Best Car Amplifiers – Top 10 Reviews And Buying Guide in 2018

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Among the things car owners seem to want is a proper car sound system; there are few instances as bad as turning the music or your favourite radio station on and discovering that the sound is too low or too high and you cannot adjust it.

Because of this, you want to purchase the best sound system you can get, therefore avoiding audio replacements. No matter whether you are looking for the best car amplifiers for your subwoofers, or you want an amplifier that powers your car speakers, this piece will serve as a guide to getting a proper investment for your vehicle.

Best car amplifier brands

Amplifier brandRatingBest forSpecs (RMS)
JL Audio JX1000 Mono-block Class D amplifier4.3Compactness500W at 4ohms, 750W at 3 ohms, 1,000W at 2 ohms
MRX-M110 Mono-block X-Power amplifier4.6Big power range in the woofers1,100W at 2 ohms, 600W at 4 ohms
XD700/5 Class D amplifier4.3High sound quality75W at 4 ohms, 100W at 2 ohms
Subwoofers: 180W at 4 ohms, 240W in 3 ohms, 300W at 2 ohms
Alpine PDX-V9 Power density amplifier4.5Running multiple woofers100W for four channels
The Rockford Fosgate R250X1 Mono-block Amplifier(Editor’s choice)4.7Those with small to medium subwoofers150W at 4 ohms, 250W at 2 ohms
Kenwood KAC-9106D mono-block Class D amplifier4.0Value for money500W at 4 ohms, 1,000W at 2 ohms
The Rockford Fosgate Prime Class D amplifier4.7Deep hitting subwoofers250W at 4 ohms, 600W at 2 ohms, 750W-900W at 1 ohm
Pioneer GMA3602 Bridgeable amplifier4.2Affordability180W at 4 ohms
Kenwood KAC-8406 Class AB car amplifier4.0Versatility in use70W at 4 ohms (all channels), 200W at 4 ohms (two channels), 450W at 4 ohms (one channel)
Pioneer GM-D8601 Class D amplifier4.5Those on a tight budget300W, 500W and 800W at 4 ohms

1. JL Audio JX1000 Mono-block Class D amplifier – compact yet powerful

You can trust the manufacturer, JL audio, to make their equipment in the highest quality. This amp is not different – it is capable of powering subwoofers without compromising on sound quality.

The specs are impressive, with production of 500W RMS at 4 ohms, 750W at 3 ohms and 1,000W at 2 ohms, and the stability of the sound is another feature we like.

A bass boost that ranges at one to 12dB is another advantage and the power centres at 45Hz. The soft-start turn on feature prevents the infamous clicking and popping issue, which many car amplifiers have, and its compact nature, with measurements of 7.75” wide, 11” long, and 2” high ensures it fits in your car comfortably. The only thing we did not like about this amp was the power supply type – it is the most inefficient out there, meaning that it does not manage heat very well. However, it still delivers on volume despite this fact.

Pros

  • Provides excellent performance
  • User-friendly and easy to install
  • It works very good, especially with OEM systems

Cons

  • Low efficiency of power supply
  • It does not manage heat very well

 

View price on Amazon

 

2. Alpine MRX-M110 Monoblock X-Power amplifier – best for BIG power in your woofers

This is an excellent choice if you are searching for an amp that runs big power on your subwoofers, since it combines both a powerful and clean sound to subwoofers with sleek design.

When you have maximum power of 2000W, you can get 1,100W RMS at 2 ohms, and 600W RMS at 4 ohms. The amplifier also has controls for the bass equalizer, a subsonic filter and a built-in crossover. With the power it produces, you want a bass controller, and this amp is very compatible with that.

Pros

  • It is strongly built, so long-lasting
  • Can be useful with many bass controllers to produce very powerful bass
  • Affordable
  • It makes the best sound at minimum heat
  • Does not take up much space

Cons

  • Pricey

 

View price on Amazon

 

3. JL XD700/5 Class D amplifier – best for high sound quality

This amplifier is able to handle multiple component speakers easily, even when you add two subwoofers.

It can run 75W RMS on four channels, each at 4 ohms; 100W RMS in four channels, at 2 ohms; and 200W RMS in two bridged channels, in case you attach extra component speakers.

The JL Audio XD700/5 is also an excellent choice if you are thinking of attaching and operating subwoofers as well because you can push 180W RMS in one channel at 4 ohms, 240W RMS in one channel at 3 ohms, and 300W RMS in one channel at 2 ohms. Note that all the ratings mentioned apply in both 12.5 volts and 14.4 volts.

