Shopping for great sound but want something that’s actually worthwhile?
Over the years I spent hundreds of hours shopping for amplifiers, often only to find later there was a “catch” or that I couldn’t afford the ones I thought I wanted. I’ve learned a bit since then as both an installer and an engineer.
Whether you’re looking to upgrade from an existing amp or start fresh it’s important to get an amp with:
- Sufficient power
- Good sound quality
- The features you need
- A good value overall
Below are 5 of the best car amps for under $200 & $225 along with some helpful information if you’d like to learn more.
What are class A/B and class D car amps?
Audio power amplifier classes are a general category to describe the type of technology an amp uses to boost an audio signal and drive speakers.
All car amps fall under one of several basic types or some combination of them.
Above: The internal view of a budget but good sounding Crunch PD1000.4 class A/B 4-channel amp. It uses traditional transistor design technology to get good sound at a lower price point.
Class A/B is an old design technology that has been around for decades. Some of the first modern amplifiers, produced for home stereo use, were sold using them when transistor became more common.
Today’s car amps using A/B are often medium price range models that deliver very good sound for the price. More refined (and expensive models) produce even better sound quality.
Class A/B amps work by using transistors to reproduce and boost the input signal and drive a higher-power output to car speakers. Unlike class D amps, however, they keep the transistors used to do so on almost entirely the entire time when a music signal is present.
While they’re less expensive, they’re less efficient with around 65% efficiency. The rest is wasted and turned to heat which means they’re usually larger (and heavier) as they need a bigger chassis than class D amps.
Class D amps explained
Diagram showing a simplified explanation of how class D amps work. The input signal (from a radio) is turned into a series of square waveforms or “modulated.” These waveforms then drive output transistors and the output signal is restored to a smooth waveform before being sent to a speaker. Because the waveforms aren’t on 100% of the time, they use less electrical current and produce less heat.
Class D amps work by changing an analog (smooth) signal into a series of on/off pulses which drive output transistors. The amplified output waveforms are then smoothed before driving speakers.
The science behind electrical signals and switching transistors off very fast means the amp is actually drawing power less often than traditional designs.
As this happens, less power is wasted and some amps can get up to a whopping 90% efficiency rating! Because of this, they waste very little energy as heat, meaning they can be less bulky and made smaller too.
They do have some drawbacks, however. Lesser quality class D amplifiers tend to color the sound a bit unlike other types.
When shopping for this type of amp it’s important to pick a well-rated brand and model as they’re designed more carefully with sound quality in mind.
How much power do you need?
Here are some general suggestions when shopping (note that the recommended models I’ve listed here fit these rules of thumb fine).
|Speaker Type/Application||Min. Recommended Power (RMS)||Optimal Recommended Power (RMS)|
|Main channels (front/rear speakers)||50W per channel||75W per channel or higher|
|Single subwoofer in box||150-200W||250W or more|
|2 subwoofers in box||200W and above||350W or more|
For full-range speakers like front and rear (typically smaller speakers) 50W per channel is often enough to give you great sound with good volume. To drive a single or dual subwoofer setup for a fair amount of enjoyable bass, 150W-200W or higher is a good bet.
For better volume and a system with fantastic ability, aim for 75W per channel or higher for the front or rear sections and 350W or more for the bass channel(s).
Don’t forget that 4-channel amps can be bridged to drive main speakers with more power or to drive subwoofers.
It’s also very important to drive an amplifier with a stereo with a good signal output, whether it’s a factory stereo or aftermarket.
★ 5 of the best car amps under $200 & $225 ★
1. Alpine MRV-F300 – An excellent value with 4 channels of great sound. Don’t pass it up!
I’ve been a big fan of Alpine products for years and I still am. Not to be outdone by lower cost competitors, the company has produced one of the best sounding, most compact, and most affordable amps on the market today.
The fantastic compact but powerful MRV-F300 is a fantastic example of amplifier technology that proves sometimes affordable can be excellent.
One of the smallest 4-channel amps available, the MRV-F300 puts lower-quality and lesser-designed competitors to shame. You’ll get a sleek-looking and classy brushed metallic finish that looks great.
A cool blue backlit power-on indicator makes a great touch when installed and your system is powered up. It’s a nice little addition I think looks very nice.
The Alpine amp also includes optional end caps to hide wiring connections for a smoother looking installation. For no extra charge, you’ll get a pro-looking install you’ll be proud to show off!
For about $175 or you’ll get some very nice features:
- 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms power
- 75W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
- 150W RMS x 2 @ 2 ohms bridged
The MRV-F300 is one of the best small amps of its kind I’ve been able to get my hands on. What’s especially cool is that it’s small enough to fit under the seat in many vehicles. Additionally, it works well with factory systems, as speaker level inputs are provided. Don’t forget that you’ll also get a bass EQ feature for channels 3/4.
