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

Image Product Details
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.

Hands-On Review & Test: Pioneer GM-D9605/GM-D9705 5 Channel Amplifiers

Pioneer GM-D9605 5 channel amplifier review featured image

Looking for a 5 channel car amp to drive your whole system? You’re in luck: while you’ll run across a lot of bad buys out there, there are a few that are worth the money!

In my detailed review of the Pioneer GM-D9605/GM-D9705 5 channel amplifier, I’ll show you what I found from hands-on, real-world testing and why they’re good values and great-sounding amps you’ll love.

I’m really going to dig deep so read on to learn more!

UPDATE: The GM-D9605 has been discontinued and has been replaced by the nearly identical GM-D9705, so I’ve updated my review. I’ll report my hands-on review of the GM-D9605 model as it applies to both but I’ll be sure to cover the 9705 as well where needed.
Contents

Basics first – The GM-D9605 / GM-D9705 5 channel amp explained

Pioneer GM series class D car amplifiers with GM-D9605 and GM-D9705 comparisons

The Pioneer GM line of amplifiers consists of several different power levels and channel configurations. All are class D-type amplifiers and competitively priced. (Note that the GM-Dx6xx models are now renamed the GM-Dx7xx models). The GM-D9705 is the newer version of the GM-D9605, although they’re functionally the same (aside from different looks).

The GM-D9605/GM-D9705 is one of the company’s line of midrange priced amplifiers in the Classic GM series. GM amplifiers are all class D amps, meaning they using a modern high-efficiency design based on high-speed switching amplifier technology.

Note that the 9605 and 9705 models do have some slight internal differences, however, they’re functionally the same amp and use many of the same components.

The Pioneer GM series class D car amp family

Class D amplifiers are a relatively modern approach to car audio and offer several benefits.

The biggest advantages are reduced size and cost, higher power efficiency (less power wasted as heat), and running cooler during high power output.

Much like other 5 channel amps, the GM-D9605/9705 offers flexible use that’s installation-friendly. You can run an entire great-sounding system from a single amp that can fit under a car or truck seat.

GM-D9605/9705 Amp System Options

Several configurations are possible:

  • 4 main channels (full-range front & rear) + 1 subwoofer output (bass only)
  • 3 main channels (2 standard + 1 bridged) + 1 subwoofer
  • 2 main channels (2 bridged for more power) + 1 subwoofer

In all cases, you can drive rear speakers even if you only have 1 pair of RCA outputs as a 2/4 channel input switch is provided.

It’s a great feature and saves you the cost of Y adapters and really expands your options.

Until fairly recently 5 channel amps (especially at the power level of the GM-D9605/9705) were some of the largest amps sold. They were fairly tough at times to fit into a vehicle.

Thankfully the class D design makes it possible to get the same power and flexibility in a smaller size and with less power draw, too.

Signal input options

The great news is that it’s very flexible not only in the number of channels available but it’s great for factory stereos as well.  There’s a handy 4-channel speaker level connection provided (wiring harness included).

When using a stereo without subwoofer outputs, you can use the subwoofer input switch set to “A/B” to derive low-pass bass from them instead.

Either way, it’s great for nearly any system you can dream up for your vehicle in my opinion.

Unboxing and first impressions

Pioneer GM-D9605 review unboxing front image

My Pioneer 5 channel amp (GM-D9605) arrived safe and sound. The amp is well-packaged with great foam inserts everything is nicely bagged and tucked inside. I was expecting good things from Pioneer and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed!

Finally, it came! As a Pioneer car audio owner & product installer in the past, I had high expectations for the Pioneer 5 channel amp. This was a wonderful opportunity to test their modern car amp design.

My amp arrived well-packaged with a smart, professional design just like you’d expect from a leader in the car stereo industry. Right away I got a good feeling.

Everything was put together nicely and the included accessories were tucked away neatly inside.

What’s in the box?

Pioneer GM-D9605 image of included items

Pictured: Everything included with the Pioneer GM-D9605. Aside from an amp wiring kit and installation-specific accessories, you’ll have everything you need to install the amp itself and mount it. Note: I do recommend some double-sided tape for the bass remote if you’d like to avoid screw holes when mounting.

After opening up the box and removing the amp here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Owner’s manual and warranty info
  • Bass remote knob assembly and cable (16 ft long) + mounting screws
  • Amp mounting screws, black, 1/2″
  • Speaker and power terminal Allen (hex) wrenches
  • Front/rear speaker level input harness

Note that you’ll need a good amp wiring kit like in my amp kit buying guide to make your installation easier & with great results.

It’s especially important to have good quality wire and the little bits and pieces that make the work much less of a hassle!

Pioneer GM series car amplifier high level input harness image

For factory stereos or aftermarket stereos with no RCA jacks, you’re covered! The included speaker-level (“high level”) wiring harness connects to the speaker wiring from your stereo and plugs into the amp. Industry-standard color codes are used to make wiring clear.

The included speaker level input harness is very compact and easy to understand. Not only clearly spelled out in the owner’s manual (which is very nice, by the way) but also it uses industry standard colors.

Positive and negative wiring is marked by the use of 1 striped wire for each pair of input wires for a total of 8 wires (4 inputs for both front and rear options).

For my test setup, the included hardware (screws, hex wrenches, and remote cable) worked great and I had no complaints at all.

Build quality and close-up evaluation

Pioneer GM-D9605 top view closeup image

The GM-D9605 is a great-looking amp that has a nice glossy finish on top. The sides, edges, and surrounding areas feature a lovely matte black style. Overall, it’s a great design and everything is put together nicely.

As I like to do, I gave the amp a close-up and thorough inspection to check build quality, fit and finish, and to find any defects in assembly.

I’m happy to say the build quality is great, the cosmetic looks are excellent, and I found no defects to be aware of.

I especially like how it looks on top: somewhat resembling a carbon fiber material. There’s a glossy coating over a metal pattern designed into the single-piece heavy-duty metal shell.

The amp feels great in the hand and is definitely not a lightweight by any means! When you pick up the GM-D9605, at about 7lbs in weight, you can quickly tell it’s well-made and designed for handling some big power output.

Front and rear panel details

Pioneer GM-D9605 closeup image of front and rear

Front and rear view of the amp’s controls and wiring terminals. A very compact amp for its power class at only 12.4 x 2 x 7.87″ in size, the company had to fit a lot into a small area. Controls are well laid-out and work well in my experience. The wiring terminals are interesting (I’ll cover that later) but very high-quality, too.

The front and rear panels, like other class D amplifiers, have to fit in a smaller size than the amps of days gone by. Because of this, you’ll often find similar amps have controls and labels very close together.

However, no complaints here. The crossover controls, bass remote jack, RCA input jacks, and much more are nicely done. The lithography (label printing) is nice and clear, although the topmost labels are harder to see at times.

I checked the switches and dial controls and everything felt nice and tight – no signs of cheap, low-quality parts being used.

Wiring terminals (and my thoughts on them)

Pioneer GM-D9605 wiring terminals close up image

Close up: the wiring terminals where you’ll connect power, ground, remote, and speaker wiring. They’re very high quality and offer an excellent, reliable connection as I discovered during installation. Note, however, that the openings are angled downward slightly.

Similarly, I can say the same for the wiring terminals. Unlike cheaper amps, Pioneer uses a high-quality machined metal wiring block in the design.

Within each wire terminal is a single machine screw that uses one of the 2 included hex wrenches. You’ll use the included metal wrenches to tighten down the screws and secure wiring.

Don’t sweat it, though – you can tighten them down firmly but there’s no need to get them super tight. Once tightened down firmly by hand the wire isn’t going anywhere!

A note on the terminals

There is one little detail that caught my attention, however. The wiring terminal openings are angled downward and not perfectly horizontal.

In practice, it wasn’t a problem for me, but I can see how some people might find it a bit harder to insert wiring during installation.

After installation using proper lighting (yes, I installed it outside at night!) the job went fine and I can’t really complain much.

The GM-D9605/9705 amp guts revealed! Checking out the electronics

Pioneer GM-D9605 internal components and circuit board images

To be 100% sure about the build and design quality I opened up the amp. Inside is a smartly designed, well laid-out printed circuit board (PCB) with miniaturized components and good build quality. There’s a very beefy power transformer. Components are high-quality and the assembly is well done. The 9705’s internal components are very similar as well (not shown)

I wasn’t kidding earlier when I mentioned I’d be digging deep into the details! One great way to really find out about the quality of an amp is to open it up and give it a more thorough look.

As you can see above in the images, Pioneer uses miniaturized surface mount technology (SMT) components to keep circuit space to a minimum and optimize sound quality.

