How To Pick A Good Amp Wiring Kit + 5 Top Picks From A Pro Installer

Best amp wiring kit featured image

Installing a car amplifier is already enough work without having to worry about finding the right wire & parts. What you might not know is that there are some gimmicks being played by some companies and you could end up getting ripped off!

This post is a really helpful buyer’s guide with a list of some very good amp wiring kits with brief reviews.

As an installer, I can tell you that I’ve seen both great and terrible wire in amp wiring kits. To make things easier I’ve put together a list of some of the best wiring kits for your money.

Contents

What makes a good amp wiring kit?

Image of a man thinking about good wiring kit features when shopping

The basics to look for

Generally speaking, a great amp kit is made of a combination of things:

  • Includes most or all of the items you need for a great installation
  • Quality wire that with a conductor size that meets the advertised claim
  • A good fuse holder and power wire connectors that provide good electrical connections
  • Sufficient wire length
  • Good value and reasonable price

I’ll go into more detail here to help explain what I mean. When talking about things like “amps” (amperes, a measurement of how much electrical current is flowing) it’s important to know the basics.

Included items

Scoche 8 gauge amp wiring kitA good amp kit is made of quality wiring and includes all the basic items you need for most installation – including wiring with enough length. Zip ties help keep the installation neat and hold wiring in place during installation. Crimp terminals help you get a solid and reliable connection that can handle high power demands.

I generally recommend a kit with the following items:

  • RCA cables of good quality; ideally around 16 ft in length or longer
  • A good remote wire
  • Positive wire: good stranded conductors with about 18 fit length
  • Ground wire
  • Speaker wire (optional – you can buy separately also)
  • Crimp ring terminals for the positive & negative power wires
  • Good quality fuse holder + fuse
  • Zip ties (not a necessity but highly recommended)

You need to try to anticipate having long enough wiring for your vehicle plus a small amount of extra length if possible. That means a long enough power cable to reach from the battery positive terminal and fuse holder to the amplifier along with the additional length that comes from bends and curves. Typically 18′ (18 feet) in length is enough.

Similarly, the remote wire and RCA cables should be long enough too. 15 or 16 ft in length is often good. Longer wiring is fine and is a little bit of a bonus as it means you can move the amplifier to different mounting locations if necessary.

Wiring that is very short like 12′ is likely to be insufficient (except for amps mounted under a seat) or may barely reach the rear of the vehicle.

I don’t recommend this as a short power wire or RCA cables must be stretched and may be placed under tension in some cases. In that situation, problems will come up with the wiring or amp if it’s continually being pulled on from wiring that’s not long enough.

The best affordable fuse holders

A good quality fuse holder is essentially all you really need. However, there are a few differences that may fit your installation better than others.

Don’t just buy any type without knowing what you’re in for – it can actually make a big difference in how long it takes to install your amp and how difficult it is. It can also make a big difference as to how well it holds up over time due to vibration, heat, and moisture.

10 ga molded amp wiring kit fuse holder exampleFor example, lower-cost fuse holders like those in the picture above are found in many budget amp kits. However, they don’t offer the heat resistance, moisture resistance, and great looks of others I’ll mention below.

If you’re tight on money, however, they’re ok as they get the job done and most have good electrical contact. Be aware though that molded fuse holders are normally only rated for smaller amps and use 10 gauge wiring.

They’re not suitable for larger power demands.ANL vs AGU car amp fuseholder comparison imageANL (rectangular, left) and AGU (rounded, right) fuse holders are great and allow you to easily see the fuse element in case it blows. However, I recommend the AGU holder style more as they’re easier to install and typically are moisture and dirt resistant. Also, they look great!

Rectangular fuse holders and round glass-type fuse holders are nice and have a larger conductive area for current to pass through.

Both are great, but the cylindrical type (AGU) holders are a bit easier to use and install as they’re more compact.  Additionally, they tend to be more resistant to moisture and dirt entering them.

Avoid getting scammed! A warning about wire quality

Image of an angry man upset about cheap wiring kit

Unfortunately, you can’t trust advertising. There are several gimmicks being used today by wiring kit companies that mislead buyers and will cause you to think you’re getting a great deal when you’re not.

These days some companies are using false advertising and oversized power wire insulation to trick you into believing you’re a larger wire and better deal than you really are.

For example, some amp kits sold as 8 gauge are in fact actually closer to 10 gauge or smaller wire. From the outside, it appears fine and legitimate.

However, after stripping the insulation off you can see that the wire itself is smaller than expected (if you know what to look for) and the insulation is much larger than necessary.

It’s a gimmick used to fool the eyes as the wiring appears bigger than it actually is when viewed through the insulation.

Wiring sizes are standardized according to the American Wire Gauge (AWG) chart. This means that wire manufactured and sold should be labeled according to this chart. If it isn’t you’re at the mercy of anyone who wants to make money off of you and trick you into buying less for your hard-earned dollar.

The same applies to speaker wire as well.

Image of fake vs true 4 gauge amp power wireA comparison of true 4 AWG wire (center) versus 2 fakes. Notice the size of the wire conductors vs. the insulation. It’s a gimmick used by many lesser brand amp wire kits and you’ve got to be careful when buying. You’ll get scammed and you’re not getting what you paid for!

Pure copper vs. copper-coated aluminum wire

Maybe you’ve head about the rising price of copper in the news over the last few years. You might not be aware but many products with braided wire like amp and speaker wire are no longer produced with pure copper.

A lower-cost version is being sold often without the public being aware.

Copper clad aluminum vs copper speaker wire illustrated diagram

Copper-coated aluminum (CCA) wiring is produced by using a combination of copper over aluminum wire in order to reduce cost. The problem is that aluminum isn’t is good of a conductor for electrical current as copper is and it’s not always a good choice for high-current wiring.

Generally speaking, for the average installation it’s ok, but the main issue I have is that people aren’t always aware because sometimes it is hidden in small print or not disclosed at all!

So, unless you have specific reasons for buying it or just truly want pure copper wire, I wouldn’t worry too much about this issue. Do be aware that aluminum wire can less flexible to a degree than pure copper wire but it also depends greatly on the brand quality.

If you prefer to buy pure copper wire be sure to look closely to avoid being misled by the labeling and advertisements used.

I prefer pure copper wire personally and recommend it for installations which will deliver very large amounts of power and the current drawn will be very high. Again, for the average, moderate-volume system it’s not as necessary.

Ring terminals

rimp ring and lug terminal examplesRing terminals are included in some amplifier kits and are fantastic for making a solid and reliable power connection for both the positive and negative wiring cables.

In the photos above, the gold-plated crimp ring terminals are the most common and, while they’re not expensive, they’re very good in my experience. 

You can use a decent crimp tool, vise grip pliers, or possibly other tools to crimp them securely after stripping about 3/8-1/2″ of insulation off of the wire. You can use them to connect to available bolt studs if available for a great way to connect your amp’s power wiring.

Note that in the pictures above, the terminals on the right are called “crimp lug” terminals, and generally speaking, they should be avoided unless you have the proper tools to use them.

“Lug” crimp connectors are much harder to crimp and require special tools to securely attach to wire, unlike standard ring terminals. Don’t waste your time with them.

What size amp kit do I need?

Best amp wiring kit featured image

Remember to always be sure the wire size you’re planning to buy will fit the amp terminals!

If not, you’ll have a difficult time getting the wiring to fasten securely on the amp. There won’t be sufficient room for the wire strands and wire can come free and potentially cause a short circuit.

Quick tip: If you’re unsure of what wire size your amp can hold, and if it doesn’t specify in the specifications, likely it can hold up to 8 gauge wire.

That’s one of the most common sizes for average amplifiers sold today.

When in doubt, remember that many amps use a maximum size of 8 or 4 gauge wire. Using a larger wire than an amp requires is actually a waste of money and it can be harder to deal with.

One exception is moving up from a 10 AWG kit to an 8 AWG kit, as they’re priced similarly these days and unfortunately, many kits sold as “10 gauge” are much smaller wiring as I warned you about earlier.

How to figure out the amp wiring kit gauge you need

To estimate what gauge of amp wire that you need to use these steps:

  1. Calculate: (Amp power (RMS) / efficiency) / 13.8V = Current draw in Amps
  2. Select a wire size based on the chart below

What we’re doing is calculating how much current we’re drawing based on the maximum power the amp can use minus losses. All car amps have an efficiency rating which is because some electrical current is wasted and turned into heat.

For class A/B amps, efficiency is around 65%. For class D amps it’s closer to 90%.

Max. Current
(Amps)
Wire Gauge(AWG)
100
2
80
4
46
8
33
10

We can do a little bit of math to get a rough estimate in order to choose a safe size. Remember to always use the Root Mean Square (RMS) ratings as those are the actual, realistic power ratings that an amp should be able to actually provide to speakers. Exaggerated or misleading specs will cause you to greatly over-estimate the amount of current (Amperes, or “Amps”) an amplifier will draw.

Example #1:

For a class A/B (standard) 4-channel amp rated at 75W per channel we can find:

  1. Total max. power: 75W x 4 = 300W
  2. (300W  / 0.65) / 13.8V = 33.4 A (accounting for about 65% efficiency)

Therefore we can use an 10 AWG wire kit, or step up to 8 AWG wire if we like.

Example #2:

For a 4-channel class D amp with 75W per channel we can find:

  1. Total max. power: 75W x 4 = 300W
  2. (300W / .90) / 13.8V = 24.2A (accounting for about 90% efficiency)

Therefore we would use an 10AWG wire kit (or 8 gauge, if we like).

As you can see, a class D amplifier uses less electrical current and can often use a smaller power wire size (more than 10A in this case!).

★ 5 excellent amp wiring kits for the money★

Our top picks

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★KnuKonceptz KCA 4 Gauge
  • Fantastic 4 ga. kit for the money! Quality wire & more for under $40
  • 18 ft ultra-flex wire, moisture resistant fuseholder, oxygen free ground wire
  • 20' speaker wire and twisted pair 17' oxygen free RCAs
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageNVX XKIT42 4 Gauge
  • 100% oxygen free, high-flex copper wire. Shielded RCA cables
  • Corrosion & damage-resistent insulation
  • Includes pro quality fuseholder, lug connectors, high-quality speaker wire
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imagePro QualityStinger SK6681 8 Gauge
  • High-end wiring quality for when you want the best
  • 100% oxygen free fine standed copper, high-current ground wire & lug, shielded RCA cables
  • Includes zip ties, full connectors, and pro level fuse holder and more
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sample-table__image$25 and under!Belva BAK82 8 Gauge
  • Affordable, high-value complete wiring kit under $25
  • Everything you need: RCAs, speaker wire, power and ground, zip ties, and more
  • Includes high-current, moisture-resistant fuse holder
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sample-table__imageStinger SK46101 10 Gauge
  • High-quality 10 ga kit that won't let you down. Easy to install and reliable
  • 100% oxygen free fine standed copper, true-sized power and ground with plated ground terminal
  • Includes high-fidelity, high-flex RCAs, zip ties, and more
Check on Amazon

> Best 4 gauge kits <

1. KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit – Excellence on a budget!

KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit image

With the KNU Konceptz KCA-K4 amp kit, you get what you need to kick ass musically. Unlike other amp kits, however, it’s not outrageously priced despite the great quality you get.

This is some great wiring in a 4 gauge kit for under $40!

This is a wiring kit with an easy-to-install AGU fuse holder and some seriously good wiring. The positive and negative power wires are made with copper-coated aluminum (CCA) wiring to keep costs down but still remain highly flexible and installer-friendly.

KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit fuse holer imageThe AGU fuse holder is simple to install as it just requires stripping off a small amount of the positive power cable then inserting it into the fuse holder receptacle before tightening the fastening screw. Both the wire insulation and fuse holder plastic housing look distinctively different and will really set your installation apart.

KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit RCA cables imageYou’ll also get some great twisted-pair RCA cables with gold-plated contacts and durable insulation. They’re also flexible and work really well for installations.

The speaker wire kicks ass and I wasn’t expecting such a high-quality roll of speaker wire to be included. It feels and works great, and it’s much better than the typical 18 AWG wire most kits would include.

This affordable, quality kit includes:

  • 18 Feet 4 Gauge Ultra Flex Blue Power Wire
  • 3 Feet 4 Gauge Ultra Flex Black Ground Wire
  • One inline fuse holder with 80A AGU Fuse
  • One 5 Meter black RCA Cable with Built in Turn On lead
  • 20 Feet Clear 14 Gauge CCA Speaker Wire
  • 2 Gold Plated 4 Gauge Ring Terminals, 2 Gold Plated 4 Gauge Spade Terminals
  • Wire ties

Listen, guys, you’re going to be hard-pressed to get a better kit for the money. Want a great kit but need to keep costs down?

This is a fantastic choice.

Take my advice and head on over to see the current price and wonderful reviews at Amazon now.

2. NVX XKIT42 100% copper 4-gauge install kit – Professional quality wiring you can afford.

NVX XKIT42 4 ga amp wiring kit

The NVX XKIT42 really hits a sweet spot between spending way too much for a pro-level 4 gauge amp wiring kit in your local car stereo shop or retail store and getting a budget-priced kit.

I say that because despite it featuring truly high-end 100% copper stranded wire that’s coated in silver, it still sells for a price that’s far less than the $100 or more I’ve seen on other similar kits.

It features:

  • 20 ft. (6.1m) Frosted Blue 4 gauge main power wire with seamless crimp ring terminal
  • 3 ft. (.91m) Frosted Black 4 gauge main ground wire with seamless crimp ring terminal
  • 20 ft. (6.1m) Clear 18 gauge remote lead wire
  • 40 ft. (12.2m)) Frosted Black/Blue 16 gauge speaker wire
  • One 16 ft. (5m) 2-channel twisted construction RCA Interconnect Cable
  • 1 ANL/Mini-ANL fuse holder with 100 amp Mini-ANL fuse
  • 1 black rubber firewall grommet
  • Two 4 gauge nickel-plated spade terminals
  • Four 18 Gauge Spade terminal
  • Two 18 Gauge Red butt connectors
  • Four 16 gauge quick disconnects
  • Five 16 Gauge Nickel Plated spade terminals
  • 10 6″ black zip ties

The wire is some of the most flexible wire around and it’s rare to find silver-coated wire anywhere. I was honestly surprised to have run across this kit, as I hadn’t expected to find something so good that’s not overpriced.

If you’re looking for one of the best money can buy (in this case around $60 dollars) that looks fantastic this is the kit you need!

Head over to check it out and find the best price over at Amazon.

> Best 8 gauge kits <

Stinger SK6681 8 AWG complete amplifier wiring kit – 100% oxygen-free copper in a kit that’s hard to top. A step above the others.

Stinger SK6681 8 AWG amp wiring kit image (2)

Stinger has always been known for its great installation wire, stereo installation kits, and a variety of aftermarket items that are always some of the best you can buy. The SK6681 is no exception.

What really sets is apart from the others is not only how flexible the wire is (100% oxygen-free copper, with fine conductors for maximum installation ease and power conduction) but how wonderful it looks.

Much like the larger NVX XKIT42 it features stretch wire loom for a clean installation and protection in the engine compartment as well as a compact but high-conducting fuse holder.

All power wiring is “tru-spec” and meets the AWG gauge chart sizing as advertised – no misleading wire sizing here. Conductors on the connectors are tinned for corrosion resistance.

RCA cables are shielded and audiophile-grade and are 17 ft in length to accommodate nearly all installations.

The included fuse holder is water-resistant as well!

The SK6681 comes with:

  • 17 ft. of 8 gauge matte blue hyper-twist power wire
  • 3 ft. of 8 gauge Matte silver hyper-twist ground wire
  • 17 ft. of 18 gauge Blue turn-on wire
  • 17 ft. 6000 Series RCA interconnects
  • 30 ft. 16 Gauge speaker wire
  • Mini-ANL style fuse holder
  • 70 amp Mini-ANL fuse
  • Pre-terminated ends
  • Mesh wire loom
  • Stinger metal badge
  • Includes installation accessories (wire ties, crimp terminals, etc.)

I wouldn’t pass it up if I were you and I was looking for an 8 AWG wiring kit I could afford without having to settle for a CCA wire type kit. Even better, it sells for around $50 or so!

Your dream system is waiting for you! It only takes a few seconds to find out why it's one of the best selling amp kits at Amazon today.

Belva BAK8 complete 8 gauge amplifier wiring kit – Great-looking & high-performance with a fantastic budget price!

Product image of the Belva BAK82 amplifier wiring kitThis kit by Belva is a great cost-cutting way to get good amp performance in your ride. It’s designed for amplified systems up to 500W and comes with premium Powerflex power and ground wire that bends easily for making installation less of a hassle than lesser brands.

Closeup of fuseholder from the Belva BAK82 amp wiring kitYou’ll get a great-looking and water-resistant fuse holder as well. Thanks to the design installation is simple and requires no additional crimp contacts. Just take it apart, strip your power wire, and insert it into the contact points. Tighten the screws and you’ve got a great and reliable power source!

This is a CCA wire kit, but unlike others, the Belva CCA wire is made from 30% copper wire while competitors use only 10%! The included RCA cables feature a helical-twisted construction to minimize noise and interference and are a wonderful 17 ft in length!

The power & speaker wiring included feature a very durable – but flexible – jacket, making them a pleasure to install. The fine wiring conductor count also is a step above lesser brands. You’re going to like it a lot!

For around close to only $20 dollars you’ll get:

  • 17 ft. (5.2 meters) Red 8 gauge power wire
  • 3 ft. (.91 meters) Black 8 gauge ground wire
  • 17 ft. (5.2 meters) Gray 18 gauge remote lead wire
  • 17 ft. (5.2 meters) Helical Twist 2-channel RCA interconnect cable
  • 20 ft. (6.1 meters) Speaker cable
  • One In-line Mini-ANL Fuse Holder with a 60 amp Mini-ANL fuse
  • One black rubber firewall grommet
  • 1 each 8 Gauge Blue & black chrome-plated ring terminals
  • Three 18 Gauge Blue Spade terminals
  • Two 18 Gauge Black Spade terminals
  • One 18 Gauge Red butt connector
  • Ten 4″ Black zip ties

This isn’t the “el cheapo” kit like so many amateurs buy – but unlike them, you’re a smart shopper so you’ll be getting a real 8 gauge wire rather than paying the same money for 10 gauge wire!

Ready to get your system going and enjoy the music you love without limitations?

Take the next step and  check out the fantastic Belva 8 ga. kit at Amazon today.

> Best 10 gauge kit <

Stinger SK46101 – A no-nonsense 100% copper amp wiring kit that looks great. Excellent RCA cables, too!

For this size of amp wiring, I’m going to recommend just one as there are so many amp kits sold as “10 gauge” that are in fact rip-off in nature. But primarily you can buy an 8 AWG amp wiring kit for nearly the same money as a good 10 AWG kit, so it’s something to consider when shopping.

Stigner SK46101 10 gauge amp wiring kit image full

The SK46101 is a kit I really like. One major reason is that during installations, amp wiring with a pre-installed fuse holder like this one made the installation process that much easier and faster. It uses a standard automotive fuse to protect the positive wire from shorts. Included is everything else you need. This is real 100% oxygen-free copper wiring here, my friend!

Not only that, but quality ring terminals are included for a really tight install and no power-robbing poor connections on the battery and ground wiring.

The wiring features attractive matte insulation but what I really love about it is the RCA cables which feature shielded twisted-pair wiring for reduced noise and excellent sound conductivity. Besides, they just look great!

For close to $35 you’ll get:

  • A 17Ft. 4000 Series 2 Channel Audio Interconnect
  • 18 Ft. Matte Red Hyper-Twist 8GA Power Wire
  • 3 Ft. Matte Black Hyper-Twist 8GA Ground Wire
  • 17 Ft. Matte Blue 18GA Remote Turn-On Wire
  • SPD5101 AGU Fuse Holder
  • 60 Amp AGU Fuse
  • 8GA Crimp Ring Terminals Pre-Installed
  • 16GA Blue Butt Connector
  • 8GA Snap In Protective firewall grommet
  • Self Drilling Mounting Screws
  • (10) 7” Wire Ties

Not only that, but the power connections are pre-terminated so that’s even less work you have to do!

I totally understand how it feels to be strapped for cash – that’s totally ok!

You don’t have to settle for less. Head over and  get one of the best values for your dollar at Amazon right now. You won’t regret it!

Final thoughts on amp kits

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how much money you’re willing to spend, but I strongly encourage you to be careful and pick up one of the kits I’ve listed above. They’re good, reputable kits and you won’t get scammed with buying something only to get extremely disappointed once you get it home & check it out.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

Remember the following:

  • copper-coated aluminum (CCA) wiring is the less-expensive version of today’s amplifier power cables in wiring kits
  • Real 100% copper wiring kits cost more and can handle more electrical current, but for typical installations, they’re not totally necessary. (mainly for very-high power systems and for people who demand the best quality)
  • Many budget amp wiring kits are NOT true-spec wire: they lie about the wire size and don’t follow the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standards as reputable brands do

When in doubt about a kit’s quality, don’t buy it! You’re very likely to be disappointed and may have to return your kit for a better one.

Spend a few more dollars for a kit you can count on to avoid problems when it comes time to install your system.

The Best Car Amplifier: Buyers Guide And 5 Great Picks

Image of Alpine amplifier demo car display

Building a great sounding car audio system is fun and very rewarding. I absolutely love driving good quality speakers with a great amplifier for powerful and amazingly clear sound.

I’m sure you will, too! Finding the best car amplifier can be a very time-consuming task – there are so many choices out there.

In order to help you, I’ve put together a list of 5 of the best car amplifiers worth your money. You’ll also find some helpful buying info and car amp facts below too.

Contents

Car amplifier basics

Image showing man thinking about car amp basics

Audio amplifier technology has moved forward over the last decade and the average buyer is a winner because of it. No longer will you have to choose between the same of average types, but fortunately a newer design type has made getting far more for your money in a smaller package possible.

Class A and class AB amplifiers

Car amplifiers, just like home stereo amplifiers, are all designed with a similar fundamental “class” which just means how they fundamentally operate to generate boosted audio signals that drive speakers.

All powerful amps have to take the 12V supply in a vehicle and step it up to higher voltages in order to deliver more power with greater clarity than a standard car stereo can (as those are limited to around 14W per channel).

Class A amplifiers are rarer and are considered “audiophile” amps as they have extremely low distortion and a lot more effort (and expense) is put into the design to get the best sound possible. However, they’re not as common because they’re very inefficient (somewhere around 20%!) and waste a huge amount of energy.

They also don’t deliver as much power for the money as other types. Those are a few reasons they’re not used very often and aren’t very popular.

Class A/B

Internal image of a 4 ch. ampClass A/B amplifiers like this one were, until relatively recently, the only way to get big power with great sound quality in your vehicle with a good Watts per dollar ratio. Class D amplifiers are now eclipsing them in value and power per size.

Class A/B amplifiers are a compromise between class B amplifiers (in which the transistors that drive the output signal) aren’t switched on quite as long as in class A amps. However, to retain good sound quality they work in some similar ways as class A – just without wasting quite as much technology.

They’re close to about 50-65% efficient and do generate some heat even while doing nothing.

For decades they’ve been the most popular type of car audio amplifier in use. This basic design is used in the most low-cost amplifiers and even very high-end car amps. However, the better brands have much better design components and circuitry to keeps the sound quality very high and noise and distortion very low.

