The Best Car Amplifier: Buyers Guide And 5 Great Picks

Image of Alpine amplifier demo car display

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

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

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

Contents

Car amplifier basics

Image showing man thinking about car amp basics

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

Class A and class AB amplifiers

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

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

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

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

Class A/B

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

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

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

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

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

Class D amps

Pioneer GM-D9605 internal components and circuit board images

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

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

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

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

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

They make installations easier!

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

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

Alpine MRV-F300 installed under seat

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

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

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

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

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

Car amplifier quality factors

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

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

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

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

Understanding power ratings

Car amplifier power output formulas image

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

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

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

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

CEA logo

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

Realistic expectations and power you need

Car amp power ratings examples confused man

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

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

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

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

Image of MTX subwoofers in an enclosure

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

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

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

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifiers

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifier image

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

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

The most common car amplifier installations

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

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

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

(Click to enlarge image)

Illustration showing the best car amplifier typical uses

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

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

Factory system integration

Example of the rear of a car stereo installation closeup

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

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

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

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

Choosing the best car amplifier

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

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

★ 5 of the best car amplifiers for your money ★

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

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice image

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

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

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

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

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

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

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

RB-XD400/4 amp side view

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

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

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punch P600X4 amp angle view

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

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

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

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

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

Punch P600X4 amp top view no cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLanet Audio AC1200.4 amp top

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

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

It can also connect to factory speaker-level wiring.

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

To summarize, I recommend:

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

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

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

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

Best car amps for bass post featured image

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

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

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

Contents

Infographic – Bass car amp facts and tips

Bass car amp facts and tips infographic

What is a mono amp? How they’re different

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

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

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

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

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

Bass amps are best suited for only driving subwoofers.

A few more differences

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

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

Bass amps may drive lower loads

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

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

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

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

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

Power ratings: What you really need to know!

Car amp power ratings how to shop image with smiley face

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

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

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

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

Car amp power specs explained

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

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

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

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

1. Peak (max) power

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

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

Don’t use this to make a buying decision!

2. Root Mean Square (RMS) / continuous power

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

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

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

3. CEA-2006 certified power ratings

CEA-2006 Compliant logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diagram showing how a class D amplifier works

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

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

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

More efficient and run cool

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

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

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

★ 4 of the best car amps for bass ★

Our top picks at a glance

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

Detailed reviews, features, and pros/cons

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

Rockville DB12 mono car amp front image

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

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

Check out the DB12’s awesome power output:

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

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

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

Rockville DB12 CEA power ratings certificate

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

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

Rockville DB12 front and rear end closeup

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

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

Features are pretty impressive:

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

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

Rockville DB12 included items image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignite R1600/1D mono amp front image

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

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

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

Rated vs lab-tested power ratings are:

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

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

Ignite R1600/1D dyno power test results image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features include:

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

Ignite Audio R1600/1D bass remote closeup image

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punch R1200-1D amp side view

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

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

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

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

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

Punch R1200-1D amp top view

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

Great features

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

Have a look at what you’ll get:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boss R1100M amp angle view

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

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

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

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

Lab-tested power ratings for the R1100M are:

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

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

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

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

  • Includes remote bass level control with cable
  • Soft turn-on (anti-thump)
  • Speaker level inputs for factory stereos
  • 3-way protection (thermal, overload, and speaker shorts)
  • 102dB SNR (at rated power)
  • Adjustable low-pass filter (35-160Hz cutoff)
  • 0-18dB bass boost
  • Speaker level inputs for factory systems
  • Thermal & short circuit protection
  • 2 ohm stable

 

Boss Riot R1100M amplifier front and rear ends closeup image

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

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

Boss R1100M amp remote

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

PROS:
  • Decent power for the price
  • Good sound quality
  • Includes bass remote knob
  • Compact size
  • Incredibly affordable
  • 6 year warranty (through Amazon)
  • Nice finish, illuminated logo
  • Speaker level inputs
  • Full-range capable
  • Adjustable low-pass crossover
  • Bass boost feature (+18dB)
  • Simple connections
  • No Allen wrench needed for terminals
  • Great buyer reviews
CONS:
  • Not efficient like class D models
  • No phase control
  • Limited power
  • Single pair speaker terminal
  • Not 1 Ohm stable
  • No RCA passthrough jacks
  • Cannot chain like larger models
  • Wiring terminals could be better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reading

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

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

The Best 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.