Additionally, I noticed the capacitors and transformers that make up the power supply are into place for added durability and vibration resistance. That’s something you don’t always see, sadly.

It’s important to remember that the GM-D9605 & D9705 sit in a “sweet spot” in terms of cost vs quality & performance: not cheap, but not too expensive, either.

What I found inside reflects that as well: a well-made, well laid-out circuit board with good fit and great assembly quality.

Specifications

Pioneer GM-D9605/D9705 Specifications
  • Channels: 5 (4 full-range + 1 subwoofer channel)
  • Amp class type: class FD (custom class D design)
  • Signal inputs: 6 RCA inputs (4 front/rear “A/B” + 2 subwoofer) + 4 ch. high-level inputs
  • 2/4 RCA input switch
  • Subwoofer: Dedicated inputs or derived from main channels
  • Bass boost level: 0 – 18dB, adjustable
  • High-level input sensing auto-on feature
  • Crossovers:
    A/B ch.: High/low pass, -12dB/Oct, 40-500Hz adjustable
    Subw.: Low pass, -12dB/-24dB/Oct selectable, 40-500Hz adjustable
    Bass boost center freq.: 50Hz
  • CEA-2006 continuous RMS power ratings:
    75W x 4 + 350W x 1 @ 4 ohms
    100W x 4 + 600W x 1 @ 2 ohms
    Bridged: 200W x 2 @ 4 ohms (Front/rear ch.)
  • Speaker terminals: Channels A, B (front, rear) stereo + single subwoofer out
  • Freq. response (A/B): 10Hz ~ 50kHz (+0dB, -3dB)
  • Freq. response (sub): 10Hz ~ 500Hz (+0dB, -3dB)
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): A/B CH: <0.05% (1kHz) / SUB CH: <0.05% (100Hz)
  • Signal-to-Noise (SNR): > 94dB
  • Fuse Rating: 30A x 3
  • Includes bass remote knob + 6 wire, 6 position telephone cable
  • Includes mounting screws for amp, remote, and hex wrenches for terminals
  • Wiring terminal type: insulated high current hex screw solid block machined
  • Owner’s manual with detailed instructions
  • Protection circuit for shorts, thermal overload, low voltage
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Size: 12.4 x 2 x 7.87 ” (31.5 x 5 x 20 cm)
  • Weight: 7lbs 2 oz (3.2kgs)

If you’re not familiar with car amplifier ratings, it’s important to understand that power ratings in the mobile electronics industry are a huge source of confusion and are often used to mislead buyers.

CEA-2006 Compliant logo

Fortunately, the industry established a good (although, voluntary) set of standards in the 2000s which reputable manufacturers use to assure you of what you’re getting. Amplifiers sold today that provide Consumer Electronics Association 2006 (CEA-2006) power specs guarantee the amp will perform as advertised.

Like several other top car audio companies, Pioneer’s GM line of amps is no different.

The GM-D9605/D9705’s CEA-2006 compliant power ratings are guaranteed correct. In fact, the GM line of amps has actually be proven to exceed their ratings by a small margin!

My hands-on experience reflects this as well. I can definitely tell you that there’s NO shortage of power with this guy!

My test setup and installation

Pioneer GM-D9605 review test setup diagram

A diagram showing the general setup used for testing the Pioneer 5 channel amplifier. I replaced my high-spec reference amplifiers and tuned my system to correct any problematic frequency response behavior in order to best test the amp’s sound performance.

Now comes the part where things get real! How would the Pioneer stand up against my class A/B reference amps that are 40% bigger in size?

And is the GM-D9605 really a great value like I thought, or a just another average, mid-tier amp?

It’s time to find out!

Installing the GM-D9605

Pioneer GM-D9605 review test amp rack image

For my test setup I at times enjoy real-world use of an amp using an amp rack and everyday listening. Here’s the Pioneer amplifier mounted on an amp rack for a reliable, neat installation.

Using the same method found in my guide on how to make your own car amp rack, I set up my test installation and installed the amp in my test car.

One thing’s for sure – if I’m going to give an amp a fair test the installation quality is definitely important. Professional installation with neat wiring and everything secured in place isn’t just good-looking but is a requirement for reliability.

Setup and wiring connections

Pioneer GM-D9605 gain setup during installation example

Getting the amp gain and crossover settings ready during installation. The controls work well and are easy to use. Additionally, what helps set the amp apart from others is how the gain level control is labeled with “Normal”, “0.5V”, and “6V”, giving you a better idea of the general range & position the dial should be at.

I set up the baseline gain, crossover, and other controls adjustments (like for the subwoofer) when mounting the amp rack into place. In my cases, the high-pass crossovers weren’t needed so I left them set to flat (off).

This allows an unrestricted audio range as my Alpine digital signal processor (DSP)/EQ already provides filtering.

For the subwoofer control, I started with an initial gain setting somewhat bit higher as from experience in my setup it’s needed. Normally I’ll fine-tailor them later once the system is powered and working ok.

Pioneer GM-D9605 wiring connection installation example

Connecting power & speaker wiring to the amp. All went well as planned, even though the downward-angled terminal openings are a bit new to me. In the end, the terminals work very well and you’ll get a nice, tight, and great-conducting connection!

Finishing it up, I wired up the amp, carefully inserting the power and speaker wiring as these types of terminals are a bit new to me. The slightly down angled openings turned out to not really be an issue at all.

They worked well, and despite the wiring openings being less visible immediately, the design is actually quite good. Using the hand wrenches supplied in the box I carefully tightened the connections to avoid stripping or any other issues.

Note: strongly recommend against using a cordless drill or screwdriver when working with terminals like this. It’s ease to overpower the screw and strip out the inset shape, leaving them rounded out and much hard to work with.

My advice is to always do delicate or fine fasteners by hand.

I also sometimes do things by hand to check the “feel” of parts – poorly designed or manufactured connections sometimes show themselves when they feel cheap or loose. That wasn’t the case here.

The connections were excellent and it only took a few moments for each connection point to get a highly secure & tight clamp.

System EQ setup

Alpine PXA-H800 DSP/EQ in-car test setup and adjustment example images

To keep things “fair” during test evaluation I made sure to remove any nasty sound peaks or dips that would give my ears a false impression about the Pioneer amp. Using my calibrated microphone and real-time analyzer (RTA) software I smoothed out any problem areas. This lets me test the amp on a “level playing field.”

Of course, it’s never a good idea to compare apples to oranges, so to speak. After installation, I used my real time analyzer (RTA) software and calibrated microphone for equalization adjustments.

This lets me do critical listening of the amp’s sound reproduction by removing any nasty peaks or dips in the sound system’s response that might influence what my ears hear.

Firing up the laptop I got to work taming any areas by adjusting my Alpine DSP/equalizer processor’s 31 bands as needed for the main channels and the subwoofer output.

More about the bass remote

Pioneer GM-D9605 bass remote installation example

The bass remote installed using double-sided tape for avoiding drill screw holes for test purposes. I do recommend the screws if you’re ok with permanent holes, but for many people using an alcohol prep pad and then sticking on adhesive tape is a great option.

The bass remote is pretty easy to install and works great, although the knob is a bit small. However, it lets you easily dial in as much slamming bass as you like with the 0-18dB boost provided.

Basically, it’s a very small assembly with a 6 pin, 6 conductor jack on the rear that installs by connecting the provided black telephone cable. At 16 ft 5″ (5m) in length, it works well in most vehicles.

Alternatively, you can also pick up a longer cable of the same type if the original isn’t long enough for you.

Close up images of Pioneer GM series car amp bass remote details

Closeup of the bass remote, a small dial control that uses a 6 pin phone cable to allow you to boost the subwoofer output’s level any time. It works great and is a really handy (and fun) way to get more enjoyment out of your music.

I especially like that it’s included at no extra charge, as some competitors charge up to $25-$30 for theirs when sold separately.

How does it sound? Real music and test tracks

Car amp test tracks playing snapshot

Some reference car audio test tracks I used for testing the amp and verifying sound quality. Top: Autosound 2000 Test CD #102. Bottom: A high-fidelity album from Mapleshade Music featuring unprocessed, excellent sound quality used in some high-end car audio demos.

Using my reference test CDs (as well as music I enjoy and I’m familiar with very well) I ran the amp through a series of tests to check some important characteristics:

  • Sound quality & clarity
  • Stereo imaging
  • Bass sound quality
  • Power output with real music

The result? The GM-D9605 had spot-on imaging in my test setup as with my class A/B reference amps. No problems there! The left, center, and right placement of the instruments was exactly spot-on.

