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

Best amp wiring kit featured image

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

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

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

Contents

What makes a good amp wiring kit?

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

The basics to look for

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

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

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

Included items

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

I generally recommend a kit with the following items:

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

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

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

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

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

The best affordable fuse holders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid getting scammed! A warning about wire quality

Image of an angry man upset about cheap wiring kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same applies to speaker wire as well.

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

Pure copper vs. copper-coated aluminum wire

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

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

Copper clad aluminum vs copper speaker wire illustrated diagram

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

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

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

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

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

Ring terminals

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

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

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

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

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

What size amp kit do I need?

Best amp wiring kit featured image

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to figure out the amp wiring kit gauge you need

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example #1:

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

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

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

Example #2:

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

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

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

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

★ 5 excellent amp wiring kits for the money★

Our top picks

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

> Best 4 gauge kits <

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

KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit image

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

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

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

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

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

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

This affordable, quality kit includes:

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

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

This is a fantastic choice.

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

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

NVX XKIT42 4 ga amp wiring kit

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

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

It features:

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

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

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

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

> Best 8 gauge kits <

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

Stinger SK6681 8 AWG amp wiring kit image (2)

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

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

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

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

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

The included fuse holder is water-resistant as well!

The SK6681 comes with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

> Best 10 gauge kit <

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

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

Stigner SK46101 10 gauge amp wiring kit image full

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

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

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

For close to $35 you’ll get:

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts on amp kits

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

I don’t want that to happen to you.

Remember the following:

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

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

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

The Best Car Amplifier: Buyers Guide And 5 Great Picks

Image of Alpine amplifier demo car display

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

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

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

Contents

Car amplifier basics

Image showing man thinking about car amp basics

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

Class A and class AB amplifiers

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

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

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

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

Class A/B

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

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

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

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

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

Class D amps

Pioneer GM-D9605 internal components and circuit board images

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

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

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

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

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

They make installations easier!

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

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

Alpine MRV-F300 installed under seat

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

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

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

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

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

Car amplifier quality factors

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

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

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

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

Understanding power ratings

Car amplifier power output formulas image

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

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

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

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

CEA logo

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

Realistic expectations and power you need

Car amp power ratings examples confused man

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

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

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

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

Image of MTX subwoofers in an enclosure

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

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

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

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifiers

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifier image

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

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

The most common car amplifier installations

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

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

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

(Click to enlarge image)

Illustration showing the best car amplifier typical uses

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

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

Factory system integration

Example of the rear of a car stereo installation closeup

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

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

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

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

Choosing the best car amplifier

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

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

★ 5 of the best car amplifiers for your money ★

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
Check on Amazon
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
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageAffordablePlanet Audio AC1200.4
  • Great budget 4 ch amp under $100
  • 113W x 4, 225W x 2 RMS
  • High level inputs, illuminated logo. Includes bass remote
Check on Amazon

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

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice image

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

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

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

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

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

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

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

RB-XD400/4 amp side view

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

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

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punch P600X4 amp angle view

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

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

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

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

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

Punch P600X4 amp top view no cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLanet Audio AC1200.4 amp top

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

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

It can also connect to factory speaker-level wiring.

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

To summarize, I recommend:

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

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

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

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

Best 5 channel amps for your money featured image

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

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

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

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

Contents

Infographic – 5 channel car amp facts

5 channel car amplifier facts infographic

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

5 channel vs 5 channel car amp image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on to learn more about the different amplifier technologies.

Car amp technologies explained

Illustrated car amp switching power supply section

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

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

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

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

Class A/B

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

Here’s a short comparison of the differences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Class D

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

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

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

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

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

Class D car amp benefits

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

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

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

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

Shopping for a 5 channel amplifier

Alpine amp installed under truck seat

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

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

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

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

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

5 channel amps today vs years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★ The best 5 channel amplifiers for the money ★

Our top picks and details

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.

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

Detailed reviews, features, and pros/cons

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

Rockville DB12 mono car amp front image

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

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

Check out the DB12’s awesome power output:

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

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

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

Rockville DB12 CEA power ratings certificate

(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

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

Rockville DB12 front and rear end closeup

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

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

Features are pretty impressive:

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

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

Rockville DB12 included items image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignite R1600/1D mono amp front image

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

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

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

Rated vs lab-tested power ratings are:

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

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

Ignite R1600/1D dyno power test results image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features include:

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

Ignite Audio R1600/1D bass remote closeup image

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out now why No products found.

