If you’re wanting to power an entire system from one amplifier, then you’re on the right track!
Today’s car audio amps have come a long way and new technology will allow you to do so in less space and with more value than ever before possible.
But which are the best 5 channel amplifiers for your money? I want to help you get the best you can afford so I’ve put together a great list of top models along with the details you need to know.
Infographic – 5 channel car amplifier facts
What to look for when buying an amp
Pick a great 5-channel amp like the fantastic Alpine PDR-V75 to power an entire system. You’ll get very small, sweet-sounding amp that can fit under many car seats!
Ultimately choosing the best 5 channel amplifier that meets your needs comes down to several factors:
- Your budget
- Power requirements
- Features you need
- Value and quality
- Installation space requirements
I’ve installed so many amplifiers over the years that I’ve lost count, but I’ve always regarded 5-channel amps as a cool and unique way to build a multi-channel car audio system.
The selection list of 5-channel amps used to be very limited, but not anymore – there are some very amazing and compact models to choose from today.
5 channel amps today vs years ago
Technology has changed for the better in the car audio world over the last several years and the last 5 or so have been especially great.
You’re able to get even more amplifier in an even smaller package than ever before possible. Not only that, but some of the best amps aren’t restricted to mediocre brands like they used to be.
You’re now able to get much better quality and value for the same price as amps sold years ago!
Car amp technologies explained
For the most part, modern car amps use 1 of 2 basic design styles. These design types dictate how they work and produce boosted output signals that drive your speakers.
Nowadays, amps are categorized into several classes – meaning they have slightly different design operation internally.
For each amp class, or design, there are both pros and cons to consider when buying.
Class A/B is a type of amplifier technology that has been around for many decades and is a combination of class A and class B.
Classes A and B basically differ in how efficient they are and the sound quality they produce.
Class A is currently the best possible sound quality reproduction while being the least efficient (somewhere around 20% efficient, meaning 80% of electrical current is wasted as heat) and with B being the opposite.
A/B is a combination of the two and offers a good compromise between sound quality and efficiency (say 65% and below, depending on the design).
For many years, car amps were based on these two classes. However, many car audio companies have switched to class D although there are still some products that purely use A or B technology.
Class A/B amps are very common and usually used for budget models. They’re good producers of sound and are used in more expensive amps, too.
Class D amplifiers work by taking an input audio signal from a stereo head unit and using it to drive a circuit which switches power transistors on incredibly fast. This produces an on/off waveform. The waveform is then “smoothed” to produce an audio signal and drive speakers.
Class D amplifiers are far more efficient and generate far less heat.
In this type of design an extremely high-speed switching frequency is used to switch the power-delivering transistors on and off rapidly when an audio signal is input and used to produce an amplifier output signal to drive speakers.
This means that since the amp is turned off a significant amount of time the power consumed (and the power wasted) is reduced significantly.
The production of lighter, smaller, and highly efficient (90% efficiency is possible) amps is possible thanks to this new technology.
Prices also go down since manufacturers no longer need to use costly aluminum heatsinks for production (except for high-powered models) as Class D amps run much cooler than older amplifiers.
However, as with everything else, there’s a drawback: the sound quality may not be on par with A/B amps except for better designed amps made by the best name brands.
The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is also lower than other types of amps – if the gain is turned up high, you might hear some “hissing” noise as you listen.
If you’re highly critical of your amp’s noise level and sound quality, be sure to thoroughly look at the specs and buy an amp with the best design.
Low-end amps won’t have the same sound quality
Until recent years, class D amps were “okay” and decent. However, with the continued innovation and experimentation of many car audio brands, class D technology has excelled and the best models now have great sound quality with lower noise levels.
Below you can find a list of several amps that provide excellent sound quality! All these recommendations exceed the average design of typical class D amps – and all of them have advanced engineering designs that enhance sound quality.
5 channel amps vs 4 channel amps
5 channel amps are slightly different in that unlike 4-channel amps, the 5th channel may have different configuration options.
Also the added 5th channel in some cases cannot be used for full-range sound. It’s often a dedicated subwoofer channel with only a low-pass output. In that case it’s fixed and designed only for that purpose.
I’m mentioning this in case that you’re planning to run a 5 speaker system with full range or high-pass output.
Note: Some amps are fully class A/B, some are fully class D, and some are a combination of both.
Normally, class D is used so the subwoofer channel can offer the most efficient way to drive a subwoofer and give high-power levels.
Things to remember
My advice is to plan for the features and crossover settings you’ll need.
Usually this means being sure that the adjustable high-pass for the 4 main channels on an amp you’re considering purchasing will fit your system’s needs.
I recommend setting the high-pass cutoff to somewhere around 60Hz to block speaker-distorting bass so you can run the main channels with fantastic clarity and very high volume. That’s a really helpful feature that all of these amps provide and that you should definitely use.
The subwoofer installation options for the amps listed above are great, but always verify the mono channel’s impedance (ohm rating) before installing it.