Example of Spotify music tracks playing screenshot

Listening to everyday music like your favorite tracks on Spotify (or whatever music source you like!) is enjoyable and fun with the Pioneer. Music is crisp, clear, and can really jam hard when you crank the volume. Clear, well-recorded songs like Ne-Yo’s Miss Independent come through great and have an excellent low-end bass sound!

The music sound quality was great, with crisp, dynamic highs and punchy bass. While there is a tiny bit less detail than my original (and much less efficient) reference amplifiers, that’s to be expected of a midrange class D amp.

It’s important to understand that unless you’re spending absolute top-dollar money for a higher-end amp like the JL Audio XD700/5v2 it’s a compromise that comes with an amp in this price range.

I have to say, however, that unless you’re one of the pickiest audiophile listeners, you’ll enjoy it. It’s a very clear, musical amp that has a ton of power just waiting to perform.

Cranking up the bass anytime you like thanks to the bass remote is fun! It’s a great little feature to have and I definitely recommend installing it. The knob is a bit small so I would have liked a slightly larger size to make it even more convenient to use.

I have to say, however, that unless you’re one of the pickiest audiophile listeners, you’ll enjoy it. It’s a very clear, musical amp that has a ton of power just waiting to perform.

Should you choose not to install the bass remote, however, be aware that there’s no bass boost feature on the control panel. In that case, you’ll have to live without a boost adjustment on the amp.

Fun music, mucho bass!

All in all, I enjoyed the sparkling, crisp highs, and especially the subwoofer output. This is an amp that can really put out some serious power when you’re jamming hard.

It’s hard to believe how much power you get from such a little size: 350W x 1 at 4 ohms and 600W at 2 ohms (the minimum Ohms/subwoofer rating supported).

Never was there a problem with running out of power – this little amp is excellent for systems using subs and I got bass that hits hard any time I wanted it.

GM-D9065 vs GM-D9705: Are there any differences?

Pioneer GM-D9605 vs GM-D9705 5 channel car amp comparison image

While you might be a bit nervous about the possible differences, you’re in luck – there aren’t any. The 2 models are different only in the outside of the amplifier. The internal design, connectors, inputs & controls, and all specs are the same.

There are only 2 very small differences between the two models. They’re functionally the same amp inside.

As often happens in the industry both models are almost identical aside from a new look:

  • Internal components, power, sound quality, and specs are the same
  • The same bass remote is included with the D9705 as pictured with the D9605
  • Both the input connectors, controls, and wiring terminals are exactly the same

Some minor differences I found are the following:

  • The GM-D9605 has a glossy finish over a simulated carbon fiber pattern; the GM-D9705 has a slightly shorter top with a machined metal finish
  • The GM-D9605’s screw mount feet are a bit easier to access than the GM-D9705, giving a slight advantage at installation time
  • The 9705 has the same general internal electronics and many of the same components, but a slightly different circuit board (same power & performance specifications)

Other than that, there’s nothing worth mentioning.

Review summary – Should you get one?

After testing for some time and putting it through its paces, I have to say I’m very happy with the quality, sound, and power I got for the money. It’s a definite YES!

There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to 5 channel amps but the Pioneer GM-D9605/D9705 delivers some of the best all-around performance and value you’ll find anywhere. It’s an excellent choice for all but the most discriminating listener.

As an installer and audio fanatic, I really like how flexible it is, too. The features really let you tailor your sound a lot. The included bass remote adds that extra bit of fun when it comes time to crank up the bass.

While they’re almost the same aside from minor differences, I prefer the more modern style of the GM-D9705 over the 9605 model. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the 9605 if you like carbon fiber accents though.
Pioneer GM-D9605 GM-D9705 Editor's Choice product review image

These are affordable, solid amps that have all the power most people could want – with the sound quality that you usually expect from more expensive amps. Even better, they can fit under a seat since they’re so compact.

Head over now to find out why the GM-D9065 and GM-D9705 are some of the best-rated car amps sold today at Amazon.

Overall
9.1/10
9.1/10
  • Overall quality - 9.5/10
    9.5/10
  • Sound quality - 8.8/10
    8.8/10
  • Power & performance - 9.2/10
    9.2/10
  • Installation ease - 8.9/10
    8.9/10
  • Features - 9/10
    9/10

Mid-priced 5 channel amps that really deliver, the Pioneer GM-D9605 & GM-D9705 offer an excellent - and affordable - way to power a whole system

While competitively priced, the GM-D9605/D9705 delivers serious power at 2 and 4 ohms. Bass fans won’t be disappointed, and neither will you if you want dynamic, crisp sound with plenty of power. Full-range sound is excellent, although it can’t match the detail level of competitors at twice the price. Bass is powerful, punchy, and enjoyable.

As a full-range system amp, it’s great for music and offers nice flexibility from an efficient & compact class D package. Quality is excellent, and the bass remote makes jamming hard even more fun. Try one on for size and you’ll love it too!

Pros

  • Good sound quality and clarity
  • Excellent power/CEA-2006 proven ratings
  • Bass remote & cable included
  • Bass boost feature works well
  • Great crossover flexibility
  • 2/4 ch front/rear input switch
  • High-level inputs w/ harness
  • Auto-sensing remote feature for high-level inputs
  • Bass signal input from RCA or derived from main chs.
  • Solid machined wiring terminals work well
  • Great looks
  • 0-18dB bass boost range
  • 12/24dB/Oct. sub crossover switch
  • Protection circuitry
  • Runs cool during use
  • Clear, detailed owner’s manual

Cons

  • No accent lighting on logo or body
  • Bass boost feature only works with remote
  • No separate protection indicator lights
  • Speaker and power terminals angled down slightly
  • Sound quality can’t match higher priced amps
  • 16′ 5″ (5m) remote cable may be short for some vehicles
  • Bass remote knob is small
  • No double-sided tape included
  • Top adjustment labels are harder to see

Hands-On Rockville RXH-F5 5 Channel Amp Review – The Good And Bad To Know

Rockville RXH-F5 5 channel amp review featured image

Having tried several of Rockville’s line of budget car amps, I’ve come to appreciate that they’re often a good value with lots to offer.

5 channel amps are a special group of car amplifier and there aren’t many to choose from – especially affordable ones. But is this one a great option or should you pass it by?

In my Rockville RXH-F5 5 channel car amplifier review I’ll share with you what I’ve found. You’ll want to know what I found out during testing before you buy one!

Contents

Basics first: Getting to know the Rockville RXH-F5

Image of Rockville Phenom series amplifiers with RXH-F5 highlighted

Phenom series amps are highly affordable class A/B amps with a traditional amp design inside. Some of the best-selling Rockville amplifiers from the Phenom model line are shown here with 2 true RMS power ratings (2 different measurements are used). The RXH-F5 adds a class D subwoofer channel for lots more power.

One of Rockville’s Phenom line of budget-priced amps, the RXH-F5 amplifier shares the same basic design features as its siblings. If you’re not already familiar with Rockville products they’re a relatively new company with a variety of budget level car audio products.

What helps set the Rockville line of amps apart from other budget brands are the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) 2006 industry standard power ratings. That is, unlike many budget amps you’ll find when shopping reliable power ratings are provided.

More about the Phenom series of amps & the RXH-F5

Like most amps in the product family, the F5 uses a traditional A/B amp design for the front and rear speakers. However, it adds a 5th channel powered by a class D supply dedicated to driving one or more subwoofers.

They also list (as do some other manufacturers) another RMS power rating that’s measured differently. Not to worry though as I’ll explain more about that later.

In the Phenom family you’ll find several types of amplifiers:

  • 4 channel models
  • 2 channel models
  • 5 channel models
  • Mono (single) channel bass amps

Rockville also has a product line called the DB series. However, the Phenom series provides slightly better sound quality specs and features the DB series doesn’t offer (although the DB series are still a good choice as well). Phenom amps also offer more channel configurations (like this 5 channel version).

Phenom series amps are only a few dollars more than DB models and many also offer more features so they’re hard to pass up. Many sell for around $90-$160 or so making them an affordable choice for many.

Pricing & power ratings

Rockville RXH-F5 5 channel amp in box image

In terms of price, the RXH-F5 sells for about the same as comparable amps from Hifonics for example at close to $150-$165 or so.

Unlike its sibling the 4 channel RXA-F1 I reviewed here, there’s no twin marine version with 5 channels offered.

As power ratings can be a bit confusing I’ll try to break down what you can expect to get for your money.

