The best car amplifier can instantly transform your audio system. Most car audio systems don’t come equipped with a separate amp, and affordable audio upgrades tend to leave the car amp out of the equation. But the truth is that a car amp can be the best thing that ever happened to your audio system, despite the fact that some of the best car amps tend to come with a steep price tag.
While most car audio systems come with an amp that’s built right into the head unit, the sad truth is that they aren’t very good.
In both car and home audio systems, an amp is a type of device that will literally transform a weak audio signal and amplify it. The audio signal that goes into the built-in amp is too weak to appropriately drive speakers, especially if you’ve upgraded the speakers and swapped out the stock ones. If you’ve decided to install a sub as well, then a car amp is a must in order to get the most out of your audio system. And if you’re a music lover, then nothing is more important than audio quality. The car amp can turn your mediocre car audio system into one that you’ll be proud of and eager to show off.
How We Chose the Leading Car Amps
It’s true, you do get what you pay for, which is why many of the leading amps come at a price. But in the end, with the type of elite sound they offer, they’re definitely worth a higher price tag.
We took a look at several popular models in order to narrow it down to our top five choices. Many models struggled to support both speakers and a sub, so we looked for more powerful amps that packed the type of power that’s essential for a top of the line stereo system.
Distortion was a common issue we ran into. Many lower priced amps simple couldn’t manage to power even four speakers without some level of distortion. So, we chose only models with a reputation for power and efficiency.
In the end, we came up with just five models that scored high in every category. So, now, all that’s left is choosing a specific amp that’s right for your vehicle and your sound system. We’ll delve deeper into how to find the right amp for your car and learn more about compatibility and power issues in our buyer’s guide.
But first, we’re going to start off by giving you a brief summary of each of the five top models, starting off with our highest rated model, the Lanzar monoblock car amp.
This model scored well in terms of wattage, raw power, and efficiency.
So, let’s get started.
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Best Car Amp-Lanzar Amplifier Monoblock Car Audio Amp
Lanzar is a popular car amp that can provide more than enough juice to power top of the line speakers or a massive sub. This model features the innovative monoblock design and allows the user to customize the bass using a variety of filters. Easy to use and install and well-designed, this power-efficient car amp is perfect for the anyone in search of an amp that can instantly transform their sound system.
Best Six-Channel Amp-JL Audio XD600/6v2 6-Channel Car Amplifier
A model that scored well in almost every category, the XD600 is a steal for the price and a car amp that can deliver enough juice to power four speakers and a sub, this power efficient amp is the future of car audio technology. It also has a twelve-decibel octave filter for each channel bank and can be used to juice a massive system.
Best Five-Channel Amp-Polk Audio PA D5000.5 5-Channel PA Series Car Amplifier
This five-channel car amp features nine hundred watts of power that’s packed into a compact model that’s incredibly easy to install. The included bass boost knob allows you to instantly boost depth, for a loud, rich sound that’s distortion-free. This is also a very-beginner friendly car amp, which means it’s easy to install, remove, or adjust.
Most Powerful-Orion XTR2500.1Dz XTR Series 2500 Watts RMS Car Audio Amp
This model offers an impressive twenty-five hundred watts of power, which is more than enough juice to power a major car audio system complete with a couple of subs. While this amp may be overkill for a factory setup, or to power a couple of speakers, if you have a large audio system that’s struggling with distortion, then you need the type of power the XTR2500 is packing.
Budget Buy-JL Audio HD600/4 Class D 4 Channel Full Dash Range Car Amplifier
This is another JL Audio car amp we decided to review. It’s a great buy if you’re on a tight budget and looking for an affordable amp that can power a modest setup. Additionally, JL Audio has a reputation for producing innovative, top of the line car amps at an affordable price, which is another reason we decided to give this model a closer look. And we weren’t disappointed. While the amp may not be at the top of its class, it can easily outperform many higher priced models.
Car Amp Buyer’s Guide
Car amps are essential to any car audio setup, but why?
