- 1 The Car Amp Buying Guide
- 2 Finding the Right Amp to Power your Stereo System
- 3 Why the Amount of Channels Matters
- 4 What the Amp can do for your Sound System
The best car amplifier is an important part of any audio system because it’s what really drives your speakers. Most of the in-dash units feature an integrated amp, but for many high-end systems this might not offer enough power to properly drive the speakers. Enter the car amp. An amp will take the output signal that’s provided by the stereo, after all of the equalization and processing has been done, and will raise its power before it sends it to the speakers. For the avid music lover, this is definitely an important purchase because there aren’t many stereo components that will have this much impact on overall sound quality. If you don’t choose the right amp, not only can it destroy the sound your stereo produces, but it can also wreck your speakers. Picking the right type of amp will ensure that any stereo system sounds as good as possible. Purchasing an amp may sound a little daunting, but by taking a few factors into consideration before you make your purchase it can be a fast and simple process.
Cost is a huge factor that will determine which model you end up buying, but with amps, it’s not the best indication for quality. Which is why it’s so important to pay attention to how each model rated with consumers and what they had to say regarding their experiences with each model. Comparison shopping is crucial in order to find a model that will work with your set up and turn your sound system into speaker nirvana.
The Car Amp Buying Guide
Before you start looking at amps, it’s a good idea to learn a little bit about how speakers work, because the existence of an amp is a result of limited speaker technology. In the simplest terms, a speaker is basically a pump that’s both efficient and simple. A pulsed magnet is used to cause the internal membrane to vibrate, moving the air in order to create a variety of pressure waves that are interpreted as sound. The larger the membrane the quicker it will vibrate, resulting in the need for more power. The issue with this setup is that while a lot of power is needed for certain models of speakers, the same amount of power can also tear the membrane on a smaller set of speakers, a process which is referred to as blowing out your speakers. Once your speakers are blown out, they’re useless and will need to be replaced.
And because of this common issue, the average stereo systems in cars will only offer a limited amount of power to the output, in order to ensure that the stock speakers are not damaged the moment you turn them on. If you’re someone who owns powerful, large speakers then this type of power may not be adequate for your system, preventing them from making any sound. If they do make sound it will definitely be at the expense of the speakers. An amp is able to provide the extra power needed, enabling your car’s stereo system to drive the speakers that draw more power than the in-dash unit is able to put out.
An amp actually looks like nothing more than a plain box that’s attached between the speakers and the stereo. Some models are incredibly plain while others are covered with cooling fins and brightly painted exteriors. But what really matters isn’t the outside of the amp, but the overall functionality. Find out how much power an amp is able to provide, before you buy. You should also take a look at how the power is divided between the outputs and the total amount of outputs there are. Next, learn about the number of channels the amp features and how much space is needed to install it. These are all questions that you should have answered in order to choose the right type of amp for your car and your needs.
Finding the Right Amp to Power your Stereo System
The output power is the most important feature of an amp. This is usually expressed in watts and refers to the total amount of output available across every channel. This amount of power is then divided by the amount of channels in order to configure how much power needs to be sent to each speaker. It’s very important that every channel is able to supply the right amount of power in order to drive the speakers. Not providing enough power to a speaker can be more harmful than too much power. If a speaker is trying to draw more power than the amp is able to provide the signal will become distorted. This distortion is then turned into heat in the speaker and the buildup of heat can cause a speaker to fail. You should pay close attention to the output power available and make sure that you match your speakers to the amp.
An amp is usually described as having two, four, five or six channels. It’s important that you pay attention to the number of channels available in order to determine what kind and how many speakers it can support. The output channels come in a couple varieties: mono and stereo. The stereo channel works by transmitting either a left or right side signal. The mono channel will deliver one signal with both a right and left audio signal. The mono channels are often used for subs. A car amp with an odd number of channels typically points to the presence of a dedicated mono channel. This type of channel is used to drive a sub.
Amps that don’t have a dedicated channel for a subwoofer can still drive one if the amp supports it by using a tri-way mode or by bridging a couple of channels. The tri-way mode involves utilizing a crossover in order to mix a couple of channels into three, using a single low frequency mono channel and a couple of higher frequency channels to drive the sub. The major flaw in the tri-mode method is the fact that it ties the sub’s volume to the stereo speakers, which means you’ll be unable to adjust it separately.