CEA-2006 compliant RMS power ratings (at 1% THD):

  • 4 x 50W + 1 x 350W @ 4 ohms
  • 4 x 75W + 1 x 500W @ 2 ohms

RMS (“uncertified”) continuous power ratings:

  • 4 x 100W + 1 x 700W @ 4 ohms
  • 4 x 150W + 1 x 1000W* @ 2 ohms *(company claimed rating)

Note that CEA-2006 are guaranteed and based on a stricter industry standard way of measured useable amp power, while the standard (“uncertified”) continuous power ratings are normally measured to clipping.

A reasonable expectation for the power you can expect to get is the CEA-2006 power ratings plus a bit more.

Unboxing and first impressions

Image showing unboxing the Rockville RXH-F5 amplifier

I finally got my hands on it! My Rockville amp finally arrived and I got started unboxing right away. Inside the box was the amp’s production certificate, accessories, and manual. It’s also safely packed inside snug foam inserts holding it in place which I prefer over styrofoam.

I opened the box up and got a good first impression.

After opening the amp box inside you’ll find the amp’s production certificate stamped with both the CEA-2006 power ratings and the serial number. It’s a nice touch.

It’s not as detailed as the manufacturing certificates provided with some much more expensive amps (like those by Rockford Fosgate, MTX, and so on) but it’s still a nice touch.

The certificate gives the impression that each amp has power measured individually during production but that’s actually not true, as I’ve noticed all amps of the same model have the same power rating stamped inside. However, in my opinion, that’s not really a problem.

What we really care about is having the amp meet its rated power output as advertised. I’ll cover that topic later below.

RXH-F5 5 channel amp package front and rear images

The RXH-F5 is well-packaged and has the power ratings & features clearly labeled on the back which is great. However, despite being marketed with true power ratings (CEA-2006 & standard RMS specs) they still list the power on the box as “peak power.” Why? That makes no sense to me.

All in all, my RXH-F5 was well-packaged and everything looked good. Despite being a budget amp line I’m happy with what I found after opening it up. What I don’t like for is the use of “peak” or “maximum” power ratings on the box like less reputable amps use (as seen in the lower right corner on the front of the box above).

I just don’t get that in this day and age, especially since part of Rockville’s advertising is based on their realistic power ratings. However, as it’s not being used as the power ratings for sales ads, I’ll overlook that.

What’s in the box?

Image of the items included with Rockville RXH-F5 5 channel amplifier

Let’s keep moving and get to more good stuff. What comes in the box?

You’ll find the following inside:

  • A nice owner’s manual
  • Warranty card (1 year warranty)
  • Speaker level input harness adapter
  • Four #8 1″ pan head screws with non-damaging rubber washers
  • The amplifier

The included screws are #8 pan head screws and should work well for most installations. I used them myself during testing. They’re definitely the right length so you shouldn’t need to buy any others.

Installer tip: I recommend you drill pilot holes before driving the screws into the mounting surface when mounting it.

That’s because driving screws into some materials without pilot holes (using a 1/8″ bit) can cause them to split & crack badly. For soft woods like pine if making your own DIY car amp rack however that’s usually not a problem. For other materials like medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, or fiberglass it can be a big problem

The included rubber washers are a non-scratch/non-marring type used between the screws and the amp’s mounting hole surface. This prevents damaging the plastic mounting feet as the amp doesn’t use metal mounting tabs as many do.

So far, so good. One thing I did notice, however, is that the hex wrenches you need for the wiring terminals aren’t included.

You’ll need to get your own with the following sizes:

  • +12V & ground terminals: 4mm (5/32″)
  • Speaker & remote wire terminals: 2mm (5/64″)

Bondhus 12232 8 hex wrench setThe amp doesn’t include the 2 hex wrenches you’ll need to use on the wiring terminals. I recommend a good budget priced set like these I found at Amazon.

One great thing I like is that you can use up to 4 gauge wire for the power and ground terminals!

Build quality and fit & finish

Closeup images of Rockville RXH-F5 amp

Close-ups of the RXH-F5 from different angles to show the build quality & fit and finish I found. I found it to be a well-built amp that looks better than I expected for a budget amp line. It’s also very attractive despite using a fair amount of plastic on both ends. There’s a nice black brushed metal center inlay that I really like.

I gave it a good “once over” to check the build quality, assembly, and find any noticeable flaws. Overall, it’s a good-looking amp and well made. Fit and finish are good with no noticeable issues.

There’s a lovely black brushed metal centerpiece in the amp’s chassis with the Rockville logo and emblem. It’s a nice-looking touch and adds a bit of class you won’t mind showing off.

General design and finish quality

It’s the same tried-and-true design: An aluminum heatsink chassis.

However, the Phenom series of amps have a slightly unique design in that the sides are a dark gray instead of black like the top. There are also some false hex-head chrome screws in the centerpiece which adds a good-looking style accent.

Front and rear end sections are made of plastic and serve as the mounting feet. That’s my only complaint because metal mounting feet are a lot more durable and can take more force without warping or cracking. You’ll need to be careful not to overtighten the mounting screws when installing it.

Overall, the fit and finish are very good. It’s a good-looking amp and you might guess it’s more expensive than it really is if you didn’t know better. I like it.

The downside of being a budget amp is that to keep costs low older technology is used. Unlike some of today’s more compact amps, the tradeoff is the size since a more cost-effective design is used for the electronics.

A note about budget amp quality

I’ve owned and have tested several Rockville amps and a few times I’ve noticed a few minor quality control issues.

In 1 or 2 amps I’ve had a dial or two (gain or other adjustment dials) were a bit misaligned with the end panel opening. However, that’s a fact of life sometimes for budget products and it didn’t affect how I used the amp.

Overall, though, I’ve been pretty happy with how the Phenom series amps are built and mine had no manufacturing problems at all.

Front and rear panel details

Closeups of the front and rear ends of Rockville RXH-F5 amplifier

Shown: Front and rear panels with controls and wiring connections for the amp. For a budget amp, it’s actually very good. Wiring terminals need hex wrenches to use them, but you’ll get a much better and reliable connection than most budget amps use. Controls and input jacks (and more) are clearly labeled and easy to understand.

Wiring terminal quality & installation notes

For an amp in the budget price range, you’d think you’d get the same cheap wiring terminals that so many other amp manufacturers use. That’s not the case here, and I’m really happy to see that!

Wiring terminals use a solid machined metal design – instead of using a Phillips screw terminal style you get a much better design with 360° contact on your wiring.

Hex head screws tighten within each wiring terminal for a high-current & reliable connection.

During testing I found them to be very secure and good-looking too. While the openings do face out at a very slight downward angle (only a few degrees), I didn’t really notice it when installing it.

Note! Don’t use a cordless screwdriver or drill to tighten the wiring terminal screws. You could potentially strip the screws or break your hex bit. I recommend doing it the “old-fashioned” way: by hand.

The amp uses two standard 60 amp automotive fuses (replacements can be bought online or in stores if needed). Labels are clear and easy to understand, but for some reason, the speaker wiring bridge connections aren’t provided.

Bridging is easy though – just check the owner’s manual to be sure you’re using the correct terminals (Left channel positive & right channel negative).

Control panel & audio jack diagram

RXH-F5 amplifier control panel labeled diagram

Lots of good stuff packed into a small panel! For clarity, here’s a diagram showing all the functions & what they’re for.

There’s a lot packed into the control & input panel end of the amp. There’s a lot to cover here so I’ll try to keep it simple to understand and be right to the point.

The control & input panel has the following:

  • Speaker level input harness connector
  • Front, rear, and subwoofer (mono or stereo) inputs
  • Front crossover switch: Full range or high pass
  • Front crossover adjustments: High pass frequency – 50Hz to 3KHz
  • Rear crossover switch: High, full, and bandpass options (bandpass allows low pass use)
  • Rear crossover adjustment: High, low, and bandpass high/low options
  • Status & protection indicator light
  • Front, rear, and subwoofer level adjustments
  • Rear channel bass boost adjustment (0/6/12dB)
  • Subwoofer 0/180° phase switch
  • Bass remote jack
  • 2/4/5 channel input source switch

Each end of the amplifier also has 2 plastic areas resembling grills for air vent cooling. Immediately next to those are the mounting screw locations.

Crossover controls

While it might seem confusing at first, in all reality the controls are pretty straight forward. Fortunately, the owner’s manual is really helpful at explaining everything.

You have the crossover modes to choose from:

  • Front channels: Use in full range high pass mode
  • Rear channels: Full, high, or bandpass (which can be used for a low pass as well)

A “bass EQ” (bass boost) is available and provides 2 fixed levels of boost: 6dB and 12dB to the subwoofer channel. The bandpass filter mode is only offered on channels 3 & 4 and provides a lower adjustment of 15Hz-1KHz and the upper limit is adjustable from 50Hz-3KHz.