Every auto sound system will have some type of amp however, most aren’t external. The majority of these amps are built into the head units. If you’ve ever turned the volume way up on your stereo and found that there’s a lot of distortion, one of the big issues is a poor quality built-in amp. However, the power handling characteristics of the speakers can also be a factor, but the best car amplifier can do wonders even if you have a stock setup in your car.
So, what can an amp do for your car audio system? If your speaker is a pump, the amp is the engine that drives it. An amp can bring out the best in your speakers or can even potentially destroy them. When searching for the right amp, it’s important that you keep the type of speakers you have in mind before you buy. Aside from the amount of power they bring to the table, an amp needs to have enough channels to drive those speakers. Subs can be driven without a channel, but performance and flexibility often suffer.
For these reasons, if you’re looking for a way to give your audio system a serious boost, a leading car amp can have a major impact on sound quality and raw power.
What Do Car Amps Do?
If you want to boost volume power in your car, then the best car amplifier is a must. But whether you run your system soft enough for conversation or you run your system loud and proud, an amp can breathe new life into your music allowing you to hear it for the first time all over again.
Here are just some of the benefits you’ll get from adding an amp:
- Improved sound quality: When you add an amp to your sound system it provides a clean power source that will drive your speakers without putting any undue strain on them.
- New speaker upgrade: An in-dash or factory system model may not be the best fit for your newly upgraded speakers. If you’re adding some new speakers to your setup, then you may need more power than your dated in-dash amp has to offer.
- Subwoofer needs more juice: A subwoofer can require a lot more power than a factory in-dash amp can provide. Because of this, a separate amp is a must.
If you want to install a brand-new amp or upgrade an existing one, make sure you pay attention to a few main factors:
- System compatibility
Amps are available in many different configurations, so the number of channels you need and want will depend heavily on how many speakers you have. Generally, you’ll need one channel per speaker. If you plan on adding a subwoofer to your system, then a one channel amp should work just fine. There are also mono amps that have a class D rating that’s specifically designed to conserve energy while producing less heat when used with a subwoofer.
Models that come equipped with four or six channels are considered more versatile. You can use a two-channel amp to power a couple of coaxial speakers or a couple of subwoofers, or you can bridge it to use it to power a couple of speakers or to run a single subwoofer.
Another option is running four speakers using the same amp, then installing a separate mono amp for the sub.
A component system can be pretty complicated, so you may need external crossovers, and more than one amp.
If you’re using the best car amplifier and you want to get the most sound out of your stereo, it’s important that you don’t underpower your speakers. This is why many people choose the speakers first and then shop for an amp with enough juice to power it. If you only have a set of factory speakers, then you should determine the root mean square value and then pick an amplifier that’s able to put out the minimum of seventy-five percent up to one hundred and fifty percent of that number.
Power can be a major concern if you want to run a subwoofer off the same amp that you’re using to power the speakers. When you bridge a couple of channels using a multichannel amplifier it can provide enough juice to power up a sub, but it’s not the best option in every situation. If the amplifier doesn’t match the needs of a specific model of sub, then you may just be better off searching for a separate mono amp that can handle the job.
Amp and Unit Head Compatibility
If you’re putting together an audio system from the ground up, then you need to purchase a head unit that comes equipped with preamp outputs and an amp that features some line level inputs.
Most aftermarket and factory head units don’t come with preamp outputs. If you’ve decided to stick with an existing head that fits into that category, then you’ll need a model that features a speaker level input. This results in better sound quality than you can expect to get without using an external amp. Additionally, it can also save you from the hassle that comes with using additional adapters and wiring.
Installing a Car Amp
Wiring and installing an amp isn’t too complicated, however, you should consider the location and how you’ll route all the wires before you make your final choice. Most vehicles don’t come with amplifiers from the factory, so you’ll need to find a spot to install the new hardware. With that in mind, you should also take some careful measurements before you buy an amplifier, so you can avoid any complications.
Under a seat or in the trunk are both great options. Make sure you measure both of these spaces ahead of time, so you don’t end up having to return it.
Additionally, you’ll want to keep in mind that you’ll need to provide power to the amplifier. This will involve additional wiring.