Home » Amplifiers » Best Car Amplifier for the Money

Best Car Amplifier for the Money

James Benchman
Last Updated on
by James Benchman

Car amplifiers are the centerpiece of a car’s audio system. In our view, an amplifier is an investment that pays dividends in the long-term since it can be enjoyed every day and they typically survive the longest among car audio components.

If you are customizing your own high-quality car audio setup, you should never consider a car amplifier as an afterthought. This is because the best car amplifiers can power aftermarket speakers, subwoofers, and other pieces of audio equipment that are essential for full range, loud audio playback.

Top Picks Car Amplifiers
  • Class: Class-D
  • Channels Offered: Monoblock
  • Excellent price to performance ratio
Budget Monoamp
  • Class: Class A/B
  • Channels Offered: Monoblock
  • Long-lasting and durable build quality
  • Class: Class BR
  • Channels Offered: 2-Channel
  • Super compact design
  • Class: Class A/B
  • Channels Offered: 2-Channel
  • Excellent value for 1000W capabilities
  • Class: Class-D
  • Channels Offered: 4-Channel
  • Premium sound quality at an affordable price
  • Class: Class A/B
  • Channels Offered: 4-Channel
  • Clean frequency response over 100 kHz
  • Class: Class-D
  • Channels Offered: 5-Channel
  • Clean, clipless sound at high frequencies and power outputs
  • Class: Class AB + D
  • Channels Offered: 5-Channel
  • Can power up to 2000W to one output at 4 ohms

To help you put together the best car audio rig possible, we put together this guide to finding an excellent car amplifier for the money. Below, you will find comprehensive car amplifier reviews to help you put together the best car stereo system for your ride.

Best Mono Car Amplifiers

Not all amps are the same. There are two main varieties of car amps on the market: mono amplifiers and multi-channel amps. To begin, we will start by going over the best mono car amplifiers and discuss the various advantages of several models.

Before reviewing the products, let us first mention what a monoamplifier is.

Mono amps deliver power to a single speaker channel, usually a subwoofer. Therefore, there is only one audio signal that is transmitted and, as such, this amp type is best suited for low-frequency system designs.

1. Rockford Fosgate R500X1D – Best Performing MonoAmp

Rockford Fosgate R500X1D

The Rockford Fosgate R500X1D is one of the best car amplifiers on the market today with great sound quality. Providing a solid 300 watts rms at a 4-Ohm capacity, or 500 rms watts at 2-Ohms, this amp operates in the range of 20Hz to 250Hz +/- 1dB. With the R500X1D, you get onboard 12dB octave LP/HP/AP crossover and infrasonic filters with a 4 AWG power wire gauge.

With this product,  you will want to use a 75A alternator if you want to provide it with a safe amount of power. Beyond that, the on-board Punch EQ system boosts the system up by 18 dB at 45Hz which adds a nice touch to the amplifier that others in its price range are sorely lacking. However, the input sensitivity is a bit on the low side at only 150 mV to 4 V.

Thankfully, the R5001XD boats a fully aluminum heatsink with a stealth top mounted control panel which makes the unit appear sleek and minimalistic to the untrained eye. The only drawback regarding aesthetics is that it comes with a wired remote which can be an eyesore and frustration at times (the upside, however, is that you never have to change batteries).

Regarding energy efficiency, this system performs quite well with your car stereo. The amplifier is CEA-2006 compliant and reduces the energy load from the power source before transmitting to the loudspeaker or the subwoofer. Best of all, it takes up little space as it is only 8.5 inches in length, 6.8 inches wide and 2 inches tall.

The amps performs quite well given the modest price tag as it provides plenty of reliable power for a mono-channel system. There is virtually no consumer-grade loudspeaker or subwoofer that this amp would not be able to power. Plus, there is 1-Year short circuit protection for added peace of mind.

Pros
  • Variable bass controls
  • Energy efficient and CEA-2006 compliant
  • Long-lasting and durable build quality
  • Great power range
  • Superior passive cooling disperses heat quietly
Cons
  • Some reports of users getting stuck in “Protection Mode” during setup
  • Mounting hardware not compatible with all cars’ chassis

2. Boss Audio R1100M – Best Budget MonoAmp

Boss Audio R1100M

The Boss Audio R1100M is a budget-friendly power solution for your custom system. The technical specifications on this unit far exceeded the expectations we had when we saw its relatively low price point. An 1100-watt Monoblock, with the option to upgrade as high as 3400 watts, the R1100M is a reliable high-power amp for powering mid-to-high level sound systems.

A standard 1-channel, 2-Ohm setup, the R1100M boasts a MOSFET power supply which is known for its built-in short circuit prevention and longevity. For those who love to have more power contribute to the bass or treble of their audio, this amp lets users tweak the power supply with a variable low pass filter crossover and switchable bass boost dial.

