- 1 What Is An Amplifier?
- 2 Terminology That You Need to Know
- 3 Best Car Amplifiers of 2017
- 3.1 Value
- 3.2 Premium
- 3.3 Budget
If you are upgrading your car audio remember to read our article about the best car speakers also to complement your amp!
What Is An Amplifier?
An amplifier is a device that is used to boost the power of an electric signal or wave, typically used for boosting the power of subwoofers and speakers. Amplifiers are categorised by the number of channels there are, like single channel amps, also called monoblock. These amplifiers are usually used to power the woofers. Beside monoblocks there are multi-channeled amps, which depending on the number of channels, can “feed” 2, 3, 4, or more speakers.
Amplifiers are also separated by class. The classes are A, B, A/B, D. There are also G & H classes, but they are not officially recognised. There are also other types of custom made amplifiers. Classes from A to D are in common use. These are the classes to consider when buying a car amp. The function of amplifiers serves the amplification boosting of both power and quality.
If you want to upgrade an existing amp or to install a brand new one, there are a few different factors that you should pay special attention to. It is like when making the perfect meal, all the ingredients must be carefully picked and measured. These are the three most important categories that you need to consider when buying an amplifier:
- Number of Channels
- Power of your choosing
- Quality of the powerful sound
If you want all that is listed in these 3 categories, then this next category is unavoidable:
- Compatibility with the sound system you have in your car (not just anything goes well with everything)
Besides the above mentioned, if you really want to avoid replacing some very expensive audio parts or components, you really need to learn your “stuff” about what to look for in terms of quality, class, and category. Then you need to implement this into the amp that has exactly the power you need, number of channels, and of course compatibility with the rest of your car’s sound system. It doesn’t matter if you want to add power or quality or both to your speakers or subwoofer, you have to take into account all the important factors.
The Story On All Channels
If you are the kind of driver that focuses his music in the cockpit without even turning on the backseat speakers, then you will be satisfied with a 2-or 3-channel amp, one channel for the subwoofer and the other two for the speakers. You could keep your options open and take a 4-channel amp, two for each speaker and two channels bridged together for powering the sub. You can then use the amp for 4-speakers in the future. There are 5-channel amps that will give your car the full treatment powering all four speakers and a subwoofer, if that is to your liking. There are also amps with 6- or 8- channels, which is the best option yet. With this kind of an amp, you can also have a multiple active system for every speaker or double bridged subwoofer or all that together.
The Full Power Mode
Usually the speakers that come with your new and beautiful car are powered by an amplifier that is good enough. “Why then would I need another amp”? If you want more serious sound with greater performance, you will feel the need to add power and quality to the sound! Another thing is, if you are a driver who installed a subwoofer, in most cases you will need an external amplifier.
The factory integrated amps have advanced over time, but still they usually offer smaller amplifiers that will offer you only 10 watts of power per channel. This is really not enough if we’re being honest. Due to the limited space on the dashboard, factory settings are not so bad, all things considered. Again if you install aftermarket speakers, you will need an external amplifier. Besides power, the quality of the bass depends on a good amp-woofer-speaker combo.
With Great Power Comes Great Quality
Many drivers today want exceptional quality in addition to power, so the need for an external amplifier comes with the means to have proper power and quality of sound. A good amplifier can provide you with clean sound free of background noise, which can occur from other components. It will also dial down the interference and distortion that can disturb pure sound. An amplifier is the powerful tool that can create great sound quality on all volume levels while you tune into your favorite radio frequency.
Terminology That You Need to Know
You don’t want to play poker face with the seller when you go to buy that amplifier. Here are a few things you need to know for the best and complete approach when combining the elements:
Impedance is a measurement of resistance of an electric circuit, which it provides to a current when it is being applied. The amplifier always has the power and impedance specified on the back side. Why is impedance important? This measures the capability of the amplifier to deliver the specified power to the speaker. For example, if you have a specification of 100 watts and 8 ohms, your amp is adequately equipped to safely deliver 100 watts of power to the speakers with a suitable transformer, power supply, and output. Many of the amps are projected to work with speakers from 4 to 8 ohms. In case that the lowest impedance is not specified, which can be the case with cheaper devices, it is not safe to use and you should stay away.
RMS simply is used to explain the power handling capability of speakers or an amplifier. Be sure to buy an amplifier that can provide from 75% to 150% total RMS of the sub system.
Decibel is actually the real measurement of loudness. It is the logarithmic measurement unit that implies the ratio of two amounts of acoustic or electric signal, that power equals 10 times of the common logarithm ratio. Deci is 10, bel is the unit of sound, these two equal one tenth of sound. This means that 2 times the power output equals +3 dB(decibel) increase, 10 times the power output equals +10 dB increase, which is twice as loud.
Total harmonic distortion (THD) is the measurement of deviation from the desired signal that the amplifier produces. This is of great importance for the quality of sound.
A Quick Cheat Sheet Before Rushing to the Store
Be sure to match the output of the amplifier to the needed power of your speakers. Without enough power, you’ll get a distorted weak sound. In the case of an over-powered amp, you will “kill” or blowout your speakers.