We also like that the amp provides very clear highs and mids, irrespective of its small size. Its back contains various adjustable buttons, so this is the dream amplifier for you if you are an audiophile. It is also easy to control because the buttons are mostly on its upper side. When it gets too hot, it does not go off unlike other speakers; it will just reduce its volume until it cools down. The only issue with this is the performance at low volume, which tends to be inefficient.

Pros

  • A design that is sleek and can fit in any area
  • Has high-quality, loud sound
  • It regulates heat very well
  • User friendly
  • Has good power outlets

Cons

  • It may not perform very well at low volume

 

View price on Amazon

 

4. Alpine PDX-V9 Power density amplifier – best for running multiple woofers

Alpine is widely recognizable for producing high quality content though expensive. This claim is largely true, since they make their equipment stands out even among other amplifiers, and the PDX-V9 is no exception to that rule.

This is for the amplifiers that you want to power the entire system and add some subwoofers – it is that powerful. Not only does it utilize powerful internal technology, but also comes in a beautiful design, making it very hard to beat.

It has maximum ratings of 1,600W, coming with four channels of 100W each, plus 500W RMS going to one channel. The front panel allows you to access the controls quickly, while the connection terminals provide you with flawless power supply in addition to speaker wires. Indeed, it is very hard to beat this amplifier. Despite this, the problem with the amp is the limited mounting options, so it presents a challenge when attempting to connect additional speakers.

Pros

  • Compact design that can fit anywhere
  • It allows for multiple runs by subwoofers and external speakers
  • Easy installation and use
  • Very good quality sound
  • Very good bass boost and cancels out background noise
  • Very good customer service

Cons

  • The mounting options are limited
  • The screws on the speaker plugs are very small

 

View price on Amazon

 

5. The Rockford Fosgate R250X1 Mono-block Amplifier – best for small to medium subwoofers

Many people know Rockford Fosgate for producing high-end amps, though this is a budget version of their subwoofer amplifiers. Do not let this fact discourage you from purchasing it – this is indeed among the best.

A 1-channel mono amp can push RMS of 250W amps at 2 ohms, and 150W amps at 4 ohms. This means that if you have a small or medium subwoofer, this amp will be the best choice for it.

One aspect that makes this amp stand out is the flawless compatibility between it and aftermarket or OEM head units. It comes with a remote punch level input, RCA input, high-level input, as well as adjustable features such as Punch EQ, Gain, Freq Hz and Phase. The drawback with it is that it cannot connect to multiple speakers, which is a let-down considering its potential.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comes with low and high level inputs
  • It uses AB technology (superior to D technology)

Cons

  • It can only power one speaker, most likely a subwoofer

 

View price on Amazon

 

6. Kenwood KAC-9106D mono-block Class D amplifier – best for ease of use

If you are interested in high power levels from speakers without interruption, the Kenwood KAC-9106D amplifier is the best pick.

It is a mono subwoofer amplifier and its design enables you to get maximum wattage levels. Featuring maximum ratings of 2,000W, it has sufficient RMS of 1,000W at 2 ohms, and 500W at 4 ohms. It also has a variable low-pass filter with a range of 50 to 200Hz at 24dB for every octave. Its bass boost has an impressive range of 0-15dB at 40Hz.

Despite its large size (which we do not like), it makes up for it in sound levels – some users even claim that it can push easily past 2,000W amplifiers at optimum levels. When you use it in conjunction with bass boosters that tap into the full bass and volume, even without the controls on the amp, you still achieve a full range sound at very clear levels. The price itself is reasonable, and it gives you good value for your money.

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • It gives good sound quality
  • Handles heat very efficiently

Cons

  • The amp is not compact
  • You cannot push the gain past certain levels

 

View price on Amazon

 

7. The Rockford Fosgate Prime Class D amplifier – best for deep hitting subwoofers

This amp provides you with moderately high power in your subwoofers. Despite its high price, it comes in an optimum design for deep hitting subwoofers in cars and trucks.

It is able to operate four output channels, with the power range in three varieties – 750W at 1 ohm, 600W amps at 2 ohms, and 250W amps at 4 ohms. In addition, some users report 900W at 1 ohm.