Thanks to this, unlike the front channels it’s possible to use it as a low pass filter if you like. Unlike some other Phenom series amps (like the 4 channel RXA-F1 I tested) there aren’t any crossover multiplier switches to add more flexibility.

Speaker level inputs – Another cool feature!

Image showing a Rockville car amp speaker level input harness

Rockville Phenom amps provide speaker level inputs in case you don’t have RCA jacks handy on your head unit. Factory radio? No problem! In fact, to my surprise, there’s an auto-on remote feature built in when using this.

One of the best features of the amp is the auto-on option when using the amp with a factory system.

When using speaker level inputs, you won’t need to connect a remote wire! The amp will automatically switch on or off when it senses signals from your stereo.

While that’s excellent and can save you a lot of work, there’s a minor gripe I have: Front and rear speaker level inputs aren’t labeled in the owner’s manual for some reason.

The +/- speaker input wiring is labeled on the amp, so you’re good there. However, the owner’s manual doesn’t tell you the front/rear wiring colors, so you’ll have to find that out that at installation time.

The Rockville’s amp guts revealed – What’s inside?

RXH-F5 amplifier internal view labeled

Internal view of the RXH-F5’s components. The amp uses 2 types of power supplies for the different channels: Front & rear channels are powered by a traditional class A/B design while the subwoofer channel has a dedicated class D supply for high power output.

I opened my amp to show you all the gritty details so you can see what I found.

Overall, after giving it a close look-over I can say it’s well done. While it’s a single-sided circuit board (conductive traces are on the bottom of the PCB) there’s a lot of solder added to the traces for extra conductivity and current flow with less resistance.

Front and rear channels use a Rockville’s own version of the traditional class A/B power supply design. The high power output available from the dedicated subwoofer channel relies on a second class D design in the middle of the circuit board.

Components used are mainly older style (but good) through-hole type for lower cost. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that you need to understand that to save money compromises have to be made.

Design specs & notes

Standard bipolar output transistors are used. Undervoltage & high-temperature protection is built in as well. The adjustable control potentiometers (used for gain, crossovers, and bass boost levels) are of good quality, too.

Switches seem to be of good quality and have a good feel to them as well. No complaints about the parts used to build it.

Note: The company also advertises that the Phenom amps use audiophile-quality capacitors and feature a “class G” design which basically a slightly modified version of a standard class A/B car amp for the main channels.

Basically this means while it’s a traditional design, the power supply reduces output depending upon power needs to help improve overall efficiency.

Specifications

Rockville RXH-F5 Specifications
  • CEA Compliant Power Ratings:
    • 4 Ohms: 550 Watts (4 x 50 Watts + 1 x 350) at 4 ohms and 1% THD+N
    • 2 Ohms: 800 Watts (4 x 75 Watts + 1 x 500) at 2 ohms and 1% THD+N
  • RMS Power Ratings
    • 4 Ohms: 1100 Watts (4 x 100 watts + 1 x 700 Watts)
    • 2 Ohms: 1600 Watts (4 x 150 watts + 1 x 1,000 Watts)
  • Front/rear: Class A/B, channel 5 is mono class D
  • Studio-Grade Bipolar Output Stage Transistors
  • Fully Adjustable 12dB/octave crossovers
  • Ch1/2: High pass 50H-3KHz
  • Ch3/4 Low Pass 50 Hz – 3 kHz, high Pass 50Hz – 1KHz
  • CH5 low pass 50Hz – 250Hz
  • High level inputs w/ auto-on feature
  • Thermal/short circuit protection circuitry
  • Optional bass remote included
  • Bass EQ: 0/6/12dB boost selectable
  • 2 Ohm stable stereo
  • 4 Ohm mono bridgeable
  • 3 Channel Mixed-Mono Capable
  • 2 Ohm subwoofer capable
  • 2 CH / 4 CH / 5 CH Input Mode Selector
  • Fully Adjustable Subsonic Filter: 15 – 50Hz
  • Crossover Bandpass Control
  • Subwoofer Phase Control (0/180°)
  • Mute and Delay Soft Start System
  • 8 Volt Preamp Circuitry
  • ELNA Brand Audiophile Quality Capacitors
  • Status Mode LED Indicator
  • Minimum THD at Rated Power: < 0.05%
  • S / N Ratio: > 100dB
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40KHz
  • Damping Factor: > 200 @ 100Hz
  • Dual 60 Amp standard Maxi fuses
  • Dimensions (W x H x L): 8.6″ x 2.0″ x 16.1″ inches

There are quite a few features you’ll get for your money and the specs are pretty good for its price range. However, real-world testing is what counts in my experience.

Understanding the RXH-F5’s power ratings

Diagram explaining CEA-2006 vs uncertified RMS car amplifier power ratings

It can definitely seem confusing when you first look at the amp’s power ratings. However, there’s a logical reason they offer 2 RMS power ratings. Continuous root mean square (RMS) power ratings existed long before the industry standard CEA-2006 method of rating an audio amplifier’s power came along.

They differ in a few ways, but both are useful when comparing similarly rated electronics:

  • CEA-2006 power ratings are measured when an amp’s power output reaches 1% distortion. This is a lower number than what an amp is capable of producing (with higher distortion) in nearly all cases.
  • The continuous RMS power (sometimes called “uncertified” power) is a measurement of the power an amp can put out continuously until the signal begins to clip.

Clipping is the point at which an amp can’t amplify the input signal anymore. It’s also a terrible form of distortion and can potentially damage speakers. That’s why we try to avoid it always.

The “uncertified” rating is how much “useable”, or how much power you can continuously expect to get, out of an amplifier for the rated speaker load.

The important thing to remember is this: When comparing car amps, compare similar power ratings. Otherwise, it’s not a fair comparison and can be very misleading!

Fortunately, the Rockville amps are industry certified to deliver at least the CEA-2006 power ratings advertised. In fact, they’ll exceed those up to the uncertified (continuous) RMS ratings.

A quick note about the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)

Signal to noise ratio car amp diagram

The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is measured in decibels (dB) and is a way of comparing the amount of “hiss” or base noise level an amp produces compared to the musical signal. A higher number is better, and typical car amplifiers are around 90dB and above.

Rockville lists the Phenom series (at least several of the prime models) as having a SNR ratio of greater than 100dB, which is very good. You’ll have to pay a lot more money to get even higher numbers, and it’s really not worth it unless you’re a true audiophile or want competition-level performance.

Note that they don’t specify how that’s measured. In some cases the SNR is measured at 1 watt, and/or at a higher power output where amps perform better. Those more specific rating specs are a bit rare among car amps, though.

My test setup and installation

Rockville RXH-F5 5 channel amp review test setup diagram

Shown: My test setup used for real-world testing of the amp during daily use and with many types of music.

Alright, on to the good stuff! Once I got the amp I was able to install it, tune my system, and give it a real-world test.

Installing the RXA-F5

Images showing test installation of the Rockville RXH-F5 amplifier

Installing the RXH-F5 for daily testing and putting it through its paces. I use a test installation setup for checking out amps, especially with a very high-quality audio signal source.

I used my test setup I’ve installed just for this purpose to power and supply a super-clean audio signal to the Rockville amp.

Installing the RXH-F5 is fairly easy although I did have to find my own hex wrenches for loosening & tightening the wiring terminal screws.

I did find that the speaker wiring terminals can be a bit tricky, as they’re a bit deep inside: You’ve got to be sure you’ve got the speaker wire inserted fully deep into the wiring terminal. Otherwise, after tightening the screws it’s possible to pull the wire out and you’ll have to start again.

No problems with the power & remote wire terminals, however. They’re easy to work with and everything was good. After installation, I gave the amp around 1 day for burn-in time to be sure any initial problems would show up and the parts had a chance to break in a bit.

NoteIf you’re using a head unit with only 2 channels instead of 4 (front/rear) and/or a dedicated subwoofer RCA output, you can use the 2/4/5 channel input switch to avoid needing RCA “Y” adapters. The remaining channels (including the subwoofer) will derive a signal from the 2 or 4 inputs you have available.

This works for both RCA inputs and the speaker level inputs as well.

One thing I didn’t like however is how the mounting holes are spaced very closely to the plastic end panel “walls” if you will. It makes for a very tight space during installation and it’s easy to scratch the plastic with your tools when driving the mounting screws into place.

Checking out the bass remote

Closeup images of Rockville car amplifier bass remote

The optional bass remote includes a standard 6-conductor phone cable about 18 feet in length. The remote mounts near your dashboard and allows adjusting the subwoofer level any time you like. It’s very easy to use, easy to install, and a great feature I recommend.

