Car Amplifier Buying Guide: What you Need to Know

If you love to listen to music in your car, then you know how important it is to have a great sound system. Nothing is more frustrating than blasting an amazing song and hearing it crackle and pop. 

The truth is that many cars don’t include the best car amps from the factory, but thankfully you can easily upgrade. In this car amplifier buying guide we’ll be covering a few different types of amplifiers and what to look out for when buying one. 

Car Amplifiers are a great way to upgrade your vehicle’s sound system without having to rewire anything. They work by increasing the voltage of the signal that gets sent from the head unit to the speakers, ultimately allowing them to produce more power and ultimately louder sound. They can be wired into an existing system or used as a standalone amplifier. 

These amplifiers come in different power ratings, measured in watts, and generally come in four categories: 1-channel amps, 2-channel amps, 4-channel amps and 5-channel amps.

Car Amplifier Buying Guide: What Kind of Car Amplifier Do I Need?

Before you decide to spend your hard-earned money on a car amp, it is important to know which one will suit your particular needs. There are four major configurations of car amplifiers: monoblock, 2-channel, 4-channel, and bridged mono. 

You can find an amplifier for your car in any of these categories depending on what you’re looking for; you may be better off with one type than another. 

Monoblock amps will give you two channels (you need a pair to drive both speakers), and provide more power—but they’re more expensive and they take up more space in your car. 

If you’re building a high-powered stereo system but don’t have room for two monoblocks, consider using a bridged mono instead. Bridged mono is basically a single channel that doubles as two—it gives you enough power to drive larger car speakers without wasting too much money or taking up too much space. 

Abridged amp works great if you want to build custom enclosures, install subwoofers or use multiple subwoofers. But it doesn’t work well if you just want small components like tweeters and midrange drivers because there isn’t enough juice to power them efficiently. 

If all you want is some good old-fashioned clarity from your components, check out 2-channel amplifiers. They come at several different price points, so there should be something out there that fits into your budget nicely.

How Many Watts Do I Need?

To figure out how many watts of power you need, start by figuring out how many watts of total output you require. This number includes everything driving sound through your car stereo—the amplifier itself, plus every component hooked up to it. 

The easiest way to figure it out is by checking online reviews or asking around—other car audio enthusiasts probably know how much output most components are rated for. 

Once you know what kind of setup you’re putting together, divide that number by 1,000 to get Watts Per Channel. Then do the same thing again for speaker ratings.

What to Look for When buying Car Amplifiers

Before you purchase a car amplifier, there are some factors to take into account. For example, you want to make sure that the amplifier will be compatible with your car’s speakers and electrical system. 

Some people focus too much on the power of the amplifier and forget about the other important things like compatibility with their amp. A good amp should be able to produce clean, distortion-free sound. It should also be compatible with your car.

If you make a bad decision, the amplifier may not function properly and could even damage your car. Fortunately, there are some simple tips to avoid such problems.

Compatibility

When buying a car amplifier, you’ll want to keep in mind what kind of car stereo system you’re using (if any) and whether or not it is factory installed. If you’re not sure what kind of stereo system you have, ask your mechanic. A properly matched amp will save you money on installation costs since most amps have speaker wire inputs pre-installed. Also, if you’re using an aftermarket head unit—i.e., a non-factory head unit—then it may be difficult to find an amp with compatible outputs without spending more money on an additional adapter cable. 

Placement of the amplifier

Think about where your car amplifier will be placed. Make sure you choose an amp that fits both physically and aesthetically into its surroundings. You don’t want a big clunky piece of machinery marring up the interior! 

Price

In particular, price is important because shopping around for good deals can usually yield better quality at reasonable prices as opposed to bargain hunting for low-quality products at rock bottom prices.

Sound quality

If you’re shopping for a car amplifier, there are a few key features to look for: wattage and channels. The most important, however, is power output—and not just overall power output, but also clean power output. Power is only useful if it’s clean; otherwise, it can damage your speakers and distort your music (or worse). When comparing models side-by-side in an audio store, pay attention to how loud they get before distorting.

The Different Types of Car amplifiers

A car amplifier can come in many different shapes and sizes, but there are four main types of car amplifiers that you should be aware of when shopping around for one. You want to ensure that you’re buying the correct amplifier based on your specific needs, so knowing about the different types of car amplifiers will help ensure that you buy one that works well with your setup. Here are the most common types of car amplifiers available today.

1) Mono Channel Amplifier

The first type is a mono channel amplifier. The advantage is that it needs less space and you can use them on both your front and rear speakers. However, their output power is very low and they require more wiring to be installed on your vehicle. They can also provide a good sound quality if their efficiency and sensitivity ratings match up with those of your speakers. If not, you will hear rattling sounds when there are high volume levels.

2) Multi-Channel Amplifier

Multi-channel amplifiers provide amplification for multiple channels, such as front left and right, center, rear left and right and subwoofer. The most important specifications for multi-channel amplifiers relate to their power output. For example, a Class AB amplifier may be rated at 4 ohms per channel at 50 watts x 4 plus 0.05% THD. 

Multi-channel amplifiers are available in two to six channel configurations, with four being the most common configuration. Four-channel amplifiers are typically used to connect two aftermarket door speakers and/or a small subwoofer. 

By increasing the number of channels, you can connect to larger speakers or add a larger subwoofer for better bass. A five- or six-channel amplifier is recommended if you want to add subwoofers.

3) Class A Amplifier

In a Class A amplifier, both transistors in a complementary pair must be on for current to flow through each device. When they’re off, no current flows at all. This eliminates crossover distortion caused by one device turning on while its partner is still off and it also reduces output impedance to a few ohms or less.

4) Class B Amplifier

A class B amplifier (sometimes called an ultra-linear) is one of two types (the other being class A) of amplifier designs used to amplify an analog audio signal. Class B operation is less efficient than class A, but offers more power output.

5) Class A/B Amplifier

Class A/B amplifiers can be thought of as a combination between Class A and Class B. As such, they’re usually much more efficient than Class A or Class B and produce a much larger output than either class. Unfortunately, their efficiency also means that there’s less audio fidelity in comparison to other classes. They’re not common today, but you will still find them out on the market.

6) Class D Amplifier

A class D amplifier, or switched-mode power supply (SMPS), is an amplifier that uses digital switching circuits to convert a digitally coded input signal into an analog output signal. Class D amps are more efficient than Class A/B (which use linear power supplies) but do not achieve as high a sound quality. Class D amps can be very efficient, requiring significantly less power than traditional amps while producing similar audio quality. They also generate less heat and reduce overall costs of operation.

How Much Should I Spend?

A good starting point for your amplifier investment is to decide how much you’re willing to spend. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to purchase something that meets your needs but doesn’t break your bank—after all, you want something that will last and give you great sound. 

But keep in mind that price isn’t always indicative of quality; there are plenty of high-end amps out there, though they may be far more expensive than what many consumers are looking for. 

It also depends on whether or not you plan on adding subwoofers or other speakers in the future; if so, factor those costs into your budget as well. Once you have a rough idea of what kind of price range you can afford, then it’s time to look at some factors that will help refine your search.

Although sound quality should be a top priority when shopping for an amp, aesthetics shouldn’t be overlooked.

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