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

Punch R1200-1D amp side view

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

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

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

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

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

Punch R1200-1D amp top view

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

Great features

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

Have a look at what you’ll get:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boss R1100M amp angle view

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

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

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

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

Lab-tested power ratings for the R1100M are:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Boss Riot R1100M amplifier front and rear ends closeup image

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

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

Boss R1100M amp remote

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reading

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

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

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

Best amps for mids and highs featured image

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

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

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

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

Contents

2 channel vs 4 channel amps

2 channel vs 4 channel amplifier image

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

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

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

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

According to Ohms law more power requires a higher voltage and that’s exactly what powerful car amps are designed to use.

4 channel amps are also a bit more compact in size as the additional 2 channels take up a bit less space than 2 separate 2-channel amps used separately.

Different features

In order to work in more applications, some 4 channel amps feature a 2/4 channel input switch. This means that if you have a source unit with only 2 RCA jack outputs you can still get 4 channels of sound to use from the amp.

Additionally, most 4 channel amps sold today are bridgeable, meaning that each pair of channels can be used to drive a single speaker for more power than each individual channel can provide. Because of this, they offer more flexibility for custom car audio systems than a single 2-channel amplifier can.

Some also feature different options like a bass boost for the rear channels (normally #3 & 4). The specific features you’ll find vary from brand to brand and model to model.

2 channel vs 4 channel car amplifier diagram

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

A diagram I’ve provided illustrating the differences between 2 and 4 channel amplifiers. Both work exactly the same way: a +12V supply from the battery is boosted (“stepped up”) to create a higher positive and negative voltage supply. These voltages are then used to drive speaker outputs which are an amplified version of the input signals from your car stereo. Not that 4 channel amps are normally more compact than 2 separate 2-channel amps of the same type.

What to shop for in good quality car amps

For mids and highs, it’s ideal to focus a few basic factors when shopping:

  • Sufficient power (in RMS watts)
  • Sound quality and the signal-to-noise (SNR) specs
  • Crossover controls

Basically, you’ll want an amp with good sound quality that can give a decent amount of power. For most applications, I recommend 50W RMS per channel minimum.

You’ll also want the ability to block distortion-causing bass by using high-pass crossovers on your tweeters or midrange speakers.

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio car amp diagram

A signal-to-noise (SNR) measurement describes the ratio of the level of noise (undesired) to the desired musical signal. It’s measured in decibels (dB) and helps you to decide between a better product and a lower-performance product. Ideally the amount of noise compared to the signal level will be very small, represented as a larger number. For example, a SNR of 90dB and above is a good rule of thumb to look for. The noise I’m describing often appears a slight “hiss” when no music is playing and the amp’s gain is high.

Better amplifiers have a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. The SNR specification, measured in decibels (dB), is a standard amplifier measurement used to compare noise levels against others. It’s a ratio used to mathematically compare the level of noise that an amplifier’s electronics create vs the audio signal’s level.

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the SNR, the better. Amplifiers with great sound quality tend to have an SNR of 90dB and higher with some reaching above 100dB. That’s often found on more expensive and better-designed amplifiers.

It’s important to note, however, that unfortunately sometimes the specs are confusing. For example, at times some manufacturers exaggerate their amplifier specs or use the SNR value full power output, which is normally much higher.

Traditionally the most consistent measurement is by listing the SNR with no signal output and with 1 watt of power being driven.

Example image of car amp internal noise level

Internal audio noise in an amplifier as viewed on a test instrument, enlarged. All amplifiers generate some internal noise…however the best models keep it at a minimum and are designed to produce good sound quality where noise is less noticeable.

When using tweeters (highs) and midrange or component speakers (mids), it’s often easier to hear the slight “hiss” an amp produces if the noise level isn’t very good.

Generally speaking, a well-designed amp will have this greatly reduced and this won’t be an issue. However, to keep noise from an amp down, it’s ideal to drive it with a good, strong signal from a head unit.

This way the amps gain level can be kept lower and noise output will won’t be noticeable.

Using crossovers with mids and highs

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

A good amp like the Alpine MRV-F300 will provide plenty of crossover options to not only protect your mids and highs but get the most out of them. By using high-pass crossovers, you can block the lower-end bass that they can’t handle and that causes distortion. The result is greatly clarity and much more volume!

Built-in crossovers in an amplifier are extremely helpful for getting excellent sound when using tweeters and midrange car speakers. The good news is that most, if not all, include them these days.

However, some are better than others in their flexibility and how they can benefit you.