No installation & test is complete without trying out the special features, right? I installed the included Rockville bass remote (cable is included) in my vehicle and got to work.

It’s very easy to use, although you don’t want to leave it just lying around. Personally I recommend at least using a good double-sided tape for a removable installation.

Ideally, however, you’ll use the screw mounting tabs provided. Unfortunately, installation accessories aren’t included with the bass remote. I can’t imagine why they’re not.

Setup and results

Image showing Rockville bass remote knob installed in a car

To use the bass remote, you’ll need to tweak the amp a bit after installation. You’ll need to increase the gain of the subwoofer channel so it’s very high when the bass remote is to its max setting, and so it’s at a normal level at zero.

It’s fun to use for that quick bass boost anytime while you’re driving and works well – I like it! It’s a lot easier than having to go into your head unit’s bass settings EVERY TIME you just want some extra bump for your favorite tunes.

How does the RXH-F5 sound? Real music and test tracks

Car amp test tracks playing snapshot

Some reference car audio test tracks I used for testing the amp and verifying sound quality. Top: Autosound 2000 Test CD #102. Bottom: A high-fidelity album from Mapleshade Music featuring unprocessed, excellent sound quality used in some high-end car audio demos.

Using my reference test CDs (as well as music I enjoy and I’m familiar with very well) I ran the amp through a series of tests to check some important characteristics:

  • Sound quality & clarity
  • Stereo imaging
  • Bass sound quality
  • Power output with real music

I do this because it’s important to be consistent when testing different audio components including amps. For example, if I were to change the way I tested the amp (change it from the previous installation) I could easily add 1 change that unfairly gives the wrong impression.

To be consistent, I use very high-quality audio tracks and I’m familiar with high-fidelity test tracks as a known good frame of reference.

Example of Spotify music tracks playing screenshot

Listening to your favorite everyday jams on Spotify (or whatever music source you like) is enjoyable and fun with the Rockville. Music is crisp, clear, and can really jam hard when you crank the volume. Bass-heavy songs like Ne-Yo’s Miss Independent come through clearly and with plenty of power. In fact I had a lot more power on tap when I needed it.

The music quality was great, with crisp, dynamic highs and punchy bass. While it’s a teeny-tiny bit less clear than my old-school reference amps, it’s still very good for the money. When I say it’s “good”, I really mean it sounds very good.

It’s surprisingly good for the price, surely due to the use of class A/B amp circuitry for the main channels. Class A/B amps have been popular for many, many years since they can offer great sound quality for lower cost.

Power and bass quality

With at least 500W RMS of power available to the subwoofer channel and well above 50W RMS to the main channels, power definitely isn’t a problem.

Driving a 4 ohm subwoofer is a pleasure and the bass absolutely is great. The power on tap is excellent and should be more than enough for most buyers. I got some great sounding bass with more power than I needed!

In fact don’t let the 50W RMS/channel CEA-2006 make you think you won’t have enough for great, loud music. In my experience, the uncertified RMS power ratings are more in line with what most people would find usable (in this case, around 100W RMS/channel).

Unfortunately, during more casual, low-volume listening I discovered a problem.

A problem with the Rockville RXH-F5’s design (noise)

Autosound 2000 CD #102 stereo test track playing

During amp testing when using test tracks played at a low volume (especially with vocals, like in this Autosound 2000 stereo imaging track) I found distortion was present in the main channels. It’s not noticeable at higher power levels – even moderately higher – but definitely a huge disappointment if you’re a sound quality enthusiast like me.

Unfortunately during testing, I discovered the amp’s design causes an odd type of distortion in the front & rear channels. It appears to be a design-related issue due to the class D power supply being added alongside the 4 channel amp sections.

I haven’t encountered this kind of problem for a long time. Using my test track from AutoSound 2000 it’s very easy to reproduce at low volumes with music tracks with vocals.

Class D amps use a much higher switching frequency for how they operate. It’s possible for class D amps to cause problems with nearby audio circuits because of this (high frequency designs often have to deal with electrical noise issues like interference as a result).

When testing the RXH-F5 during low volume with my reference test tracks I’m able to hear a slight kind of “sshhhhh” distortion that’s created in the musical signal. The type of distortion is one I’ve heard before and it’s caused by noise induced in the power supply and/or musical paths.

At moderate (normal) or higher volume it’s not noticeable at all – so it may not be a problem for many people. However, it tells me the amp hasn’t been fully vetted for low-noise operation and there’s more work to be done.

I’m an “audiophile” at heart and have very good hearing which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy for me to hear distortion when something’s not right like in this case.

It’s a shame, too, as I really wanted to be able to recommend this amp!

Confirming the problem

To have a fair and honest review, just in case the amp was a single defective model I called Rockville and exchanged it for a replacement.

Sadly, there’s no change and I’m easily able to reproduce it every time. It’s an inherent problem with the amp’s design and one that shouldn’t happen even in a budget amp. These days the company faces pretty solid competition out there.

As other 5 channel amps (both for car and home) don’t produce the same problem there’s no excuse for this.

I narrowed it down even further by eliminating all possible noise sources in my test system – it’s definitely an issue with the amp.

If you’re not picky like I am, you don’t have much to worry about. However, if you expect great clarity from your music and listen casually at lower volumes I think you’re going to be disappointed.

Owner’s manual quality

Image of the front cover of the Rockville Phenom car amp front cover

The owner’s manual is surprisingly good. I’ve seen many over the years and most are pretty weak when it comes to instructions, set up, and getting the most out of the amp.

This one’s better. While it covers several models in the amp family (which is fine, and typical for most amp manufacturers) the instructions apply equally to the main amps in the product family.

Where there are differences it’s made clear to avoid confusion.

Rockville RXA-F5 5 channel amp owners manual example 1

It’s easy to read and you’ll get clear instructions on how to wire up pretty much all speaker systems you could think of. For a 5 channel amp like this, the speaker systems used are pretty typical but you’ll get good, clear diagrams that help.

It’s also tri-mode capable, too, which is covered inside as well.

However, when using the speaker level input feature the harness adapter coloring isn’t listed in the manual for some reason. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a pretty minor complaint.

Regardless, you’ll be able to connect speaker level inputs using the (+) and (-) symbols which are shown both in the manual and are printed on the amp itself – you just won’t find the connections listed by color but by position in the harness.

Special features that set it apart

Image of Rockville car amp manual clone function instructionsBandpass filter option: This one’s really unique and excellent for 3-way or even some bi-amped 2-way systems.

The rear channels offer not only a high pass filter (15Hz-1KHz), a low-pass filter (50Hz-3KHz), but also both can work together to provide a bandpass filter. Both the low and high pass adjustments will work the same in that case but will work together and you’ll adjust it as needed for the top and bottom cutoff frequencies.

Note: You won’t be able to use the amp to drive bass-only woofers from the front 2 channels as there’s no low-pass crossover for those – only full or high-pass.

For bi-amped custom speakers systems though, it’s not a problem. In that case, you’d use the high pass on channels 1 & 2 then the low pass option from channels 3 & 4.

Review score & summary

While it’s a good value, is well put-together, and has lots of great power to offer, I can’t get past the distortion issue. That shouldn’t happen – you won’t find the same problem from other similar 5 channel amps.

Unfortunately, after trying 2 identical amps and confirming the problem I can’t recommend the RXH-F5 if an affordable 5 channel amp with good sound quality is what you need.

Because I consider design-related noise problems unacceptable, I’ve taken a lot off of the sound quality & other rating factors in my review score below.

Note that my complaint might not be a problem for everyone – especially if you rarely listen to quiet music levels (for example if you’re a Jeep owner or someone who likes to crank it up a lot). In that case, you’ll never notice it and you’ll get plenty of amp for your money.

Sound Certified Rockville RXH-F5 review score summary imageSadly, I can’t recommend the Rockville RXH-F5 amp to buyers who care about sound quality at casual listening levels.

Hifonics Zeus ZXX-5000.5 5 channel amp product imageA better alternative with similar design, power, features, & price is the the Hifonics Zeus ZXX-5000.5 you can read more about at Amazon.

Overall
6/10
6/10
  • Overall quality - 5/10
    5/10
  • Sound quality - 2/10
    2/10
  • Power & performance - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Installation ease - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Features - 8/10
    8/10

A good performer and value sadly ruined by a noise problem affecting sound quality

I can’t recommend the RXH-F5 and that’s a shame – I REALLY wanted to like it as the sibling RXA-F1 is a good buy. However, there’s no excuse for noise at quiet listening levels due to design issues given the competition. The RXH-F5 is well put-together and offers plenty of power, however. It definitely offers a lot for the money – especially subwoofer power.