A/B amps come in a variety of low to high-power options and are often bridgeable to deliver more power.

Class D amps

Pioneer GM-D9605 internal components and circuit board images

Internal view of a Pioneer class D 5 channel car amplifier. Even though it might look the same as a class A/B amp at first glance, there are some notable differences. Class D amplifiers use different technology to deliver amazing power while greatly reducing power waste which is lost as heat.

Class D amplifiers are the newest technology and offer a new approach to audio amplification, with very high efficiency and fantastic new installation options.

As they’re around somewhere around 85% efficient they produce an extremely small amount of heat and the size of even a very high power amp can be 1/2 to 2/3 that of a conventional class A/B amp!

These amps work by switching power transistors in the circuitry on and off incredibly fast rather than them remaining on long like older technologies.  The end result is electrical current flows and power use is reduced.

Class D amps convert the input signal into a squarewave which drives the power electronics. Once this signal is amplified, it is then smoothed and filtered, converting it back to a boosted version of the input signal. The output then drives your speakers at the speaker terminals.

They make installations easier!

Many powerful class D amps can fit under seats, in storage containers, and in other vehicle interior locations that were impossible for other amps in the past.

If you’re wanting the best bang for your buck, you’re hard-pressed to beat them! However, it’s critical to shop for the best quality as lesser brands often have poor noise levels and mediocre sound quality.

Alpine MRV-F300 installed under seat

Class D amplifiers are the newest and most efficient car amp technology today. A great sounding and powerful amplifier that can drive a whole car audio system is small enough to fit inconvenient places like under your car seat. Very cool!

Although they’re very small and highly efficient, the main drawback is that they have a higher noise floor (lower signal-to-noise ratio) than A/B amplifiers.

The technology has been refined more and more until today and is now capable of producing excellent sound with very low distortion.

However, I’d advise staying away from lower-end brands because they’re still noisier and the sound quality isn’t up to par with well-engineered products by bigger brand names. Of course, it depends on your sound needs and what you’re willing to pay.

The good news is that D class amps are also a great value these days and are very affordable.

Car amplifier quality factors

The best car amplifier for you will have well-designed quality and great engineering. I bring this up because although you can get an excellent amplifier for your money (see below) some brands aren’t original designs, and they simply rebadge – that is, slightly change and rename – the same amplifier internal board and parts.

You’ll end up getting an “ok” amp in most cases but definitely not the best.

To avoid getting a lesser amp for your money, stick to midrange or higher-end brands like Alpine, Pioneer, MTX, Rockford Fosgate, and a few other major players in the market. Definitely see my recommendations here today as I’ll ensure you get a great one.

You don’t need to go broke when shopping but it definitely pays to choose carefully.

Understanding power ratings

Car amplifier power output formulas image

You’ll see some amplifiers – in some cases even very cheap ones – sold with claims like “1200 Watts power.” This is completely misleading and is not what an amp in a small size is physically capable of producing.

Unfortunately, it’s one of the ways people new to car audio get ripped off and greatly disappointed. I always hate seeing that happen.

Don’t get mislead when shopping! Some cheaper brands use misleading numbers that are IMPOSSIBLE for them to deliver. Always check the “root-mean-square “(RMS) or “continuous” ratings. Those are an electrical engineering term to describe the actual useable power being delivered.

The best brands are “CEA-2006 compliant” which means the specs listed are proven and you can be sure they’re reliable and realistic.

CEA logo

When shopping for an amplifier, rely on the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) power standard ratings to know you’re getting accurate specs and not being lied to.  Reputable manufacturers list their specs using this ratings standard created in recent years because of the ongoing issue with exaggerated amplifier power numbers.

Realistic expectations and power you need

Car amp power ratings examples confused man

For a good quality amp that the average person can afford you can expect power ratings like 50W, 75W, or 100W RMS per channel into 4 ohms, for example.

The best car amplifier for most people will cost about a little under $200 for average power ratings or closer to $300 if you wanted a more powerful (like 100W/channel). Expect to spend more for even higher sound quality and extra features.

For most people wanting to upgrade a factory system or drive new speakers, at least 50W RMS per channel is good and can provide great volume, low distortion, and enjoyable sound.

This includes being able to drive your speakers with good bass, although you’ll probably want to block distortion-causing low-end bass by using a built-in high pass crossover option.  With that, you can get more volume with less distortion – and more enjoyment!

Image of MTX subwoofers in an enclosure

For larger cone size subwoofers, plan to have at least 150W or so as a good rule of thumb for enough power to drive them well. Subwoofers are power-hungry so for good bass sound you need to plan ahead – don’t try to use a weak amp for heavy bass. If you want bass volume that vibrates your neighbor’s windows and rattles your car, get an amp 2 x to 3 x as much power (250W-500W).

If you plan on using subwoofers, expect to have about 150W minimum available, either from a single channel or from a pair of channels bridged together. For larger subwoofers like 10″ and 12″ which can really thump, I’d recommend 300W as a good rule of thumb.

You may be surprised how great and loud a well-tuned system with a 50W per channel amplifier can sound! I personally prefer 75W/channel or higher 4 or 5 amps as they’re flexible and have extra power on tap.

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifiers

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifier image

If you only need 2 channels of power you’ll find plenty to choose from. However, try to think about future expansion!

Try to plan ahead just in case you want to expand or upgrade your sound system later. A 4 channel amplifier may be a better choice as it can always be used as a 2-channel amp but the reverse is not true.

The most common car amplifier installations

The majority of people who buy a car amplifier have one of a common number of needs in mind:

  • Connecting to a factory or aftermarket stereo to upgrade a system with front and rear speakers
  • Connecting to a factory or aftermarket stereo in order to add a subwoofer
  • Powering both front speakers AND a subwoofer for a complete sound system upgrade

Here’s a diagram showing these basic and popular systems.

(Click to enlarge image)

Illustration showing the best car amplifier typical uses

I personally prefer 4 channel amplifiers unless I need higher power for a 2-channel speaker setup, or for customers who don’t need rear speakers or the extra system flexibility. 2 channel amplifiers do tend to have higher power rating options available, but that’s not always the case.

Additionally, since most 4 channel amps sold today can be bridged for more power it’s usually not hard to find 4 channel or 5 channel amps with the power you need vs using a 2 channel model.

Factory system integration

Example of the rear of a car stereo installation closeup

If you’re using a factory stereo you can still get great sound but you’ll want to look for an amplifier with speaker-level inputs.

You can tap off of existing speakers in the trunk or from the rear of the stereo as needed to get a signal source. Small gauge speaker wire works fine for this. You’ll save the cost of a line level converter when installing an amp with speaker-level inputs.

In fact, some models now have an auto-on feature that senses when the speaker inputs have a signal and turns the amp on automatically. This avoids having to connect a remote-on wire to the amp.

More difficult systems like factory premium (factory amplified) systems often require more labor and hunting down additional wiring info. Generally speaking, however, it still can be done as long as you’re able to find a pair of full range speakers or speaker wiring you can tap off of to run to the amplifier’s inputs.

Choosing the best car amplifier

In my professional opinion the best car amplifier should be a good compromise of the following:

  • Cost
  • Power
  • Sound quality/specifications
  • Installation ease (based on your needs)
  • Features
  • Quality and the level of engineering design
  • Reliability
  • Proven buyer satisfaction

★ 5 of the best car amplifiers for your money ★

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Best value! ★Alpine MRV-F300
  • Great sound for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS
  • Evolution to class D design
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sample-table__imageJL Audio XD400/4v2
  • High-end sound and performance in a small package. Fantastic!
  • 75W x 4, 100W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS Low-noise, crystal-clear sound quality
  • NexD high-fidelity class D design. Only 8-9/16 x 2-1/16 x 7-1/8" In size!
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sample-table__imageRockford Prime R1200-1D Mono
  • Up to an amazing 1200W RMS of slammin' bass power!
  • Smart protection circuitry, Punch bass EQ, subsonic filter, and RCA outs
  • Includes Punch bass remote
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sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate P400X4
  • Class A/B sound quality that's affordable + modern compact design
  • Built-in amp setup gain features. Thermal heat management system
  • Bass EQ feature, remote bass option, compact size
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sample-table__imageAffordablePlanet Audio AC1200.4
  • Great budget 4 ch amp under $100
  • 113W x 4, 225W x 2 RMS
  • High level inputs, illuminated logo. Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Affordable, great sound, wonderful quality, and ease of installation in a compact size.

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice image

The MRV-F300 is Alpine’s most recent take on a class D amp that has been welcomed to rave reviews and it a fantastic way to drive your whole system from an amp small enough to fit below a seat! Unlike competitors, the company takes additional steps to reduce noise inherent in class D designs and provides 50W x 4 into 4 ohms and bridgeable power of 150W x 2 into 4 ohms.

Of course, it has crossovers (adjustable) for both subwoofer or full-range speaker use as well as a nice bass boost on channels 3/4.

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

The whole amp measures only  7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) and provides speaker-level inputs for working with factory systems. I’ve also provided a full review here.

It features the usual over-temp and short-circuit protection Alpine has always provided and is an excellent buy at under $175. It’s also a great sounding little amp.

You can head over to Amazon to see the many great reviews and why so many owners love it.

2. JL Audio RB XD400/4 – 75W x 4 underrated power channels of some of the best audio you can buy…and it fits under a seat!

RB-XD400/4 amp side view

Still an industry leader, JL Audio has approached compact audio amplifier design by improving class D technology. They’ve introduced NexD circuitry which uses a much faster switching speed than the lesser competition to improve power delivery as well as noise levels.

The amp is rated at – and will actually outperform – the listed specs of 75W x 4 into 4 ohms.

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

It’s a fantastic and vibrant sounding amplifier that’s still very small at only  8.52 in. x 7.09 in. x 2.05 in. (217 mm x 180 mm x 52 mm) but can accept 4 gauge wire. Low and high pass crossovers are adjustable to 500hz for additional sound system control and a 2/4 channel input switch can use a 2-channel signal to run all 4.

An additional feature is a pair of RCA outputs with selectable output signal (mono summed or stereo) so you can daisy-chain more amps if you like easily. Wire terminals are very high quality (audiophile grade) and it’s one of the best rated amplifiers among buyers, too!

Another cool feature is the ability to plug in a remote bass knob (sold separately) to control the bass while drive when using subwoofers.

If you’re looking for one of the best amplifiers available today, this is it. It’s available at major online retailers but I've seen it for much less over at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch R1200-1D – A small subwoofer amp an AMAZING power output of up to 1200W!

Product image of Rockford Fosgate Prime R1200-1D mono bass car amplifier

The Punch R1200-1D is a beast in a tiny package. Measuring only 11-1/8″W x 2″H x 7-3/8″D, this little powerhouse can provide the following incredible power ratings: (CEA-2006 compliant power ratings)

  • 400W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
  • 800W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms
  • 1,200W RMS x 1 @ 1 ohm

It even includes a remote bass control in the package to allow you to adjust the bass level while cruising down the road.

As Rockford Fosgate is one of the best amp companies designing products in America today, it also includes a unique verification sheet with each and every amp that leaves the factory. This shows it meets rated specs and you know you’re getting what you paid for.

Top view of Rockford Fosgate Prime R1200-1D mono bass car amplifier

It’s a mono (subwoofer) amplifier so for subwoofer-only system expansion it’s a fantastic choice if you want real power that SLAMS, high SPL music, and the ability to safely run multiple subwoofers without overheating and shutdown.

A built-in low-pass crossover is adjustable from 50-250hz and a Punch EQ bass boost is another feature to help with getting the best sound from your system.

The amp can’t support speaker-level inputs but does feature RCA pass-through jacks for connecting additional amplifiers.

Image of Rockford Fosgate Punch level control (gen. 2) with cableThe Punch R1200-1D includes an awesome bass remote with connection cable that’s really to install. I really like and I’m sure you will, too! It makes cranking the bass up very convenient when driving.

This little amp is an amazing amount of clean, reliable sound in a compact package and normally sells below $300. Reviews are excellent and it’s a great choice if you want high-end power you can afford!

Definitely head over to Amazon to check out the current price.

4. Rockford Fosgate Punch P600X4 (and P400X4) – low-noise class AB sound quality, great power, and set up features no one else offers.

Punch P600X4 amp angle view

If your budget allows you to spend a little under $300 or so (based on the best price I’ve found when comparing), the P600X4 is one of the best on the market today. Rockford Fosgate has once again designed another fantastic sound-quality oriented class A/B design featuring their patented Trans-ANA circuitry to deliver lower noise and some of the best sound quality available in this price range.

They’ve used surface mount technology (SMT) to make the amplifier as compact as possible, measuring only 13-3/8″W x 2-7/16″H x 8-13/16″D in size.

The amp is CEA-2006 compliant and is underrated, delivering some excellent power:

  • 75W x 4 into 4 ohms
  • 150W x 4 into 2 ohms
  • 300W x 2 bridged, 4 ohm stable

Plenty enough to power a fantastic sounding, high-volume system for nearly everyone!

Punch P600X4 amp top view no cover

The high and low pass crossovers are adjustable to 250Hz, while the Punch EQ2 is unique from other brands in that it’s adjustable for both bass and treble with 0-18 dB level possible at 45Hz and 12.5KHz. You can also add a Punch EQ remote control knob (sold separately) to adjust the sound while driving.

It doesn’t support speaker level inputs, but a 2/4 way input switch is provided for the RCA inputs.

One of the most unique features is the installation help provided by the instructions and the built-in C.L.E.A.N. gain setup system feature. When used with the included test tone CD, actually allows the amp to show the correct signal levels when setting the gain!

This will allow you to get the lowest noise and optimize for your amp for the best performance. You can also download test MP3 files as well to help you set it up.

Its sibling the P400X4 has the same features with 50W x 4 power and is less expensive.

It’s an awesome amp and definitely I recommend it to anyone who can afford it. It’s worth your time to head over and read more - the reviews are great!

5. Planet Audio Anarchy AC1200.4 – 4 channels of good sounding budget power

PLanet Audio AC1200.4 amp top

Let’s face it, some of us simply don’t have a lot of money to spend on a car amp. That’s ok – it’s understandable. Believe me, I’ve been there too!

If you still want good sound with adequate power and a way to get started with an entry-level system, the AC1200.4 is a great choice. For around $100 (or less) you can get an amp a good track record of happy buyers, built-in crossovers, and enough power to run your system and enjoy music on the cheap!

It can also connect to factory speaker-level wiring.

lanet Audio AC1600.4 amp end viewThe Planet Audio is also sold as Boss and other brands with minor cosmetic differences, and overall all versions of it have pretty good reviews as well.

It’s not CEA-2006 compliant, so the power ratings haven’t been verified like more expensive brands:

  • 4 ohms: 113 watts x 4 chan
  • 2 ohms: 225 watts x 4 chan
  • Bridged, 4 ohms: 450 watts x 2 channels

I definitely recommend you step up to the Alpine MRV-F300 but if you can’t afford to do so, it’s a good way to get started enjoying great music.

Check out the great buyer reviews and current low price over here now.

Summary

Following my guide, try to buy the best amplifier you can according to the level of power you need and based on your goal: maximum sound quality, loud bass, or just an affordable but great sounding system.

To summarize, I recommend:

  • Buy an amp with 50W or more per channel; for a higher-end system I recommend 75W+ per channel.
  • Consider getting a 4 channel amplifier because of the additional flexibility they offer.
  • A mono or bridgeable amp can drive a subwoofer. Choose a minimum of 150W. If you’re heavy/loud bass fan look into 300W-500W RMS or more.
  • Brand name class D amps have the best sound quality while still fitting into small installation spaces.
  • Class D amps are now very good in terms of sound quality. However, if your goal is the lowest noise level possible you should still consider an A/B amp if the size isn’t an issue.

Don’t forget the wire! Check out this great amp wiring kit buyer’s guide with some fantastic choices you can afford.

Be sure to let me know in the comments below or via my contact page if I can help.

The Best Value 5 Channel Car Amplifiers For The Money – Our Top List

Best 5 channel amps for your money featured image

5 channel amplifiers are an excellent choice for running an entire system from one amp. However, they’re not all equal in terms of quality, power, features, and especially value.

Below you’ll find several of the best value 5 channel amplifiers for your money. All are great choices I’d recommend to anyone wanting the best for their dollar.

Included are also more details & pros/cons for each as well.

Are you new to 5 channel car amps? I’ve also put together some excellent information you need to know before buying. Read on to learn more!

Contents

Infographic – 5 channel car amp facts

5 channel car amplifier facts infographic

5 channel amps vs 4 channel amps – What’s the difference?

5 channel vs 5 channel car amp image

5 channel car amplifiers are different from 4 channel amps in that they contain an extra high-power channel dedicated to driving a subwoofer.

Additionally, they often have some minor feature differences. For example, as they’re capable of driving an entire sound system in your vehicle, many have an input selection switch.

A 2/5 channel switch (or similar feature) allows sending a signal to all 5 amp channels from only a 2-channel stereo input. That’s a great option if you’re limited because of your particular car stereo.

Many models, unlike 4 channel amplifiers, also are able to derive the subwoofer bass signal from the rear or all 4 input signals as opposed to requiring a dedicated subwoofer input.

Most cannot produce full-range sound on the 5th (mono) channel as it’s intended for a bass subwoofer only. In most designs an internal low-pass crossover, although adjustable, cannot be bypassed.

Also, unlike 2 or 4 channel car amplifiers, 5 channel amps may contain a mixture of amp technologies.

For example, while some may use class A/B for the 4 main channels, class D is often used for the 5th channel for efficiency and reduced heat.

Read on to learn more about the different amplifier technologies.

Car amp technologies explained

Illustrated car amp switching power supply section

Image of the power supply section of a common A/B class car amplifier. A switch mode power supply (SMPS) is used to create higher voltages from the +12V supply connected.

Today’s car amplifiers, in nearly all cases, use 1 of 2 basic designs (or a combination of both). These 2 amp designs both have pros and cons as I’ll show you later.

Beginning many years ago, these different audio amplifier technologies are categorized in classes.

No one class is “better” than another, although what you might consider better really depends a lot on your needs and preferences as you’ll see.

Class A/B

Class A/B amplifiers use a design that’s been around for many decades all the way back to the 1960s, in fact! A/B amps use a combination of class “A” and class “B” amplification principles.

Here’s a short comparison of the differences:

  • Class A: Lowest distortion, highest sound fidelity, but lowest efficiency
  • Class B: Moderate distortion & sound quality, good efficiency

Class A is 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.

Class A/B amps were developed to provide good sound while keeping efficiency fairly good. Most car amps based on it have around 65%, with the remaining wasted as heat.

Another benefit is that it’s an old technology and costs less to produce. That’s one reason the most inexpensive car amps often use class A/B unless specified otherwise.

Most can give you pretty good sound but it greatly depends on the design and parts quality. Brand names are normally a safe bet.

In recent years an exciting new amp design has become very popular thanks to its biggest advantages: class D.

Class D

Diagram showing a class D amplifier’s operation. Class D car amps use switching technology – much like used in modern power supplies – to change a music signal into on/off waveforms. These waveforms, since they’re off much of the time, keep energy use low and greatly reduce the power wasted. On the output side, the music signal is recreated from the square waves to drive speakers just like any normal amp.

Class D car amplifiers work by using switching technology to greatly reduce energy waste and the power a car amp draws from the electrical system.

It’s a fascinating concept! In this type of amp, the analog (wave-shaped) music signal is directed into electronic chips that represent it using square waves of different widths.

As this happens, the waves are directed to drive power transistors to amplify that signal into a more powerful version, boosted by the amp’s power supply I mentioned earlier.

Once that’s done, the music waveforms are recreated by “smoothing.” Smoothing uses electronic components to convert these square waves, not much higher in voltage, and out to the speaker to produce sound.

Class D car amp benefits

Thanks to how it works, the power transistors aren’t switched on nearly 100% of the time like other methods. This means it uses less power and therefore draws less electrical current (fewer amps) from the vehicle.

These amps produce a lot less heat! Class D amps are much smaller, lighter, and easier to install thanks to this.

However, they do have drawbacks, although it’s less of a concern as modern designs have improved a lot. Class D car amps have a worse signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) spec and noise levels than other types of amps.

If you’re a sound quality fanatic like I am, it’s important to shop carefully as cheaper designs have poor performance due to this. Better designs are very good and some like the ones I’ve listed below will give very nice sound quality and low noise levels.

Shopping for a 5 channel amplifier

Alpine amp installed under truck seat

There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a 5 channel amp including size. The best models are also the most compact and many can even fit under a car or truck seat!

Choosing the best 4 channel car amplifier that needs the best basically comes down to several factors:

  • Your budget
  • Power requirements
  • Features you need
  • Value and quality
  • Installation space limitations

I’ve installed many amps over the years but I’ve always considered these one of the coolest and most practical you can buy. They’re excellent for many car installations, especially when using front and rear speakers.

While they’re not incredibly popular and there isn’t a huge number of options on the market, there are some very amazing values you should definitely have a look at.

5 channel amps today vs years ago

Internal image of a 4 ch. ampAmps like this one used to quite often be very large and heavy. Things have changed! Many very powerful amps – including those with 5 channels total – are more compact and efficient than ever.

Car amp technology has evolved a bit over the years, slowly but surely. The last few years have been especially good for buyers!

You’re able to get more watts per dollar than ever before and you’ll be able to pay much less for quality that once sold for over $300.

Additionally, thanks to class D innovation the 5th channel provided in my recommended models offer a lot more power than once was possible. That’s fantastic for people who love bass that hits hard.

Low-end amps won’t have the same sound quality

I don’t recommend you shop for the cheapest amps. Instead, a good compromise between quality, price, and performance is often the best choice.

Until recent times, class D car amps were decent at best but the sound quality was always a few steps below other types. However, things have changed a bit for the brand name models and sound quality has definitely greatly improved.

★ The best 5 channel amplifiers for the money ★

Our top picks and details

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Choice ★Pioneer GM-D9705 Class D
  • Simply an excellent choice and great value. Compact power you'll love!
  • CEA-2006 rated 75W x 4 + 350W x 1 of clear, efficient, and compact sound
  • Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageHifonics BRX5016.5
  • Get more watts per dollar: 60W x 4 + 475W x 1
  • combines class A/B 4-channel sound with the efficiency of class D for powerful bass that really hits
  • Features beautiful accent lighting. Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate R600X5 Prime
  • Great for sound quality enthusiasts. Rockford sound quality and performance under $300.
  • 5 x 50W + 1 x 200W high-quality performance and features
  • Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

Product reviews & pros/cons

1. Pioneer GM-D9705 class D – Great sound, plenty of power, and nice features in a small package. Great buy!

Pioneer GM-D9705 5 channel amp editors choice badge product imageHere it is – hands down, one of the single best affordable 5 channel amps on the market today. Not just any amp, but well-made Pioneer GM-D9705 with enough power for nearly any system you throw at it.

What impressed me the most about the D9705 isn’t just that it cost less (at under $250), but how well it’s made and the overall value you get for your dollar.

It uses Pioneer’s modern take on class D switching technology to produce powerful, clear, and crisp music in less space and with far less heat. You’ll get 4 main (bridgeable) full-range channels and a dedicated mono subwoofer channel for bass that really thumps.