Why the Amount of Channels Matters
When you’re shopping for an amp, you should first try to find one that features a sufficient amount of channels to drive a sub separately from the stereo’s speakers. Another option is to invest in a small amp specifically for the subwoofer. Unless you’re certain that you won’t be installing additional speakers, the best option is to purchase an amp that has a sufficient amount of channels to support an expansion in the future.
A high-quality amp can require a lot of power. Because of this, many of these amps must be wired directly to the car’s battery in order to receive sufficient power. This will also allow you to install an additional fuse at the connection to the battery in order to improve safety. It’s also important to mention that a more powerful amp will need a higher rated alternator than what’s commonly found in smaller cars. While unlikely, it’s still a factor to consider when you’re putting a powerful amp in a car that has a smaller engine. You should also keep in mind that an amp also needs a separate connection to the stereo in order to power on, if you fail to do this it can drain your car battery.
Because an amp uses a ton of power, they can also generate a lot of heat. This type of heat is why a lot of amps feature aluminum casings that come with cooling fins built-in. The fins will allow the heat from the amp to be transferred to the surrounding air. When installed, the amp must be setup so that the air is able to circulate around it, otherwise it won’t be able to carry the heat away. Smaller car amps are much easier to mount because they don’t require much room for airflow. A smaller amp can also be installed under a car seat, while a larger amp needs to be mounted in the rear cargo area.
Considered a vital component for any sound system, the car amp should be your first purchase if you want to improve the volume and quality of your sound system. Amps are usually readily available from a number of online and local sources. Locally, you can find them at most auto centers, and car audio specialty retailers. There are plenty of online sites that are dedicated to audio sound systems, just be sure to choose a reputable dealer to go through.
What the Amp can do for your Sound System
If a speaker is considered the pump, then the amp must be the engine that drives it. Because an amp can either utterly destroy your speakers or bring out the best in them, it’s important that consumers keep the speakers they currently have in mind when searching for the right amp. Amps that don’t have sufficient output for power can easily ruin an expensive pair of speakers faster than anything else can. Aside from output power, a good amp also needs enough channels to drive the speakers in the audio system, including the sub. While the sub can also be driven without a channel, flexibility and performance will usually suffer. Last of all, you should pay close attention to the cooling requirements and power draw of the amp in order to choose the best model to fit your specific needs. If you balance these factors against your budget, the decision as to which amp to buy will become a simple one.
NVX True JAD Series Class D Car Full Range Amplifier Review
The True class D car amp is a five channel model that features a dedicated sub channel and four channels for mids and highs. A sleek, compact model, this amp is easy to install and fine tune. Most users noted that it took approximately one week of use to break this amp in. Doing so also involved making slight adjustments to the settings for the ultimate sound. The dedicated channel for the sub works both clean and smooth and the amp’s controls are easily accessible.
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Rockford Fosgate Prime Class-D 1-Channel Amplifier Review
The Prime class D one channel car amp by Rockford Fosgate is a twelve hundred watt amp that features a variable crossover at twelve DBs. This model packs some serious power and is able to respond quickly to peak demands. The sleek, cool design allows you to install this amp anywhere in your car with ease. Definitely a model that has a reputation for putting out some deep bass, this amp is highly adjustable and received a high consumer rating for its standout features and ease of use. Users can also set up a wired remote knob for easier access to bass control. This is our highest rated model, receiving a perfect five out of five star score.
Alpine PDX V9 5 Channel Extreme Power Density Digital Amplifier Review
The PDX V9 five channel digital car amp by Alpine is rated at 1600 watts and is equipped with easy access front panel controls and clear, booming bass. This model is described as versatile and compact and offers enough power to boost your entire speaker system including subs. Described as an all in one amp, you’ll only have to use one power cable for the entire setup, which will significantly cut down on install time and complexity. The quick release feature makes this amp very portable, which is a big selling point for some consumers. If space is an issue in your car and you’re looking for a powerful amp to drive your system, this model is definitely for you. These are the top 3 best car amplifiers we have found, Check the links on this page for detailed reviews for each model.