While other Phenom series amps I’ve tested have very good class A/B sound quality for the money, the addition of the 5th channel’s class D supply seems to cause noise issues/distortion during low volume. For some, it may not be a problem (especially at normal to high listening levels). Otherwise, check out the competition’s offerings instead if high fidelity sound is important to you.

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Included bass remote works well
  • Nice appearance and finish
  • Good speaker terminal blocks
  • Speaker level inputs + auto-on sensing
  • Flexible input options (2/4/5 ch.)
  • Powerful subwoofer output
  • CEA-2006/continuous true power ratings
  • Good, clear owner’s manual
  • Bass boost EQ
  • Bandpass crossover option
  • Tri-mode capable
  • “Class G” power supply for more efficiency

Cons

  • Noise induced in front/rear channels noticeable at low volume
  • No speaker terminal wrenches included
  • No speaker input harness color diagram
  • Plastic mounting feet (vs metal)
  • Mounting hole spacing could be better
  • Occasional minor quality control issues
  • No low-pass filter on front channels
  • Bass boost limited to +12dB max vs +18 of others
  • No bridging label near terminals

The Best 5 Channel Amplifiers Available: Buyer’s Guide And Ratings

best 5 channel amplifier featured image

If you’re wanting to power an entire system from one amplifier, then you’re on the right track!

Today’s car audio amps have come a long way and new technology will allow you to do so in less space and with more value than ever before possible.

But which are the best 5 channel amplifiers for your money? I want to help you get the best you can afford so I’ve put together a great list of top models along with the details you need to know.

Contents

What to look for when buying an amp

Ultimately choosing the best 5 channel amplifier that meets your needs comes down to several factors:

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

I’ve installed so many amplifiers over the years that I’ve lost count, but I’ve always regarded 5-channel amps as a cool and unique way to build a multi-channel car audio system.

The selection list of 5-channel amps used to be very limited, but not anymore – there are some very amazing and compact models to choose from today.

Alpine amp installed under truck seat

Pick a great 5-channel amp like the fantastic Alpine PDR-V75 to power an entire system. You’ll get a very small, sweet-sounding amp that can fit under many car seats!

5 channel amps today vs years ago

Internal image of a 4 ch. ampTechnology has changed for the better in the car audio world over the last several years and the last 5 or so have been especially great.

You’re able to get even more amplifier in an even smaller package than ever before possible. Not only that, but some of the best amps aren’t restricted to mediocre brands like they used to be.

You’re now able to get much better quality and value for the same price as amps sold years ago!

Car amp technologies explained

For the most part, modern car amps use 1 of 2 basic design styles. These design types dictate how they work and produce boosted output signals that drive your speakers.

Nowadays, amps are categorized into several classes – meaning they have slightly different design operation internally.

For each amp class or design, there are both pros and cons to consider when buying.

Class A/B

Class A/B is a type of amplifier technology that has been around for many decades and is a combination of class A and class B.

Classes A and B basically differ in how efficient they are and the sound quality they produce.

Class A is currently the best possible sound quality reproduction while being the least efficient (somewhere around 20% efficient, meaning 80% of electrical current is wasted as heat) and with B being the opposite.

A/B is a combination of the two and offers a good compromise between sound quality and efficiency (say 65% and below, depending on the design).

For many years, car amps were based on these two classes. However, many car audio companies have switched to class D although there are still some products that purely use A or B technology.

Class A/B amps are very common and usually used for budget models. They’re good producers of sound and are used in more expensive amps, too.

Class D

Class D amplifiers work by taking an input audio signal from a stereo head unit and using it to drive a circuit that switches power transistors on incredibly fast. This produces an on/off waveform. The waveform is then “smoothed” to produce an audio signal and drive speakers.

Class D amplifiers are far more efficient and generate far less heat. 

In this type of design, an extremely high-speed switching frequency is used to switch the power-delivering transistors on and off rapidly when an audio signal is input and used to produce an amplified output signal to drive speakers.

This means that since the amp is turned off a significant amount of time the power consumed (and the power wasted) is reduced significantly.

The production of lighter, smaller, and highly efficient (90% efficiency is possible) amps is possible thanks to this new technology.

Prices also go down since manufacturers no longer need to use costly aluminum heatsinks for production (except for high-powered models) as Class D amps run much cooler than older amplifiers.

However, as with everything else, there’s a drawback: the sound quality may not be on par with A/B amps except for better-designed amps made by the best name brands.

The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is also lower than other types of amps – if the gain is turned up high, you might hear some “hissing” noise as you listen.

If you’re highly critical of your amp’s noise level and sound quality, be sure to thoroughly look at the specs and buy an amp with the best design.

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

Until recent years, class D amps were “okay” and decent. However, with the continued innovation and experimentation of many car audio brands, class D technology has excelled and the best models now have great sound quality with lower noise levels.

Below you can find a list of several amps that provide excellent sound quality! All these recommendations exceed the average design of typical class D amps – and all of them have advanced engineering designs that enhance sound quality.

5 channel amps vs 4 channel amps

5 channel amps are slightly different in that unlike 4-channel amps, the 5th channel may have different configuration options.

Also, the added 5th channel in some cases cannot be used for full-range sound. It’s often a dedicated subwoofer channel with only a low-pass output. In that case it’s fixed and designed only for that purpose.

I’m mentioning this in case that you’re planning to run a 5 speaker system with full range or high-pass output.

Note: Some amps are fully class A/B, some are fully class D, and some are a combination of both.

Normally, class D is used so the subwoofer channel can offer the most efficient way to drive a subwoofer and give high-power levels.

Things to remember

My advice is to plan for the features and crossover settings you’ll need.

Usually this means being sure that the adjustable high-pass for the 4 main channels on an amp you’re considering purchasing will fit your system’s needs.

I recommend setting the high-pass cutoff to somewhere around 60Hz to block speaker-distorting bass so you can run the main channels with fantastic clarity and very high volume. That’s a really helpful feature that all of these amps provide and that you should definitely use.

The subwoofer installation options for the amps listed above are great, but always verify the mono channel’s impedance (ohm rating) before installing it.

The products here are listed as 4-ohm or 2-ohm, but you should ALWAYS make sure of the specs before buying or connecting to a subwoofer.

If you attempt to drive a subwoofer with a lower impedance rating than the amp can handle, the amp will overheat and will likely shut down right away.

★ The best 5 channel amplifiers ★

Top picks at a glance

Image Product Details
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★Alpine PDR V75
  • Excellent power and sound quality in a tiny 10-3/4" x 2" x 6-1/2 size!
  • 4 ohms: 75W x 4 + 250W x 1, 2 ohms: 100W x 4 + 350W x 1 RMS
  • Certified test certificate included. Top control panel, bass remote compatible
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageJL Audio RD-900/5
  • Fantastic sound and power w/ NexD technology
  • 4 ohms: 75 watts x 4 chan. + 250 watts x 1, 2 ohms: 100 watts x 4 chan. + 500 watts x 1 chan
  • 2/4 chan. switch, advanced crossovers, bass remote compatible
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate R600X5
  • Classic A/B sound plus class D mono power benefits
  • 4 ohms: 50 Watts x 4 + 200 Watts x 1 @ 4-Ohm, 2 ohms: 75 Watt x 4 + 300 Watts x 1
  • High level inputs, Punch bass boost, great crossovers. Bass remote compatible
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageGreat valueHifonics BRX5016.5 
  • Great A/B sound quality + class D bass power you can afford
  • 60W x 4 + 475W x 1 RMS. Cool illuminated glow for logo + terminals
  • Subsonic filter, bass boost, includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

Product reviews and details

1. Alpine PDR-V75 – Excellent. An industry leader that’s compact, powerful, and sounds great.

Alpine PDR-V75 5 channel amplifier (angle)

If you’re in search of one of the best 5 channel amps available today this is it. This is one of the best you’ll find anywhere and it actually sells for less than the similar JL Audio RD-900/5.

The PDR-V75 gets my nomination for editor’s choice and my top recommendation for you if it’s in your budget (around $400).

Alpine has improved upon class D basic design to produce one of the best sounding and most compact multichannel amplifiers anywhere.

The sound quality rivals that of more traditional and wasteful class A/B amps. Sound is crisp, dynamic, and unquestionably fantastic. Speaker level inputs are provided when you use a low-cost speaker level adapter cable sold separately.