The amp has an octave crossover filter that is infrasonic (12dB), in addition to its onboard Punch equalizer at 45Hz and a boost of 18dB. There are also various alterations; for instance, the Freq Hz, Punch Equalizing, Gain and Infrasonic filter Hz. The amplifier works particularly well with subwoofer sets, and this is in spite of its tendency to use high amounts of power.

Pros

  • Compliant with CEA 2006 and has a MOFSET power supply
  • It is protected against short circuits, so is very durable
  • Good sound quality
  • Output in real-time
  • Can handle heat very well
  • Compact and easy to install

Cons

  • It tends to use quite some amount of power because it lacks caps
  • The LEDs on the amp and remote knob are too bright
  • Does not come with mounting screws

 

View price on Amazon

 

8. Pioneer GM-A3602 Bridgeable amplifier – best affordable buy

Despite this being a smaller and less powerful car amp, it is very affordable for those who cannot afford the high-end Pioneer speakers.

Featuring a maximum rating of 400W, it contains two RCA inputs for the speaker head units. This makes it easy to use and ensures compatibility with any RCA output.

The continual power supply comes in 90W for every channel and 60W in each channel, while the power outputs of 180W are from one channel. Its frequency response is in ranges of 10 to 70 kHz, and its minimum signal-to-noise ratio is 95dB. This provides you with good sound quality and little background noise. The drawback is that you have to put in in an airy space when operating it; otherwise, it traps heat and loses efficiency in the long-term.

Pros

  • Produces good quality sound
  • Has a compact design

Cons

  • It does not handle heat very well

 

View price on Amazon

 

9. Kenwood KAC-8406 Class AB car amplifier – best in versatility of use

Kenwood has been present in both equipment and amp-manufacturing sectors for over 71 years. Thousands of sound systems use Kenwood amps, and the quality of this product does not change the norm. It is not only good for boosting medium or small subwoofer, but is also excellent for regular speakers.

It contains four channels, which you can use to connect additional hook-up speakers. In fact, you can run 200W from two channels at 4 ohms, 70W RMS from all sub-channels at 4 ohms, or even 450W from one channel at 4 ohms.

This amplifier is excellent for running additional component speakers as well as a non-overpowering subwoofer. The quality is good and the cost is not prohibitive. However, it cannot handle many speakers at the same time efficiently, so exercise care when attaching them (it takes a maximum of three speakers).

Pros

  • Handles heat very well
  • User-friendly
  • Has good sound quality
  • It has a large frequency response range

Cons

  • It lacks a line out, so it cannot handle many speakers

 

View price on Amazon

 

10. Pioneer GM-D8601 Class D amplifier – best for those on a budget

This amplifier gives you the opportunity to boost your subwoofer at an affordable rate than most amps will offer. Going for just over $100, it is a worth investing in your sound system, and it gives you both good quality sound and value for your money. In addition, the ratings show it at 1600W, so your subwoofers get a minimum steady supply of 800W power.

The volume is easy to adjust – it can go as high as 240Hz and as low as 40Hz. It features a wired bass control modulator as well, and this allows you to change the bass up or down without having to go physically to the amp and doing that.

The speaker level inputs are in convenient places and allow you to join the OEM sub-unit, without supplementing it with add-on adapters or anything without RCA inputs. It has a 100dB signal-to-noise ratio, giving you higher music volumes and less background noise, while the power outputs are in three settings of 800, 500 and 300 watts. The high sensitivity is a double-edged problem though – it can automatically turn on even with low-level inputs, so you need to unplug it completely after use.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Good sound quality
  • Can handle heat very well
  • Its double circuitsminimize the risk of short circuits

Cons

  • Low level inputs make it go on, so it results in dead batteries after a few days of use

 

View price on Amazon

 

What to look for in a car amplifier

Despite amplifiers evolving in many aspects, they should still achieve the same function – heighten the sound of music by making it better and louder. Nevertheless, how do you shop for a car amplifier? You do not want to buy a sub-standard amp and regret your purchase afterwards. Here are some thoughts to consider when purchasing one.

  • Purchase a more powerful amp than you require

This may seem counter-intuitive, but look at it this way – if you buy a lower amp, you will likely be overloading it, and it can break down in the end if it cannot handle the strain.

For instance, you purchase an amplifier producing a maximum of 405W. Once you connect it to the sub-box, it performs below your expectations, so the next thing you do is increasing the gain control. Note here that this is the worst thing you can do with your amp – the work of the gain is matching the amplifier input to the deck output. The gain does not have any relation with the woofers or speakers.