Check out the great power ratings (did I mention they’re industry certified?):

  • 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 kick-ass sound system all from one cool-running and affordable compact amp!

Pioneer GM series amplifier remote image closeup

While the GM-D9705 is great already, the included optional bass level remote really sealed the deal for me. With it you can adjust your subwoofer level while driving easily. A generous 19 foot installation cable is included and works for nearly any size vehicle. It’s also very easy to install, as you just mount the remote, run the cable, and click it into the jacks on both ends.

Unlike some amps which make installation and setup harder, the Pioneer’s layout is smart. RCA inputs, crossover controls, and more on one end while power and speaker wiring terminals are on the opposite side.

As an installer, I like that as when they’re placed together it can cause headaches when it’s time to set the amp of or make adjustments later.

One thing I really like is that not only is a bass remote level control optional, it’s included! Unlike other amps, it won’t cost extra.

It’s a handy way to bump the bass while drive, and installing it is pretty simple, too.

Pioneer GM-D9705 front and rear features image

Top: All channels have adjustable high or low-pass crossovers (except for the mono channel, which is low-pass only) with an adjustable cutoff of up to 500Hz. 12dB or 24dB adjustable crossover slopes can be selected, too. Need flexibility? You can use a dedicated subwoofer input signal or simply flick a switch to get 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.

The GM-D9705 is great for factory stereo hook up as well. Speaker level inputs are provided including a small and easy to connect wiring harness. It works well with most factory stereos or factory amplified systems when you don’t have RCA cable jacks.

Even though the Pioneer is energy-efficient if you’d like to use larger gauge power wire you can. The power terminals support wire up to 4 gauge in size.

All wiring terminals are high-quality and feature Allen screws (tool included) for very tight and secure connections that won’t let you down.

Crossover & sound adjustments

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. That’s a nice addition in my opinion.

Don’t have a head unit with a dedicated subwoofer channel signal output? You’re covered there, too! Use the sub channel’s input selector switch to get a bass signal from the main channels.

Sound quality

Is it audiophile quality with the highest sound quality on Earth? No, of course not – but then again, you’re not paying an outrageous amount of cash. The sound quality, however, is very good!

I’m pleased to say that for something so powerful, compact, and affordable, it’s one of the best 5 channel amps I’ve had the pleasure to deal with. And I’m picky!

Noise is low and music is clear and crisp. Highs are sharp and fun to listen to just like you’d expect. Bass is punchy, powerful, and really gets addictive fast.

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. Yes, it’s smaller enough to fit into a shoebox! Wow.

PROS:
  • Great power output
  • Good sound quality
  • Excellent value
  • Compact size for a 5 channel
  • Bridgeable to 2 ch. + subwoofer
  • 4 gauge capable
  • Capable of driving a whole system
  • Class D efficiency & low heat
  • Bass boost feature (0-18dB @ 50Hz) (requires remote use)
  • 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
CONS:
  • Subwoofer channel is low-pass only
  • May require bass remote use for best performance
  • No accent lighting
  • Power/protect lights are combined, not separate
  • 1 year warranty only

Let me be honest – while Pioneer is known for pretty good stereos, amps, and speakers, I didn’t think I’d end up being this impressed. I’m glad I was wrong.

All-in-all, with its small size, great power, pleasant sound quality, and features, it’s easily my #1 choice to recommend in 5 channel amps today. It’s easily my top pick and deserves the Editor’s Choice recommendation.

Head over and check out the lowest price and excellent reviews at Amazon now.

2.  Hifonics BRX5016.5 – Great basic power for an affordable price. Lots of nice features, too!

Hifonics BRX5016-5 amplifier angle view

Want a top performer but limited on cash? The Hifonics Brutus BRX5016.5 may be just what you’re looking for.

Not only is it a great choice to power all but the most demanding systems but it’s a bass monster as it has one of the most powerful mono channels in a 5 channel amp.

Note: The specs aren’t CEA-2006 compliant so you’ll be relying on the manufacturer’s provided RMS power ratings. However, it’s reasonably rated and has pretty good power for an affordable 5 channel amp.

Rated power:

  • Channels 1-4 RMS Power:
    • 4 ohms: 60 watts x 4
    • 2 ohms: 100 watts x 4
  • Channel 5 RMS Power:
    • 4 ohms: 475 watts x 1
    • 2 ohms: 750 watts x 1

Price isn’t the only advantage you’ll get from it. The sound quality is quite nice while keeping noise low thanks to Hifonic’s well-designed class A/B circuit board and audio path topology.

What’s unique about the BRX5016.5 is that uses class A/B for the main channels and class D for the subwoofer channel.

Hifonic’s design makes it possible for an amp this value-priced to deliver some serious bass power without requiring a giant – and difficult to install – chassis.

Let me say that again: You’ve got up to 475W RMS at 4 ohms! That’s an amazing amount of power for its price class.

Hifonics BRX5016-5 amplifier end viewThe Brutus 5 channel amp features a nicely designed control panel with fully adjustable high, low, and full-range controls. Low pass filters allow 35-150Hz selectable and high pass adjust is a flexible 50Hz-4KHz, allowing driving separate component speakers.

The signal to noise ratio (SNR) isn’t as high as more expensive models at 90dB, but the good news is that it’s not an inflated value. Additionally, with a good, strong input signal the noise is actually quite low.

Overall, I’ve found it to be a good performer in terms of sound quality. The adjustable high/low pass crossovers are better than those I’ve seen on most amps as the front channels have a far wider range at 50z-4Khz while low pass provides a range of 35-150Hz.

  • 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

It’s a great amp to use if you’re planning on driving tweeters from channels 1 & 2 and midbass or woofers from 3 & 4 for more sound control & clarity.

An adjustable bass boost is available as well with from 0-18dB boost at 45Hz

Installation factors

Unlike fully class D amps, the BRX5016.5 is a bit large at 9.80″W x 19.60″L x 2.40″H. You’ll need to allow more installation space than the others here.

Wiring connections are excellent and great looking! The speaker and wire terminals feature a clear divider that’s illuminated when the amp is powered on for a fantastic look which I love.

Terminals use machined screws for an excellent and reliable connection as well.

One drawback I found is that speaker level inputs aren’t provided. However, for bass fanatics, a subsonic filter is.

You can also switch between 2, 4, and 5-channel input mode if you don’t have enough RCA connections.

Hifonics Brutus BRX5016 accent lighting image

Want something different? The BRX5016.5 has beautiful accent lighting on both the logo and the wiring terminals. It sets it apart and helps you get a much more exciting installation appearance!

Hifonics amplifier bass remote control accessory image

The Hifonics amp includes an optional bass remote with connection cable and allen wrenches for connecting wiring securely.

And guess what – it doesn’t end there! A convenient bass remote is included as well allowing remote gain control for your subwoofer from the dashboard.

PROS:
  • A/B design on channels 1-4 for good sound are reduced cost
  • Good sound quality
  • One of the best crossovers (very flexible)
  • Great power
  • 0-18dB bass boost
  • Subsonic filter
  • Accent lighting 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
CONS:
  • No speaker level inputs
  • Large size
  • Wiring connections must use allen wrenches (included)
  • Rated specs aren’t CEA-2006 assured – based on manufacturer’s advertised specs instead
  •  

For the money, it’s a great choice and I’m happy to recommend it to you out there who are looking for a good deal on an affordable amp.

Don’t hesitate to check out the great owner reviews. Be sure to find out why it's so popular among buyers at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate R600X5 – Classic sound quality and next-level performance for under $300.

Rockford Fosgate R600X5 5 channel amp front angleWhen it comes to brand-name quality, Rockford Fosgate is still one of the most respected names in the car stereo world. After having a look at the R600X5 I understand why.

Like other models in the Punch family of amps, it’s one of the best-sounding amps you’ll find under $300. Not only that, but you’ll get a nice underrated amp with enough power to run your system.

Unlike the competition controls are top-mounted for easier access during installation setup and later tweaking – and as we both know that’s going to happen!

What sets the R600X5 is its compact size – few amps sold today with class A/B sound quality are this small. A class D amp with 84% efficiency drives the mono subwoofer output.

Based on classic Rockford class A/B design on the main 4 channels with the company’s own proprietary technologies. This results in a cleaner signal path and reduced noise.

Audio is very clear and the highs are crisp with great performance. Music is more responsive, true-sounding, and doesn’t break up during demanding times when you crank it up.

The amp even includes its own unique factory test sheet in the box!

Power ratings:

  • 50 Watts x 4 @ 4-Ohms + 200 Watts x 1 @ 4-Ohms
  • 75 Watts x 4 @ 2-Ohms + 300 Watts x 1 @ 2-Ohms

While the specs above my seem limited, bear in mind that they’re conservatively by Rockford and can easily exceed the rated numbers. All ratings are CEA-2006 compliant so you can trust Rockford Fosgate’s advertised ratings.

Rockford Fosgate R600X5 5 channel amp top image

Fully adjustable high and low-pass crossovers are provided. You’ll also get a great Punch EQ bass boost you can dial in for just the right bass bump to get your system sounding sweet.

Crossover & audio controls

You’ll get some nice audio controls as well – a bit more than average. The subwoofer phase control is especially cool.

Bass enhancement:

  • Front/Rear: 0dB/+6dB/+12dB @ 45Hz
  • Sub: Variable 0dB to +12dB @ 45Hz
  • Sub: 0°/180° Phase Control

Crossover Controls:

  • Front/Rear: High-Pass/Low-Pass 50-250Hz
  • Sub: Low-Pass variable 50Hz – 250Hz

Bass and other features

Want to easily crank the bass while driving? Add the optional Punch level control remote (included). It’s a great feature, but I would have liked to see this included as with the competitor models.

The good news is that the bass boost is still available for adjustment if the remote isn’t plugged in.

Real time output and power supply thermal sensing provides on-the-fly monitoring of heat buildup during heavy loads and allows the amp to reduce power – but not shutoff – under hard conditions.

It’s a unique design feature I think is great. Most amps would shut off instead of continuing to run at a reduced but safe level as the R600X5 can.

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.

PROS:
  • Great sound!
  • One of the smallest A/B amps today
  • Includes Punch bass remote
  • Class D subwoofer section (84% efficient)
  • Thermal management control avoids shutdown
  • Short-circuit and overload sensing
  • High-quality terminals
  • Punch EQ feature works with or without remote use
  • Adjustable high/low pass crossovers
  • Remote level control option
  • Speaker level inputs
  • 2/4 input switch if 4 channels aren’t available
CONS:
  • Screw holes inside chassis may be a bit more difficult
  • Low efficiency compared to class D amps
  • 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

The R600X5 Prime is a great-sounding, well-designed, and compact amp with excellent buyer reviews and many happy owners. Personally I’m impressed with the quality, too.

Have a look! Check out the many great buyer reviews and current price over at Amazon now.

Additional info

Don’t forget the wiring! Here you can find some of the best amp wiring kits for your money.

I’ve also got a great DIY car amp rack guide so you can add make your own low-cost custom amp mounting rack.

The Best Car Amps For Bass – 4 Great Buys For Your Dollar

Best car amps for bass post featured image

There are a ton of car amplifiers for bass to choose from – in fact there’s too many to pick from. What if you buy one and find out later you could have gotten a lot better deal?

Just imagine how you’ll feel if you find out you got an amp that’s a bad pick or the power ratings are bogus.

That’s where I’d love to help. I’ve put together a great list of the best car amps for bass for your dollar. Each one is a great deal for nearly anyone and have true power ratings provided.

Contents

Infographic – Bass car amp facts and tips

Bass car amp facts and tips infographic

What is a mono amp? How they’re different

Image of bass car amps vs multi-channel (full range) car amps comparisonFull-range and mono bass amps have pros and cons when you compare them. In fact one is best suited for a particular kind of audio system job. Mono amps are a better choice than full-range amps when you need only bass (like for subwoofers) and super power output. 2 and 4 channel car amps are better suited for musical use as their power output is usually more limited.

One important thing to know right away is that mono bass car amps are not suited for full range speakers and are designed for high power output to subwoofers.

While other amps how power ratings like 50W, 75W, or 100W per channel, a mono amp has a single high power channel. They’re often capable of power output like 250W, 350W, 500W, and even 1,000W and above!

Nearly all of them aren’t equipped to produce the full range of musical sound frequencies. Unlike 2 and 4-channel amps, they’re also available in much higher power output ranges. While most car amps can be bridged, even then that extra power is lower than a lot of low priced bass amps.

Full range car amps are designed with flexible crossovers for the most common speaker systems people use: Component speakers, separate tweeters or woofers, and full-range coaxial speakers.

Bass amps are best suited for only driving subwoofers.

A few more differences

One thing they do have in common, though, is that both kinds sometimes offer a bass boost feature to “bump up” the bass for even better sound. Bass amps often also included a remote bass level knob which most full-range amps don’t.

Definitely bear that in mind when shopping. It’s a really convenient and cool feature to have!

Bass amps may drive lower loads

Image showing a car bass amp speaker Ohms rating exampleShown: A typical high-power mono bass amp like  often has a minimum speaker load rating printed on it (or in the manual). Never wire subwoofers in a way that the total Ohms load will be below this.

These days many bass amps can handle an Ohm rating down to super-low values like 1 Ohm! This is in contrast to 2 and 4 channel amps as nearly all of those need at least 4 ohms when bridged and 2 or 4 ohms per channel depending on the model.

The Ohms rating (the real name is impedance, the total speaker load the amps sees) tells you the minimum speaker resistance, also called the speaker load, an amplifier can handle.

It’s important to never go below the smallest speaker load specs of an amp as it will get hot quickly and may shut off or could even become damaged.

What does that really mean? It means you’ll be able to drive even more subwoofers if you like. That also means a lot more flexibility for your bass system options.

Power ratings: What you really need to know!

Car amp power ratings how to shop image with smiley face

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misleading info used for selling car amps – especially for bass (mono) amps! The good news is that generally speaking, once you know the basics and what to look for you can avoid getting ripped off.

Thinking about buying a bass car amp to drive some subs? Chances are you’ve seen just how confusing it is when you look at car amp specifications. It’ll nearly give you a headache trying to figure out which ratings are the true power output and what it all means.

It’s a shame but even today many amplifier manufacturers still use misleading power ratings. A lot of amplifier companies (especially for budget-priced models) rely on misleading numbers to sell amplifiers to unsuspecting buyers.

What makes things even worse is that in some cases even if the listed power is reasonable there’s no way to know for 100% sure what it will really deliver in many cases. A lot of lower-priced car amps don’t use industry-standard ratings to guarantee you’ll get what you think you will.

Car amp power specs explained

Image showing how bass car amp power is caculated with formulas for Ohm's Law

Unfortunately, while there’s not a single reliable way to judge amplifier power in the world of car audio, there are a few things I can show you.

To cut down on the confusion here are the main types of amplifier power ratings to understand:

  1. Peak (maximum) power
  2. RMS power ratings
  3. CEA-2006 certified RMS ratings

1. Peak (max) power

The peak power rating, also listed as the maximum power, isn’t a useful number at all in the real world. This is the power rating used as a misleading number on many car amps, sadly.

This power rating is the maximum power output a car amp can produce only for a tiny moment – usually a fraction of a second. It’s not the power rating you can expect an amp to put out continuously.

Don’t use this to make a buying decision!

2. Root Mean Square (RMS) / continuous power

Root Mean Square (RMS) is just a mathematical way of calculating voltage and power for alternating current (AC) electrical signals produced by amps. That’s because unlike direct current (DC) your car uses from the battery, music has alternating sound signals which change direction (waves, like sine waves).

Because of this, it’s a bit more complicated when we calculate the same amount of work AC does vs DC. The most important thing to know that the RMS power rating for an amp is usually assumed to be around the “true” continuous power rating it can really deliver.

Sometimes you’ll see the words “continuous power” used and other times you won’t. RMS power is usually measured based on the amp’s voltage delivered to a speaker load. It’s often (but not always) based on how much power can be delivered until speaker clipping – or when a musical signal starts to get cut off and distorts – happens.

3. CEA-2006 certified power ratings

CEA-2006 Compliant logo

Because the audio electronics industry has such a big problem with specs and how they’re misrepresented, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) developed a standard way of rating amplifiers.

Called the CEA-2006 amplifier power standard, it’s a way of knowing that a company has real specs that meet the same requirements as those from another company. In other words, it’s a fair way of comparing one amp’s ratings to another.

It’s just a different version of RMS power ratings. In fact, it’s actually a bit more strict, as instead of measuring an amp’s output until it reaches speaker clipping, power is measured until it reaches 1% distortion.

That’s because 1% is considered the point at which many people can begin to tell there’s distortion in music. (In fact, really an amp’s output is still pretty good at higher volumes until clipping occurs, in many cases)

Which power ratings should you use when shopping for an amp?

For the most part, use the CEA-2006 power ratings (if available) or continuous RMS power ratings when buying an amplifier. A good quality amp should deliver the power ratings it lists for those.

Never use the peak or maximum power ratings as a way to compare amps when shopping.

What are Class D bass car amps? Why does it matter?

Diagram showing how a class D amplifier works

This diagram shows the basic way a class D works and why they’re so efficient. Unlike older designs, they don’t turn on output transistors when a music signal isn’t present. Instead, they turn the input signal into a series of on/off square waves. These are then filtered and shaped back into the original (now amplified) signal then out to drive speakers.

Class D amplifiers are a perfect match for bass car amps, as years ago super high power car amps were simply too expensive and used too much power to be affordable. They also produced a lot of heat when used.

That’s not the case anymore. Thanks to modern class D technology bass amps can be much more efficient, smaller in size, and produce much less heat. In fact, they’re a better value, too, as now they can produce more power for your dollar than ever before!

More efficient and run cool

These types of amps are more efficient than older class A/B amps as they use switching technology to “break up” a musical signal into a series of square waves. Because of this, the power transistors they use to amplify the inputs aren’t turned on except when needed and therefore don’t waste as much power as older amps.

Before being sent to the subwoofer output, the original signal is amplified and turned back into the same shape as the input signal from your head unit.

Class D car amplifiers are typically about 85% efficient and run cool unlike class A/B designs which are only about 65% efficient or less.

★ 4 of the best car amps for bass ★

Our top picks at a glance

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ BUDGET BEAST! ★Rockville DB12 Class D
  • A budget beast that delivers some serious class D power for under $100!
  • CEA-2006 proven power ratings: 350W @ 4 ohms, 650W @ 2 ohms
  • Compact, good quality. Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageIgnite R1600/1D Class D
  • A true hidden bargain gem under $100
  • Lab tested for 340W @ 4 ohms, 565W @ 2 ohms, 756 @ 1 ohms of clear, efficient class D bass that slams
  • Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate R1200-1D
  • Up to an amazing 1200W of bass power! 4/2/1 Ohm stable
  • 400W/800W/1200W CEA-2006 power. Built-in heat management feature.
  • Only 1.97 x 6.77 x 11.06" in size. Includes Punch remote control.
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageCheap starter ampBoss Riot R1100M
  • Super popular! A great cheap starter amp & a lot for the money
  • Lab tested to 125W @ 4 ohms, 250W @ 2 ohms
  • Good features for the money ($50 and under). Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

Detailed reviews, features, and pros/cons

1. Rockville DB12 – Excellent CERTIFIED power and features for under $100. A budget beast!

Rockville DB12 mono car amp front image

Need some real bass power that won’t break the bank? You’re in luck! Rockville’s DB12 is one of today excellent budget beasts that has unbeatable value and power output.

Unlike other budget-priced amps on the market, Rockville amps are rated using CEA-2006 industry standard true power specs with proven numbers. In fact, the non-CEA ratings (RMS) you’ll get are even higher.

Check out the DB12’s awesome power output:

  • 350W RMS @ 4 ohms
  • 550W RMS @ 2 ohms

That’s some serious power for your dollar! As hard as it seems to believe, you can even pick one up for under $100 if you shop smart (see link below)

Not only that, but it’s a well-made one that I’m happy to recommend too. And quite frankly it’s simply a great sounding amp as well!

Rockville DB12 CEA power ratings certificate

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Unheard of in budget amps, the DB12 includes a certificate with certified power specs. That’s unusual in this price range as normally it’s only found with more expensive amps. CEA-2006 compliant power specs mean you can be confident you’ll get the power advertised.

Rockville DB12 front and rear end closeup

Low price, great features. One thing I really like about the DB12 is that despite being so affordable you still get the great features you need for hard-hitting, clear bass. Speaker and wiring terminals are higher quality than other models in its price bracket and offer tight, clean, reliable connections. You’ll also get a bass EQ (boost) control, 0/180 degree phase switch, and adjustable low pass crossover. There’s also a bass remote port for the included remote bass level. RCA output jacks make system expansion even easier, too!

I’m not just impressed by the great value of the amp but the features you get, too. I’m impressed that such an inexpensive, solid amp still offers features others don’t.

Features are pretty impressive:

  • Includes bass remote and cable
  • High-current wiring terminals
  • Certification sheet with tested power and serial number
  • RCA line out jacks for expansion
  • 0/180° sub phase control switch
  • Subsonic filter
  • Bass EQ feature
  • 0-250Hz adjustable low pass filter
  • Soft on & mute start up circuits
  • Overheating and short-circuit protection
  • LED illuminated logo
  • Bass remote features a power LED

This is not an amp you’re going to be able to match for the money, hands down. Without a doubt it’s one of the rare few to offer true CEA-2006 power ratings.

Rockville DB12 included items image

Your new DB12 amp comes with everything you’ll need aside from a wiring kit and audio signal: Hex wrenches, installation screws, the base remote & cable, and a helpful owner’s manual.

As much as I found the Rockville DB12 to be one of the best budget buys around, it’s not perfect. I do have a few minor complaints.

Mainly, it can’t handle a 1 ohm speaker load (2 Ohm minimum rating) so you can’t drive some subwoofer setups like other amps. Also, if connecting to a factory system you’ll need a RCA speaker level converter as there’s no speaker-level input feature.

Regardless, in my opinion, it’s hands down an amazing budget beast that’s well put together and is a fantastic value.

PROS:
  • CEA rated RMS power certificate
  • Great power output (350W / 550W)
  • Good build quality
  • >90 dB SNR
  • Includes bass remote dial
  • Bass EQ feature
  • Phase control switch (0/180°)
  • RCA pass through jacks for system expansion
  • Compact size (9″ x 2.4″ x 13.1″)
  • LED illuminated logo looks great
  • High-quality wiring terminals
  • Sub-sonic filter
  • Soft start and protection circuitry
  • Adjustable low-pass filter
CONS:
  • Can’t handle 1 ohm subwoofer loads
  • No speaker level inputs
  • 1 year warranty only
  • Mounting screws are harder to install

I’ve not often been impressed by an amp this affordable, but the DB12 has earned my Editor’s Choice recommendation. The facts are in: it’s an excellent budget bass powerhouse that’s affordable and ticks all the right boxes!

This is a true budget beast you’d be crazy to pass up!

Head over and check out the latest sale price and great reviews at Amazon.

2. Ignite R1600/1D – Lab proven power, great features, and low price. A true hidden gem.

Ignite R1600/1D mono amp front image

If you’re in the market for even more power that’s still very affordable (under $120) you’re in luck! The Ignite R1600/1D is a nice little gem of an amp you won’t regret.