Because it’s so compact and efficient (measuring only 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H) it makes it possible to install it in many more places amps couldn’t fit in before.
The MRV-F300 uses Alpine’s proprietary design version of class D amplifier technology to produce a super-efficient design that runs amazingly cool and still produces great sound.
Installation flexibility is great, too. The features to know are:
- 50-400Hz high/low pass adjustable cutoff frequency
- 12dB/octave multi-stage crossover design
- Front and rear crossovers are independent
- Bass EQ boost feature for Ch. 3/4.
It’s a great sounding little amp and I’ve enjoyed testing & using it. I have to say that while some higher-priced competitors can out-power it and offer a bit more, for the price you pay it’s really hard to beat.
In my opinion it’s a great compromise between price, power, sound quality, and system flexibility. If you’re looking for a 4-channel (or 2-channel, in bridged mode) amp that won’t break the bank, this is it.
- Very compact – fits under seats!
- Class D power efficiency
- Good power (50W RMS x 4, 75W RMS x 4)
- Bridgeable (150W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
- Great sound quality & reduced noise
- Alpine quality design
- One of the most affordable/great value
- Includes end caps for stealth install
- Blue power-on accent light
- High-level speaker inputs
- Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
- Bass boost on ch. 3/4
- Excellent buyer ratings
- Nice satin brushed metal finish
- CEA-2006 Compliant
- Auto turn-on for speaker-level inputs
- Bass boost is only for ch. 3/4
- Bass boost could be greater (12dB vs 18dB of others)
- No remote level control option
- No RCA pass through jacks
- Bass boost frequency not adjustable
- No auto-sensing turn on for RCA inputs (only speaker level)
Because it’s such a well-rounded overall great winner and performer, I’ve awarded it my Editor’s Choice best buy award.
Get started enjoying a great-sounding system today!
2. Pioneer GM-D8601 – A mono bass amp that’s low on cost but high on performance.
When it comes to some getting some serious power for your money the Pioneer GM-D8601 is one of the best you’ll find.
Hands down the Watts-per-dollar value you’ll get is great!
If you’re wanting to upgrade your existing system or just add some low-end and great-sounding bass it’s got what you need. The Pioneer uses a size and power-efficient class D design with great sound quality and bass impact.
Power ratings are some of the best in its price class:
- 300W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
- 500W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms
- 800W RMS x 1 @ 1 ohm
Yes, it can drive 1 ohm subwoofer loads!
Top: The GM-D8601 features an adjustable low-pass crossover, gain, and includes RCA pass-through jacks for system expansion. The included bass remote simply plugs in and allows you great bass level control from your dashboard. Bottom: The 4 gauge-capable terminals provide reliable connections that are solid. You’ll also get 2 pairs of speaker terminals instead of only one.
Additionally the amp includes a wire remote control to allow adjusting the bass level as you drive. It’s a great feature I like and I’m sure you’ll find it just as handy, too.
There’s a 19 foot length remote cable included that makes setup simple as it just plugs in.
Got a factory system? Not a problem. The included RCA adapters also mean you can connect the amp to speaker-level inputs if needed, too.
At only 11″ W x 2-3/8″ H x 7-7/8″ D in size it’s one of the most powerful amps at this size on the market. It’s simply too much of a great value for me to not awarded my Editor’s Choice best buy badge.
- Stable to 1 ohm
- 4 gauge power terminals
- Excellent power output
- Great bass impact & sound quality
- Simple control setup
- Speaker level inputs
- Includes speaker level adapter
- Bass remote with long installation cable
- 2 pair speaker terminals
- Great looks
- Compact size
- Runs fairly cool under high power
- Efficient class D design
- Adjustable low-pass crossover
- RCA outputs
- Bass remote install may be needed for max. performance
- Bass-only: cannot use for mids or highs
- Mono-only design
- Allen wrench required for terminal screws (included)
It’s also one of the best-rated bass amps on the market today.
Don’t put off enjoying great bass any longer! Be sure to check out the current low price at Amazon now.
But wait…need even more power? Be sure to check out its big brother the GM-D9601.
3. Pioneer GM-D9605 5 channel class D amp – A great-sounding and affordable way to power a whole system.
UPDATE: I’ve now awarded the GM-D9605 my Editor’s Choice recommendation for the best value 5 channel amp for your money.
Normally, powering an entire sound system with 2 amps with good power can easily cost $400 and above. Few amps with front, rear, and a subwoofer channel are affordable except for the lower-end competitors.