Your amplifier only has one correct setting – and it is not the speakers or subwoofers. The moment you increase the gain, you create the clipping phenomenon, resulting in killed speakers. When you choose a low quality amp, you attempt to increase the power externally, and burnt out speakers are the result.

What is the solution then? Simply purchase an amp that generates more power than your speaker needs. It will allow you to maintain the gains at the correct settings, and results in better sound quality and reduction of ruining the speakers.

  • Study the fuses

Another thing to note – do not let amplifier wattage rates mesmerize you, regardless of price. Do yourself a favor by examining the fuses.

A general rule (according to physics) is Power = Current draw x Efficiency constant x Voltage. A typical car will have an average voltage of 13.5 Volts. The fuse rating of the amp is the current draw, and the efficiency constant is approximately 0.8 for Class D amps, and 0.6 for Class AB amps.

Amplifiers of higher quality usually advertise more accurate fuse ratings. All you require is check the fuse, do the math and ensure you get what your money’s worth.

  • Size of the amp

Make sure the amp fits the intended place. Note that bigger does not always mean better, so do not purchase a large amp and expect it to fit under your car seat.

Changing technology has led to the evolution of amplifiers; so there are sleek compact designs that can fit in your vehicle, while keeping the ability to make very clean, good sound.

  • Warranty

Ensure the amp comes with a warranty. This is because many manufacturers refuse to honour warranties, unless you purchase the amp from authorized dealers.

This may look unfair, but manufacturers work carefully to maintain a trusted network of sellers. When these retailers sell the product, they know who bought the product and where it is. However, when an unauthorized dealer sells it, the manufacturer does not know where it actually is. Examining the situation critically, how do they honour something that is not in their knowledge or control?

  • Amp wiring system

Do not let the “it is too good to be true” label on some wiring kit fool you. Make sure you buy high-quality wiring for your amp.

Avoid purchasing CCA kits – Copper Clad Aluminum. This is because they have an aluminium center conductor and a copper outer ring. A general rule is that copper conducts electric currents better than aluminum, so this should be a warning that the wire will not work well.

The best wires to buy are the OFC (Oxygen Free Copper). The price can be intimidating, but do not let it put you off – the price of copper is skyrocketing, and results in costly amp kits. In most instances, 8-gauge OFC kits are better than 4-gauge CCA cables.

There are different wire gauges as well. In the past, for example, 4-gauge wires were 4-gauge, since had consistently thick coating and they were slightly thick. Presently, you are not certain of what you are getting, since there has been an increase in distribution of fake products, looking like the legitimate item but are of sub-standard quality.

  • Other applications it powers

Make sure that the amp is compatible with the loads it will take up. This is due to the higher risk of breaking down when you overload the amplifier.

If you want a four or 2-channel application, avoid Monoblock (one channel) amplifiers. In addition, ensure crossovers come with the amp, which you can use with your applications like external speakers.

  • The set of other features

Avoid blind purchases of amplifiers – ensure that it works the way you want. Some questions you can ask are the presence of sound filters for subwoofers, the stability in changing ohm loads, or high-level inputs in the instance of direct connection to the deck.

 

Deciding configurations of channels

Amplifier designs enable them to output electric currents into external ‘channels’. This allows the amplifier to join to the external application that is using it.

Amplifiers usually have Monoblock (1-channel), 4-channel and 2-channel. Note that this does not mean 4-channel amplifiers only power four speakers. In theory, you can connect many speakers as possible with a 4-channel amplifier, though the only change is the ohms, as well as the dispersion of power to the speakers.

Even though you can theoretically connect more speakers, users usually match the channels with the number of speakers: using a 2-channel for two speakers, 4-channel amp for four speakers, and so on.

  • 2-channel amps

These are among the most popular choice due to their versatility in use. These output their power to two outputs, which is good for one set of vehicle speakers. A typical 2-channel amp has a Class AB circuit type, though you can also use the car speakers with Class D amps.

These channels can also bridge (combine) resulting in higher outputs to one channel and this mostly happens when you want to connect subwoofers.

They are stereo – they have right and left outputs. This is helpful in cases of staging or tuning. In addition, they can play full sound ranges that the human ear can access, and this ranges between 20 to 20,000Hz.

  • 4-channel amps

Another widely popular option, useful in powering a set of four speakers (door speakers). You can bridge them, enabling them to use multiple settings. Similar to 2-channel amps, you can get them in AB circuits, though you can also use Class D with them.