Not only does the R1600/D provide proven RMS power ratings but it can actually exceed its listed specs! That makes an already great deal even better. These are real-world, dyno tested numbers – not just hypothetical stuff.

It’s great for more demanding systems, too, and unlike many other mono bass amps it’s stable to 1 Ohm speaker loads. You’ll get awesome power in a compact, efficient amp that runs cool while delivering slamming bass.

Rated vs lab-tested power ratings are:

  • 4 ohms RMS: 300W rated, 356W tested
  • 2 ohms RMS: 530W rated, 565W tested
  • 1 ohm RMS: 750W rated, 756W tested

Hard to believe maybe, but true! An incredible 756W of real, useable power in an amp that’s less than $100. It’s also a great-sounding amp too.

Ignite R1600/1D dyno power test results image

Dyno test power output results for the R1600/1D. As you can see, at a bit above 14V (where your vehicle will be at a time when the engine is revved higher) the power output actually exceeds the listed power ratings!

I was pleasantly surprised to see what the R1600/1D could to. Dyno-tested (power/load testing measurements) power output for the amp at 4, 2, and 1 ohm loads show how well it works as you can see here. No misleading “peak” or “max” power ratings here: just real high power you can depend on.

That’s some serious watts-per-dollar value.

Don’t worry, though – you won’t have to compromise on features if you pick up an R1600/1D.

Ignite R1600/1D amp front and rear ends closeup imageIt’s a well-made, smartly designed amp in my opinion. Good build quality & fit and finish. Want features? You got it! You’ll get a subsonic filter, adjustable bass boost, phase control, low-pass filter control, and bass remote port. There’s even an RCA output jack pair for system expansion.

It’s a great-looking amp but it wasn’t just the power output and looks that impressed me. Unlike other amps in its price range you’ll get some great features you might not expect.

Features include:

  • Includes bass remote dial and cable
  • RCA pass through jacks for expansion
  • 0-180° sub phase control dial (adjustable)
  • Subsonic filter
  • Bass boost dial
  • 0-200Hz adjustable low pass filter
  • Soft on & mute start circuits
  • Overheating and short-circuit protection
  • Uses standard ATC automotive fuses
  • Remote includes power-on LED

Ignite Audio R1600/1D bass remote closeup image

Remote bass remotes are a great feature you’ll love! Very convenient and they make using your bass amp more fun & easy. The R1600/1D includes one at no extra charge. Installation is easy and the remote works well – just dial in the exact amount of bass you want from the convenience of the driver’s seat. There’s also a neat little power indicator light, too. Nice!

Bass remote controls are an awesome way to enjoy easy, fun subwoofer control from the driver’s seat, but not all amps offer one. However, the Ignite amp includes one at no extra charge. It’s an inexpensive, but well-made remote knob that works great and installation is easy.

It also includes a power LED to let you know the amp is powered on and working. Just adjust the dial anytime for more or less bass – no need to fiddle with the amp in the trunk or your head unit!

Final thoughts

While it’s a fantastic performer and a great buy, I do have a few gripes: the mounting screws are a bit harder to drive in when mounting. The mounting feet are located facing the inside of the amp housing instead of  outwards.

Also, the wiring terminals aren’t as nice as those on competitors like the Rockville DB12. The amp is also slightly larger in size as well. No speaker level inputs are provided either.

Otherwise, I simply can’t say enough good things and it’s a great choice.

PROS:
  • Excellent true RMS power: up 756W RMS
  • Stable to 1 ohm
  • Adjustable phase control (0-180°)
  • Adjustable bass boost
  • 0-200Hz adj. low pass
  • RCA line out jacks
  • Bass remote included
  • Nice, sleek design and appearance
  • Well-made
  • Simple controls
CONS:
  • Mount screw holes a bit inconvenient
  • No illuminated logo or lighting
  • Distortion slightly higher than others
  • Wiring terminals could be better
  • Slightly larger than some competitors (13.66 x 2.05 x 8.94″)
  • No speaker level inputs

The Ignite R1600/1D is the perfect affordable starter amp. It’s a well-made budget gem with serious power output and value for your dollar.

If you need serious bass power with good sound that’s affordable this amp should definitely be on your list.

Find out now why No products found.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch R1200-1D – Compact size, high quality, and AMAZING power: up to 1200W!

Punch R1200-1D amp side view

The Rockford Fosgate R1200-1D is a quality performer in a tiny package. Measuring a compact 11-1/8 x 2 x 7-3/8″, this little powerhouse has some serious true power output ratings:

  • 400W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
  • 800W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms
  • 1,200W RMS x 1 @ 1 ohm

Rockford Fosgate is one of America’s top car audio manufacturers and it really shows. Their class D line of bass (mono) amps are some of the highest-quality you’ll find today.

Each amp includes a unique verification sheet with CEA-2006 compliant test details from the factory before being approved for shipping. 

You’ll also get a great remote bass level control (no extra charge) for easy & convenient bass adjustment while driving.

Punch R1200-1D amp top view

Top view: The R1200-1D is a sleek, well-designed compact bass amp with serious power output. Controls are easy to get to from the top making it a great choice not only for cars but trucks, too.

Great features

It’s a solid, great performing amp you’ll love but what would a bass amp be without features?

Have a look at what you’ll get:

  • Punch EQ (bass boost dial) with +18dB boost @ 45Hz
  • RCA pass through jacks for system expansion
  • Aluminum heatsink
  • Top-mounted controls
  • Short circuit and thermal protection
  • Includes bass remote and installation cable
  • Class D design with up to 85% efficiency
  • Adjustable 50-500Hz low pass filter
  • 4 gauge power and 14 gauge speaker terminal capable
  • CEA-2006 compliant power ratings
  • 1 ohm stable for maximum power output
  • Subsonic filter (adjustable)

Need to tailor your sound just right? Use the Punch EQ bass boost to dial in a great amount of extra bass that really hits. Adding more amps? Use the convenient RCA pass through jacks to run the cable directly to another and save time, hassle, & money.

Image of Rockford Fosgate Punch level control (gen. 2) with cable

The R1200-1D comes with a great little bass remote and cable that makes enjoying your hard-hitting bass even better! Use it to dial in the perfect amount of thump anytime you like. No need to fiddle with your stereo’s bass control every time.

It’s a great sounding little amp with excellent design quality, efficiency, and all the power you could need for about $250 or so.

There are a few minor complaints I have: No speaker level inputs for factory systems and the mounting screw holes are harder to reach in this case. Also there’s no fuse built into the amp itself so it’s critical a good main battery fuse is used.

Those minor points aside, it’s a super-powerful amp that can handle up to four 4 ohm subwoofers or two 2 ohm subwoofers without problems. The 1 ohm stable feature isn’t something you’ll find in a lot of other amps.

PROS:
  • Up to 1,200W RMS output
  • CEA-2006 true power ratings
  • Includes test sheet w/ individual specs
  • 4 ga. & 14 ga. capable terminals
  • 1 ohm stable
  • Short circuit and thermal protection
  • Punch EQ bass boost dial (0 to +18dB)
  • Includes Punch bass remote control
  • RCA pass through jacks
  • Top mounted controls easy to use
  • Efficient, cool class D design
  • Compact size
  • Subsonice filter & adjustable low pass
CONS:
  • No speaker level inputs
  • Mounting screw holes could be easier
  • No phase control feature
  • More expensive than lower power models
  • No built in fuse on amp (uses main fuse)

If you’re in the market for a high-quality, reliable, and great-sounding bass amp with some serious power output, at 1,2000W RMS it’s an excellent choice.

Be sure to see the other excellent buyer reviews today. Head over and see why it's one of the highest-rated mono bass amps at Amazon.

4. Boss Riot R1100M – A great super-cheap starter amp for budget bass ($50!)

Boss R1100M amp angle view

Are you really strapped for cash and think you’ll just have to do without bass? Think again!

The Boss Riot R1100M is a best-selling cheap starter amp to help you get bass on a budget. One of the world’s most popular bass amps, the reviews don’t lie!

I’ve decided to add this to my list of recommended bass amps because there’s a demand out there. Not even can afford even one of the great $100 amps I recommend. And hey, that’s ok if you don’t have the budget.

From Boss’ budget Riot amp family, the R1100M delivers some of the best value for the dollar. However, much like other budget models, the power ratings are misleading so here’s what you need to know.

Lab-tested power ratings for the R1100M are:

  • 129W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
  • 212W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms

Does it have massive, ground-pounding power output? Not at all. However, it does well for budget systems where you don’t need expensive, high-dollar power.

At only 9.13 x 10.44 x 2.25″ in size it’s a great fit for both cars and trucks. You’ll be able to install it in places bigger amps won’t fit (like under a seat or limited truck space, too)

I’m actually pretty impressed with what you get for about $50:

  • Includes 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
  • Speaker level inputs for factory systems
  • Thermal & short circuit protection
  • 2 ohm stable

 

Boss Riot R1100M amplifier front and rear ends closeup image

Yes, it’s cheap and definitely a budget amp! Regardless, if you’re ok with lower power output (close to 125W @ 4 ohms, ~200W @ 2 ohms) it’s still an option to consider. Despite being so cheap, it’s well-made and looks great. It definitely looks and feels a bit more expensive.

Unlike some competitors, it features speaker-level inputs and can work with factory systems with no other parts needed.

Boss R1100M amp remote

There’s a handy bass remote included. It’s a great feature I definitely recommend – very easy (and fun) to use while you’re driving for convenient bass control. Installation is pretty simple, too: Just click the included cable in place on both ends after mounting the bass control to your dashboard.

As far as sound goes, it’s actually a pretty good sounding amp in my opinion, despite the lower power output. To make it even better you can switch on the bass boost or adjust the low-pass crossover control for better bass response.

Final thoughts

While not a great choice for huge, high-power subwoofer systems, it’s a great option for single or dual subwoofer box installations.

I don’t often recommend lower end amps like this R1100M – especially those that don’t list the real RMS power ratings.

However, I can’t deny I’ve grown fond of it as a great choice for people who can’t spend a lot.

PROS:
  • Decent power for the price
  • Good sound quality
  • Includes bass remote knob
  • Compact size
  • Incredibly affordable
  • 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
CONS:
  • Not efficient like class D models
  • No phase control
  • Limited power
  • Single pair speaker terminal
  • Not 1 Ohm stable
  • No RCA passthrough jacks
  • Cannot chain like larger models
  • Wiring terminals could be better

You’ll get decent power for a good basic starter system, so don’t expect competition level bass that shakes your neighbor’s windows.

If you’ve got limited cash it’s a good starter amp that’s incredibly affordable and has enough power for good, basic bass.

Head over and check the current super-low price and thousands of happy buyers at Amazon.

Don’t forget the wiring! Check out this great amp kit

With great power comes the need for great wiring! Get a GOOD amp kit you won’t regret buying. An excellent example is a quality but budget-priced Belva BAK82 8 gauge complete amp kit.

Mono bass amps have some of the highest power output available so it’s important to supply them a solid, reliable high-current connection using good wiring. If you’re careful and shop smart you can get an affordable amp wiring kit with correctly sized wire and will make installation much easier.

The Belva BAK82 kit shown above is a high-quality option I recommend. It looks very professional when installed, too!

Additional reading

Curious about how car amps work and what’s inside them? Check out my detailed guide about how car amps work here.

Need a good amp wiring kit? Check out my buyer’s guide and some excellent amp wiring kits for the money here.

The Best Budget Mono Car Amplifiers Under $100 – 3 Affordable Gems!

Best budget mono car amplifiers under $100 featured image

Just want to put some great bass in your ride but trying to figure which amp is worth the money? There are so many to choose from that it starts to become a hassle.

To make matters worse, many manufacturers use misleading power specs that aren’t true. Pick the wrong amp and you’ll get weak, distorted bass when you crank the volume (not to mention having wasted your hard-earned money!)

In this post you’ll find some excellent mono bass amps you can afford under $100. Each one has proven power ratings, great sound, and you’ll get that amazing bass you love.

Contents

Infographic – Mono car amp facts and buyer tips

Mono car amplifier facts and buyer tips infographic

Watch out! Fake power ratings and what to know

Car amp power ratings examples confused man

Car amp power ratings can be amazingly confusing. So many just don’t seem to add up, and so many are misleading. What’s correct and what isn’t?

Shopping for a bass mono car amplifier? Then you’ve very likely already seen how confusing it is to shop and try to figure out all the power ratings listed on websites and by the manufacturers.

Unfortunately, this has been going on for many years. Some manufacturers rely on a buyer’s lack of understanding as well as misleading numbers to sell amps based on false advertising.

To make matters worse, even if the numbers are reasonable (for example, you’re not going to get a 1,000W amp for $99!) sometimes they’re still not correct.

Car amplifier power ratings explained

Car amplifier power output formulas image

First and foremost, there is generally one basic power rating you should look for when shopping: Root Mean Square (RMS) or continuous power. Because amplifiers produce output a waveform to make music (and not a flat DC voltage like you’d see from your car battery) it’s a bit complicated.

RMS power is an engineering term that represents the actual amount of energy (power) an amplifier will deliver at a specific battery voltage.

Sadly, terms like “peak” and “maximum” power are used misleadingly all too often to sell car amps.

The problem is, peak power doesn’t correctly describe how much power an amplifier will actually deliver constantly. It’s a number or set of numbers based strictly on the mathematical computation and what can be delivered for a split second – not what’s actually useable and will drive speakers constantly.

In other words, RMS or continuous power ratings are used to describe the actual amount of real power an amp can deliver to a speaker load.

“Peak” and “maximum” shouldn’t be relied upon to make a buying decision.

Who even knows what some car amps can really produce when put to the test, without stress testing them?

Standard testing & CEA-2006 industry standards

CEA logo

Because of the enormous problem with misleading specifications in the car stereo world, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) 2006 standards were created.

It’s a voluntary way for standardized, reliable tests to be made and prove that a manufacturer’s car amplifiers and other products will deliver what they advertise.

Typically for an amplifier, a standard battery power voltage of 14.4 volts is used when measuring power output at a specific load like 4 ohms or 2 ohms.

When shopping, your best bet is to choose an amplifier with proven lab test results or CEA-2006 compliant specs, meaning they’re true ratings and you’ll get what you’re paying for.

What is a “class D” mono bass car amp?

Class D mono car amplifiers use new fast-switching technology to deliver a lot more power with less space AND using less battery current. They work by chopping up the musical signal into square waves which switch transistors on and off rapidly, saving energy use. Finally the output is created by restoring the musical signal, filtering it, and driving speakers.

Class D mono car amps use modern high-speed switching circuits and chips to represent the input musical signal as square waves. These then drive power transistors that never remain fully switched on like older designs. This in turn reduces power use as less electrical current flows.

The amplifier square waves are then converted back to a smooth musical signal and output to your subwoofers, creating powerful sound.

Sometimes you might hear the term “digital” used to describe class D amps but it’s not correct.

These types of amps don’t convert the input signal (analog) to a digital signal. It’s simply used to turn transistors on and off for longer or shorter periods of time depending upon the music signal.

Class D mono car amplifier advantages

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier installation example

Because they’re so efficient and generate less heat, class D amps are smaller and are more easily installed in limited space. Many can fit easily underneath seats and open new installation possibilities. This was often impossible with high power class A/B amps which required large metal heat sinks to stay cool.

The great thing is that it’s an excellent technology for mono amps.

Although class D amps typically have lower signal-to-noise (SNR) ratings than less efficient types, for bass that’s not really a problem. In most cases, it’s far harder to notice distortion and SNR differences when driving subwoofers.

Advantages provided are:

  • They give much more power in a lower price range
  • Produce far less heat and run cool
  • Are smaller and easier to install

Additionally, the technology has improved greatly, making these types of amps a lot better value than their similar class A/B counterparts.

Class D mono amps typically have around 82-84% efficiency vs class A/B with only 65%, and often 50% and less!

Mono amps vs full range amps: pros and cons

Mono vs full range car amps pros and consMono and full-range car amps each are better suited for certain types of sound and certain audio systems. Mono amps are designed best for bass & subwoofer use, while full-range sounds are more flexible but usually have lower power ratings.

Mono amps normally are designed only to drive subwoofers and cannot be used for full range speakers in most cases.

They’re also designed to deliver more power for the dollar than full-range amps. While full range amplifiers can be bridged to deliver more power, it’s usually still a lot less than a good budget mono amp provides.

Full range amps also have more flexible crossovers which allow more system control, while mono bass amps have a much more limited low pass crossover. Some also feature a bass boost switch or level to enhance bass production.

★ The best budget mono car amplifiers under $100 ★

Our top picks for the money

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ BUDGET BEAST! ★Rockville DB12 Class D
  • A budget beast that delivers some serious class D power for under $100!
  • CEA-2006 proven power ratings: 350W @ 4 ohms, 650W @ 2 ohms
  • Compact, good quality. Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageIgnite R1600/1D Class D
  • A true hidden bargain gem under $100
  • Lab tested for 340W @ 4 ohms, 565W @ 2 ohms, 756 @ 1 ohms of clear, efficient class D bass that slams
  • Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBest SellerBoss Riot R1100M
  • Super popular! A great cheap starter amp & a lot for the money
  • Lab tested to 125W @ 4 ohms, 250W @ 2 ohms
  • Good features for the money ($50 and under). Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

Reviews, power details, and pros/cons

1. Rockville DB12 – A budget beast! Fantastic CERTIFIED power and features for under $100.

Rockville DB12 mono car amp front image

Ready for some surprising budget power? The Rockville DB12 is one of the best hidden budget steals you’ll find today.

For starters, unlike most of the other budget mono amps out there, Rockville provides industry-standard CEA-2006 power specs with proven numbers! It’s also lab-tested to actually slightly exceed its rated power.

Power ratings are:

  • 350W RMS @ 4 ohms
  • 550W RMS @ 2 ohms

That’s some serious power for an amp that you can find for under $100 if you shop carefully (see my link below). Not only that, but it’s well-made and the features are surprisingly good, too.

Rockville DB12 CEA power ratings certificate

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Unheard of in budget amps, the DB12 includes a certificate of verified power. You won’t find that elsewhere, and it’s a fantastic thing in my opinion. CEA RMS rated power means you’re guaranteed to get an amp that delivers as promised.

Rockville DB12 front and rear end closeupThe DB12 has PLENTY of features despite its low price and amazing power output. The wiring terminals are far better than other amps in its price range and offer tight high amp contacts for larger wire. You’ll also get a bass EQ feature, 0/180 degree phase control, and an adjustable low pass filter. There’s also a bass remote port and RCA pass-through jacks. Wow!

What really surprised me about the Rockville DB12 isn’t the amount of power you get for the price, even though that’s pretty fantastic. It’s the features that really put it head and shoulders above the rest.

You’ll get all of this, too:

  • Includes bass remote and cable
  • High-current wiring terminals
  • Certification sheet with tested power and serial number
  • RCA line out jacks for expansion
  • 0/180° sub phase control switch
  • Subsonic filter
  • Bass EQ feature
  • 0-250Hz adjustable low pass filter
  • Soft on & mute start up circuits
  • Overheating and short-circuit protection
  • LED illuminated logo
  • Bass remote features a power LED

You’re simply not going to top this list of features an anything else I’ve seen in price range. Without a doubt it’s one of the rare few to offer true CEA-2006 power ratings.

Rockville DB12 included items image

Included with the DB12 is everything you’ll need to get started aside from the wiring kit and a signal source: Allen wrenches for the speaker terminals, mounting screws for both the amp and remote, an owner’s manual, and the remote + easy-connect cable.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. I do have a few complaints.

Mainly, it can’t handle 1 ohm speakers so you can’t drive some subwoofer setups like other amps. Additionally, if connecting to a factory system you’ll need an RCA speaker level converter as speaker level inputs aren’t provided.

Regardless, in my opinion, it’s hands down an amazing budget beast that’s well put together and is a fantastic value.

PROS:
  • CEA rated RMS power certificate
  • Great power output (350W / 550W)
  • Good build quality
  • >90 dB SNR
  • Includes bass remote dial
  • Bass EQ feature
  • Phase control switch (0/180°)
  • RCA pass through jacks for system expansion
  • Compact size (9″ x 2.4″ x 13.1″)
  • LED illuminated logo looks great
  • High-quality wiring terminals
  • Sub-sonic filter
  • Soft start and protection circuitry
  • Adjustable low-pass filter
CONS:
  • Can’t handle 1 ohm subwoofer loads
  • No speaker level inputs
  • 1 year warranty only
  • Mounting screws are harder to install

The Rockville DB12 is an amp I thought I’d never be awarding my Editor’s Choice best value award to. However, I can’t argue with the facts: it’s an excellent budget bass powerhouse that’s affordable and ticks all the right boxes!

Get one before they’re gone! Head over and check out the latest sale price and get free shipping at Amazon.

2. Ignite R1600/1D – A true hidden gem. Lab proven power, great features, and low price.

Ignite R1600/1D mono amp front image

The Ignite R1600/1D is a cool little gem of an amp you’ve likely never heard of. However, you’ll be glad you found it!

It’s an excellent budget mono bass amp with proven RMS power that EXCEEDS it’s ratings! That makes an already sweet deal even better. These are real, dyno-tested and proven tests – not just advertisement.

Additionally, unlike some other models such as the Rockville DB12, it’s stable to 1 ohm as well. This is a great little class D amp that puts out slamming bass while still running cool.

Rated vs lab-tested power ratings are:

  • 4 ohms RMS: 300W rated, 356W tested
  • 2 ohms RMS: 530W rated, 565W tested
  • 1 ohm RMS: 750W rated, 756W tested

Yes, that’s nearly unbelievable but true! An incredible 756W of real, useable power in an amp that’s less than $100. It’s also a great-sounding amp too.

Ignite R1600/1D dyno power test results image

Lab-tested true power output results for the R1600/1D, as tested on an amp dyno (power and load testing machine). As you can see, at a bit above 14V (when the engine is revved higher) the power output actually exceeds the advertised ratings!

Lab-tested results from running the amp on a dyno a 4, 2, and 1 ohm loads show the R1600/1D and deliver some serious power. Unlike other budget amps, there are no misleading “peak” or “max” ratings to have to deal with.

Just some serious watts-per-dollar value.

Not to worry, though – you won’t be giving up features when you pick up the Ignite.

Ignite R1600/1D amp front and rear ends closeup image

The R1600/1D is well-made and definitely not short on features. you’ll get a subsonic filter, adjustable bass boost, RCA line out jacks, phase control,  low-pass adjustment, and bass remote port. 

The features really got my attention as well. Unlike some of the low-priced competitors, you’ll still get some of the same options for better sound as more expensive models.

Features include:

  • Includes bass remote dial and cable
  • RCA pass through jacks for expansion
  • 0-180° sub phase control dial (adjustable)
  • Subsonic filter
  • Bass boost dial
  • 0-200Hz adjustable low pass filter
  • Soft on & mute start circuits
  • Overheating and short-circuit protection
  • Uses standard ATC automotive fuses
  • Remote includes power-on LED

Ignite Audio R1600/1D bass remote closeup image

I love bass remotes and the R1600/1D includes one at no extra charge. It’s easy to install and works well – just dial in the amount of bass you want from the convenience of your driver’s seat. There’s also a power-on indicator LED light included. Nice!

The bass remote (included at no extra charge) is great and works well. It’s an inexpensive – but good – knob-style dial with a connecting cable that easily snaps into jacks on both ends.