The products here are listed as 4-ohm or 2-ohm, but you should ALWAYS make sure of the specs before buying or connecting to a subwoofer.
If you attempt to drive a subwoofer with a lower impedance rating than the amp can handle, the amp will overheat and will likely shut down right away.
★ The best 5 channel amplifiers ★
Product comparison and pricing table
To make things faster and easier for you, I’ve put together some short reviews and created a simple comparison chart.
1. Alpine PDR-V75 – Excellent. An industry leader that’s compact, powerful, and sounds great.
If you’re in search of one of the best 5 channel amps available today this is it. This is one of the best you’ll find anywhere and it actually sells for less than the similar JL Audio RD-900/5.
The PDR-V75 gets my nomination for editor’s choice and my top recommendation for you if it’s in your budget (around $400).
Alpine has improved upon class D basic design to produce one of the best sounding and most compact multichannel amplifiers anywhere.
The sound quality rivals that of more traditional and wasteful class A/B amps. Sound is crisp, dynamic, and unquestionably fantastic. Speaker level inputs are provided when you use a low-cost speaker level adapter cable sold separately.
Unlike typical amplifiers, the thermal management system built inside is capable of reducing – and not completely shutting off – output power when overheating conditions are detected.
The microprocessor-based feature allows your music to keep pumping but at a reduced volume to keep the heat under control to keep the amp from shutting down like lower-quality amps do.
A bass boost and adjustable high/low-pass crossovers are standard as well as the option to connect Alpine’s remote bass level control (sold separately) for extra bass fun.
Wire terminals are removable for ease of installation – they can be plugged and unplugged once attached to your speaker wiring. Measuring only 10-3/4″W x 2″H x 6-1/2″D, it’s one of the smallest 5 channel amps sold today.
The amp features an attractive protective cover you can optionally install too.
Power ratings are:
- 75 watts RMS x 4 + 250 watts RMS x 1 at 4 ohms
- 100 watts RMS x 4 + 350 watts RMS x 1 at 2 ohms
- 200 watts RMS x 2 bridged at 4 ohms + 350 watts RMS x 1 at 2 ohms
A subsonic filter (8-40 Hz, 24 dB/octave) on sub channel keeps out unwanted inaudible bass frequencies.
- Very high power density
- Excellent audio quality
- Smallest 5 channel amp of its power rating
- Speaker level inputs accepted
- Flexible controls
- Remote bass control option
- Thermal management system
- With cover installed, controls aren’t accessible
- Remote bass control is separate purchase
- Top-facing controls may not work well for some installations
- Speaker level inputs require separate but inexpensive adapter cable
It’s one of the best you can buy so I encourage you to start enjoying installing it right away.
2. JL Audio RD-900/5 – Simply put, one of the best available today.
JL Audio has taken class D amplifier efficiency to a new level and has produced one of the best sounding and lowest noise amplifiers on the market.
This is high-end, truly excellent performance with the legendary JL Audio reputation for reliability and sonic quality. In fact, the RD900/5 is capable of producing power exceeding its conservatively rated specs.
NextD switching technology uses a faster switching frequency to allow the amp to produce power far more quickly and dynamically for better performance and acoustical response.
The signal to noise ratio (CEA-2006 compliant measured spec) of > 84dB is conservatively rated as you’ll hear almost nothing but dead silence between music tracks.
This is a wonderful sounding amp!
Rated power is:
- 75 watts RMS x 4 + 225 watts RMS x 1 at 4 ohms
- 100 watts RMS x 4 + 500 watts RMS at 2 ohms
- 200 watts RMS x 2 bridged at 4 ohms (4-ohm stable in bridged mode) + 500 watts RMS at 2 ohms
A really cool feature is the built-in LED clipping lights which help you set up gain levels during installation.
It’s a simple but great feature as you don’t have to guess when the amp will start clipping when your input signal reaches its maximum level. Blue LED accent lighting on the top glows when the amp is powered on.
An optional bass level control is a cool way to boost the bass while driving and jamming, so you’ll get the benefit of cranking the bass without having to fiddle with the amp settings. Top-mounted controls make setup and adjustments easier after installation.
High/low pass crossovers are adjustable to 500Hz and all channels can be from 2 to 6 RCA signal inputs. Bear in mind that the amp isn’t compatible with speaker level inputs. If those are important to you, you’ll need to buy a separate adapter.
The wire connection terminals are great and the amp can accept 4 gauge wire. The amp measures only 14-11/16″W x 2-3/16″H x 7″D and features a 2 year warranty.
- Superb sound quality – one of the best produced
- Crossovers are adjustable to 500Hz (great for bi-amped speaker systems)
- Solid-cast aluminum chassis
- Exceeds rated power specs
- One of the highest power amps for its size with 5 channels
- Optional bass remote
- 2/4/6 input channel switch to run all channels from fewer inputs
- LED clip lights help set up
- Compact size
- Subsonic filter
- No speaker level inputs
- Bass control remote sold separately
- Not as compact as the Alpine PDR-V75
If you’re looking for the absolute best, the JL Audio RD-900/5 should fit the bill exactly!