  • 1-channel amp (Monoblock)

This is the best choice for hooking up subwoofers, since the subwoofer requires more power compared to standard speakers, while they do not need clean signals like full-range amps.

Unlike full range amps, the bass does not require high-range processes to get sound of high quality. The amp is not capable of full-range either, because subwoofers do not process high frequencies – forcing them to play high frequencies makes them less efficient.

Since subwoofers need higher inputs of power than tweeters or door speakers, Monoblock amps have largely efficient designs giving higher outputs of power. They usually have Class D circuits, although you can also use them with Class AB amps.

  • 5-channel amps

These are a combination of Monoblock and 4-channel amps, to remove extensive wiring, and giving you a useful option to power many options.

They can however, be challenging in audio appliances that are highly powered, since they can only sense frequencies of about 600-1000W RMS. Nevertheless, if you use mid-tier audio systems, they will serve you even better.

  • 3-channel amps

Smaller versions of 5-channel amps – they are a combination of Monoblock and 2-channel amp. Mainly useful in powering systems in smaller cars or 2-door trucks. You can also use them to power a subwoofer and front speakers.

  • 6-channel amps

The least common option, and mostly useful to people with specific audio systems in mind or audiophiles. You will mostly find them in SUVs, vans, and other cars with greater than the usual 4-set speaker setup. They also lend themselves well to other applications.

 

Different classes in car amplifiers

The next concern is answering the amp class you are handling. This is because all amps will do the same function, but they are not all equal. Some lend themselves to more uses than others do – the fastest way to figure this is familiarity with the class you are looking for.

Alphabetical letters denote classes though there are certain classes that are hybrids. The most basic level has are two amplifier varieties – digital and analog, further divided into twelve classes. Out of them, car amps use four – B, D, A and AB, each coming with pros and cons.

Class A

Many refer to them as ‘always on’ amps since they use output transistors to guarantee constant flow of current in internal circuits.

Pros

  • Clean outputs
  • High quality of sound
  • They have low distortion

Cons

  • Cannot handle heat very well
  • They are usually large in size

Class B

Unlike Class A amps, you need to switch them off or on manually. This also means when there is no signal; their internal circuits allow them to ‘switch-off’ output transistors, making them more efficient.

Pros

  • Efficient
  • Smaller size than class A amps
  • Handle heat better than Class A

Cons

  • Their audio quality is lower
  • They tend to distort signals

Class AB amps

Most car systems use them. A combination of Class A and B, their transistors always have flowing current. The difference is they can reduce the current when is no signal, and this results in them having more efficiency than Class A without distortion problems of Class B.

Pros

  • Higher efficiency than Class A
  • Less distorted than Class B

Cons

  • Less efficiency than Class B
  • Higher distortion than Class A

Class D amps

Class A, B and AB are analog classes, but Class D amps are digital. They quickly switch off or on the current flow to the transistor, creating a mapped pulsed output to the analog input.

Their efficiency is very high, but this constant off and on signal makes audio frequencies be highly distorted. You can however eliminate the issue using low-pass filters.

Pros

  • Very high efficiency

Cons

  • They can distort very high frequencies

Final thoughts

The overall winner of our car amplifier review is Rockford Fosgate RX250X1. It will serve you well in case you have small woofers, while it provides you a highly effective performance considering its price. Its small size enables you to fit it almost anywhere, particularly if you want an amp that fits in both large and small spaces. In addition, it uses AB circuits, therefore always delivering stable sound.

Top 2 bad products (on Amazon)

Despite all the good reviews above, you may be wondering why the Planet Audio AC4000 and the NVX True 1200 RMS Monoblock are not on the list. Here is a short summary of our reasons:

  • They do not handle heat well
  • The build is of poor quality
  • It is difficult to hook external speakers, regardless of the configuration
  • They do not offer you any different aspect compared to the best amplifiers on the market

 

For now, it is not worth spending your money on these amplifiers. You are better off spending the money on a higher-quality amp that will last a long time.

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About Author

Martin is a car and equipment enthusiast. Like many kids his age, he always liked cars since he was a kid and the passion stuck with him. These days, he lives out his passion on the blogosphere, giving others advice on handling equipment and car sound systems. He also enjoys teaming up with other enthusiasts and sharing the knowledge of car equipment with them, with the aim of fostering mutual appreciation. When he is not analyzing car sound systems or equipment, Martin is sampling tasty dishes in different places and exploring the world around him. He is an avid reader as well, and that energy translates well to the site.

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