Alpine PDR-V75 5 channel amplifier end viewUnlike typical amplifiers, the thermal management system built inside is capable of reducing – and not completely shutting off – output power when overheating conditions are detected.

The microprocessor-based feature allows your music to keep pumping but at a reduced volume to keep the heat under control to keep the amp from shutting down as lower-quality amps do.

A bass boost and adjustable high/low-pass crossovers are standard as well as the option to connect Alpine’s remote bass level control (sold separately) for extra bass fun.

Wire terminals are removable for ease of installation – they can be plugged and unplugged once attached to your speaker wiring. Measuring only 10-3/4″W x 2″H x 6-1/2″D, it’s one of the smallest 5 channel amps sold today. 

The amp features an attractive protective cover you can optionally install too.

Power ratings are:

  • 75 watts RMS x 4 + 250 watts RMS x 1 at 4 ohms
  • 100 watts RMS x 4 + 350 watts RMS x 1 at 2 ohms
  • 200 watts RMS x 2 bridged at 4 ohms + 350 watts RMS x 1 at 2 ohms

A subsonic filter (8-40 Hz, 24 dB/octave) on sub channel keeps out unwanted inaudible bass frequencies.

PROS:
  • Very high power density
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Smallest 5 channel amp of its power rating
  • Speaker level inputs accepted
  • Flexible controls
  • Remote bass control option
  • Thermal management system
CONS:
  • With cover installed, controls aren’t accessible
  • Remote bass control is separate purchase
  • Top-facing controls may not work well for some installations
  • Speaker level inputs require separate but inexpensive adapter cable

It’s one of the best you can buy so I encourage you to start enjoying installing it right away.

Head over to check out the fantastic reviews and many happy buyers at Amazon.

2. JL Audio RD-900/5 – Simply put, one of the best available today.

JL Audio RD900-5 5 channel amplifier angle

JL Audio has taken class D amplifier efficiency to a new level and has produced one of the best sounding and lowest noise amplifiers on the market.

This is high-end, truly excellent performance with the legendary JL Audio reputation for reliability and sonic quality. In fact, the RD900/5 is capable of producing power exceeding its conservatively rated specs.

NextD switching technology uses a faster switching frequency to allow the amp to produce power far more quickly and dynamically for better performance and acoustical response.

The signal to noise ratio (CEA-2006 compliant measured spec) of > 84dB is conservatively rated as you’ll hear almost nothing but dead silence between music tracks.

This is a wonderful sounding amp!

Rated power is:

  • 75 watts RMS x 4 + 225 watts RMS x 1 at 4 ohms
  • 100 watts RMS x 4 + 500 watts RMS at 2 ohms
  • 200 watts RMS x 2 bridged at 4 ohms (4-ohm stable in bridged mode) + 500 watts RMS at 2 ohms

A really cool feature is the built-in LED clipping lights which help you set up gain levels during installation.

It’s a simple but great feature as you don’t have to guess when the amp will start clipping when your input signal reaches its maximum level. Blue LED accent lighting on the top glows when the amp is powered on.

JL Audio RD900-5 5 channel amplifier top viewAn optional bass level control is a cool way to boost the bass while driving and jamming, so you’ll get the benefit of cranking the bass without having to fiddle with the amp settings. Top-mounted controls make setup and adjustments easier after installation.

High/low pass crossovers are adjustable to 500Hz and all channels can be from 2 to 6 RCA signal inputs. Bear in mind that the amp isn’t compatible with speaker level inputs. If those are important to you, you’ll need to buy a separate adapter.

The wire connection terminals are great and the amp can accept 4 gauge wire. The amp measures only 14-11/16″W x 2-3/16″H x 7″D and features a 2 year warranty.

PROS:
  • Superb sound quality – one of the best produced
  • Crossovers are adjustable to 500Hz (great for bi-amped speaker systems)
  • Solid-cast aluminum chassis
  • Exceeds rated power specs
  • One of the highest power amps for its size with 5 channels
  • Optional bass remote
  • 2/4/6 input channel switch to run all channels from fewer inputs
  • LED clip lights help set up
  • Compact size
  • Subsonic filter
CONS:
  • No speaker level inputs
  • Bass control remote sold separately
  • Not as compact as the Alpine PDR-V75

If you’re looking for the absolute best, the JL Audio RD-900/5 should fit the bill exactly!

Ready for the best? Don’t hesitate to find out why it's a top-rated amp over at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate R600X5 – A great compromise between cost and performance for under $300.

Rockford Fosgate R600X5 5 channel amp front angleThe R600X5 is one of the best-selling 5 channel amps today. Like the other amplifiers in the Punch product family, the model features great sound with good power for a range of installation types. T

he controls are easy to use as well and add flexibility to your installation.

The audio is very clear and the highs are crisp with great performance. The amp even includes a verification sheet with it in the box!

Power ratings are:

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

Note: The specs above my seem limited; however, they’re conservatively rated by Rockford and in practice can actually exceed that by several watts. All ratings are CEA-2006 compliant so be confident in Rockford Fosgate’s advertised specs.

A signal to noise ratio of >80dB is a result of Rockford’s dedication to sound quality by using their proprietary design for reduced noise output.

Rockford Fosgate R600X5 5 channel amp top image

Fully adjustable high/low pass crossovers are available as well as a Punch EQ adjustable bass boost. Using the optional (separate) Punch Level Control you can easily turn up the boom while driving. A 1 year warranty is provided.

At only 1.98″ x 6.77″ x 13.19″, it’s a very small amp and can fit into many small installation spaces in your vehicle’s interior.

PROS:
  • Great sound!
  • Small size
  • High-quality terminals
  • Punch EQ feature
  • 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 during installation
  • Remote bass controller is separate
  • Top-facing controls may not work for some buyers
  • No top cover provided

It’s a great looking and well-made amp that won’t disappoint. A great model for many installations.

Take a look at the many great buyer reviews and current price over at Amazon.

4.  Hifonics BRX5016.5 – A well-performing model for less.

Hifonics BRX5016-5 amplifier angle view

If you’re working with a tight budget but still want to build your custom audio system, you’re in luck! The Brutus 5-channel amp has power to spare.

It’s a great value, but bear in mind that it’s not CEA-2006 compliant so you’ll have to trust the manufacturer’s specs.

Advertised power is:

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

The BRX5016.5 definitely has some advantages besides just its great price. Sound quality is good while keeping noise low via the class A/B sections used for the 4 main channels.

For awesome subwoofer power, the power-efficient class D amp section provides an amazing 750 RMS watts of power!

Hifonics BRX5016-5 amplifier end viewThe signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for the main channels is a nice 90dB and provides good, clear sound. Full high/low pass crossovers are available as well as a 0-18dB bass o at 45Hz.

The amp is somewhat large and measures 9.80″W x 19.60″L x 2.40″H so you’ll need more installation space than the other models listed above.

The wiring terminals are some of the best I’ve seen and they glow blue with the cool backlighting design. The Hifonics logo also has a beautiful blue glow you’ll love to show off as well!

Speaker level inputs are not included but a subsonic filter is. You can also switch between 2, 4, and 5-channel input mode if you don’t have enough RCA connections.

Hifonics Brutus BRX5016 accent lighting image
The BRX5016.5 has a cool glow thanks to the illuminated accents on the logo and wiring terminals. Great for custom installations where you want great looks!

And regarding the high and low-pass crossovers, the amp is more flexible than many others:

  • Variable high-pass filter:
    • Channel 1 – 2: 50 – 4,000 Hz
    • Channel 3 – 4: 50 – 250 Hz
  • Variable low-pass filter:
    • Channel 3 – 4: 150 – 4,000 Hz
    • Channel 5: 35 – 150 Hz

A bass remote is included as well. While the Rockford Fosgate R600X5 is a better (albeit more expensive) choice, the BRX5016.5 is a reliable and powerful amp if you’re working within a budget.

PROS:
  • A/B design on channels 1-4 for good sound are reduced cost
  • Great power
  • 0-18dB bass boost
  • Subsonic filter
  • Nice illumination looks great
  • Very good wiring terminals
  • Includes remote bass level control
  • Thermal, overload, and speaker short protection
  • Lower cost than others
  • Extended mounting tabs make installing easier
CONS:
  • No speaker level inputs
  • Large size – nearly twice that of other modern designs
  • Rated specs aren’t CEA-2006 assured – based on manufacturer’s advertised specs instead

It’s a good amp with many happy buyers. Be sure to find out why it's so popular among buyers at Amazon.

Additional info

Never installed an amp before? check out this illustrated guide on how to install a car amp and subwoofer.

Be sure to also read this extensive guide about how to wire speakers.