There are various reasons why a car owner would have the need for a new car amplifier for their car’s stereo. Therefore, the car owner will be required to source a new amplifier or an aftermarket car stereo amplifier where they have a great performance as compared to those inbuilt amplifiers in a car head unit. This type of purchase will require a hands-on experience when it comes to selecting the best amplifier for car installation. Most car owners have no or have less of the technical know-how about the best car amplifier. This should not worry you because we will offer an in-depth car amplifier buying guide in this article.
It is quite normal to encounter a slurry of intimidating technical car audio jargon and contradicting opinions from various sellers, manufacturers and best car amplifier websites. This should not be an issue because as a buyer you should dwell on the key aspects of the best car amplifier for sound quality. If you are a car amplifier installation technician, then it should not be an issue diving into the intricacies of best car amplifiers for sound quality reviews, car amplifier wiring diagram installation guides and car amplifier repair guides.
But the bottom line is that sourcing for an external car stereo amplifier is much better than relying on the integrated amplifier of the head unit system. Most amplifiers are designed to fit in the car interior space but not on the dash, so that an amplifier manufacturer does not have to compromise on components’ sizes, power demands or physical size. Their aim is to design and manufacture a car audio amplifier that can provide much clearer music with far less distortion, especially at higher volumes. If you are looking for an amplifier that will boost on bass, then source the best car amplifier for bass boosting in order to get the best out of your car subwoofer.
At carsaudio we offer you with the best solutions in terms of information which has been professionally researched on, edited and reviewed by a team of car audio experts.
Reasons for buying or replacing a car amplifier
The main reasons for upgrading to an external or a much bigger amplifier may be fostered by the need to improve on car audio sound quality and volume. For car speakers to have the best sound, they require an amplifier that matches their manufacturer resources. High quality speakers with a high wattage will sound similar to poor-quality speakers if an underpowered amplifier speaker is used.
Other reasons that would require an amplifier upgrade or replacement is when the car owner upgrades to larger speakers or needs to power a high wattage subwoofer or multiple subwoofers. Therefore, an amplifier will facilitate you in adding more power and juice to your car audio experience which is of great importance.
Types of car audio amplifier
There are various types of car audio amplifiers in the market today which all bring consumer satisfaction to the buyers depending on their choices, tastes and preferences. The main two types of amplifiers offered in the market are Multichannel and Monoblock. They can be further classified into 4-channel, 5-channel for the multichannel car amplifiers and Monoblock full range and Monoblock sub range for the Monoblock amplifiers.
Multi Channel car amplifiers
4-Channel car amplifiers
4-channel car amplifiers are the most common and versatile amplifiers available in the market. They are traditionally used to power four door speakers in a typical car setup. The amplifier installation technician can decide to bridge the right and left channels in order to offer a wide range of wiring options. The wiring options can be for example, two channels for you mids and highs and bridge the other two channels for 3-channel setup that is mids, highs and a subwoofer or both channels can be bridged to pair up for a powerful 2-channel setup.
Some audiophile installations use these amplifiers to bi-amp a pair of component speakers where each tweeter and mid-bass speaker is powered from their own individual channel. These 4-channel amplifiers are designed to use a class A/B circuitry for the best possible sound production and quality. With technological advancements in recent years, most 4-channel amplifiers have adopted full range Class D circuitry. These have made them more compact and high quality.
Some 4-channel amplifiers feature preamp outputs or signal pass-through which allows you to provide a signal to a subwoofer amp without running another RCA cable to the head unit. In order to bridge a 4-channel amplifier, check through its bridge-ability status before purchasing one to ensure it suits your needs. Take note that bridging an amplifier changes its impedance hence care should be taken to avoid damaging the speakers or the amplifier.
5-Channel car amplifiers
A 5-channel car amplifier has all the properties of a 4-channel car amplifier and also includes a Monoblock sub-range amplifier built into the same chassis. This allows the installation technician or the car owner to run the normal four door car speakers and a subwoofer. You may also decide to bridge the 4-channel portion and use it to have a much more powerful, 3-channel output. Therefore, these amplifiers are used to complete system amplification hence solving and making easy your car sound amplification needs. The car can be fully amplified with no problems by using this type of subwoofer.