The included power status LED lets you know that the amp is powered on and running. Just dial in more or less bass anytime! It makes adjustment a lot less of a chore – no need to fiddle with the stereo anymore!

I do have a few minor complaints, of course: the mounting screws can be a bit harder to drive in when mounting as the mounting feet are located on the inside of the amp housing, instead of facing out.

Also, the wiring terminals aren’t as nice as those on competitors like the Rockville DB12. It’s also slightly larger in size as well. No speaker level inputs are provided either.

However, those are tiny gripes and barely worth mentioning when we’re talking about such a great budget beast of an amp.

PROS:
  • Excellent true RMS power: up 756W RMS
  • Stable to 1 ohm
  • Adjustable phase control (0-180°)
  • Adjustable bass boost
  • 0-200Hz adj. low pass
  • RCA line out jacks
  • Bass remote included
  • Nice, sleek design and appearance
  • Well-made
  • Simple controls
CONS:
  • Mount screw holes a bit inconvenient
  • No illuminated logo or lighting
  • Distortion slightly higher than others
  • Wiring terminals could be better
  • Slightly larger than some competitors (13.66 x 2.05 x 8.94″)
  • No speaker level inputs

The R1600/1D is the perfect choice for an entry-price system that sounds much more expensive than it is. It truly is a hidden budget gem that really delivers more for less money.

Don’t waste any more time shopping around.

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3. Boss Riot R1100M – A SUPER popular cheap starter amp for tight budgets (Under $50!)

Boss R1100M amp angle view

Think you simply can’t get a decent bass mono amp for less than $75? Guess what – here’s the answer!

The Boss Riot R1100M is a great super-affordable entry-level way to get good bass sound. It’s also one of THE best-selling budget subwoofer amps of all time.

I’ve included this one in my list because while it’s not high-end sound, for those who really can’t afford to spend more money it’s a great starter amp to get you going for now.

The R1100M, from the budget Riot line of class A/B amps, delivers some of the best value for the dollar. However, much like other budget models, the power ratings are misleading so here’s what you need to know.

Lab-tested power ratings for the R1100M are:

  • 129W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
  • 212W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms

While it’s not enough to drive the biggest, most massive subwoofers around, it does well for budget systems where you don’t need expensive, high-dollar power.

Measuring a tiny 9.13″W x 10.44″L x 2.25″H in size it’s a great fit for both trucks and cars. The compact size fits in a lot of spaces other amps can’t (especially under a seat).

The features are actually pretty good for such a cheap amp:

  • 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

 

Boss Riot R1100M amplifier front and rear ends closeup image

Yes, it’s cheap! However, the R1100M is actually a pretty decent little amp – far better than you’d expect for something the reaches $50 and below when on sale! It’s well put together and the features are definitely great.

Unlike many competitors, it features speaker-level inputs and can work with factory systems with no other parts needed.

Boss R1100M amp remote

The included bass remote is the same as the bigger models in the Riot series of amps. Included is a telephone style cable which makes installation of the remote a snap – both ends just snap right into place. It’s a super-convenient feature that makes enjoy your subs even better.

It’s a great value as it also features a bass boost switch, low OR full-range crossover control, and the optional subwoofer remote is included.

I don’t normally recommend lower-price amps like this – especially those that don’t list the real RMS power ratings. However I can’t deny that it’s extremely popular for a good reason: it’s a good starter amp that’s incredibly affordable and has enough power for good, basic bass.

PROS:
  • Decent power for the price
  • Good sound quality
  • Includes bass remote knob
  • Compact size
  • Incredibly affordable
  • 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
CONS:
  • Not efficient like class D models
  • No phase control
  • Limited power
  • Single pair speaker terminal
  • Not 1 Ohm stable
  • No RCA passthrough jacks
  • Cannot chain like larger models
  • Wiring terminals could be better

You’re definitely not going to get serious power like with models twice its price, but the Boss R1100M makes a fantastic super-low price entry-level model.

Head over and see the current super-low price and thousands of happy buyers at Amazon.

A great budget amp wiring kit

Great power needs great wiring! The excellent – and budget-priced – Belva BAK82 8 gauge complete amp kit is a fantastic budget gem. 

Don’t forget that high-power amps draw large amounts of current (high amps) and need good wiring and good connectors. You can get a great deal on a budget amp kit if you shop carefully and will avoid getting ripped off with cheap wiring.

The Belva BAK82 kit shown above is a high-quality option I recommend. It looks very professional when installed, too!

Additional reading

Want to learn more about car amps? You can read more here about car amps and how they work.

Want a bigger gauge wiring kit? Check out my full guide with some of the best amp wiring kits here as well.

The Best Budget Car Subwoofers Under $50 And $100 – 4 Great Buys!

Best budget car subwoofer featured image

Not everyone has a ton of money to spend on a car subwoofer. Believe me, I’ve been there too. Finding the best budget car subwoofer for your money can take hours of research.

To help you save time and get the best for your money I’ve put together a great list of 4 of the best subwoofers for your money. You’ll also find some excellent, detailed info to help understand car amps before spending a cent.

Since the word “budget” means low-cost, I’ll keep my recommendations under $50 and $100.

Contents

Infographic – How to buy the best budget car subwoofer

Best budget car subwoofer infographic

What to look for when shopping

To get the best subwoofer for your money, you’ll need to buy one that’s a good compromise of a number of factors:

  1. Quality
  2. Good buyer ratings
  3. Affordable (for your budget)
  4. Good value
  5. Adequate power handling, in RMS watts

Before we go any further, allow me to make one very important thing clear: Keep your expectations realistic. You can expect to get great sound and overall good quality for a budget price, but don’t demand the same performance as very expensive models.

With that being said, here some basic tips to keep in mind before spending your hard-earned money.

Quality

You want a subwoofer with good build quality and materials. Subwoofers made with plastic cones are not necessarily better than pressed-paper cones or cones made from hybrid materials – it’s only a matter of design and performance quality.

Image of quality Alpine SWS-12D4 subwoofers
A good quality subwoofer is one that has good connectors, durable materials, performs well, and can handle sufficient power needed to get good bass. Ultimately you want one that will last a long time and won’t have parts that separate with use over time. That’s one reason it’s so important to read buyer reviews and be sure to evaluate the negative versus positive reviews.

Remember: it’s better to own a decent-looking, well-made product with adequate performance than it is to own a flashy, fancy-looking model with crappy performance and lower life expectancy. Don’t sacrifice quality and performance for mere looks.

Buyer ratings

Spend a little bit of time reviewing the overall buyer ratings and look for patterns of problems and any complaints that really stick out.

Still, bear in mind that there always seem to be people who simply don’t know how to properly install and use subwoofers. Those types have unrealistic expectations and will always find something to complain about.

Be diligent and look at the bigger picture when it comes to buyer reviews. You may not know this, but there are many more buyers than those who took the time to leave a review.

For some reason, it’s human nature not to contribute and leave feedback unless we encounter a problem or experience dissatisfaction. If the majority of reviews are positive or negative, remember it’s possible that countless more happy buyers didn’t take the time to leave feedback.

image of consumer reviews clip art

To be more confident in your buying choices, it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research (like reading through the several great models I provided below). Look for patterns and figure out the good and bad aspects of a product before purchase. Don’t get turned off too quickly if you read a few terrible reviews – it’s normal to find unfair and dishonest feedback. Doing research is a skill that you get better at with time.

A relatively small percentage of negative feedback is normal and to be expected in most cases. Be sure to note any particular things you read that stand out. You should also prepare for the possibility of encountering some inherent problems with certain models.

That’s not unusual – if the product is still a great overall performer (especially considering your budget), then don’t just immediately rule it out.

Price and the importance of value

Image of a scale showing price vs value weighingIt’s not just the price that counts. Value can mean all the difference between getting the cheapest subwoofer (and being unhappy) and getting a better value, with overall better quality and durability, for only slightly more money. A good value subwoofer will rate fairly well in the criteria that matter and will last longer. As they say: it’s always cheaper to do it right the first time!

Don’t just blindly buy the cheapest subwoofer you can find – instead, think in terms of the best value for the money within your budget.

If you’re only looking with price as your main criteria, you’re very likely to end up completely missing the chance to get something better for a marginal difference in price.

For example, if you get the most inexpensive – but mediocre – speaker, you’re far more likely to encounter problems later. Once it’s past the warranty period, you’ll end up having to spend more money to fix or replace it!

This means you would have really spent less money if you had just gotten a better product to begin with. Something to think about, and that’s something I’ve tried to convey to many of my customers over the years. Because honestly, it’s true!

In order to find the best value, be sure to pay attention to what it is you’re getting in terms of the specifications, user reviews & reported performance and reliability, and the price when compared to cheaper products of lesser quality. Think about the big picture.

Power handling & buying quality

Image of fake vs real Rolex watchesWould you buy a fake Rolex and expect the same quality of an authentic one? I wouldn’t. In fact, no one would.  The same logic also applies to subwoofers. You can’t buy a proper, quality “500W” speaker for a cheap price. Be careful of advertised numbers used to mislead you into thinking you’re getting something you’re not.

Let’s be real: if you buy a budget subwoofer, you’re not going to get a speaker that can handle insane amounts of power. It’s just not going to happen.

Any company advertising a subwoofer below $100 that can supposedly handle 1,200 watts of power is lying to you. You’re being misled because of what you don’t know about power ratings.

But don’t worry – you still can get a subwoofer with good power handling for basic everyday use and some pretty loud bass you’ll love! Subwoofers have improved a lot throughout the years – a handful of major brands make budget-priced models that work well and sound wonderful.

RMS power ratings

Always look for the RMS (root-mean-square) power rating instead of the “peak power” for a more realistic expectation of what a speaker can handle in terms of power. A good rule of thumb is 150W+ of power for car subwoofers should be enough for the average person who just wants some moderate-volume bass.

But if you really want some serious slam and volume, you’ll definitely need to spend a bit more for that. Expect to spend around $200 and above per subwoofer in that case.

Advice about subwoofer brands

If you can help it, try to buy a well-known brand.

Major car audio manufacturers have better production and quality control processes. You’re less likely to get a defective speaker from them than you are from cheaper, less-known brands.

Established brands are also less likely to outsource and rebrand. If you don’t know, rebranding is the act of selling a product made by or sold under another brand name – then replacing the original product logo and reselling it under their own name.

The most reputable brands that create high-end products also have a budget line of speakers – that’s definitely a great starting point when shopping.

★ The best budget subwoofers under $50 and $100 ★

Our top picks

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Best seller! ★Planet Audio AC12D
  • A fantastic buy for under $50. No wonder it's so popular!
  • High-temp dual 4 ohm voice coils, tough cone
  • Spring-loaded terminals. Available in 8", 10", 12", & 15" sizes
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBudget beastRockville W10K6D4/W12K6D4
  • Serious slam for the money! CEA-rated 600W RMS power
  • Massive 100oz magnet, chrome terminals, tough stitched cone. 2/4 Ohm options.
  • 10", 12", 15" models available.
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imagePyle PLPW10D
  • A great starter subwoofer - cheap but good! 500W RMS handling
  • Dual 4 ohm voice coils, durable stitched-edge cone design
  • Spring-loaded terminals. Buyers love it! 8", 10", 12", & 15" sizes
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBoss CXX10/CXX12
  • Classic subwoofer design with modern plastic cone durability.
  • 500W RMS (250W RMS continous) power rating. Tough polypropylene, single 2.5" 4 Ohm voice coil
  • 3 year warranty. 8", 10", 12" sizes.
Check on Amazon

Product reviews & details

1. Planet Audio AC12D DVC – A top-selling, great value for under $50!


Planet Audio AC12D front and side imagesReady for some serious value? The Planet Audio AC12D is one of the best-selling budget subwoofers today. 

Straight from the company’s affordable line of Anarchy subwoofers, it’s a dual voice design that’s a fantastic choice for getting great-sounding bass for less money.

It’s also available in 8″, 10″, and even 15″ sizes.

You’ll get more than just a lower price, however – check out the great features and build quality:

  • Durable and moisture-resistant polypropylene cone
  • High-temp dual voice coils
  • High-roll, tough surround
  • 3 year warranty
  • 900W RMS rated power
  • Spring-loaded, color coded plated speaker terminals

Planet-Audio-AC12D-side-packageThe AC12D is a well-built subwoofer that’s affordable but does well in real-world use. I like the spring-loaded and color-coded speaker terminals which make wiring up your system quick, easy, and reliable. You also get a lot of flexibility thanks to the dual 4 ohm voice coil design – fantastic for systems use 2 or more subwoofers!

As it uses a dual voice coil design, the flexibility is excellent and you’ll have a ton of installation options:

  • One 2, 4, or 8 ohm subwoofer
  • 2 or more subwoofers allow 8, 4, 2, and even 1 ohm

Pick up 2 or more of these great little guys and you can wire them for down to 1 ohms total to get the most out of your bass amp.

Great for a low-cost slammin’ system!

I don’t like that as some companies do, they’re sold using the peak power rating. Don’t expect 1,800 watts of power handling, as that’s not continuous power. However, they are rated for a fantastic 900W RMS of real-world power use.

If everything I’ve listed here wasn’t enough there’s one more thing to know: buyer reviews are great and tons of people love it! You really can’t go wrong for the money

Don’t just take my word for it, have a look for yourself!

Be sure to head over and check out the amazing buyer reviews and low price at Amazon.

2. Rockville W10K6D4 V2 10″ & W12K6D4 12″ – Great power handling and quality for under $100!

Rockville W12K6D4 car subwoofer front and side product views #1

The Rockville W series of dual voice coil subwoofers are proof you don’t have to go broke to get slammin’ bass! With 3 sizes to choose from (10″, 12″, and 15″) you’ve got some great options for putting some serious bass in your ride now.

The W10K6D4 & W12K6D4 subs are real budget beasts. They’re some of the most affordable , powerful, and durable subwoofers on the market.

The fantastic buyer ratings don’t lie, either. They’re a great choice I recommend for people who can’t or don’t want to spend a ton of money.

Check out the long list of excellent features:

  • Dual voice coil design, available in both 2 Ohm or 4 Ohm models
  • Industry-certified CEA power rating: 500/600W RMS
  • 2.5″ 4 layer heat-resistant aluminum, 100% copper voice coils
  • Massive 100 oz. double-stacked magnet
  • Fiber-reinforced ultra-stiff non-pressed lightweight cone
  • Durable polypropylene dustcap
  • Cone stitching for enhanced strength
  • Chrome-plated spring-loaded speaker posts with red/black markers
  • Vent hole for greater cooling
  • Cast aluminum basket with great looking black sanded finish

I could go on and on. Needless to say, it’s no accident it’s a great performer and it’s a sub I love for a well-priced way to get serious sound you’ll love.

Rockville W12K6D4 car subwoofer rear and side product views #2Shown: The Rockville W12K6D4 12″ has a really well made, high-strength – but lightweight – basket with a nice looking satin black finish. It’s a great combination of budget power and modern sub design that still manages to fall well below $100! The spring-loaded speaker terminals are a feature I love, as they’re reliable, quick, and easy to use, and accept very large speaker wire.

Unlike lower-quality competitors, you’ll get a huge 100 oz double-stacked magnet. One thing that really impressed me was the speaker basket – it’s huge and really strong, yet still fairly lightweight thanks to the cast aluminum used.

You won’t be afraid to show them off, either, with the great looking black sanded finish and chrome-plated spring speaker terminals. Not only that, but the cone features nice stitching around the edges for added strength (while looking sharp, too).

Rockville W12K6D4 car subwoofer owners manual image

The Rockville W series subwoofers include a detailed sheet with full specifications included. Not only that, but helpful diagrams are also provided to help you match your new subs to your amp for getting the most out of them. (Click image to enlarge)

I’ve seen quite a few budget subwoofers in my time, but unlike many of the less-expensive models the instructions/specs sheet is one of the better ones I’ve seen. Included are the full list of Thiele-Small speaker parameters and much more.

If you’re new to wiring subwoofers, don’t worry. There are several helpful subwoofer wiring diagrams to help you wire your system right the first time.

True power handling specs

One more thing that sets the Rockville brand and the subs apart is they’re rated using real, CEA-2006 industry true power ratings. Unlike competitors, you won’t have to worry about misleading power specs this time.

With 500W & 600W RMS of continuous power capability, you’ll get some serious bass that slams hard!

PROS:
  • Under $100
  • True power ratings
  • Great power handling
  • Large/very strong basket
  • Dual voice coil design
  • Available in 2 or 4 Ohm
  • Spring-loaded terminals with red/black marked
  • Lightweight but strong cone, PP dust cap
  • Stitched cone for extra durability
  • Large 100 oz magnet
  • Excellent buyer reviews
  • 10″, 12″, 15″ options
CONS:
  • No single voice coil option
  • Not a good option for marine (outdoor) use
  • 8″ version not available
  • May not fit all applications (mounting depth)
  • Requires a more substantial amp

Hands down it’s one of the best budget car subwoofers I can recommend. Why go broke buying subs that are 3x the price with only a little bit more to offer? These are a far better value and a smart buy.

Don’t miss out! Take a look see why they're one of the best selling subs at Amazon today.

3. Pyle Power Series – Cheap but good. Short on cash? You can still get great bass!

Pyle Power PLPW10D subwoofer front and rear view images

Getting cheap and good bass might seem out of reach – but it’s not! The Pyle Power series of budget subwoofers like this PLPW10D are super-affordable gems at under $40.

You’ll get more than just any old low-cost sub. Check out the features:

  • 2″, dual-layer dual 4 ohm voice voils
  • Stitched edge durable cone
  • Vented 50 oz magnet
  • Spring-loaded wire terminals
  • 90dB/1W efficiency
  • 400W RMS power rating (10″ model)
  • 8″, 10″, 12″, 15″ size options

Pyle PLPW10D subwoofer front image

Unlike other budget subwoofers, you get a stitched edge cone for better build quality – great for long-lasting bass for years. It’s a well-made speaker for the cost (below $40 for the 10″ model).

Thanks to the high efficiency (90dB/1 watt) you’ll need less power to drive it, unlike competitors (even more expensive ones!) with a lower sensitivity rating.

With 400W RMS of power handling, you’re sure to get the bass you need it both sealed or vented enclosures. It’s a well-made sub for the price. 8″, 10, 12″, and 15″ sizes are available as well.

Just be aware that it’s not designed to handle extreme amounts of power – this isn’t a competition subwoofer.

However, if you’re tight on cash, it’s an excellent choice and delivers a good, basic subwoofer that gets the job done.

A great starter sub! Pick up 2 or more and you can wire them for 8, 4, 2, or even 1 ohm for optimal amp use.

Check it out today! See why over 1,000 people are raving about this budget winner at Amazon.

4. Boss Audio CXX10 10″ & CXX12 12″ – A great performer for even the tightest budgets.

Boss Audio CXX12 car subwoofer product image #1

Tight on money? That’s ok! The Boss Audio CXX10 and CXX12 (10″ & 12″ subs) are a great option if you’re short on cash.

While they may be inexpensive (well under $50, in fact!) they’res still plenty to offer including classic, dependable build quality. Did I mention they sound great, too?

  • Durable, moisture-resistant polypropylene cone and surround
  • 500W RMS peak, 250W RMS continuous power
  • Formed molded cone for extra strength
  • Lightweight stamped steel basket
  • Single 4 Ohm 2.5″ voice coil design
  • Works in 1.15 cu. ft sealed/1.8 cu. ft. ported boxes
  • 8″, 10″, 12″ sizes
  • Vented magnet for cooling
  • 3 year manufacturer warranty

While they’re not “competition” level subs, they’re a great entry-level choice as they produce good, clean bass when matched with the right enclosure.

Not only that, but the 250W RMS power rating will handle your everyday music & bass needs.

Boss Audio CXX12 car subwoofer product image #2The Boss Audio CXX10 and CXX12 are some of the best cheap subwoofers you’ll find today. They’re not for window-rattling bass, but you’ll get good, solid, bass with enough volume to keep most people happy.

Will you get bass that slams as hard as subwoofers twice their price? Of course not.

What you will get, however, is great sounding bass that gets the job done and you can still crank up your your favorite jams for extra fun.

Durable design, great for many uses!

One thing I love about them (as an installer) is they’re moisture-resistant and won’t soak up humidity or moisture as pressed paper cones will. That means they’re not just a great choice for cars and trucks, but marine use, too.

The polypropylene cone features a strong formed shape for added strength. The thick foam surround lasts for years of use while staying strong for great bass response.

One thing I don’t like, however, is the lack of spring-loaded speaker terminals (standard terminals are provided) and the instructions are very basic. However, those are very minor complaints compared to what you get for your money.

They’re an excellent budget choice at under $50.

PROS:
  • Under $50
  • Durable & strong cone and surround
  • Good continuous power rating: (around 250W RMS)
  • Nice looking design
  • Lightweight steel basket
  • Moisture resistant cone & surround
  • Fits well most boxes (not too deep)
  • 3 year warranty
CONS:
  • 1000W peak power rating is misleading
  • No spring loaded terminals
  • No 15″ model
  • No dual voice coil model available

For a good subwoofer for your dollar, they’re a smart buy. I like the classic, dependable subwoofer design but with the more durable modern plastic cone.

Get affordable bass today! Head over and find out why so many people love them at Amazon.

Additional info

If you’ve never installed a subwoofer or an amplifier before, be sure to check out my post “How To Install A Subwoofer And Subwoofer Amp In Your Car.”

Need an excellent budget amp to drive your new subs with? No problem! Here’s a great list of the best budget amps to help.

The Best Budget Car Amplifiers For Under $50, $100, & $150 + Amp Buyer’s Guide

Image for buyer's guide for best budget car amplifier

Let me be completely honest upfront – if you’re on a budget and want to buy a car amp, you’re going to have to live with some compromises.

Buying the best budget car amplifier isn’t always easy, but if you learn a bit beforehand you’ll be better prepared.

Below you’ll find some of the most affordable budget amps along with specs, short reviews, and more. In my amplifier buyer’s guide I’ll also help you understand amp facts and details to know before shopping.

Contents

What to know when shopping for car amps

Car amp power ratings examples confused man

Manufacturer specs

For years some car amp manufacturers have sold their products with outrageously large power ratings on the box.  Sometimes these have been simply unbelievable for a budget car amp. For example, hardly anyone would believe that an amp that measures about 12″ x 12″ in size could produce around 1000 watts of power, right?

But for the new buyer who isn’t aware of it, it’s a misleading and confusing thing to try to figure out. That’s what I’d like to help you with.

What do car amp power ratings mean?

Realistic power ratings use the “RMS” label, which is an electrical engineering term to represent “root mean square”, a mathematical way of expressing the actual, useable power that an amplifier can produce continuously.

The confusion comes from amp manufacturers using the “peak” power rating, which is not at all representative of the actual amount of power an amp can drive your speakers with.

Think of it like the example of a modest-sized car with a speedometer that goes up to 200 MPH. Can most average cars really drive that fast? No way!

CEA-2006 specifications

In the 2000s the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) developed a standard to help consumers with this. Audio amplifier manufacturers whose specs are listed as “CEA-2006 compliant” have power ratings and performance specs that are reliable.

CEA logo

This logo means that the company making an audio product has reliable performance & power specs. But it’s not a mandatory compliance feature – many companies still have specs on their products which you’ll have to simply hope are correct. Be aware that often you’ll find products that might not live up to advertised power ratings.

