higher voltage to increase audio volume. In simple terms, it helps boost the signal from your car radio to larger speakers, resulting in louder audio inside the vehicle. Picking the right kind of amplifier can be a tricky task. We are here to help; here are our top picks for the best car amplifiers.
- Best OverallAlpine PDX-V9, 5-Channel Extreme Power Density Digital AmplifierSummarySummaryThis is our best amplifier overall because it offers a lot of power in such a small package. It can power all four door speakers, as well as a subwoofer, with no problems.ProsProsIt’s a Class D amp, which means more energy efficiency and less heat. Easy to install and compact design. Has a quick connect speaker feature and a soft start turn on. Great sound quality.ConsConsMounting options are limited. Can potentially overheat. Slight hiss at certain volumes. May have trouble powering high-wattage speakers and subwoofers at the same time if not bridged correctly.
- Best ValueAlpine MRV-F300 4-Channel Car AmplifierSummarySummaryOur pick for best value amplifier because it’s easy to install, lightweight, and a powerful build. It offers a lot of power for its size.ProsProsThis Class D amp is affordable, lightweight, and has a compact design. It’s really easy to install and is best for all four door speakers and a small sub. High-level speaker inputs.ConsConsMay experience slight hissing noise at some audio levels. Can potentially overheat and damage the channel inputs.
- Honorable MentionRockford Fosgate TM400X4ad 4-Channel AmplifierSummarySummaryThis made our honorable mention list because of its durability, compact size, and efficient power. It is best used for up to four speakers.ProsProsThis Class A/B amp is built to protect itself from dust, UV, and corrosion. It is very small and can even work with motorcycles. It offers a lot of power with less current draw. There is a three-stage thermal lock extrusion with a cooling fan to keep the unit as cool as possible. Installation is seamless and easy.ConsConsOverheating could be possible. It's a small unit, providing only 400 watts to power up to four speakers.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Car Amplifiers
- Increased volume. Factory car stereos almost always have a weak audio signal. With a car amplifier, you increase the stereo signal and volume to levels the factory stereos and speakers can’t achieve.
- Better tuning options. Car audio amplifiers offer more tuning options than what your basic factory stereo would offer. If you’re a music connoisseur or just would like the best sound, amplifiers will help solve that problem. Some high-quality car amplifiers come with a USB port that gives you access to tuning options, and others have a control panel on the unit. With different amplifiers, you can have access to a range of 10 to 175 frequencies to personalize your sound.
- Power for aftermarket speakers and subwoofers. Without an amplifier, your car wouldn’t be able to handle the wattage needed to power any aftermarket speakers or subwoofers. Amplifiers help to control the power usage to safely run a new sound system. You will almost always need a quality car amplifier to have aftermarket speakers and subwoofers installed. They act as a battery for those two systems because, your car battery alone would not be able to control the power input and output, making your car battery drain fast or blow your whole set of new speakers.
Types of Car Amplifiers
Mono Channel Amplifiers
Monoblock or one-channel amplifiers are very simple to use and typically only support a small set of speakers or one small subwoofer. These aren’t amplifiers that would typically work for all-around car audio systems. Though more affordable, they don’t always offer the power you may need. We recommend looking for a multi-channel amplifier if you’re powering more than just a small set of speakers or a small single subwoofer.
Multi-channel amplifiers can range from two to six channels, with four channels being your most common model. Four-channel amplifiers are generally for pairing a set of aftermarket door speakers and/or a small subwoofer. Increasing the number of channels allows you to connect to larger speakers or add a larger subwoofer. If you are planning to add subwoofers, it is best to have a five- or six-channel amplifier.
Class A amplifiers have the most accurate sound output and are very easy to control. It is, however, the least efficient when it comes to power usage. Class A amplifiers are constantly on at full power output, meaning it can generate a lot of heat and use most of the power from your car battery. These amplifiers are generally larger in size than other classes of amplifiers.
Class B amplifiers are smaller in size than Class A amplifiers and produce less heat. It is also more efficient, unlike Class A. Class B amplifiers only use half the output of power at any given time because it is on a push/pull system. Instead of two full-power outputs functioning at the same time, they switch outputs, making power usage most efficient. Unfortunately, a common problem with Class B amplifiers is that it can distort the audio quality.
Class A/B amplifiers combine the best of both Class A and Class B amplifiers. It is more efficient than Class A and there is less distortion in the audio than Class B. Some car amplifier companies have technology that prevents the unit from overheating, but Class A/B amplifiers can build up heat.
Class D amps, also known as switching amplifiers, work in a continuous, fast-paced output of electronic on and off signals, making them up to 90 percent more efficient. These amplifiers tend to be smaller in size and produce little to no heat. There may be some distortion in higher frequencies, but it produces the best audio quality.
JL Audio is well-established in the mobile audio industry, making amplifiers, speakers, and subwoofers. Headquartered in Miramar, Florida, it has been in business since 1975. Among its popular products is the JX1000/1D 1000 Watt RMS Monoblock Class D Car Amplifier.
Headquartered in Tokyo, Pioneer started out as a radio repair shop in 1938. Today, it produces products like car radios, headphones, home audio, and speakers. It has also grown into a global provider. One of its bestsellers is the GM-D9605 Gm Digital Series Class D Amp.
JVC/Kenwood, founded in the United States in 1961, was the first company to make home theater amplifiers and anti-theft car cassette decks. Among many of its popular products is the best-selling KS-DR3005D 1000W Peak 5-Channel DR Series Class-D Power Amplifier.
Car Amplifier Pricing
- $100-$250: In this price range, you will commonly find Class A/B amplifiers with a different range of channels. This is the price range to be looking at if you are on a budget. The amplifier will still do its job boosting audio signals, but you may notice more distortion in the audio.
- $250-$550: This is a great price range for mono or multi-channel amplifier that has little or no audio distortion. In this price range, you can also find added features like more tuning and higher-efficiency options.
- $550-$700+: High-end car amplifiers can end up costing up to $1,500. When considering higher-end quality amplifiers, check out any added features they have. Some amplifiers can have many features you don’t necessarily need if you want a simple sound system.
Most quality amplifiers will be bridgeable, meaning that you can add more amplifiers to increase power supply. By bridging more amplifiers, you can add larger speakers, more speakers, or larger subwoofers.
Almost all amplifiers have a low-pass filter that will help prevent higher frequencies from reaching the speakers or subwoofers. Essentially, it will filter signals higher than the selected frequency and prevent the high frequencies from reaching the speakers or subwoofers.
This filter works in conjunction with the low-pass filter, working in the opposite way by preventing lower frequencies from reaching the speakers or subwoofers. It passes signals lower than the selected frequency and eliminates higher frequency signals.
Band-pass filters work with both high-pass and low-pass filters to create a continuous frequency range. It keeps the signals constant between high-pass and low-pass filters to maintain the best audio quality.
- Wattage: Every amplifier has a wattage rating. It is important to note, never run your amp to its maximum wattage. For example, if you have a 1000-watt amp and four speakers that require 350 watts per speaker, the amplifier would not be able to provide the power needed, and your speakers might short out.
- Size: You’ll want to make sure that you have room in your car for an amplifier, new speakers, and/or a subwoofer. Some amps are very compact, while others can get pretty large.
- Wiring: Always make sure you have quality copper condensed wiring to power your amp. The quality of wire will decide whether your amp will run smoothly or not. The standard consumer wire is a 4-gauge wire with copper condensed wire, not aluminum. Bad wiring can cause electrical shortages, overloaded wires, and electrical fires.
- RMS: RMS is the consistent wattage your amplifier requires to stay powered on. Every amp and subwoofer will have an RMS rating somewhere on the device; always check this rating.
- Peak Power: Peak power is the most power an amp can put out before shorting out or failing. You can usually only run an amp at peak power for a couple seconds before it is damaged.
Best Car Amplifier Reviews & Recommendations 2019
This Class D compact car amplifier is very easy to install. It can power most, if not all, of the car’s speakers and a subwoofer if you have one. This amplifier is about the size of a standard school notebook, making it ideal for smaller cars or tight spaces.
The Alpine PDX-V9 offers impressive power; 100 watts to each—front and rear—speaker and 500 watts to a subwoofer. Being a Class D amplifier, it doesn’t produce as much heat, which is an added bonus for such a powerful amp. This amplifier is stackable, so if needed, you can add more amplifiers without worrying about overheating or not having enough room. Controls for the amp are front-facing which makes it really easy to tune and change the audio sound even if it’s stacked with other amps.
If you are planning to bridge another amplifier, if not done correctly, it can permanently damage the channels or cause it to overheat. There is also a slight hissing noise at some audio levels. Unfortunately, mounting options are limited.
Best Value: Alpine MRV-F300 4-Channel Car Amplifier
Alpine is a leader in car audio systems. This Class D, the four-channel amp has great quality sound and is the best budget car amp. A huge selling point is a compact design and weight: It weighs just a little under 5 pounds. This amplifier is very easy to install and control.
This Class D amplifier design is highly efficient because it doesn’t require as much power as a Class A/B amp would. It also results in less heat when in use. Even though it is small, it is very powerful and there is little to no audio distortion. It is best paired with car speakers that require up to 75 watts RMS each.
The audio is very crisp and clear as expected from Alpine. The audio controls are very easy to use and clearly labeled. Unfortunately, at high volumes, you may notice a slight hissing sound. This amplifier can potentially overheat and cause damage to the channel inputs. It will also only provide a total of 400 watts, which can power a maximum of four small speakers.
Honorable Mention: Rockford Fosgate TM400X4ad 4-Channel Amplifier
This Class A/D car amplifier is built to last. It is very compact, produces less heat, and supplies constant power. Built with C.L.E.A.N. setup technology, it is also easy to install. Rockford Fosgate also offers a two-year warranty.
This amplifier is equipped with three-stage thermal lock extrusion with a dual cooling fan to keep the unit as cool as possible. There is almost no audio distortion at high levels. The model is very versatile and can work with cars, motorcycles, and boats.
It’s built to last with protection against dust, UV rays, and corrosion. There is always the possibility of overheating when using the amplifier, even with the cooling features. Finally, this amplifier only provides 400 watts of total power, which may only power a set of small speakers in a typical audio setup.
- Get professional opinions when picking out wires and speakers to make sure your car amplifier has the right wire gauges and enough wattage to support your speakers.
- Look for amplifiers with a DSP (digital signal processor). DSP helps to increase the quality of your audio to near-perfect sound.
- Tune your stereo system after installation so you don’t cause any fuses to short.
Q: Will an amp affect my car battery?
A: If wired correctly, you won’t need to worry about killing your battery. Car amplifiers will always pull power from your battery, but with newer more efficient technology, it requires less energy. Getting your system professionally installed is your best option to make sure all wiring is done right.
Q: How much air space do I need for my amplifier?
A: Most car amplifiers are very compact. If you are looking to install your car amplifier under your seats, watch out for how much heat it will produce. Class D amplifiers are your best option for little to no heat.
Q: Do I need to use an extra fuse on my battery?
A: Yes, adding an extra fuse is recommended. A fuse is designed to take the punch if anything fails, so nothing else in your vehicle gets damaged. Most car amplifiers will come with a fuse already installed in the unit; this will only protect the amplifier itself. Adding an extra fuse to the wiring for the rest of the car will protect your battery and other wiring throughout the vehicle.
Q: How much power supply is required from my vehicle to power an amplifier?
A: Depending on what you are trying to power, there could be more than one answer. If you have a 12-volt battery hooked up to a 1000-watt amp requiring no more than 200 watts per speaker, you should have no problem. It really depends on what your goal is when installing a system.
For the best car amplifier, check out the Alpine PDX-V9, 5-Channel Extreme Power Density Digital Amplifier. It offers great audio quality, top-of-the-line tuning, and it’s very powerful.
If you’re looking to save some money, check out the Alpine MRV-F300 4-Channel Car Amplifier. It offers the best bang for your buck, it’s compact and powerful, and it comes with great Class D technology for improved audio.