5-channel car amplifiers are the way to go since you only need one amplifier to connect four speakers and one subwoofer unlike a 4-channel amplifier which connects to four car speakers thus requiring an extra mono amp to connect a subwoofer. This saves on space, acquisition and installation costs for the car audio amplifier. Most buyers will not bridge these amplifiers although they are bridgeable. Therefore, a powerful 5-channel amplifier is the easiest solution to a system with a big subwoofer hence no bridging will be required.
Also, note that bridging an amplifier leads to changes in its impedance hence care should be taken to avoid damaging the amplifier or the speakers.
Monoblock car amplifiers
Monoblock sub range amplifiers
Monoblock amplifiers are used to amplify a single channel in an audio system. Therefore, only one Monoblock amp is required when a single audio channel requires amplification. This makes them larger, heavier and much more expensive per channel. The Monoblock sub range amplifiers are specifically engineered for one purpose and that is to get the most out of your subwoofer.
Since these amplifiers are made for only a single channel audio system, therefore not playing mid-range and high range audio, this makes the internal components and circuitry designed specifically for the rigors of high-power bass amplification. These are bass reproduction amplifiers since bass frequencies are made in mono in the audio file. Bass frequencies are omnidirectional in nature hence need more power to produce and also to power the subwoofer speaker which displaces in and out in order to produce bass frequencies.
These car audio amplifiers have the capacity to power multiple subwoofers depending on the wiring circuitry either parallel or in series which is determined by the impedance bridging needs. Some Monoblock amplifiers have two or more sets of terminals labeled with the polarity positive and negative. If the polarities are on side by side like the positives to one side and the negatives to the other, this means that the amplifier can be connected to two speakers in parallel.
Monoblock full range amplifiers
These Monoblock full range amplifiers are often misunderstood types of car audio amplifiers but they have a hidden gem of versatility. Just like the Monoblock sub range amps these amps can pulverize your sub-stage, but their other neat trick is their ability to be paired with large full-range systems. This subwoofer facilitates tuning your coaxial speakers and component speakers to play sound accurately. This ensures that they play music frequencies that they were designed to play, which makes music crisp and clear free from distortions.
This clears off the burden to your factory car amplifier with a result of improved sound quality with a solid low-end foundation.
Car amplifier power specification
Car amplifier power specifications are normally indicated boldly on the amplifier box packaging direct from the manufacturer. Most manufacturers highlight the maximum power PMPO output and the RMS output in an eye-catching way in order to portray it as their major selling point. Today you do not have to visit a physical shop in order to window-shop hence make an order but you can check on online markets for more information and buy at discounted offers even during flash sales no matter your location and have it shipped.
One of the quickest ways to assess what an amplifier has to offer you is to review the published specifications by the manufacturers. We are going to highlight and explain some of the main specs that you should look for if you want to purchase the best car sound amplifier for sound quality. This will ease you a lot of time and anxiety when it comes to sourcing for that one amplifier out of the hundreds of amplifiers out there in the market. It can be an entertaining and thrilling moment when it comes to exploring data for something you want to purchase or invest cash in it.
This is also known as RMS (Root Mean Square) Power measured in watts (W). Continuous Wattage is the measure of what the car amplifier unit can comfortably handle when power is run for extended amounts of time in it. This is the most realistic and most reliable method of measuring audio devices’ power output.
This is also sometimes called Burst Power or Maximum Peak Power (PMPO) and refers to short ideal situational power delivery. Brands publish this spec to show customers the highest possible potential power output of the amplifier. It is not recommended to use this number as matching criteria for pairing speakers and amplifiers. This is because it occurs at short occasions where it can be one or two milliseconds hence not the most relevant numbers in real world when it comes to measuring car amplifier power. When a unit is run at a constant peak power it can cause melting of wires hence not the best measure of power output.
Maximum current draw
This specification of maximum current draw is used to help you better match the car amplifier power demand to your car charging system. The amperage rating allows you to choose the appropriate fusing and to make sure you have the correct battery and alternator arrangement so as to properly support the amplifier’s electric current needs.
This represents the voltage at which the amplifier was tested at when recording the listed specifications. The most common is 12 volts to 14.4 volts which is the average charging voltage of your typical automobile with factory alternators. This rating is specified by the Consumer Technology Association.