Not all companies provide this so it’s important that you’re careful when shopping.

If a manufacturer doesn’t list their specs with some type of standard like this or highly detailed information instead, you’ll basically just have to trust (or hope!) that the RMS power and other specifications are correct.

It’s important to understand this because budget amplifiers often are not CEA-2006 compliant and still, to this day, use the “peak” power ratings on their packaging and sales info. It’s a shame, as it’s very misleading.

Car amp features to look for

Power ratings

Car amplifier power output formulas image

I recommend at least a power rating of 50W RMS into 4 ohms per channel for driving full range or component speakers and 150W into 4 ohms minimum for driving a subwoofer. This is generally enough power for the average person to listen to music with enough power for good volume, clear and non-distorted sound, and to be able to blast your favorite music.

Don’t buy an amp with close to 25W RMS or less unless you have a specific reason to do so. Car stereos, for example, have a typical power output of about 14W RMS per speaker channel.

That’s because they can’t produce higher levels of power as they’re limited to using the 12V supply in a vehicle unlike high-power amplifiers.

Soundstorm EV200.2 amplifier image

Mini amps like this one are advertised with power ratings like “200W” which is impossible for it to produce – you have to read the fine print for the RMS power ratings, and even then be cautious. I don’t recommend tiny amps like this except for the smallest basic installation, like for driving small speakers. They can’t produce good sound & power like “real” car amps. They typically lack features you need like crossovers and bridging.

Higher power amplifiers use a special power supply to step up the car voltage and produce higher power output. The problem with small amps is that you will be misled into thinking they can produce higher power than they can.

In fact it’s impossible for such a small amp – you’re still limited to power levels around the same as a car stereo.

If you’re not wanting great sound and are simply trying to power some small 2-way (or similar) speakers, that’s ok. However, these tend to be tiny, low-quality amps I wouldn’t recommend. Also, most mini amps can’t be bridged.

Crossovers

2 way speaker system and crossover diagram

Amplifier high or low-pass crossovers in amps work the same as those using larger components on speakers, called “passive” crossovers. The difference is that tiny, low-power circuits are used in amps for the same results.

Crossovers are great to have! Also, the great news is that they’re much more commonly found in car amps today than in decades past. They are more or less standard on most sold now.

High or low-pass crossovers work to block a range of sound you don’t want to send to speaker channel or channels.

For example, you can use the high pass feature to block low-end bass that small speakers can’t handle well. That prevents distortion and by doing so you can really crank your music for great volume and clear, crisp sound!

A great example is setting the high-pass crossover switch on an amp to “HPF” and the control to about 60Hz. That way everything above 60 Hz (a low bass frequency) would be played but not below.

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewCrossovers and other related controls like those on this excellent Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp are extremely useful. They’re pretty much mandatory for getting lower-distortion, high-volume sound with great clarity. You simply turn the switch to LPF (low pass filter) or HPF (high pass filter) as needed and adjust the cutoff frequency by adjusting the dial.

The result when using a crossover for small speakers is more volume and clarity at higher power with less distortion.

For subwoofers, a low-pass filter means pure bass without hearing the vocals and other parts of sound a subwoofer doesn’t do well and will sound terrible when allowed to play.

Bridging ability

Image with diagram of how to bridge an amplifier

Bridgeable amps are those that are designed to allow using 2 speakers channels together in a push-pull way to get substantially larger power out of the amplifier.

There’s no magic behind it: it’s basically just using more amplifier output channels together in order to drive speakers with more power.

When a speaker is connected across 2 speaker channel outputs the amp can produce up to 4 times the power of a single channel! (This depends on the particular amplifier)

It’s a great way to have an amp that’s flexible for use with multiple speakers or to get more power for driving a subwoofer. I’ve covered this in more detail in my post about bridging amps here.

Class A/B vs class D amps

Class D mono car amplifiers use new fast-switching technology to deliver a lot more power with less space AND using less battery current. They work by chopping up the musical signal into square waves which switch transistors on and off rapidly, saving energy use. Finally the output is created by restoring the musical signal, filtering it, and driving speakers

Amplifiers fall into “classes” (design categories) based on the type of technology they used to boost power and create an amplified audio signal to drive your speakers. Class D is the newest and most efficient technology while class A/B is one of the oldest.

A/B generally has been used in most budget amps (which is fine – it produces good sound quality, but uses more electrical power).

Class D amps are much more compact in size, but the best class D amps which improve the one drawback of the design, higher noise, are generally close to $150 and above. The best ones are designed by major companies. The lower cost amps you see will probably be class A/B, just so you know.

What to expect when shopping on a budget

Image of man casually shopping online with a tablet

When choosing a budget amp, consider all the things I wrote above as well as understanding that the least expensive amps are a compromise.

Expect good quality and performance but not the same level as you get for more expensive models.

Budget car amp shopping tips
  • A good budget amp will have a combination of the features you need, sufficient power, and overall good buyer reviews
  • Remember that many buyers have unrealistic expectations of budget amps and leave negative reviews – always read more and look for general patterns before deciding
  • Budget amps commonly use “peak” power ratings for sales purposes, rather than continuous RMS power or CEA-2006 industry-standard ratings
  • Don’t forget you can add a 2nd amp later when your budget allows!
  • Get a decent quality amp wiring kit when purchasing your amp. You’ll save both time and shipping costs

They simply aren’t designed the same way as the big name brands which cost more. It’s always important to keep things in perspective.

On the other hand, when you’ve got a budget, you’ve got a budget to keep! I’ve been there and know how it feels – and that’s totally ok.

★ The best budget car amps under $50, $100, & $150 ★

Our top picks at a glance

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★Alpine MRV-F300 4 Ch
  • Great sound for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS of clear, musical sound
  • Evolution to class D design
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBudget Beast!Rockville DB12 Class D Mono
  • A budget beast that delivers some serious class D power for under $100!
  • CEA-2006 proven power ratings: 350 @ 4 ohms, 550W @ 2 ohms
  • Compact, good quality. Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imagePlanet Audio AC1600.4 4 Ch
  • Great A/B sound and power for the money
  • 50W x 4, 100W x 4, 225W x 2 RMS power. Speaker-level inputs for factory stereos.
  • Great crossover & bass boost controls. Includes bass remote for free.
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBest sellerBoss Riot R1100M Mono
  • Super popular! A great cheap starter amp for $50 and below
  • Lab tested to 125W @ 4 ohms, 250W @ 2 ohms
  • Bass boost and full crossover features. Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

Product reviews and details

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Great 4 channel power and sound quality for under $150. An excellent choice!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice imageI’ve been enjoying Alpine’s great engineering & sound quality for years. To this day they’re still one of the best brands when it comes to mobile audio.

The compact and great-sounding MRV-F300 is a fantastic example of a car amp done right.

One of the smallest 4 channel amplifiers in its power class today, the MRV-F300 puts cheaper amps to shame. You’ll get a sharp-looking dark brushed metallic finish that’s more expensive looking than it really is.

A great blue power-on backlight indicator provides a cool looking contrast to the amp when switched on.

You’ll get a better-looking installation, too. For more custom installation possibilities, the included end caps can be used to hide wiring connections.

Personally, I think it’s a great touch and works well for flush-mounted amp installs or even just a basic carpeted amp rack.

For under $150 you’ll get some great features:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms power
  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 150W RMS x 2 @ 2 ohms bridged

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewSpeaker-level inputs are provided and connect neatly using the included wiring harness. Adjustable high or low-pass crossovers provide great system control for excellent sound system capability. A bass EQ feature provides an added bass boost for channels 3/4.

At only 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) in size, it can fit into spaces traditional amps can’t!

Alpine has designed the amp using class D technology that provides super-efficient power that’s not just really compact but that runs cool even at full power!

Overall in my opinion the crossover options are good. Features include:

  • 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.

In my testing I’m happy to say the sound quality is excellent with crisp highs and solid bass and midrange. Noise levels are very low and the sound is surprisingly good!

In my experience, it’s a well-rounded, affordable, and quality amp that won’t disappoint.

Don’t miss this one! Head over to see current low price and great reviews at Amazon.

2. Rockville DB12 – A budget beast! Fantastic CERTIFIED power and features for under $100.

Rockville DB12 mono car amp front image

Ready for some surprising budget power? The Rockville DB12 is one of the best hidden budget steals you’ll find today.

For starters, unlike most of the other budget mono amps out there, Rockville provides industry-standard CEA-2006 power specs with proven numbers! It’s also lab-tested to actually slightly exceed its rated power.

Power ratings are:

  • 350W RMS @ 4 ohms
  • 550W RMS @ 2 ohms

That’s some serious power for an amp that you can find for under $100 if you shop carefully (see my link below). Not only that, but it’s well-made and the features are surprisingly good, too.

Rockville DB12 CEA power ratings certificate

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Unheard of in budget amps, the DB12 includes a certificate of verified power. You won’t find that elsewhere, and it’s a fantastic thing in my opinion. CEA RMS rated power means you’re guaranteed to get an amp that delivers as promised.

Rockville DB12 front and rear end closeupThe DB12 has PLENTY of features despite its low price and amazing power output. The wiring terminals are far better than other amps in its price range and offer tight high amp contacts for larger wire. You’ll also get a bass EQ feature, 0/180 degree phase control, and an adjustable low pass filter. There’s also a bass remote port and RCA pass-through jacks. Wow!

What really surprised me about the Rockville DB12 isn’t the amount of power you get for the price, even though that’s pretty fantastic. It’s the features that really put it head and shoulders above the rest.

You’ll get all of this, too:

  • Includes bass remote and cable
  • High-current wiring terminals
  • Certification sheet with tested power and serial number
  • RCA line out jacks for expansion
  • 0/180° sub phase control switch
  • Subsonic filter
  • Bass EQ feature
  • 0-250Hz adjustable low pass filter
  • Soft on & mute start-up circuits
  • Overheating and short-circuit protection
  • LED illuminated logo
  • Bass remote features a power LED

You’re simply not going to top this list of features an anything else I’ve seen in this price range. Without a doubt it’s one of the rare few to offer true CEA-2006 power ratings.

Rockville DB12 included items image

Included with the DB12 is everything you’ll need to get started aside from the wiring kit and a signal source: Allen wrenches for the speaker terminals, mounting screws for both the amp and remote, an owner’s manual, and the remote + easy-connect cable.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. I do have a few complaints.

Mainly, it can’t handle 1 ohm speakers so you can’t drive some subwoofer setups like other amps. Additionally, if connecting to a factory system you’ll need an RCA speaker level converter as speaker level inputs aren’t provided.

The Rockville DB12 is an amp I thought I’d never be awarding my Editor’s Choice best value award to. However, I can’t argue with the facts: it’s an excellent budget bass powerhouse that’s affordable and ticks all the right boxes!

Get one before they’re gone! Head over and check out the latest sale price and get free shipping at Amazon.

3. Best budget 4 channel amp under $100: Planet Audio AC1600.4

Planet Audio AC1600.4 amp angle view

With 150W x 4 @ 4 ohms of power available you can bridge the AC1600.4 to an advertised 600W RMS x 2. This class A/B amp is a good sounding budget amp with enough power to run your favorite custom system. However, it’s also great for just supplementing a factory stereo too.

Power ratings:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 225W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms bridged

It’s an inexpensive but nice amp and has some features that many of the higher-end competitors don’t have. A great example is the included bass remote control, which is a separate purchase on many more expensive models.

Planet Audio AC1600.4 amp remote image

The AC1200.4 includes a really cool subwoofer level control which can be mounted on your dash. It’s easy to connect using the included cable with telephone style connectors. It makes it really easy to crank the bass when using subwoofers!

It’s a very popular amp and a best seller with mostly great reviews too. A few complaints here and there, but not very many.

There’s a long list of features that make for great system flexibility:

  • 2 ohm stable
  • High/low-pass crossovers (high pass: 50-500Hz adjustable, low pass: 45-90Hz)
  • Adjustable bass boost of 0-+18dB boost
  • Optional remote (included)
  • Speaker-level inputs
  • Thermal and short circuit protection

Planet Audio AC1600.4 amp end view

It’s a great looking amp! I especially really like the nice blue glow on the planet emblem and the backlight on the logo on the chassis.

It’s definitely one of the best buys out there. You’ll have to shop around to avoid paying too much, but when checking I found one the best prices (and free shipping!) at Amazon.

4. Best cheap mono subwoofer amp under $50: R1100M – A best-selling cheap starter bass amp.

Boss R1100M amp angle view

The R1100M is in the Boss Riot monoblock amp family but is a class A/B amp and a reasonable entry-level model. For the money it’s pretty tough to beat the great power ratings:

  • Lab-tested power ratings for the R1100M are:
    • 129W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
    • 212W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms

If you’re tight on cash but need some serious power, give it a shot. An excellent option for driving a single subwoofer or pair of subwoofers down to 2 ohms.

Boss R1100M amp end view

Unlike the R3400D/R2400D, it also features speaker-level inputs and can work out of the box with factory systems!

Boss R1100M amp remote

The included bass remote is the same as the bigger models in the Riot series of amps. Included is a telephone style cable which makes installation of the remote a snap – both ends just snap right into place. It’s a super-convenient feature that makes enjoy your subs even better.

It’s a great value as it also features a bass boost switch, low OR full-range crossover control, and the optional subwoofer remote is included.

While not having the same power density, at 13 x 12.6 x 3.9 inches it comes close the same size as its bigger brothers the R3400D and R2400D. It’s a very popular seller and while not as powerful as the other models, it’s a good compromise between value, power, and cost.

Head over to check out the latest price and find out if free shipping is available.

A hidden value worth checking out

Shopping for a great but affordable 4 channel amp? I also recommend the Autotek TA1050.4 125W RMS x 4 amplifier.

It’s not a popular seller like the others, but it’s a good value and reliable, too. This is a well-designed amp and a hidden gem as it doesn’t get noticed like others.

Autotek TA1050.4 amplifier image

It has essentially the same features as the Planet Audio amps with the great Autotek reputation for quality. Head over there now, though as there's a limited number of this great little amp left.

Final notes

When shopping, remember to not get distracted by the “max” power ratings used to advertise car amplifiers and give the impression they can produce amazing amounts of power for a minuscule price – because they can’t.

You’re getting good performance and value, but as I mentioned earlier it’s important to be realistic in your expectations. You won’t get high-end performance for a low price, but you’ll get a good value.

Product image of the Belva BAK82 amplifier wiring kitDon’t forget to get an amp wiring kit! Before you waste hours searching, check out the Belva BAK92 8 ga amp kit as it's a great value for the money.

Additionally, check out my great buyer’s guide about good amp wiring kits and 5 best buys.

The Best Car Amps Under 200 & 225 Dollars – Five Fantastic Buys!

Best amplifiers under $200 featured image

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
  • Affordability
  • The features you need
  • 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.

Contents

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.

Class A/B

Illustrated image of car amplifier audio output stages

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 the 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/ApplicationMin. & Recommended Power (RMS)
Main channels (front/rear speakers)50W per channel min., 75W per channel or higher optimal
Single subwoofer in box150-200W min., 250W or more optimal
2 subwoofers in box200W+ min., 350W or more optimal

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 ★

Our top picks for the money

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__imageBest 4ch ampAlpine MRV-F300 4 Ch
  • Great sound for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS
  • Evolution to class D design
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imagePioneer GM-D8601 Class D Mono
  • Fantastic bass power for under $150!
  • 300W x 1, 500W x 1, 800W x 1 continuous power
  • SNR > 100dB, high-level inputs, remote bass level, and more
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageTop 5ch AmpPioneer GM-D9705 Class D
  • Simply an excellent choice and great value. Compact power you'll love!
  • CEA-2006 rated 75W x 4 + 350W x 1 of clear, efficient, and compact sound
  • Includes remote bass control
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageUltra compactAlpine KTP-445U 4 Ch
  • Tiny size! Only 7-7/16 x 1-1/2 x 2-1/2”
  • 45W x 4, 90W x 2 RMS power. High-pass option
  • Auto-sensing turn on for speaker level inputs
Check on Amazon
sample-table__image★ Best seller ★Boss Riot R1100M Mono
  • Good cheap power - great starter bass amp and a lot for your dollar!
  • Lab tested 125W @ 4 ohms, 250W @ 2 ohms.
  • Compact size, class A/B quality. Includes bass remote.
Check on Amazon

Amp reviews, details, and pros/cons

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – An excellent value with 4 channels of great sound. Don’t pass it up!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice image

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

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewThe 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.

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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!

Be sure to check out the great buyer reviews and current low price at Amazon.

2. Pioneer GM-D8601 – A mono bass amp that’s low on cost but high on performance.

Pioneer GM-D8601 Editors Choice imageWhen 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 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!

Pioneer GM-D8601 amp features image

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 pairs of speaker terminals instead of only one.

Pioneer GM series amplifier remote bass level

Additionally the amp includes a wired 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 badge.

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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.

Pioneer GM-D9701 2400W Max 1-Channel GM Digital Champion Series Class-D Monoblock Car...
Pulse Width Modulated MOSFET power supply Wired remote bass level control included

3. Pioneer GM-D9705 5 channel class D amp – A great-sounding and affordable way to power a whole system.

Pioneer GM-D9705 5 channel amp side viewNormally power an entire sound system in your ride is really costly! Few amps with front, rear, and a subwoofer channel are affordable except for the lower-end competitors.

However, the Pioneer GM-D9705 5-channel class D amp sets a new standard for affordable quality. It provides 4 channels of full-range (adjustable) sound and a dedicated mono subwoofer channel (low-pass only).

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!

Pioneer GM series amplifier remote image closeup

The GM-D9705 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 an 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.

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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-D9705, 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 places.

Be sure to check it out! You can find some of the best pricing and great reviews over at Amazon.

4. Alpine KTP-445U Ultra-compact – Great sound and power for those hard or special installations.

Image of Alpine KPA-445U with accessoriesIf you’ve got a vehicle that’s a tough installation challenge you simply want to avoid having the muss and fuss of a custom install, here’s the best choice. The KTP-445U universal ultra-compact amp is hands-down the best choice for your money.

It’s a fantastic installation option for both aftermarket or factory stereo head units for everything from car and trucks to boats or motorcycles.

Perfect for driving mids and highs with clean, high-efficiency power, it’s truly a stand-out marvel of modern Alpine design technology.

As seen in my detailed review of the KTP-445U here, it’s an example of some of the best engineering and sound quality you’ll get in a super-small package.

Measuring a tiny 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm), I’m almost in shock at how something so small can deliver so much. Despite the incredible size advantage you’ll get plenty of power.

The KTP-445U can deliver:

  • 45W RMS x 4 @ 4 or 2 Ohms
  • 90W RMS x 2 @ 2 Ohms

Despite that, it runs perfectly cool and draws nearly 1/2 as much electrical current as traditional amps. The modern class D design (with Alpine’s own proprietary touches) is one of the most efficient and best-sounding in its size and price class.

It’s so efficient that for many installations you can connect it directly to existing radio power wiring instead of installing a separate amp power wire!

Unlike other class D mini-amps you can drive 2 Ohm speakers as well.

Image of Alpine KPA-445U mini amplifier controls

One of the smallest car amps in the world today, the KTP-445U is in a league of its own. At only 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm) in size, it delivers impressive sound and power that you won’t get from most competitors. It’s so small it’s about the size of a laptop power converter, yet delivers enough power & flexibility to drive mids and highs for a whole system!

One feature I really like is that it’s “universal” and designed to be easy to install. Both RCA and speaker-level inputs are provided, making it a great match for factory systems too.

Don’t have front and rear RCA outputs on your head unit? No problem. Use the 2/4 channel input switch to take advantage of the built-in adapter and get 2 more channels immediately.

Alpine uses proprietary design and electronics technology to minimize noise levels and maximize sound quality that delivers a crisp, lively sound that’s good to the ear.

Despite being so small, I think it’s a great-sounding amplifier you’ll love and I really appreciate how much easier it makes installation.

At near $150 or so, it’s not the absolute cheapest out there, but for the sound quality, installation ease, flexibility, and enjoyment it’s great and definitely worth the money!

PROS:
  • Ultra-compact – fits in dash or nearly anywhere!
  • Excellent for factory system upgrade
  • High-efficiency class D design
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (45W RMS x 4 @ 4 or 2 Ohms)
  • Bridgeable (90W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • High-pass 60/80/120Hz crossovers
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Easy to install
  • Great wiring and signal harnesses (universal)
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice brushed metal finish
  • Handy mounting tabs
  • Includes basic mounting accessories
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Auto turn-on for speaker level inputs
CONS:
  • No low-pass crossovers
  • Not suitable for driving woofers
  • No remote volume option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • Auto turn-on won’t work for RCA inputs
  • High-pass crossover not adjustable – fixed to 4 pos.

I highly recommend this one if you want an amp that can fit nearly anywhere.

Have a look to see why no other ultra-compact amp at Amazon can compare.

5. Boss Audio Riot R1100M – A great starter bass amp! One of the best-selling budget mono amps today.

Boss R1100M amp angle view

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. Lab-tested power output is:

  • 129W RMS x 1 @ 4 ohms
  • 212W RMS x 1 @ 2 ohms

…plenty for a good basic subwoofer system on the cheap.

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

Boss Riot R1100M monoblock amp features image

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.

Boss R1100M amp remote

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.

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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 a lot for your money: good, basic bass that gets the job done until you’re ready to spend more.

Head over now to check out why it's one of best-selling amps you'll find at Amazon.

UPDATE: Want to get your whole system on the cheap? Check out the amp + wiring kit special.

On sale now!
HOT! Boss R1100M Amp + Install Kit Combo
Includes amp and wiring kit with fuseholder, RCA cables, and more!

Additional info

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.

5 Of The Best Amps For Highs And Mids – Get The Best For Your Dollar

Best amps for mids and highs featured image

Want a system with amazingly clear and impressive sound? Let’s be honest: driving highs and mids from a head unit is almost impossible!

That’s where an amp comes in – you’ll get great power, awesome volume, and fantastic sound clarity. However, you’ll have to pick a good amp that won’t let you down.

To help you get the best for your money I’ve put together a list of 5 of the best amps for mids and highs. Each has a short review and the specs you’ll need to know.

There’s also a helpful buyer’s guide included below. Read on to learn more!

Contents

2 channel vs 4 channel amps

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifier image

As you might have already guessed, 4-channel amps are a bit different than others. There are a few differences to know about when shopping and just to have a better understanding.

The main difference is that 4 channel amps contain a 2nd pair of amplification stages to boost the input signal and drive speakers.

Just like standard 2-channel amps, they contain a special section that steps up a vehicle’s 12V supply to deliver a higher one (often around positive and negative 28 volts or so)

That’s necessary to provide sufficient power that can drive your component speakers or highs and mids at a better volume with low distortion. For example, car stereos can only use about 12V to drive speakers, resulting a lower power that distorts easily.

According to Ohms law more power requires a higher voltage and that’s exactly what powerful car amps are designed to use.

4 channel amps are also a bit more compact in size as the additional 2 channels take up a bit less space than 2 separate 2-channel amps used separately.

Different features

In order to work in more applications, some 4 channel amps feature a 2/4 channel input switch. This means that if you have a source unit with only 2 RCA jack outputs you can still get 4 channels of sound to use from the amp.