Aesthetically, this model is excellent. It features a crisp BOSS logo on the front that is backlit by a blue LED, and the metallic finish gives the impression that this is a premium-grade device. Although larger than most other units in its power range, this car amplifier is compatible with virtually all chassis types as it is less than 10.5 inches in width.

Performance-wise, we were pleased with how the Boss Audio R1100M held up, even when powering a heavy subwoofer in the trunk. Although the Boss brand is not exactly synonymous with high performance, this model has no problem powering a 15-inch comp subwoofer without fail. Plus, the plug-and-play setup process makes installation a breeze.

Pros
  • Excellent price to performance ratio
  • Easy installation and adjustments (variable low pass filter)
  • Long-lasting and durable build quality with a MOSFET power supply
  • Incredible design with LED backlit logo
  • Full aluminum body
  • Performs optimally at 600-700W RMS
Cons
  • Can occasionally clip when in the 2-Ohm range
  • Under powered sound for 1100 watts
  • Tends to overheat if left on for multiple hours

3. Pioneer GM D8601

Pioneer GM D8601

The Pioneer GM D8601 is a high-powered audio solution at a price point that won’t leave your wallet empty after checkout. Providing 1,600W at maximum power, the D8601 is a compact car amplifier that is small enough to be installed in any car chassis. A Class-D amp, this model is roughly half the size of the standard GM series AB amplifiers.

Versatility is the main selling point with this unit. A small-but-mighty device, the D8601 is dramatically more powerful than its Class-D counterparts, and its speaker level inputs allow users to connect any OEM unit without having to buy an adapter. Consequently, installation is easy since it has a basic plug-and-go functionality.

Weighing only six pounds, you will be astonished by the lightweight form factor of the D8601. But do not let looks deceive you, because this device can pump out 500W rms to a 2-ohm speaker and up to 300W rms to a 4-ohm.

Overall, this is a great name-brand car amplifier. The Class-D technology makes good use of the 80-amp load, which can be ground through eight-gauge power wire (which we heartily recommend!). However, a sub-par warranty and a relatively short lifespan hold us back from giving this device a perfect rating.

Pros
  • Ultra-lightweight form factor
  • Capable of 500W to 2-ohm output or 300W to a 4-ohm
  • Versatile setup features; the device is compatible with any OEM plug-in units
  • Excellent performance even when pushing two 12-inch subwoofers
Cons
  • Longevity issues and poor factory warranty
  • Very sensitive low-level input that causes device to turn on sporadically
  • Small wire terminals incompatible with some power wires

4. Skar Audio RP-2000

Skar Audio RP-2000

Another Class-D amp , the Skar Audio RP-2000 packs a lot of value into a mid-size 2,000W Monoblock. At 1 ohm this device can power an astonishing 2800 watts or 2000 watts at RMS power. Plus, an intuitive remote subwoofer controller makes adjustment simple without having to get up and deal with finicky dials.

If you need an extremely powerful Monoblock amp , the RP-2000 may be the right option for you. A high-speed MOSFET power supply and a neatly-organized 4-way circuit board ensure that short circuiting and other power-related defects do not occur.

In our experience, the RP-2000 is a solid car amplifier for powering a pair of 1000W subwoofers or loudspeakers. At this power level, you can expect zero clipping or performance drop-offs. The perfect addition to any system that needs serious power for loud output, the RD-2000 is as good as it gets at its mid-level price point.

Most of the mixed reviews online point to the fact that this products can sometimes put itself into protection mode if wired incorrectly. If you fail to ground the amp properly, you may also run into the same issue.

Therefore, we advise always taking extra care to ensure that the power wire is attached correctly. Luckily, Skar Audio has excellent customer support for wiring advice.

Pros
  • High power output is perfect for loud systems and car-rattling bass
  • Capable of powering dual 1000W subwoofers or loudspeakers
  • Excellent warranty and Skar Audio customer support
  • Highly efficient internal cooling to prevent overheating & MOSFET power supply
Cons
  • Can blow an output if wired incorrectly or pushed past limits
  • Can get stuck in protection mode due to the slightest wiring fault
  • Tends to produce slightly distorted sound at the 2000W output range

Best 2 Channel Amp

Also known as stereo amplifiers, 2-channel car amplifiers are the ideal choice for powering a vehicle’s rear and front speakers. Since most 2-channel amps can be bridged, they can also power a subwoofer.