Channels and configurations
1-channel or mono channel, 2-channel, 4-channel, 5-channel and 6+-channel amplifiers are the car amplifier channels available in the market today. Channels represent the power signal sent from an amplifier to the speaker unit. The channels can be bridged to suit various consumer needs but care should be taken to ensure that the speakers are not damaged or the car amplifier unit.
Amplifier impedance (Ohms)
Impedance is the measure of resistance that a speaker adds to the circuit where in car audio speakers are 4 ohms. Therefore, amplifier impedance should match that of your speaker impedance. Most car amplifiers are configured for 4-ohms, which possess a challenge when it comes to subwoofer wiring. When an amplifier meets little resistance, it starts producing little power than it was designed to produce. This will cause failure or damage to the unit hence it is advisable to adjust power such as when you power a 8-ohm speaker with a 4-ohm amplifier.
RCA input sensitivity
This is the measure of the car amplifier’s acceptable input voltage range where for example by manufacturers, 2v to 8v is the usable range of signal from gadgets like a head unit, processor, or line out converter. It is important not to supply the amplifier with preamp voltage over this rating because it can cause distortion in your sound and possible harm to your equipment.
Amplifiers have electronic devices built in to facilitate them in controlling what frequencies pass through them to the speakers. This makes the car amplifier filter the audio depending on your speaker quality. There are two types of filters that are fixed filters which come configured by the manufacturer while variable filters which allow the car audio amplifier to adjust the settings of the frequencies which are affected by the filter.
Filter Types include:
High Pass Filter
This is an electronic filter that allows signals higher than a specified frequency to pass through its circuit; frequencies below the specified frequency are muted.
Low Pass Filter
It is exactly opposite of the High Pass Filter, where it allows all frequencies below a specified frequency and all frequencies above the specified frequency to be muted.
It mutes the ultra-low frequencies that are not in the audible range; this reduces the workload of both the amplifier and the speakers.
Frequency response helps to determine what type of speakers and amplifiers it will be best suited for application. Some amplifiers are considered full range and will easily play from 20Hz -20kHz. Low frequency ranges (20Hz-250Hz) which are best for subwoofer and woofer duties. Mid frequency ranges (250Hz-2kHz) which are best for midrange speakers. High frequency ranges (2kHz-20kHz) which are best for upper midrange and tweeter speakers
RCA Input S/N
The Signal/Noise relates to the input or preamp section of the amplifier. It is the measured ratio of the desired input signal to the level of undesired signal generated by the amplifier’s preamp. The higher the number is, the better the result.
This is the amplifier’s ability to control the connected speaker’s motion. A higher damping factor can help keep the connected speaker’s response crisp and clean.
Adjustable Input Level
This function allows you to boost or cut the signal that is sent to your amplifier from your car stereo. This helps you to dial-in the input signal strength to your amp to help minimize distortion within your unit.
Adjustable Output Level
This provides control over the signal strength that the amplifier sends to the speakers, to ensure that your speakers are not inadvertently overdriven and protects the amplifier from distorting or overheating.
Speaker Level Inputs
This enables you to use the speaker outputs from your car stereo to send signals to the amplifier. This is especially helpful when you do not have line level outputs (RCA) on your car receiver.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
Total Harmonic Distortion relates to the output section of the amplifier. The lower this number is, the less added noise from the amplifier’s components there is, and the more accurate the reproduction of source material will be.
DSP (Digital Signal Processing)
Some amplifier manufacturers offer models that feature onboard DSP. The DSP component allows you the ability to tune your amplifier to your vehicle by means of adjusting the EQ, Signal Delay, and Phase so you can get the best sound out of your vehicle’s audio system.
A pass-through output provides a low-level RCA output signal that enables you to add another amplifier to your system, without running another RCA cable through the vehicle. It acts as an RCA splitter.
Due to the High-Resolution audio’s ultra-wide frequency response of up to 100 kHz, most standard amplifiers cannot reproduce all of the audio. Some of these tones may never be heard individually but when they are combined with the original audio of a recording, it breathes new life into the recording, offering more depth and ambiance.