However, the Pioneer GM-D9605 5-channel class D amp sets a new standard for affordable quality. You’ll get 4 channels of full-range (adjustable) sound and a dedicated mono subwoofer channel with great power ratings all around.
For near $200 you’ll get some fantastic power and sound:
- 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 Ohms + 350W RMS x 1 @ 4 Ohms
- 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 Ohms + 600W RMS x 1 @ 2 Ohms
- 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms bridged + 600W RMS x 1 @ 2 Ohms
…enough to run a high-end system all from one cool-running and efficient compact amp!
The GM-D9605 also includes a handy bass remote useful for adjusting the bass from up front. The included installation cable is nice and long at 19′ in length. It’s also really easy to install and use, as it simply clicks into connectors on both ends.
You’ll also get a really convenient way to adjust the dedicated high-power subwoofer channel – an adjustable bass remote is included.
Top: All channels have adjustable high or low-pass crossovers (except for the mono channel, which is low-pass only) with adjustable cutoff of up to 500Hz. 12dB or 24dB adjustable crossover slopes can be selected, too. For added flexibility you can use a dedicated subwoofer input signal or simply flick a switch to derive it from channels A and B (front and rear). Bottom: 4 gauge capable power terminals round out a great-looking and well-designed power hookup.
Additionally, speaker-level inputs are built-in as well for working with a factory stereo or factory amplified signal source.
4 gauge power terminals are ready for power-hungry demands when you’re really driving some serious volume. However, it’s so efficient you’ll rarely feel it heat up much.
Adjustable crossovers are useable for all channels and allow up to a 500Hz cutoff frequency (note that the subwoofer output is low-pass only). Selectable crossover slopes of 12dB or 24dB per octave are provided as well.
Don’t have a head unit with a dedicated subwoofer channel signal output? You’re covered there, too!
Just switch the sub channel’s selector to derive a bass channel signal from the main inputs. It’s that easy.
Not only this, but all this power and system driving ability fits into a package only 12-7/16″ W x 2-3/8″ H x 7-7/8″ D in size.
- Great power output
- Good sound quality
- Excellent value
- Compact size for a 5 channel
- Bridgeable to 2 ch. + subwoofer
- 4 gauge power wire capable
- Capable of driving a whole system
- Class D efficiency & low heat
- Good sound quality
- Bass boost feature (0-18dB @ 50Hz)
- Variable high or low pass crossovers
- Selectable crossover slope
- Bass channel dedicated or channel A+B switch
- Speaker-level inputs
- CEA-2006 compliant power/specs
- Good looking carbon fiber chassis
- Remote bass level included
- High-quality wiring terminals
- Includes Allen wrench tools
- Subwoofer channel is low-pass only
- May require bass remote use for best performance
- Power/protect lights are combined, not separate
- 1 year warranty only
My thoughts? After getting my hands on the GM-D9605, I think it’s a winner!
It’s hard to beat the value and quality (and especially the power) in an amp that you can fit in more place.
Be sure to check it out! You can find some of the best pricing and great reviews over at Amazon.
4. Rockford Fosgate PBR300X4 – A great choice for limited installation space. AMAZINGLY compact!
The Rockford Fosgate PBR300X4 proves once again that when done correctly, good things can come in small packages!
It’s one of the world’s smallest high-quality 4-channel amplifiers available today. Measuring an incredibly small 6-15/16″ W x 1-9/16″ H x 4-5/16″ D in size, there’s no doubt it’s a testament to the company’s engineering expertise.
Despite being just under 7″ in length, you’ll get 75W RMS x 4 of crisp, detailed audio that’s perfect for basic front and rear aftermarket or factory stereo systems.
Alternatively, it’s also a great choice for powersports vehicles like boats, motorcycles, and a variety of applications.
The PBR300X4 is ultra-compact in size but doesn’t skimp on what you need for a great sounding system. Speaker-level inputs are provided as well. Top: The amp features independent front and rear gain controls and high or low-pass crossovers. Bottom: Power and speaker connections are nice and tidy using the provided wiring harnesses.
As it measures an amazingly small 4 5/16″ wide, connection and control panel space is at a premium. However, you won’t lose the most important features.
Provided on the amp are:
- Independent front and rear gain controls
- Speaker level inputs for factory stereo use
- High and low-pass crossover switches
- 2/4 channel signal input switch
- Modular (plug-in wiring harness) speaker outputs and power connectors
As it’s very efficient, you’ll only need 10 gauge wire for installation. I was pleasantly surprised at how well such a small amp could drive speakers during testing.
However, I do recommend you’ve got a great audio signal because it’s not a great choice if you stereo can’t drive it sufficiently.