Whether your speakers are factory built-in or you obtained new ones, you must know their Root Mean Square (RMS). The RMS of an amp has to be able to provide power from 75-150% of the speakers’ RMS. This way, you will cover that peak power the amp needs to provide to the speakers in short burst intervals.
Make sure to have all input/output cables, power equipment, all hardware, and cords.
A Few Words of Wisdom
Monoblok, or one channel amp, is typically used for powering a subwoofer. With a great monoblock, you can have complete “magic of sound”. Due to the fact that sometimes an excellent monoblock is all that you will need, don’t rush into buying the best 5-channel amplifier before. Check your well-planned strategy. The secret to that great bass is in evenly matching the amplifier and subwoofer and making sure they work together properly. Impedance and power matching are of outmost importance.
Best Car Amplifiers of 2017
And now the moment of truth, how to pick the right amplifier? Here are the some of the best and most popular brands that money can buy. I did not categorised amps, but we will put short descriptions on all of the listed amps. I made three classifications in terms of quality and price. Premium is the cream of the crop, value is where mid-range price and best quality for that intertwine, and budget is last but not least and many times it is more than enough.
This is a high quality mono D amplifier with 500-Watts, with 1 channel operating on 2 ohms impedance. This Rockford Fosgate will give your car stereo what it needs in terms of power and quality. The amp is MOSFET power supply. It has muted turn on, short circuit protected, and it comes with remote operated bass level. This unit’s thermal sensitive power supply is made of high durable cast aluminum. Rockford comes with a 1 year guarantee.
JBL surely knows how to build quality to last – and this marine amp is a testament to that (yes, it is actually designed to be used on boats). This is a class D amplifier, with 4 channels that provide 2 ohms impedance throughout all channels simultaneously. JBL MA6004 is a 320-watt amp. JBL also has MOSFET like his competitor mentioned above. This amp has RCA outputs and high sensitive inputs. JBL made this amp out of a strong and durable aluminum that will offer good protection to the circuit from outside forces. JBL made sure that this amplifier has an excellent level of protection including speaker protection, thermal protection, and circuit overloading protection. Truly an excellent amp for a decent price.
This is an extra efficient Class FD 4-Channel amplifier with significantly improved power output capability. Besides this, Pioneer made this model 50% smaller than the regular GM-series. They also improved circuit design, which will sense the internal temperature that will help automatically moderate the input level accordingly, preventing abrupt circuit shutdown. This new digital system is called Protection Control System, which operates on 1200 watts max power. The amplifier is made in a way that will protect your subwoofers and speakers for a long time. This is one of the top amplifiers for the more than affordable price of around $130.
Kenwood again hits the jackpot with this excellent KAC series, with maximum power of 900 watts. Interesting enough, it is made of heavy duty aluminum alloy to protect this amp from intensive heat dissipation. Kenwood KAC-8406 will deliver RMS power @ 4 ohms 70 Watts x 4 channel; RMS power @ 2 ohms will give 100 watts x 4 channels and when bridged @ 4 ohms will deliver 200 watts on 2 channels. This amplifier will offer triple protection … overload, thermal, and short circuit protection. MOSFET switching power supply and soft turn on are also present in this model. No doubt the KAC-8406 is another proud example of Kenwood’s excellent knowledge of how to give you everything that you need in a single 4-channel amplifier.
So basically this is the best of the best mono channel amp and is based on the legendary T2500-1bd (the added CP mark stands for Constant Power). Yeah, that is right, you heard it correctly, and this basically means that CP will deliver up to 25% more power through all impedance loads. Your music will sound crystal clear, louder and will enable you to listen to the highest quality recordings, no sweat. What you need from a mono amp in terms of power:
1500 W x 1 @ 4-Ohms
2500 W x 1 @ 2-Ohms
2500 W x 1 @ 1-Ohms
Rockford Fosgate is the best of the best and is not impressive just in quality. This one of a kind beast costs $1600.
If you are one of those Hadrcore SPL enthusiasts, then Orion will not just deliver the ultimate power but also the purity of that untamed power is amazing and well noticed upon first listening.
Best quality signed by the respectable Rockford Fosgate. This amp is optimized for front and rear. Tri-stage protection is present in this model, 12dB octave Butterworth crossover. RCA system that is made with pass-through output. This means that you can add one more amplifier. Durability affirmed with cast aluminum heatsink. This unit also has 2/4 channel option. You can add to this one a monoblock amp just for the subwoofer and you will have a dream ride every time you turn on the music.
In terms of modest price meeting more than fair quality, the choice fell on Planet Audio AC1500.1M. This is an A/B class monoblock with the lowest impedance of 2 ohms that can deliver 1125 watts of power to your subwoofer. To switch or amplify the signal, there is MOSFET. This is a decent amplifier and will do its part in saving you money.
If you want an inexpensive long term solution for amplifying your car stereo, the HTG157 may be the perfect candidate for that purpose. Lanzar offers soft turn, which will protect the power circuits. This model has excellent bass and a MOSFET power system. Lanzar’s THD is an amazing 0.01%. It operates on 3000 watts maximum @ 2 ohms. The Lanzar HTG157 is surely a recommendable piece of equipment if you are on a budget and yet looking for high quality. The price range of this model is around $70-$80 depending on where you buy this nice monoblock.