Power Wire Gauge
This is the cable size the power/ground terminal on the amplifier accepts. This is something to take note of because the size of wire going to the amp relates the amount of current that can be delivered to the amplifier from the charging system.
Speaker Wire Gauge
This is the speaker wire size the speaker output terminal accepts. If the wire gauge is small and the power rating is big, that is not accurate, hence doubtful.
Benefits of having a car audio amplifier
Car audio amplifiers enhance your overall performance of car stereo system setup by offering the following benefits:
Upgraded Speakers are adequately powered
A car owner who wishes to upgrade the car speakers and subwoofers requires to source and buy an external amplifier. This amplifier will provide power for these speakers adequately without compromise. Therefore, a factory amplifier or a head unit amplifier will be inadequate and will offer a big compromise to audio quality especially at high volume loads. These speakers’ upgrades require more power especially when performing at high peak volumes where they need an adequate and constant supply of power.
Improved Sound Quality
A brand new external or aftermarket car audio amplifier provides a clean power source to your speakers without straining or distorting the audio experience. Unlike the amplifiers built into existing car stereo head units, external and aftermarket amplifiers are designed without making any compromises for limited space. All this is due to not limiting the resources used to make the unit where power and space requirements are not compromised. The improved design allows for clean, clear sound at all volume levels.
Subwoofers power increase
A subwoofer requires much more power than an existing head unit amp can provide, which is self-explanatory. If you as a car owner or a car audio installation technician need to be aware of that hence always plan to upgrade your car stereo amplifier with a subwoofer amplifier such as 5-channel or a Monoblock sub range amplifier, you will need a separate amp to provide enough power the subwoofer.
When these amplifiers are well channeled correctly and the impedance matched right, the amplifier will offer the best for your subwoofer even if they are multiple subwoofers. The channels can either be parallel or in series.
Compatibility checks to a car audio amplifier
When shopping for the perfect car stereo amplifier, you will have to first search for one that suits your needs and secondly that one that is compatible with other car audio system components present in your car. This will save you time, money and any disappointments of having to buy an amplifier which does not suit your consumer needs adequately.
Match the impedance of the car audio amplifier
You should ensure the power of your amp matches your subwoofer’s power requirements as indicated by the manufacturer. This is known as impedance and is represented in ohms. For example, a 2-ohm subwoofer needs an amp that is stable down to 2 ohms or less. If impedance is not matched right it will lead to distortion of audio quality and at times it may destroy the speakers due sudden power changes and variations.
A matching head unit component
As a car owner or buyer and you are planning on building an aftermarket bespoke car audio system, it is advisable to use a head unit with preamp outputs and an amplifier with line-level inputs. This setup will facilitate sending an unamplified signal to the amplifier where the amplifier has to amplify the sound signal into the best and clearest sound possible worth reproduction by the speakers.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are using an existing head unit that does not have preamp outputs, make sure that you use an amplifier with speaker-level inputs to improve the sound clarity and volume.
Matching the number of channels on your amp to the number of speakers you have is also a key and crucial procedure along with matching the amplifier’s power output to the speakers’ power handling. At times a full-sized car amplifier might not be needed if you have a powerful head unit and are still using factory speakers. You can therefore opt for a mini car amplifier.
Bluetooth car amplifier connectivity
Bluetooth connectivity is a now popular method of connecting car audio devices wirelessly. Therefore, car audio manufacturers have embedded Bluetooth modules in Bluetooth amplifier car technology hence a car owner can stream music directly to the amplifier. This has saved the car owners the hustle of hiring technicians to do the wiring for amplifier units in their cars.
In the past audio and acoustic engineers have been using amplifiers to take a small audio signal and increase its power so it can move a speaker diagram. An amplifier output capacity is measured in watts. Before the industry had a reference set of guidelines for measuring amplifier power, outrageous claims from otherwise minuscule products would be advertised as correct.
This prompted The Consumer Technology Association, formerly the Consumer Electronics Association to work with industry experts and manufacturers in order to produce a set of standards to allow the power produced by different brands, makes and models of amplifiers to be comparable to a certain standard. This standard is currently known as CEA-2006A. When you see the associated logo on a product, you can be confident that the power specifications are real and directly comparable. This has reduced the fake power ratings and exaggerated performance stickers and printings on car audio amplifier packaging and advertisements.