1. Rockford Fosgate PBR300X2 – Best Performance 2-Channel Amp

Rockford Fosgate PBR300X2

The Rockford Fosgate PBR300X2 provides best-in-class performance for an ultra-lightweight amplifier. When we first opened the box and held this amp in our hands, we had a hard time believing that it could supply 100 watts RMS to two speakers concurrently. But, after a brief test run, we were blown away by how clean and crisp the sound quality was at this power level.

In the one-channel mode, this amp provides up to 300 watts RMS to a subwoofer, which supplies enough bass to rattle an entire house. For added convenience, you can use the wired remote to adjust bass levels from the front seat, which fine-tuning a simple, no-fuss process.

At just over one and a half pounds, this amp is deceptively powerful for its size. For its size, you would be hard-pressed to find any other model that can supply 300W RMS at 4 ohms through a bridged output.

Unfortunately, there are no on-board fuses with this device. Consequently, you need to attach a 30-amp inline fuse to the distribution block if you want to install more than one amp in your car sound rig. Definitely consider this unit as you look for the best car amplifiers.

Pros
  • Comprehensive 1-year Rockford warranty
  • Super compact design
  • CEA-2006 compliant
  • Dynamic Thermal Management internal cooling
  • Balanced inputs reduce unwanted noise
Cons
  • No on-board fuses for attaching additional amps
  • The gain knob can sometimes be knocked loose
  • Highly sensitive to cold and hot weather environments

2. Planet Audio AC1000 – Best Budget 2 Channel Amp

Planet Audio AC1000

An affordable 2-channel amplifier solution, the Planet Audio AC1000 is one of the best 1000W bridgeable amps on the market. Featuring an incredible 6-Year Platinum Online Dealer warranty and a sleek, blue LED backlit design, this amp is both beautiful and reliable for long-term use.

In 2-channel mode, this amp can supply 250W maximum power at 4-ohm. At its rock-bottom price point, it is virtually impossible to find an equally-powerful model in the 4-ohm range. If you like to adjust the output so that it perfectly suits your preferences, you will be pleased to find that this amp has variable low and high pass crossover and bass boost functionality.

Those concerned about short-circuiting will be glad to find out that this amp has short protection, making power or heat-related issues a non-factor. At a modest six pounds in weight, this device is more than capable of supplying a respectable amount of power at a low cost.

While not the tops in our best car amplifiers list, this unit still deserves solid mention for what it provides in power output and overall performance.

Pros
  • Excellent value for 1000W capabilities
  • Remote subwoofer and bass control
  • Sleek, LED backlit design
  • Best-in-class 6-Year Platinum warranty
Cons
  • Complex wiring system and time-consuming installation process
  • Inefficient internal cooling makes for occasional overheating

4 Channel Amps

Unlike mono or 2 channel amps, 4 channel amplifiers are designed to supply power to four speakers, one for each corner of the vehicle. These amps are ideal for heavily customized systems.

Please refer to our guide on the best 4 channel amplifiers for more products

1. Alpine MRV-F300

Alpine MRV-F300

The Alpine MRV-F300 provides the brand-name quality you expect from Alpine at an affordable price point. The MRV-F300 is a great-sounding amp that is housed in a beautiful dark-colored metal chassis that weighs less than five pounds. Using an eight-gauge power wire, it is easy to connect inputs to the amp since each connector is neatly labeled and feature hex-key screws.

Using class D technology, this 4 channel amp provides a respectable 150W RMS across two bridged outputs at 4 ohms or 75W RMS per channel across four 2-ohm speakers. At this performance level, the sound quality is excellent and adequate dynamic thermal cooling makes overheating at any power level a rare occurrence.

The main benefit of this budget-friendly 4 channel amp is its small chassis. At only 40% the size of similar 4-channel car amps, it is the best choice for those who need a lightweight audio solution without having to stress over installation or setup.

Pros
  • Excellent remote audio controls
  • Snap-on terminal covers and hex-head connectors make for easy installation
  • Premium sound quality at an affordable price
Cons
  • Poor bass EQ boost functionality
  • Difficult to attach four-gauge wires
  • Mounting tabs stick out on chassis

2. Rockford Fosgate P600X4

Rockford Fosgate P600X4

A premium 4 channel amplifier, the Rockford Fosgate P600X4 packs a lot of power in a Class AB design. At 72W per channel at 4-ohm and 150W per channel at 2-ohms, the P600X4 is one of the best car amplifier solutions if you want serious power across four channels.

If you want a hassle-free installation process and a sleek, professional-looking amplifier to power every corner of your vehicle, this might be the amp for you. In the box is an optional Punch Level Control (PLC2) remote and a guidebook to help with the Rockford’s “CLEAN” setup procedure.

Although it weighs 12 pounds, you will not be disappointed with the performance quality of this 4 channel amp. However, users should be aware that this amp might not be suitable for powering a 4-way system with multiple 12-inch subwoofers at 4-ohms.

Pros
  • Old school performance with modern, efficient technology
  • Clean frequency response over 100 kHz
  • Capable of powering most 3-way and 4-way interior speaker systems
Cons
  • More expensive than some competitor brands
  • Poor warranty coverage

5 Channel Amps

A 5-channel amp is a perfect choice for a complete audio system. If you only want to use one amp to power four loudspeakers and one dedicated subwoofer, a 5-channel amplifier provides a hassle-free solution.

Please refer to our guide on the best 5-channel amplifiers for more products.

1. Alpine PDX-V9

Alpine PDX-V9

The Alpine PDX-V9 is one of the best high-performance 5-channel amplifiers if you want reliable, short-free power for a single subwoofer and two loudspeakers in the front and back of your vehicle. Featuring a chic minimalist design, this amp is CEA-2006 compliant and has a rating of 100W RMS across four channels or 500W RMS to one.

Installation problems are a non-issue with this amp, as its Quick-Connect setup system is among of the simplest when it comes to 5-channel amps. At a lightweight 7 pounds, you would be hard-pressed to find similar performance in an amp of this size. Plus, its stackable chassis makes it perfect if you want to upgrade to a multi-amp setup.

The PDX-V9 is one of the best-reviewed systems on Amazon, and for a good reason. If properly wired, you should be able to supply five high-performance speakers with clean, clipless sound even at high frequencies in the 100 kHz range.

Pros
  • Excellent Alpine warranty coverage
  • Clean, clipless sound at high frequencies and power outputs
  • Ideal for highly-customized sound systems
  • Stackable chassis
Cons
  • Can cut out if using 4-gauge power wires

2. Rockville dB55

Rockville dB55

The Rockville dB55 is a full range and budget-friendly 5-channel amp for loud, car-shaking sound output. If you want the best car amplifier for a highly customized internal sound system, the dB55 will likely give you the best value for your money. Providing 4000W or 2000W RMS across five channels, this device is an excellent choice for serious enthusiasts.

Rated at less than 1% distortion, you never have to worry about inferior sound quality with this amp. Instead, this amp features best-in-class sound quality for its price. While the setup process is simple, and short-circuiting is a non-issue thanks to an IC-Controlled Protection circuit design, there is still the possibility of overheating due to a lack of proper internal cooling.

Pros
  • Great manufacturer warranty
  • A brilliant high-protection circuit board
  • Can power up to 2000W to one output at 4 ohms
Cons
  • Inadequate internal cooling at high power outputs
  • Some sound damping present when above 100 kHz

The Car Amp Buyer’s Considerations

Before you start looking at best car 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.

A Car 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.

The best amplifier for car 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 the best car amplifier , 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 top rated car amplifier 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.

An excellent capability of multi-channel amps is ability to power all of your front and rear speakers with a single amp. So, instead of front and rear speaker being powered by separate amps, 4 channel or 5 channel car audio amplifiers have the ability to do it all and save you the space, wiring, and complexity in your system.

You will see as you research amps designation such as x 1, x 2, x 4, or x 5. Anytime you see these designations, they’re telling you about how the power is distributed to how many channels. For example a 300 x 1 amp is supplying 300 watts RMS to just one channel. An amp saying 50 x 4 is sending 50 watts rms to 4 channels. You’ll sometimes see large monoblock amplifiers that have very large numbers like 1,500 x 1, where they’re making available all of their power (1,500 watts rms in this example) to a subwoofer that just needs one channel of power. Conversely, 200 x 4, is a capable 4 channel amp that is sending 200 watts RMS to 4 different speakers, the “x 4” part. So, that’s a very capable multi-channel amplifier.

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 the best car 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. One innovation area in recent years has been the introduction of class D amps. class D amps can be very powerful relative to their size and leverage features like power supply thermal sensing to stay efficient and deliver great sound quality. By the way, if you see a class AB amp, those are actually pretty inefficient and put out a lot of heat, but are known for particularly excellent sound quality.

Asides from power output and variable bass, 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. As always brands matter and the above brands and specific models we reviewed are good choices for the situations mentioned. We also are big fans of JL Audio amps. JL Audio makes a variety of components, in fact, and they have outstanding stuff throughout their products. JL Audio amps are used in several of our own cars here at Car Audio Logic and we love them.

If you balance all of the factors against your budget, the decision as to which best amplifier to buy will become a simpler one.

About James Benchman
James Benchman
James is an Automotive Mechanic with over 20 years experience and 300+ car repairs. He is an expert with cars and has worked with different models from the biggest brands.James is a Mechanic , Husband , Father of 3 , and head of content at Caraudiologic. Learn more about us