Additionally, most 4 channel amps sold today are bridgeable, meaning that each pair of channels can be used to drive a single speaker for more power than each individual channel can provide. Because of this, they offer more flexibility for custom car audio systems than a single 2-channel amplifier can.

Some also feature different options like a bass boost for the rear channels (normally #3 & 4). The specific features you’ll find vary from brand to brand and model to model.

2 channel vs 4 channel car amplifier diagram

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

A diagram I’ve provided illustrating the differences between 2 and 4 channel amplifiers. Both work exactly the same way: a +12V supply from the battery is boosted (“stepped up”) to create a higher positive and negative voltage supply. These voltages are then used to drive speaker outputs which are an amplified version of the input signals from your car stereo. Not that 4 channel amps are normally more compact than 2 separate 2-channel amps of the same type.

What to shop for in good quality car amps

For mids and highs, it’s ideal to focus a few basic factors when shopping:

  • Sufficient power (in RMS watts)
  • Sound quality and the signal-to-noise (SNR) specs
  • Crossover controls

Basically, you’ll want an amp with good sound quality that can give a decent amount of power. For most applications, I recommend 50W RMS per channel minimum.

You’ll also want the ability to block distortion-causing bass by using high-pass crossovers on your tweeters or midrange speakers.

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio car amp diagram

A signal-to-noise (SNR) measurement describes the ratio of the level of noise (undesired) to the desired musical signal. It’s measured in decibels (dB) and helps you to decide between a better product and a lower-performance product. Ideally the amount of noise compared to the signal level will be very small, represented as a larger number. For example, a SNR of 90dB and above is a good rule of thumb to look for. The noise I’m describing often appears a slight “hiss” when no music is playing and the amp’s gain is high.

Better amplifiers have a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. The SNR specification, measured in decibels (dB), is a standard amplifier measurement used to compare noise levels against others. It’s a ratio used to mathematically compare the level of noise that an amplifier’s electronics create vs the audio signal’s level.

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the SNR, the better. Amplifiers with great sound quality tend to have an SNR of 90dB and higher with some reaching above 100dB. That’s often found on more expensive and better-designed amplifiers.

It’s important to note, however, that unfortunately sometimes the specs are confusing. For example, at times some manufacturers exaggerate their amplifier specs or use the SNR value full power output, which is normally much higher.

Traditionally the most consistent measurement is by listing the SNR with no signal output and with 1 watt of power being driven.

Example image of car amp internal noise level

Internal audio noise in an amplifier as viewed on a test instrument, enlarged. All amplifiers generate some internal noise…however the best models keep it at a minimum and are designed to produce good sound quality where noise is less noticeable.

When using tweeters (highs) and midrange or component speakers (mids), it’s often easier to hear the slight “hiss” an amp produces if the noise level isn’t very good.

Generally speaking, a well-designed amp will have this greatly reduced and this won’t be an issue. However, to keep noise from an amp down, it’s ideal to drive it with a good, strong signal from a head unit.

This way the amps gain level can be kept lower and noise output will won’t be noticeable.

Using crossovers with mids and highs

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

A good amp like the Alpine MRV-F300 will provide plenty of crossover options to not only protect your mids and highs but get the most out of them. By using high-pass crossovers, you can block the lower-end bass that they can’t handle and that causes distortion. The result is greatly clarity and much more volume!

Built-in crossovers in an amplifier are extremely helpful for getting excellent sound when using tweeters and midrange car speakers. The good news is that most, if not all, include them these days.

However, some are better than others in their flexibility and how they can benefit you.

How do crossovers work in a car amp?

Small speakers like midrange drivers or tweeters (for example, separately used or in a 2-way component system) aren’t designed to deliver heavy bass the way subwoofers can.

With only a low volume and a small amount of power, it may not be an issue. However, as soon as they’re driven to higher volume and with more power you’ll begin to hear distortion and the sound will “break up” quickly.

Crossovers work by using electronic filter sections to cut off, or filter out, the sound frequencies you want to prevent from reaching speakers.

For example, setting your amp’s high-pass option to 60Hz for driving mids will deliver a clean, nearly distortion-free sound at high volume.

Your options may vary

For mids and highs, always buy a model with crossovers built in. If you’re planning to drive woofers or subwoofers, be sure the model you’re considering has low-pass crossovers as well.

While some amps feature a fixed cutoff frequency of say 50Hz or so, some models offer adjustable controls which is even better. Adjustable crossovers allow you to better customize your system to your needs.

Additionally, products with a bass boost (or “EQ”) feature can help boost lacking bass in some cases.

Good amp design quality

RB-XD400/4 amp internal viewA great amp like the JL Audio XD400/4v2 is designed with sound quality and performance in mind rather than cost-cutting for more profit. Better amps use higher-quality (and more up to date) components unlike cheaper models. Unsurprisingly, their sound quality is better, they last longer, and the enjoyment you’ll get is better, too.

When it comes to car amps, there’s a lot of difference between lower quality and higher quality models.

One big reason is that higher-quality amps pay attention to the design details that lesser amps don’t. In other words, they’re better engineered.

Higher quality amps often have these characteristics:

  • Better (and thicker) printed circuit boards (PCBs)
  • Surface-mount technology (SMT) components for shorter and smaller paths
  • Higher quality components
  • Better designs with sound quality in mind
  • Low-noise parts and proprietary circuits to improve sound quality

The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost much more money these days to get these kinds of features – many quality amps are very reasonably priced if you shop carefully.

The main difference you’ll discover is that bigger name brands such as JL Audio, Alpine, MTX, Rockford Fosgate, and many more have better experience and resources that they apply to their products.

If you pick just any old car amp there’s no telling what you’ll get! Unfortunately many are made primarily for profit and not for great sound and enjoyment.

RMS power ratings

CEA logo

To be sure you’re getting power from an amp as advertised, you can look for amps using power ratings that follow the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) – 2006 compliance standards.

The CEA amp power ratings were established to help resolve the problem of so many confusing and misleading car audio specifications that are misleading to buyers.

Essentially buying an amp that features the logo ensures that the manufacturer’s power (and other sound) specifications are accurate and have been proven.

Choosing the right amp power for good sound

For adequate volume and in order to drive you speakers with enough power for dynamic, “punchy” sound, you’ll need enough power.

One reason is that when an amplifier is driven to its limits it is driven to clipping, meaning that the audio waveform the speaker sees is starting to get cut off.

In other words, the amp can’t drive the signal any higher and it begins to distort badly. It’s both a cause of terrible-sounding distortion and potentially damaging to car speakers as well.

To avoid this, pick an amplifier with enough power. For many cases I recommend at least 50W RMS per channel of power. Optionally, 75W RMS gives even more headroom and is still affordable.

The most important rule to follow is to have an amplifier with adequate power. That way it can produce music at the volume you want without beginning to distort.

What is a class D car amp?

More and more, you’ll find car amplifiers that are built on class D technology.

“Class D” car amplifiers work using a new design which relies on switching technology. They’re much more efficient than traditional car amps – sometimes up to nearly 90% efficient! Older designs were around 50-65% and wasted a significant amount of power as heat. What does this mean? Class D amps are much smaller and run cooler than older designs.

Class D amplifiers use a design based on a switching power supply and signal path. They chop-up the output signal by rapidly switch transistors on and off then restore the original (now amplified) signal back to a smooth sound wave, which then drives the speaker.

By doing so, they greatly reduce the amount of time the transistors are switched on and consuming electric current. This results in a large amount of power that isn’t wasted as opposed to conventional designs.

Originally used only for small home stereo amplifiers, the technology has matured and is now available in some of the best car amps sold today.

More advanced designs even have improved upon the concept and offer better sound quality and dynamic power output than average models offer.

Class AB vs class D amplifiers

Internal image of a 4 ch. amp

Class A/B amps have been the mainstay for decades in the car audio world. The technology is fairly simple, cost-effective, and also can offer very good sound quality. The downside is that they create a lot of heat as they waste power and are larger and heavier than class D amps.

Class AB car amplifiers (often shown as “A/B”, since it’s a combination of 2 types) differ a lot from modern class D types. Unlike newer technology, they’re based on a design principle from as far back as the 1960s or earlier (based on some of the first transistor home stereo amps).

While they’re often found in lower-cost amps and can have good sound quality, they also have some disadvantages:

  • Low efficiency: often only 65% efficient
  • Generate a lot of heat due to wasted power
  • Require a larger and heavier body (heatsink)

As they’re not as efficient as class D designs, they can’t be designed as small and they can be a bit harder to install due to requiring more space.

However, if efficiency and size aren’t a big concern to you, they’re still often a good choice. Because of their tried-and-true design, they can produce very good sound at a good price and there are many choices to choose from.

Standard class A/B amps are often sold as budget models with different manufacturer names.

Class D amplifier sound quality

Class D amps do have a disadvantage, unfortunately. They’re more prone to have lower signal-to-noise (SNR) levels and poorly designed models will have more hiss than better ones.

The higher noise is a by-product of how switching amps work, and it’s a trade-off that comes with the benefit of better efficiency and smaller size, sadly.

There’s no way around it. However, choosing a good model (like the ones I’ve recommended here) will make sure you’re getting one designed to keep noise to a minimum.

Cheaper brands don’t care much about the sound quality like better brands do – and they don’t have the same audio engineering ability that the better choices offer.

I’ve tested both good and bad class D amps and I can tell you that there’s a significant amount of difference when choosing a better class D amp. They sound better, have lower noise, and have better power to offer.

In other words, they’re just all-around better!

★ 5 of the best amps for mids and highs ★

Our top picks

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★Alpine MRV-F300 4 Ch
  • Great sound for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS of clear, musical sound
  • Evolution to class D design
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageSuperb Sound!JL Audio XD400/4v2
  • High-end sound and performance in a small package. Fantastic!
  • 75W x 4, 100W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS Low-noise, crystal-clear sound quality
  • NexD high-fidelity class D design. Only 8-9/16 x 2-1/16 x 7-1/8" In size!
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sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate Punch P400X4
  • Class A/B sound quality that's affordable + modern compact design
  • Built-in amp setup gain features. Thermal heat management system
  • Bass EQ feature, remote bass option, compact size
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sample-table__imageMTX Audio Thunder 75.4
  • MTX Audio performance and classic sound in a smaller package
  • 75W x 4, 100W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS. Compact 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16" size
  • Designed with sound signal quality and reliability in mind
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageUltra compactAlpine KTP-445U 4 Ch
  • Tiny size! Only 7-7/16 x 1-1/2 x 2-1/2”
  • 45W x 4, 90W x 2 RMS power. High-pass crossover option
  • Auto-sensing turn on for speaker level inputs
Check on Amazon

Amp reviews and details

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Great sound, quality, and compact design. Excellent value!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice imageI’m an Alpine fan and always have been. To this day the company still produces some of the best mobile audio electronics available today.

The fantastic compact but powerful MRV-F300 is a great example of an amplifier done right.

One of the most compact 4-channel amps of it kind today, the MRV-F300 puts the lower-end amps to shame. There’s a sleek-looking dark brushed metallic finish on the chassis. The blue backlit power-on light on type adds a nice contrast to the design when your system is powered on.

For a more professional-quality design, end caps are included that cover the connections and help hide wiring when installed. It’s a great touch that helps turn an affordable system into a pro-looking effect.

For about $150 or less you’ll get some great features:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms power
  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 150W RMS x 2 @ 2 ohms bridged

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewYou’ll get not only great power in size that’s small enough to fit under most vehicle seats but excellent crossover options, too. Speaker level inputs are no problem as it’s a built-in feature. You’ll also get adjustable full, low, or high-pass crossover controls. A Bass EQ feature boosts bass output on channels 3/4.

Measuring only 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) in size it opens up a whole new range of installation possibilities.

Alpine has once again used their advanced engineering resources to design a super-efficient class D amp that’s amazingly affordable. It’s also one of the best sounding of its kind.

You’ll get great system flexibility, too, especially for using mids and highs in your system:

  • 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.

I was very impressed with this little amp for its price! As a matter of fact, I wrote a detailed review of the MRV-F300 found here.

It’s a great, affordable, and well-designed amp that’s an excellent compromise between power, size, sound quality, and price.

You simply won’t match the quality from competitors at this price range (around $150).

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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)

I’ve awarded this one the Editor’s Choice for these many great reasons. It’s simply one of the best choices around today!

Don’t pass it up. Head over to see the happy buyer reviews and find out more at Amazon.

2. JL Audio RB XD400/4v2 – Music the way it’s supposed to be heard + modern amp tech & features. Fantastic!

RB-XD400/4 amp side viewJL Audio has been for years, and still is, a true leader in the car audio industry. The RB XD400/4v2 is another result of their pursuit of the best car amplification technology possible.

JL Audio has taken the modern class D switching design and upgraded it with their own higher-performance version called NextD.

You’ll get performance both in terms of power and sound quality that’s far above average. NextD uses a faster switching speed than lower-performing competitors do result in power that’s always available.

The audio design and higher-quality circuit board layouts also ensure lower noise and better signal quality, too.

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

The XD400/4 is simply without comparison when it comes to sound quality and performance. The crossover controls are on top (included cosmetic cover not shown) for easier control access. You’ll need the included hex wrench to connect power and speaker wiring as it uses different connectors for those than most.

You’ll get plenty of power to drive your mids and highs, too:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 Ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 Ohms
  • Bridged: 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms

These are under-rated numbers, too! The XD400/4 can actually exceed rated power output by a bit.

It’s a small amp too, measuring only a tiny 8.52 in. x 7.09 in. x 2.05 in. (217 mm x 180 mm x 52 mm). It’s one of the few ultra-compact amps that can accept a 4 gauge power wire.

You’ll get great signal and crossover features too, making it easy to drive the perfect system giving your mids and highs powerful, distortion-free sound:

  • Low/high-pass 12dB/octave cutoff frequencies: 50-500Hz adjustable
  • Pass-through RCA jacks for 2nd amp connection
  • 2/4 ch. input adapter switch
PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • 2/4 ch. input switch
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Advanced class D (NextD) technology
  • Top-of-class quality and power
  • Includes control cover to nice install
  • Green power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Optional remote level (HD-RLC)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Brushed aluminum and black powder coating finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • 3 remote-on methods (auto-sensing)
  • 2 RCA pass-through jacks
  • 4 gauge wire capable
CONS:
  • Optional remote sold separately
  • No bass boost feature
  • Speaker-level inputs require RCA splicing
  • Expensive

If you’re wanting one of the most powerful, smallest, and best-sounding amps available today, look no further.

It’s sold many places but I've found some of the best pricing over at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 – Great sound in a small package – plus cool set-up features built in.

Punch P400X4 top view

 

Looking for a compromise between price, size, and features? The Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 is one of the best and most refined versions of classic A/B audio technology available today.

Unlike other class A/B 4 channel amps, Rockford Fosgate has used their proprietary Trans-ANA circuitry design to not only reduce noise but to take sound quality a step further.

It’s a well-designed amp that I’m impressed with – the build and engineering quality really shows. Unlike competitors, Rockford’s design takes up less space and is designed to be able to handle stressful power situations with ease.

The Punch PX400/4 features a microprocessor-based heat management system that allows it to safely keep the amp running instead of shutting off like lesser amps.

That means during really hot days or high-power maximum listening levels you’ll be ok – the music won’t stop. Instead the system will monitor and maintain a lower power output to keep the heat at a safe level.

One thing I really like is how the company was able to fit so much technology into a package only 11-1/8″ x 2-7/16″ x 8-13/16″ in size.

Punch P400X4 controls view

A great choice for mids and highs, the P400X4 is an excellent choice for your money. It’s a CEA-2006 compliant rated amp so you know the specs are honest and it’ll deliver as promised. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at the rated power output is a fantastic 105dB! It’s unique in that not only do you get flexible crossover features but additional set-up features to help you set the gain and input level settings during installation.

You’ll get plenty of power to run clear, loud, and enjoying quality music from component speaker mids and highs:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

You’ll get some great crossover features, too:

  • Fully adjustable high/low-pass frequency levels: 50-250Hz
  • Optional adjustable Punch EQ w/ up to 18dB boost @ 50Hz or 12.5KHz
  • 2/4 channel input source switch
  • Input level control allows speaker-level inputs

There’s also an optional Punch EQ remote control for easy dashboard bass level adjustments while driving.

Unfortunately, I did find one issue with the amp, and that is that it doesn’t offer speaker-level inputs so you’ll need an RCA line level adapter for that. However, a good one that will work with the amp is only around $15-20 or so.

Special built-in installation features

What helps make the P400X4 so different is the C.L.E.A.N. gain setup system built into it. With it, setup is easier and you’ll be sure you get the most from your amp and head unit!

Working with the including test tone CD (or test track MP3s can be used), the amp monitors and indicates input signal levels so you can adjust the gain for maximum output and minimal noise.

That’s a really cool advantage to have as it takes the guesswork and frustration out of trying to set up your system. It also means you won’t need to buy additional test equipment or accessories, too.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under some seats
  • C.L.E.A.N. setup features & test CD
  • Punch remote option
  • Input clipping indicators
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Rockford Fosgate quality
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Punch EQ boost adjustable (+18dB max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice black brushed metal finish
  • Muted turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • Punch level control not included
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • A bit larger in size than class D

As a great-sounding, well-made, and wonderful little amp you’ll love I highly recommend it!

Don’t waste any more time searching or shopping. Go find out today why it's one of the best-rated amps for highs and mids at Amazon.

4. MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 – Great power, sound, and affordability in a compact size.

MTX Thunder 75.4 side view

Wanting excellent sound but need more power? I totally understand! In my own system, I use two 4-channel amps with 75W RMS per channel for crisp and detailed sound that won’t bottom out.

The MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 4-channel amp has exactly what you need for the same great sound.

The Thunder 75.4 gives you legendary MTX Audio design quality, great power and sound, and reliability, too. It’s also an under-rated amp and can slightly exceed the rated power specs.

And yet’s it’s still affordable, too, at around $200.

You’ll get plenty of power to drive component speaker mids or highs:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

Using tiny surface mount technology (SMT) components, MTX designs their amplifiers not for bottom-dollar pricing like the competition does but instead for the best performance, signal quality, and value for your dollar.

In addition to a compact size that’s easy to install, you’ll also get a lower noise floor and excellent resistance to vibration. DC offset, thermal, and short-circuit protection are built in as well to keep your investment protected in case a problem comes up.

Based on classic and proven class A/B audio technology, MTX has taken the traditional design a bit further by using higher-quality audio path components as well as reducing signal path lengths to keep noise minimized.

Having used and installed MTX many times in my installation career I can tell you that they’re some of the best and definitely worth the money!

MTX Thunder 75.4 end 1One of the smallest amps in is power class, the Thunder 75.4 measures a compact 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16″ in size. Don’t let the small size fool you – it’s a hard-hitting little powerhouse! I like how the RCA inputs and crossover controls are placed on one end and the power & speaker connections are on the other. Well put-together, it’s a great choice for nearly anyone.

You’ll get some great crossover features as well – perfect for a custom system running separate mids and highs or even a 2-way front stage with a rear subwoofer.

Crossover specs include:

  • Front low/high-pass: 12dB/octave, 0-200Hz adjustable
  • Rear low/high-pass: 12dB/octave, 0-750Hz adjustable
  • Rear channels: Full-range, low-pass, or high-pass

The power connection block allows using 4 gauge wire, which is something I haven’t found on a lot of amps this size.

Sadly, to my disappointment, there’s no speaker-level input support. However, line-level adapters are relatively inexpensive, so that’s more of an inconvenience and definitely not a show-stopper.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under many seats
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (175W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Adjustable crossovers (hi/low 0-200Hz, 0-750Hz)
  • Great sound quality
  • Reduced noise design
  • MTX design quality & reliability
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Great buyer feedback
  • 5V capable RCA inputs
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Includes MTX test certificate
  • Soft turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • No remote level option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • No bass boost feature

Unless you have the most extreme demands, you’ll love this one. It’s a great sounding amp with fantastic power and it’s small enough to fit in many vehicle installations.

Check it out! Find out why it's a favorite among smart amp shoppers over at Amazon.

5. Alpine KTP-445U Ultra-compact – Great power powering mids and highs from a tiny size!

Image of Alpine KPA-445U with accessoriesIf you’ve got a vehicle that’s a tough installation challenge you simply want to avoid having the muss and fuss of a custom install, here’s the best choice. The KTP-445U universal ultra-compact amp is hands-down the best choice for your money.

It’s a fantastic installation option for both aftermarket or factory stereo head units for everything from car and trucks to boats or motorcycles.

Perfect for driving mids and highs with clean, high-efficiency power, it’s truly a stand-out marvel of modern Alpine design technology.

As seen in my detailed review of the KTP-445U here, it’s an example of some of the best engineering and sound quality you’ll get in a super-small package.

Measuring a tiny 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm), I’m almost in shock at how something so small can deliver so much. Despite the incredible size advantage you’ll get plenty of power.

The KTP-445U can deliver:

  • 45W RMS x 4 @ 4 or 2 Ohms
  • 90W RMS x 2 @ 2 Ohms

Despite that, it runs perfectly cool and draws nearly 1/2 as much electrical current as traditional amps. The modern class D design (with Alpine’s own proprietary touches) is one of the most efficient and best-sounding in its size and price class.

It’s so efficient that for many installations you can connect it directly to existing radio power wiring instead of installing a separate amp power wire!

Unlike other class D mini-amps you can drive 2 Ohm speakers as well.

Image of Alpine KPA-445U mini amplifier controls

One of the smallest car amps in the world today, the KTP-445U is in a league of its own. At only 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm) in size, it delivers impressive sound and power that you won’t get from most competitors. It’s so small it’s about the size of a laptop power converter, yet delivers enough power & flexibility to drive mids and highs for a whole system!

One feature I really like is that it’s “universal” and designed to be easy to install. Both RCA and speaker-level inputs are provided, making it a great match for factory systems too.

Don’t have front and rear RCA outputs on your head unit? No problem. Use the 2/4 channel input switch to take advantage of the built-in adapter and get 2 more channels immediately.

Alpine uses proprietary design and electronics technology to minimize noise levels and maximize sound quality that delivers a crisp, lively sound that’s good to the ear.

Despite being so small, I think it’s a great-sounding amplifier you’ll love and I really appreciate how much easier it makes installation.

At near $150 or so, it’s not the absolute cheapest out there, but for the sound quality, installation ease, flexibility, and enjoyment it’s great and definitely worth the money!

PROS:
  • Ultra-compact – fits in dash or nearly anywhere!
  • Excellent for factory system upgrade
  • High-efficiency class D design
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (45W RMS x 4 @ 4 or 2 Ohms)
  • Bridgeable (90W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • High-pass 60/80/120Hz crossovers
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Easy to install
  • Great wiring and signal harnesses (universal)
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice brushed metal finish
  • Handy mounting tabs
  • Includes basic mounting accessories
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Auto turn-on for speaker level inputs
CONS:
  • No low-pass crossovers
  • Not suitable for driving woofers
  • No remote volume option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • Auto turn-on won’t work for RCA inputs
  • High-pass crossover not adjustable – fixed to 4 pos.

I highly recommend this one if you want an amp that can fit nearly anywhere.

Have a look to see why no other ultra-compact amp at Amazon can compare.

Additional parts & reading

Need a great amp kit you can afford? Check out my recommended good amp kits here.