Unlike other Rockford Fosgate amp models there’s no option to use a remote level control. But that’s not what the PBR300X4 is designed for.
It’s not designed to drive woofers or bass-heavy speakers, but instead to power a great-sounding basic system for full-range speakers or smaller woofers.
It’s a great sounding amp for what it is, and it’s obvious the company put some design effort into it. It’s also a great choice for people with limited installation space – not just for cars or trucks, but motorcycles, boats, and others as well.
Unfortunately it can’t drive 2 Ohm speakers and isn’t bridgeable, so there’s a few negatives to the design. However, those are still pretty small complaints compared to how well it performs!
- Amazingly small design (about 7″ long!)
- Great power delivery (75W/channel)
- Good sound quality
- High and low-pass crossovers
- Great for limited space or powersport vehicles
- 2/4 channel input switch
- Independent gain controls
- Connectivity is easy using included wiring harnesses
- Differential balanced inputs
- Speaker-level input option
- Heat management system protects against overheating/shutoff
- CEA-2006 complain specifications
- Great for full range speakers, component speakers, or mids and highs
- Not bridgeable
- Cannot drive 2 ohm speakers
- A bit more expensive than larger models
- Not a good match for subwoofers
- No onboard fuse (requires inline fuse)
- Fixed crossover frequency
It’s surprisingly powerful and great-sounding for such a tiny package and makes a great fit for limited space applications.
You’ll love it. Definitely have the current low price and great reviews over at Amazon.
5. Boss Audio Riot R1100M – Need cheap bass power? One of best-selling budget bass amps today!
When it comes to affordable power you’ve got lots of options to choose from. But why not choose one of the best-selling budget bass amps today?
The Boss Audio Riot R1100M is a class A/B amp monoblock single-channel subwoofer amp and a great way to get slamming bass on a budget.
While advertised at “1,100W max”, it’s the RMS power that counts and really delivers for the price:
- 413W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
- 825W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms
At only 9.13″W x 10.44″L x 2.25″H in size it’s also a great fit for trucks, not just cars. Think of all the installation options a compact amp like this can make possible!
While you might be thinking it’s short on features for below $65, it’s not!
Check out what you’ll get:
- Wired remote bass level control with cable
- Soft turn-on (anti-thump)
- Speaker level inputs for factory stereos
- 3-way protection (thermal, overload, and speaker shorts)
- 102dB SNR (at rated power)
- Adjustable low-pass filter (35-160Hz cutoff)
- 0-18dB bass boost
The R1100M features great controls and speaker level inputs as well. You can select full-range or low-pass sound, adjust the gain, and add +18dB of bass boost to bring your subwoofers up to slamming bass levels. Plugin in the optional bass remote for an easy to adjust bass output while driving.
Unlike many competitors it’s great for adding a subwoofer to factory stereos as it features direct speaker-level inputs.
Install the included bass remote control (which uses the included telephone cable, easy to hook up) and you can control bass output without hassle any time! Unlike many competing amps there’s no need to spend extra money on one.
One thing that’s especially interesting is that it’s one of the few monoblock amps today that can also be used for full-range sound. Just switch the crossover control to “full” and drive your favorite mono speakers with tremendous power.
As they’re so affordable, you can use 2 of the amps for incredible power if you need a stereo setup. Sound quality is quite nice, with great bass thumb and accurate, crisp sound production when used in full-range mode as well.
I don’t often recommend lower-priced amps – however, Boss has definitely proven that sometimes there are exceptions when it comes to power vs price. It’s a good one.
- Great power at 2 & 4 Ohms
- Good sound quality
- Includes bass remote knob
- Compact size
- Great value
- 6 year warranty (through Amazon)
- Nice finish, illuminated logo
- Speaker level inputs
- Full-range capable
- Adjustable low-pass crossover
- Bass boost feature (+18dB)
- Simple connections
- No Allen wrench needed for terminals
- Great buyer reviews
- Not efficient like class D models
- Single pair speaker terminal
- Not 1 Ohm stable
- No RCA passthrough jacks
- Cannot chain like larger models
- Wiring terminals could be better
Is it “competition quality”? Of course not! But you’re getting an exceptionally great value that does what it’s supposed to and does it well.
You won’t get 1,100W watts of usable power. However, you’ll get 413/825W RMS of great bass production that’s compact and sounds good.
UPDATE: Want to get your whole system on the cheap? Check out the amp + wiring kit special.
Don’t forget the accessories! When installing an amp you’ll need a great quality wiring kit like I’ve listed here.
Also, be sure to check out my guide that shows you how to bridge an amp here.