Ready for the best? Don’t hesitate to find out why it's a top-rated amp over at Amazon.
3. Rockford Fosgate R600X5 – A great compromise between cost and performance for under $300.
The R600X5 is a one of the best-selling 5 channel amps today. Like the other amplifiers in the Punch product family, the model features great sound with good power for a range of installation types. T
he controls are easy to use as well and add flexibility to your installation.
Audio is very clear and highs are crisp with great performance. The amp even includes a verification sheet with it in the box!
Power ratings are:
- 50 Watts x 4 @ 4-Ohms + 200 Watts x 1 @ 4-Ohms
- 75 Watts x 4 @ 2-Ohms + 300 Watts x 1 @ 2-Ohms
Note: The specs above my seem limited, however they’re conservatively by Rockford and in practice can actually exceed that by several watts. All ratings are CEA-2006 compliant so be confident in Rockford Fosgate’s advertised specs.
A signal to noise ratio of >80dB is a result of Rockford’s dedication to sound quality by using their proprietary design for reduced noise output.
Full adjustable high/low pass crossovers are available as well as a Punch EQ adjustable bass boost. Using the optional (separate) Punch Level Control you can easily turn up the boom while driving. A 1 year warranty is provided.
At only 1.98″ x 6.77″ x 13.19″, it’s a very small amp and can fit into many small installation spaces in your vehicle’s interior.
- Great sound!
- Small size
- Lower-noise design and sound quality (ideal for audiophiles)
- High-quality terminals
- Punch EQ feature (works without remote use)
- Adjustable high/low pass crossovers
- Remote level control included
- Thermal management keeps amp safe when hot
- Speaker level inputs
- 2/4 input switch if 4 channels aren’t available
- Screw holes inside chassis may be a bit more difficult
- Low efficiency compared to class D amps (draws more battery power)
- May run hot at maximum power
- Lower power output compared to some others
- Top-facing controls may not work for some buyers
- No top cover provided
It’s a great looking and well made amp that won’t disappoint. A great model for many installations.
4. Hifonics BRX5016.5 – A well-performing model for less.
If you’re working with a tight budget but still want to build your custom audio system, you’re in luck! The Brutus 5-channel amp has power to spare.
It’s a great value, but bear in mind that it’s not CEA-2006 compliant so you’ll have to trust the manufacturer’s specs.
Advertised power is:
- Channel 1-4 RMS Power Rating:
- 4 ohms: 60 watts x 4 chan.
- 2 ohms: 100 watts x 4 chan.
- Channel 5 RMS Power Rating:
- 4 ohms: 475 watts x 1 chan.
- 2 ohms: 750 watts x 1 chan.
The BRX5016.5 definitely has some advantages besides just its great price. Sound quality is good while keeping noise low via the class A/B sections used for the 4 main channels.
For awesome subwoofer power a class D amp section provides an amazing 475 RMS watts of power!
The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for the main channels is a nice 90dB and provides good, clear sound.
Full high/low pass crossovers are available as well as a 0-18dB bass o at 45Hz. The amp is somewhat large and measures 9.80″W x 19.60″L x 2.40″H so you’ll need more installation space than the other models listed above.
The wiring terminals are some of the best I’ve seen and they glow blue with the cool backlighting design. The Hifonics logo also has a beautiful blue glow you’ll love to show off as well!
Speaker level inputs are not included but a subsonic filter is. You can also switch between 2, 4, and 5-channel input mode if you don’t have enough RCA connections.
The BRX5016.5 has a cool glow thanks to the illuminated accents on the logo and wiring terminals. Great for custom installations where you want great looks!
And regarding the high and low-pass crossovers, the amp is more flexible than many others:
- Variable high-pass filter:
- Channel 1 – 2: 50 – 4,000 Hz
- Channel 3 – 4: 50 – 250 Hz
- Variable low-pass filter:
- Channel 3 – 4: 150 – 4,000 Hz
- Channel 5: 35 – 150 Hz
A bass remote is included as well. While the Rockford Fosgate R600X5 is a better (albeit more expensive) choice, the BRX5016.5 is a reliable and powerful amp if you you’re working within a budget.
- A/B design on channels 1-4 for good sound are reduced cost
- Great power
- 0-18dB bass boost
- Subsonic filter
- Nice illumination looks great
- Very good wiring terminals
- Includes remote bass level control
- Thermal, overload, and speaker short protection
- Lower cost than others
- Extended mounting tabs make installing easier
- No speaker level inputs
- Large size – nearly twice that of other modern designs
- Rated specs aren’t CEA-2006 assured – based on manufacturer’s advertised specs instead
It’s a good amp with many happy buyers. Be sure to find out why it's so popular among buyers at Amazon.
Never installed an amp before? check out this illustrated guide on how to install a car amp and subwoofer.
Be sure to also read this extensive guide about how to wire speakers.