Thinking about installing an amp to an existing factory system? You can find out how to hook up a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers here.

The Best 4 Channel Amps For Sound Quality – Top Picks And Buyer’s Guide

Best 4 channel amp for sound quality featured image

Finding a good-sounding amplifier can be tough. I’ve put together this guide and recommended models to help you find the best 4 channel amp for sound quality.

Sound quality depends on a number of factors – not just one thing. It’s important to choose a well-rounded amplifier designed with sound quality in mind

As class D amps are also more common, I’ve added some important information about those as well.

Contents

Infographic – Car amp sound quality facts

Car amplifier sound quality facts infographic

What is a 4 channel amplifier?

A 4 channel car amplifier, as you may have already guessed, is extremely similar to most 2-channel (stereo) car amplifiers. However, there are a few differences you should be aware of. Just like 2 channel (or single-channel “mono block” amps) they contain a power supply with steps up the +12V battery voltage to a higher one.

This is necessary to create more power for the speakers you use. This is because when only 12V is available, a speaker can’t be driven with much power. That’s largely related to Ohm’s law and the basics of electrical power.

While similar, 4 channel models are built slightly differently. They’re a bit more compact as they incorporate 4 (instead of 2) independent audio amplifier signal paths and amplifier sections.

Many 4 channel amps also feature a 2/4 channel input switch. This is useful if connecting to a head unit with only 2 channels available in order to drive 4 channels of power.

Most today also are “bridgeable” – that is, they can be connected to drive a single speaker load from 2 channels for more power. Some 4 channel amps are configured slightly different than others and have additional options like bass boost or crossovers that can only be used for 2 of the 4 channels.

These types of details vary from brand to brand and model to model. You need to be careful when shopping to ensure the amp you’re buying meets your needs.

2 channel vs 4 channel car amplifier diagram

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

Diagram showing the basic differences between a 2 and a 4 channel car amplifier. Both work the same way: the +12V supply is “stepped up” (increased) to a higher voltage with both positive and negative outputs. These supply the amplifier transistor stages which are fed with the signal from your stereo. This basically just amplifies the very small signal from your stereo to a higher voltage that can drive speakers with a lot of power. Note that 4 channel amps are usually more compact than other models (especially class D amps).

What to look for in amps with good sound quality

The best sounding car amplifiers have a number of important features you should be aware of before buying. It’s important to have at least some understanding of what the specifications actually mean, what kind of power rating you need, and what you can generally expect to pay.

There are several basic factors to check when choosing a great-sounding 4 channel amplifier:

  • Signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio
  • Built-in crossovers/crossover specifications
  • Design quality
  • Root Mean Square (RMS) power rating per channel

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio car amp diagramThe signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), rated in decibels (dB) is a way comparing the amount of audio signal to the level of noise signal in a car amplifier. Ideally the amount of noise will be low compared to the audio signal level. A 4 channel amplifier with good sound quality will have a number around 90dB and above. The best, depending upon the rating used, will be 100dB and higher. Background noise exists in all amplifiers and appears as a slight “hiss” when you listen with no music playing. It’s also more noticeable with the amp’s gain turned up.

Good amplifiers have a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. The SNR, listed in decibels (dB) is a way of comparing how much audio signal the amp has vs the amount of electrical noise it has internally.

Generally speaking, the higher the number, the better. Amps with great sound quality tend to be listed as having an SNR of 90dB and above, in my experience. Some of the best list their specs at 100dB and above.

However, it’s important to know that the specs can be a bit misleading. For example, it’s unfortunately pretty common for many to exaggerate their specs or they don’t list all of the ratings at certain power output levels.

It’s common to see better brands list the SNR with no signal output and also at 1 watt power output, where it tends to be lower.

Example image of car amp internal noise level

An enlarged image of the internal noise produced by a car amp (zoomed in for better viewing). Noise in an amplifier is to be expected – all amps have it! However, a good amp is designed to keep the noise low and the music signal high.

In a system with great tweeters and good sound reproduction, it’s easy to hear the amp’s noise if you turn up the gain very with no music playing. Generally speaking, an amp with good sound quality will have the least amount and will be more difficult to hear. Driving your amp with a strong, high-quality audio signal means you can turn down the amp gain and keep noise to a minimum, too.

Crossovers and sound options

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

A great-sounding amp like this Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel model will have good crossover features built in. While it’s important to pick an amp with the best sound you can afford if your speakers are driven to distortion and can’t handle some frequencies any amp can sound poor. Making use of the crossovers can have a huge impact on your system’s sound quality!

The speaker crossovers (normally called just “crossovers”) can be very important for a great-sounding system. What’s fantastic to know is that even budget models today have them built-in unlike many years ago.

The crossovers (like on the Alpine amp pictured above) give you the ability to get more volume with less distortion out of your speakers. You’ll also get better clarity and sound quality.

Basically, small speakers like coaxial door speakers and even some higher-priced component speakers simply cannot produce low-end bass well as a subwoofer can. Because of this, when playing some of your favorite music you’ll begin to hear distortion and the music will begin to break up when you start to crank the volume.

Always buy a 4 channel amplifier with high-pass crossovers built in when using the amp for full-range speaker sound. For bass, be sure to buy a model with low-pass crossovers as well.

Some models have fixed cutoff frequencies (the frequency at which sounds above or below are blocked), which is less flexible than adjustable models. However, generally speaking, fixed ones are set around 50 to 60Hz which is ok in my experience.

Some models also include a bass boost feature which can help if you don’t have good sound controls on your stereo.

Design quality

RB-XD400/4 amp internal viewGreat-sounding amps like this JL Audio XD400/4 have well thought out and designed circuit boards, better quality components, and a design goal of better sound. They place the quality of the music above cost and manufacturing shortcuts that you’ll find in low-end amps. The result is a difference you can hear.

There’s quite a big difference in sound between lower quality (and cheaper) amps and car amps with better design. One huge reason why is that there are a lot of small details that get ignored by lesser amps that are used by amps with better engineering and design.

For example, car amps with better sound have things like the following in common:

  • Better (and thicker) printed circuit boards (PCBs)
  • Surface-mount technology (SMT) components for shorter and smaller paths
  • Higher quality components
  • Better designs with sound quality in mind
  • Low-noise parts and proprietary circuits to improve sound quality

What’s especially interesting to know is that you don’t have to spend a ton of money for these things – even some amps just under $200 can provide excellent sound.

The big difference is that the respectable name brands like Alpine, JL Audio, MTX, Kicker, and others have the engineering resources and expertise to produce car amps that are designed to sound good. The problem with picking just any old car amp is that they’re designed for profit. Not for great sound quality!

How can you know which models are worth buying? A great start is to check my list below.

RMS power ratings

CEA logo

These days, high-quality amplifiers provide reliable, demonstrated, and documented specifications for their power ratings and sound quality.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) – 2006 compliance standards were established because of the confusing and misleading advertising ratings used by many car stereo manufacturers. It was created to give you clearly defined specs and ratings you can rely on when choosing an amplifier.

When choosing an amp with good sound quality, it’s best to shop for models (where possible) that advertise CEA-2006 compliant specifications. Doing so means there are no advertising gimmicks and that power ratings aren’t misrepresented.

Choosing the right amp power for good sound

For good sound, you’ll need adequate power. The reason why is that when an amplifier begins to be driven beyond its maximum power output level, it is driven into clipping, or cuts off, the audio signal driving a speaker. This is both a cause of serious, terrible-sounding distortion and potentially damaging to speakers too.

Amplifiers with adequate power won’t reach this point as they’ll still have enough power remaining before they begin to produce distortion.

I recommend a 4 channel amplifier with at least 50W RMS per channel for most people. If you’re like me and like to occasionally really crank it up, 75W RMS per channel is even better. Feel free to buy an even bigger amplifier if you like.

The most important part is to have an amplifier with adequate power that can produce music at the volume you want without beginning to distort.

What is a class D car amp?

When shopping for car amplifiers, you’ll be seeing more and more models in this category. It’s helpful to know a bit more about them before spending money. You’ll also want to know a bit more about sound quality as well. Some are great and some are disappointing.

Class D car amplifiers work on a relatively new type of amplifier design technology. They’re very efficient – in some cases up to nearly 90%! This contrasts with older designs which are around 65% efficient or less. What that means to you is they take up less space, generate less heat, draw less power, and often require smaller power wire.

Class D car amplifiers are those designed with a different type of power supply and sound reproduction than conventional, older technology. They work off of a type of high-frequency switching supply to modulate – or “chop up” – the incoming audio signal into a continuous flow of electrical on-off pulses.

These are then reconstructed and smoothed to drive speakers.

Originally this was used only for home stereo amps with decent but not impressive performance. However, the technology has greatly improved and now they’re capable of producing the great sound you’ll enjoy. I’ve used class D amps at home for some time now, and I’ve been pretty happy with them.

Class AB vs class D

Internal image of a 4 ch. amp

Class AB amps like this Diamond Audio model take up more room, are heavier, and use much more electrical current than class D car amps. The additional metal heatsink they’re built inside of also adds to the cost. Some modern amps can deliver the same power with about 1/2 the physical size!

Class AB car amplifiers (often shown as “A/B”, since it’s a combination of 2 kinds) are different from class D amps in how they operate. Unlike class D designs, their transistors are switched on nearly all the time, consuming more power. Much of this power is wasted and appears as heat.

Most are around only 65% efficient or less. That means if an amp is delivering 100W of power to your system, it’s actually drawing around 135W and more! (Some additional power is wasted by the power supply and other sections)

That’s one reason they’re heavier and need a large (and costly) metal body: they have to get rid of the additional heat. Even without any sound playing, you’ll notice a class AB amplifier gets warm after a period of time.

Class AB designs are a combination and compromise between the older class B designs (more efficient than class A, but slightly worse sound) and class A (best sound quality, but less efficient). Hence the name they’re given.

They do have one advantage: The design is cheaper and easier to produce with pretty good sound on a budget.

Class D amplifier sound quality

These types of amplifiers can have a harder time producing low-noise audio. One of the drawbacks to class D amps is that higher noise levels (appearing a low-level hiss and so on) are a by-product. Lower-quality amps will have an amount of noise most people can hear if they listen closely.

There’s no way around it. When it comes to class D car amps, you’ll have to buy a very well-designed amplifier to get good sound quality. Cheaper brands compromise on the amount of filtering and the kind of circuitry they use.

Name brand amplifiers like those I recommend below have custom designs and advanced ways of dealing with those drawbacks.

Additionally, many cheaper class D car amps use off-the-shelf chips. The result is poor sound quality and high noise levels. I’ve personally tested both good and bad brands, and there’s a big difference in the sound quality!

Today’s choices are very good and do a great job of powering an entire system with fantastic, clear sound production…all while fitting into small spaces.

★ 5 of the best 4 channel amps for good sound quality ★

Our top picks

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick! ★Alpine MRV-F300
  • Great low-noise sound quality for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS
  • Evolution to class D design
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sample-table__imageHigh end soundJL Audio XD400/4v2
  • Excellent signal/noise ratio. Superb sound quality
  • 75W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS
  • Only 8-9/16 x 2-1/16 x 7-1/8" in size!
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sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate Punch P400X4
  • Built-in gain setup features for optimal sound
  • 50W x 4 / 100W x 4 / 200W x 2
  • Compact size + bass remote option
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sample-table__imageMTX Thunder 75.4
  • Only 12-5/8 x 2.25 x 6-5/16" in size.
  • Advanced class A/B sound design
  • 75W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS underated power
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sample-table__imageUltra compactAlpine KTP-445U
  • Tiny size! Only 7-7/16 x 1-1/2 x 2-1/2”
  • 45W x 4, 90W x 2 RMS power. High-pass option
  • Auto-sensing turn on for speaker level inputs
Check on Amazon

Reviews and amp details

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Great sound, powers a whole system, and affordable!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice imageAlpine developed an affordable but great-sounding amplifier small enough to fit under a seat but still power your whole system.

One of the smallest 4 channel amps on the market, the MRV-F300 puts lesser amps that are twice as big in size to shame! It’s a great-looking amp with a sleek dark brushed metal finish and cool blue power-on indicator on top.

The included optional end caps snap and off for an even cleaner looking installation. For those of you looking to flush-mount your new amp in a custom install, it’s a perfect choice.

The MRV-F300 is rated at a clean-sounding 50W x 4 RMS @ 4 Ohms and 75W x 4 into 2 Ohm speakers. It’s one of the best next steps in the evolution of car amplifiers. It’s bridgeable to 150W x 2 into 4 ohms, by the way.

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewOh, snap! So many features for the price that it’s nearly impossible to beat. Not only does it have speaker-level inputs (wiring harness included) but also adjustable high/low pass crossovers, bass EQ (boost), and removable end caps.

Measuring a tiny 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) it fits into installation spaces that are impossible with older amps.

Alpine has used their engineering expertise to create an amp that’s one of the few super-efficient class D amps in its price range with reduced noise for enhanced sound quality.

Don’t just take my word for it – check out the great buyer reviews!

As expected, you’ll enjoy great system flexibility with the built-in crossovers (50-400Hz adjustable high and low pass, 12dB/octave) and a bass boost feature for channels 3 and 4.

I was really impressed with this little amp for its price! So much so that I wrote a full review of the Alpine MRV-F300 here.

It’s a sweet little powerhouse with great sound quality for what you pay. At near $150 or so, you’re simply not going to match the quality when buying a lesser brand. (You’ll need to shop carefully to avoid paying more than you should)

Why did I rank this one #1? Because it’s one of the best sounding all-around values that fits in places not many can.

PROS:
  • 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
CONS:
  • 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)

The MRV-F300 checks all the boxes in terms of sound quality, size, power produced, features, and quality. It also features speaker-level inputs for adding it to a factory stereo.

It’s priced right for just about everyone. Definitely head over to check out the amazing reviews and happy buyers at Amazon.

2. JL Audio RB XD400/4v2 – 75W x 4 of some of the best sound for your money that can still fit under a seat

RB-XD400/4 amp side viewAlways a car stereo industry leader, JL Audio has been known worldwide for excellent sound, hard-hitting power, and some of the best engineering you can buy.

Their approach to building a super-compact and ultra-efficient class D amp was to take the average approach to amp design and throw it away – and used their unique NexD circuitry which uses a much faster switching speed than low-end amps do.

The result is improved power delivery and much lower noise levels. As far as sound quality goes, it’s one of the best modern car amps that money can buy.

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

The XD400/4v2 is one of the best sounding and best-designed amps in its class. The crossover features are built facing the top (which features an optional cosmetic cover) for an easier way to reach them in many systems. Note that you’ll need the included hex wrench to tighten and loosen the higher-grade wiring terminals. It’s a great amp!

Specified at an under-rated 75W RMS x 4 into 4 Ohms (100W RMS x 4 into 2 Ohms) it’s capable of exceeding its rated power.

Measuring a mere 8.52 in. x 7.09 in. x 2.05 in. (217 mm x 180 mm x 52 mm) it’s one of the few in its size class that can accept 4 gauge wire.

Adjustable 50-500Hz low/high pass crossovers are provided for great system flexibility and to help you block distorting bass when driving full-range speakers. The 2/4 channel switch allows driving a whole front and rear system without the need for rear RCA inputs.

Additionally, a pair of RCA output jacks make it easy to connect it to a second amp for system expansion. Wire terminals are audiophile-quality and it’s one of the best-rated amplifiers sold today.

PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • 2/4 ch. input switch
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Advanced class D (NextD) technology
  • Top-of-class quality and power
  • Includes control cover to nice install
  • Green power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Optional remote level (HD-RLC)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Brushed aluminum and black powder coating finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • 3 remote-on methods (auto-sensing)
  • 2 RCA pass-through jacks
  • 4 gauge wire capable
CONS:
  • Optional remote sold separately
  • No bass boost feature
  • Speaker-level inputs require RCA splicing
  • Expensive

If you’re looking for one of the best sounding and smallest amps today, this is it.

It’s available at many places online but you can get it for a better price (and free shipping) at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 – Excellent sound, small size, and great set-up features included

Punch P400X4 top view

Able to spend a bit more? The Rockford Fosgate P400X4 provides some of the best sound out there in a 4-channel amp. While it may seem just many competitor’s products, there’s more to offer, however.

Unlike other conventional A/B class amps, the company has used its own proprietary Trans-ANA circuitry design to not just reduce noise, but to take sound reproduction to the next level. It’s a well-designed amp with real engineering quality through and through.

Additionally, the amp has a special heat management design using state-of-the-art microprocessor circuitry to manage heat levels without having to shut the amp off.

Because of their car electronics expertise and resources, Rockford was able to fit all this into a package only 11-1/8″ x 2-7/16″ x 8-13/16″ in size. Other amps in its power and price range (near $200) can’t match the size, quality, or features.

Punch P400X4 controls view

The P400X4 is capable of excellent sound quality. It’s a CEA-2006 compliant rated amp, meaning the specs are proven and reliable. Signal-to-noise (SNR) performance is excellent, with up greater than 105dB at rated power! As you can see in the image, crossovers, sound EQ options, and the set-up features are accessible with the top cover removed. A nice blue power-on indicator rounds out a sleek, modern design.

Power ratings are great, too, featuring enough to run most systems:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

High and low pass crossovers are provided and are fully adjustable from 50 to 250Hz. The Punch EQ is cool bass and treble feature that helps enhance your sound with an adjustable 0-18dB of boost at 45Hz bass or 12.5KHz for treble.

An optional Punch EQ remote control know (sold separately) allows easy dashboard control of the bass level while driving. One drawback of the amp is that is doesn’t offer speaker-level inputs, but it does include a 2/4 ch. input switch.

The unique feature I like about this amp is the C.L.E.A.N. gain setup system built into it. When used with the included test tone CD, the amp can show signal levels to aid in setting up the gain for optimal performance. It’s a great advantage as it makes setting up your amp for the lowest-noise and best sound levels much more easily.

It’s conservatively rated, too, meaning the amp will exceed its rated power output. For added confidence when buying, a certificate of performance is included with each amp, too!

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under some seats
  • C.L.E.A.N. setup features & test CD
  • Punch level controller optional
  • Input clipping indicators
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Rockford Fosgate quality
  • Includes control cover panel
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Punch EQ boost adjustable (+18dB max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice black brushed metal finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Muted turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • Punch level control not included
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • A bit larger in size than class D

It’s a fantastic amp and I highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out the amazing owner reviews and the lowest price over at Amazon.

4. MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 – More power with good sound and build quality in a small package

MTX Thunder 75.4 side view

Planning a system that needs a bit more power? I totally get it – in my system I’m using 4 channel amps with 75W per channel. It’s great having that power on tap.

With the Thunder 75.4 you’ll get legendary MTX Audio build quality and under-rated power (yes, their amps often can go past rated power!) in a size that fits in less space. And it’s still affordable, too!

MTX has cleverly designed the amp to squeeze in lots of power:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

The design uses tiny surface mount technology (SMT) components for shorter audio paths and for excellent resistance to vibration. Thermal, DC offset, and short-circuit protection ensure your amp will protect itself in case a problem occurs.

It’s based on classic and proven A/B amp design with MTX’s own patented audio design touches. Having installed both budget and higher-end MTX amps many times, I can tell you they’re definitely well worth the money.

MTX Thunder 75.4 end 1The Thunder 75.4 is one of the smallest in its power class at only 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16″ in size. It’s a great basic, hard-hitting, and compact amp. It’s well-made and a good use of your money if you’re looking for a good compromise between sound quality, power, and installation ease. I really like the user-friendly crossover features and how simple and uncluttered it is.

The high-pass crossover is adjustable up to a nice 750Hz, while the low-pass is adjustable to 200Hz max. 4 gauge wiring connections are available and are very well made – they’re some of the best I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, speaker-level inputs aren’t available on this model.

If you demand extreme sound quality, then it’s probably not for you. However, if you’re wanted very good sound quality in a smaller, easier-to-install package that won’t break the bank, it’s a good choice.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under many seats
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (175W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Adjustable crossovers (hi/low 0-200Hz, 0-750Hz)
  • Great sound quality
  • Reduced noise design
  • MTX design quality & reliability
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Great buyer feedback
  • 5V capable RCA inputs
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Includes MTX test certificate
  • Soft turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • No remote level option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • No bass boost feature

At around $200 or so, overall I’d say it’s a good value and is worth checking out.

Head over now and have a look at the many happy buyer reviews left at Amazon.

5. Alpine KTP-445U Mini Amplifier – A good-sounding amp with tiny size for difficult installations

Image of Alpine KPA-445U with accessoriesI’ve decided to include the KTP-445U here as well. While it doesn’t have the same high-end specs like other amps I’ve recommended, it’s a great sounding amp for more difficult installations. Some installations like pickup trucks and motorcycles are especially tough.

That’s where Alpine’s expertise provides a solution not just for extremely limited amp space, but for anyone wanting an amp that’s easier to install and draws less power.

As I explained in my detailed review of the Alpine KTP-445U, it’s an example of advanced engineering and satisfying sound quality in one of the smallest sizes in the world. This is a highly efficient class D amp that runs cool and provides 45W RMS to 4 channels. Not only that, but it’s bridgeable to 90W RMS x 2 channels, too!

Despite that, it runs cool and draws minimal current. During installation you can even connect it directly to standard head unit wiring for the power supply, if using it for typical (average power) systems like driving 4 full-range speakers.

It handles 2 ohm speakers as well.

Image of Alpine KPA-445U mini amplifier controls

The KTP-445U is one of the smallest car amps in the world today. Despite measuring only a tiny 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm) in size, it’s capable of delivering great sound and good frequency response. It’s so small it’s about the size of a laptop power supply – yet delivers enough power to drive a full system in your vehicle!

What’s particularly great (in my opinion, based on my experience) is that it also provides both speaker level and RCA inputs. It’s a great match for both factory and aftermarket car stereos.

Don’t have 4 RCA jacks, only 2? That’s no problem, either. The 2/4 channel switch allows you to drive the additional rear speakers without a problem.

Alpine’s design is especially effective at reducing noise levels and to maximize sound quality while providing crisp sound and the kind of high-end treble response you’ll enjoy.

Of course, quality often doesn’t come cheap, but this little guy is affordable, priced near $150 or so depending on where you shop.

PROS:
  • Ultra-compact – fits in dash or nearly anywhere!
  • Excellent for factory system upgrade
  • High-efficiency class D design
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (45W RMS x 4 @ 4 or 2 Ohms)
  • Bridgeable (90W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • High-pass 60/80/120Hz crossovers
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Great Alpine build quality
  • Easy to install
  • Great wiring and signal harnesses (universal)
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Great for motorcycles, outdoor vehicles, and boats
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice brushed metal finish
  • Handy mounting tabs
  • Includes basic mounting accessories
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Auto turn-on for speaker level inputs
CONS:
  • No low-pass crossovers
  • Not suitable for driving woofers
  • No remote volume option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • Auto turn-on won’t work for RCA inputs
  • High-pass crossover not adjustable – fixed to 4 pos.

Buyer reviews are great and based on my personal experience, you’re going to love it. It’s an installer’s dream come true, too!

I’ve found some of the best pricing anywhere here at Amazon.

Suggested reading

Don’t forget your amp kit! Check out my helpful guide for good amp kits here.

Need some more information on how to install it? Here’s a great guide on how to hook up a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers.