LAST UPDATED: June 16, 2019
Best Five-Channel Amps: Get Premium Sound for Your Speakers and Subs
Our top picks for the best five-channel amp for your car stereo
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON June 16, 2019
If you are out shopping for an amplifier, then you are probably sick of the distorted, foggy sound from your car speakers. It doesn’t make sense to go through all that trouble when there are plenty of five-channel amplifiers to choose from on the market. Five-channel amplifiers are great because they can run your entire car audio system off one device–that includes both your front and rear speakers, plus a subwoofer. If you are looking for some serious power out of your vehicle’s head unit, you will want to invest in a quality amplifier. With that in mind, here are our top picks for the best five-channel amp.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Five-Channel Amps
- Get more power with less space. Instead of investing in two separate amps, getting a single five-channel amp can get you the sound quality you desire with much less trouble. A five-channel amplifier will not only save considerable cabin space but also does so without sacrificing the much-desired output amp power.
- Enjoy premium sound delivery. Using a fusion of both Class A/B and D amp technologies, five-channel amplifiers can deliver remarkable sound quality. Five-channel amps produce clean sound, less distortion and background noise, and a more defined music wave.
- Get value for your money. Being able to power a full set of car sound components with one device is remarkable. A bonus to this is the prerequisites involved are easily achievable. Considering space, power, and costs, getting a five-channel amp is undeniably more pragmatic. It's easier dealing with a single amplifier than juggling between two to get the desired sound output.
Types of Amplifiers
A mono-channel amplifier has only one channel, an attribute that helps it produce more power compared to multi-channel amplifiers. Mono-channel amplifiers have limited use and, in most cases, are used to power subwoofers. Big bass speakers require one channel. Mono-channel amplifiers are advantageous since they produce a lot of power with very little heat.
These amps have two distinct channels. They can be used to power two speakers or can be bridged to power a single speaker. There are two types of two-channel amplifiers available: ones with Class-A and Class-AB circuitry. Class-A amplifiers use a single transistor that uses a lot of energy and produces a lot of heat while class-AB ones use two transistors, making them energy efficient.
These are ideally two amplifiers merged to form one. Three-channel amplifiers are a combination of class-AB and class-D circuitry merged into a single amplifier. Since only three channels are available, two of them are used for speakers, while the other is for the subwoofer. Three-channel amplifiers are an ideal solution for compact spaces.
These are the most commonly bought amplifiers in the car audio market. They can power four speakers or two speakers and a subwoofer by bridging two channels. Four-channel amplifiers are popular in most vehicles where they power two front and two rear speakers for the perfect audio balance.
Just like the three-channel amplifier setup, the five-channel amplifier has two amplifiers merged into one. They are capable of powering four speakers and a single subwoofer. Since the single subwoofer is more powerful than normal speakers, it requires a single channel.
These are a rare, but quite usable in specific setups. They are more appropriate for larger vehicles with more space like an SUV. This amplifier type can power up to six individual speakers and a big subwoofer by bridging two channels. The six-channel amplifier system is ideal if you are building a high-spec car audio system.
Kenwood is a popular Japanese audio manufacturing company founded in 1946. The company ventured into the American market in the early '60s before expanding its services to the rest of the world. The company initially began as “Trio’s Products” but later changed its name to “Kenwood” for the American market. Kenwood manufactures a wide range of audio products, including premium-quality subwoofers, speakers, amplifiers, and components. Kenwood is prevalent in the car audio market due to its devotion to producing high-quality audio products. The Kenwood Excelon X801 is one of its premium products.
Alpine Electronics is a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics company Alps Electric that specializes in car audio and navigation systems. The company’s headquarters are in Iwaki, Fukushima, Japan and, the company offers a wide range of products, including in-car multimedia systems, speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and signal processing equipment. One of its popular products is the Alpine MRV-M500.
Planet Audio is an American audio manufacturing company headquartered in Oxnard, Calif. Planet Audio was founded in 1997 by a group of car audio enthusiasts. Its vision was to show the car audio industry that car audio systems do not need to be expensive to have high-quality sound, appeal, or value. The company has grown over the years, from car audio systems to mobile entertainment. One of its leading products is the Planet Audio AC 1800.5.
Best Five-Channel Amp Pricing
- Under $200: There are a variety of five-channel amplifiers available at this price. However, it is important to note that amplifiers at this price bracket only have basic functionality, with possibly low sound output. Depending on the manufacturer, amplifiers at this price are popular due to low cost and basic performance.
- $200-$800: Some of the best and most glorified five-channel amplifiers are available at this price range. These amplifiers have a high-quality build, extra features, more power output, and are durable and efficient.
- Over $1000: Five-channel amplifiers at this price bracket are rare. However, units retailing at this range are the best of the best. They have multiple functionalities, superior sound quality, and durable builds. These amplifiers are designed with the highest-quality material to produce the best sound possible.
There are four different types of amplifier classes: A, B, AB, and D. These classes refer to the internal electronic circuitry. For instance, Class-A amplifiers have high-frequency sound with poor efficiency. Class-B amps, in contrast, experience distortion in high frequency, but are energy efficient. Class-AB amplifiers have great high-frequency production, are highly efficient, but have poor performance. Class-D amps are energy efficient, with good low frequency but with poor high-frequency output.
The best five-channel amplifiers are bridgeable. To bridge is to add more amplifiers for more power output. By bridging more amplifiers, users can add more speakers or a larger subwoofer to the car audio system.
This setting on the amplifier lets the user match the output voltage of the vehicle’s head unit to the output voltage of the amplifier. Some head units are known to have a higher output voltage than others. The gain or bass boost feature on the amplifier functions by matching the output voltage of the amplifier signal that it receives from the car’s head unit. In case the Gain or Bass Boost is set too high, the sound will be over-amplified, and the result is a distorted sound signal.
Most amplifiers have this functionality. The low-pass filter helps prevent high frequencies from getting to the speakers or the subwoofer. Ideally, it works by filtering signals that are higher than the selected frequency.
High-pass filters work together with low-pass filters. The main difference is the high-pass filter will work in the opposite way, preventing low frequencies from getting to the speakers and subwoofers. Essentially, it passes the signals that are lower than the selected frequency, eliminating the higher frequency signals as a result.
- Peak Power: The peak power is the highest power an amp can put out before shorting out. Normally, an amp can run at maximum peak power for a short time before it malfunctions.
- RMS: This is the Root Mean Square: the amount of continuous power measured in watts in which a specific amplifier can produce. While manufacturers are notorious for bragging about the peak power rating on amplifiers, the peak power rating isn’t the ideal feature to watch when shopping for an amplifier. Every amp and subwoofer will have an RMS rating on the product; check this rating.
- Amplifier Inputs: Amp inputs are what transmit the signal from your vehicle’s head unit to the amplifier. If you are using an aftermarket head unit, it will have RCA preamp inputs that make it possible to connect the receiver to your vehicle’s amp directly. Some stock car head units don’t come with preamp inputs. With this kind of setup, you won’t be able to connect your amp to your head unit. Therefore, when shopping for an amplifier, make sure it supports amplifier inputs.
- Wattage: All amps have a wattage rating. Therefore, when shopping for an amplifier, it is important to check the amp’s maximum wattage. For instance, if you have a 1000-watt amplifier and four speakers that have a 300-watt requirement per speaker, the amplifier will not be able to produce the power needed to run the speakers.
Best Five-Channel Amp Reviews & Recommendations 2020
In a simple five-channel setup, the Rockford Fosgate Punch delivers 1000 watts of RMS power, which is enough to meet the performance demands of marine and powersports audio systems. While the first four channels run the dash and rear speakers, you can hook up a power-intensive marine subwoofer to the fifth 500-watt channel without worrying about distortion. The amplifier has a wear-resistant build quality made from stainless steel hardware that also resists corrosion brought on by exposure to moisture and dirt.
This amplifier features a mash-up of innovative technologies for maximum performance and durability. A Dynamic Thermal Management System is integrated into the amplifier’s construction to promote better heat transfer and prevent overheating when you are cranking up the speakers for a long time. Tri-stage protection shields the circuitry from over-current and short-circuits, while CLEAN setup technology helps to accurately set the gain (decibel output). Also, its variable high and low pass crossovers help to make the stereo sound quality richer and more detailed.
While the amplifier is built with remarkable heat-dissipating technology, it can still overheat during extended playtime at loud volumes. It’s larger than most amplifiers and that could result in installation issues in vehicles with limited mounting space. Also, you’d have to buy the bass adjustment for the fifth channel separately.
Planet Audio describes this five-channel amp as an amplifier designed to break all the rules. Based on its price, it's hard to believe this amp can produce a power max of 1800 watts at 2 Ohms. It produces 225 watts from its four channels and an impressive 450 watts from its subwoofer channel.
For high-frequency output, Planet Audio AC 1800.5 features a MOSFET power supply. While it's a Class-AB amp, it is still capable of handling variable frequencies in reference to its capabilities. This is made possible with its variable high- and low-pass crossovers. Bonus features include its low and high-level inputs and a subwoofer remote control. It comes with a premium quality cast aluminum body for proper heat dissipation.
A big disadvantage with the Planet Audio AC1800.5 is that it is prone to overheating. You may also experience some distortion using this amplifier. The AC1800.5 is also a bit complicated for users who are new to car audio.
The Kenwood Excelon X801-5 is a compact five-channel amplifier with incredible power. It has a well-thought-out compact design, backed with impressive features, making it a popular amplifier in the car audio community.
Despite its compact size, the Excelon X801-5 is capable of producing 50 watts from 4 channels and up to 300 watts from its subwoofer channel. It allows car owners to boost their car audio without compromising on space. One of its impressive features is an expanded frequency response of up to 50kHz, perfect for high-resolution playback.
A disadvantage with the Kenwood Excelon X801-5 is that it does not provide great volume for vehicles with large interiors. If you are looking to boost the power on your SUV stereo, this might not be the amp for you. Users might also need to upgrade their car speakers to get the maximum benefit out of this amplifier. It will not produce the best quality sound with stock car speakers.
- After installation, tune your car head unit to prevent any fuses from shorting.
- Check your amp packaging for the right wires and speakers. Also, make sure your amplifier has the right wire gauges and wattage to power your speakers.
- Store your amplifier in a controlled environment. Setting up your amp in a congested location might affect its performance and durability. Don’t set up your amp in damp or humid locations; these conditions could cause it to rot or corrode.
- Avoid plugging in and out your speaker wires while your amp is on or during playback. There’s a slight short produced when plugging in or out your amplifier.
- Don't amplifier to liquids of beverages. When cleaning, use a dry or damp cloth. If you are installing your amp in your truck, set it up it in a location where it is less likely to get wet.
Q: Do I still need to install an amplifier after upgrading my car speakers?
A: Yes. It doesn’t matter if you are using the latest head unit or new speakers. You won’t get much of a difference if your sound system lacks enough power.
Q: Do I need to upgrade my in-dash head unit after purchasing a new amplifier and speakers?
A: Well, it depends. If you have a stock head unit, it might not support amp inputs; in this case, you need to upgrade your car stereo. However, if your head unit supports amplifier inputs, make sure you get one that is compatible with your head unit.
Q: Will installing an amp affect my battery?
A: If wired correctly, you don’t have to worry about killing your battery. Car amplifiers are notorious for pulling power from car batteries. However, newer, more efficient amplifiers use less energy. If possible, get your audio system professionally installed.
Q: Do I need an additional fuse for my battery?
A: Yes. When installing an amp, it is advisable to add an extra fuse. The fuse will take the blow in case anything fails, safeguarding your vehicle’s components. Most amplifiers in the market have an in-built fuse. However, this only protects the amplifier and not your vehicle. Adding an additional fuse will protect your battery and wiring.
Our top product for the best five-channel amp is the Rockford Fosgate Punch P1000X5. This amplifier is a high-performance premium quality amp with high efficiency and incredible sound output.
If you are looking to get something that is more affordable but with remarkable performance, check out Planet Audio AC 1800.5. It offers the best bang for your buck.