How do crossovers work in a car amp?

Small speakers like midrange drivers or tweeters (for example, separately used or in a 2-way component system) aren’t designed to deliver heavy bass the way subwoofers can.

With only a low volume and a small amount of power, it may not be an issue. However, as soon as they’re driven to higher volume and with more power you’ll begin to hear distortion and the sound will “break up” quickly.

Crossovers work by using electronic filter sections to cut off, or filter out, the sound frequencies you want to prevent from reaching speakers.

For example, setting your amp’s high-pass option to 60Hz for driving mids will deliver a clean, nearly distortion-free sound at high volume.

Your options may vary

For mids and highs, always buy a model with crossovers built in. If you’re planning to drive woofers or subwoofers, be sure the model you’re considering has low-pass crossovers as well.

While some amps feature a fixed cutoff frequency of say 50Hz or so, some models offer adjustable controls which is even better. Adjustable crossovers allow you to better customize your system to your needs.

Additionally, products with a bass boost (or “EQ”) feature can help boost lacking bass in some cases.

Good amp design quality

RB-XD400/4 amp internal viewA great amp like the JL Audio XD400/4v2 is designed with sound quality and performance in mind rather than cost-cutting for more profit. Better amps use higher-quality (and more up to date) components unlike cheaper models. Unsurprisingly, their sound quality is better, they last longer, and the enjoyment you’ll get is better, too.

When it comes to car amps, there’s a lot of difference between lower quality and higher quality models.

One big reason is that higher-quality amps pay attention to the design details that lesser amps don’t. In other words, they’re better engineered.

Higher quality amps often have these characteristics:

  • Better (and thicker) printed circuit boards (PCBs)
  • Surface-mount technology (SMT) components for shorter and smaller paths
  • Higher quality components
  • Better designs with sound quality in mind
  • Low-noise parts and proprietary circuits to improve sound quality

The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost much more money these days to get these kinds of features – many quality amps are very reasonably priced if you shop carefully.

The main difference you’ll discover is that bigger name brands such as JL Audio, Alpine, MTX, Rockford Fosgate, and many more have better experience and resources that they apply to their products.

If you pick just any old car amp there’s no telling what you’ll get! Unfortunately many are made primarily for profit and not for great sound and enjoyment.

RMS power ratings

CEA logo

To be sure you’re getting power from an amp as advertised, you can look for amps using power ratings that follow the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) – 2006 compliance standards.

The CEA amp power ratings were established to help resolve the problem of so many confusing and misleading car audio specifications that are misleading to buyers.

Essentially buying an amp that features the logo ensures that the manufacturer’s power (and other sound) specifications are accurate and have been proven.

Choosing the right amp power for good sound

For adequate volume and in order to drive you speakers with enough power for dynamic, “punchy” sound, you’ll need enough power.

One reason is that when an amplifier is driven to its limits it is driven to clipping, meaning that the audio waveform the speaker sees is starting to get cut off.

In other words, the amp can’t drive the signal any higher and it begins to distort badly. It’s both a cause of terrible-sounding distortion and potentially damaging to car speakers as well.

To avoid this, pick an amplifier with enough power. For many cases I recommend at least 50W RMS per channel of power. Optionally, 75W RMS gives even more headroom and is still affordable.

The most important rule to follow is to have an amplifier with adequate power. That way it can produce music at the volume you want without beginning to distort.

What is a class D car amp?

More and more, you’ll find car amplifiers that are built on class D technology.

“Class D” car amplifiers work using a new design which relies on switching technology. They’re much more efficient than traditional car amps – sometimes up to nearly 90% efficient! Older designs were around 50-65% and wasted a significant amount of power as heat. What does this mean? Class D amps are much smaller and run cooler than older designs.

Class D amplifiers use a design based on a switching power supply and signal path. They chop-up the output signal by rapidly switch transistors on and off then restore the original (now amplified) signal back to a smooth sound wave, which then drives the speaker.

By doing so, they greatly reduce the amount of time the transistors are switched on and consuming electric current. This results in a large amount of power that isn’t wasted as opposed to conventional designs.

Originally used only for small home stereo amplifiers, the technology has matured and is now available in some of the best car amps sold today.

More advanced designs even have improved upon the concept and offer better sound quality and dynamic power output than average models offer.

Class AB vs class D amplifiers

Internal image of a 4 ch. amp

Class A/B amps have been the mainstay for decades in the car audio world. The technology is fairly simple, cost-effective, and also can offer very good sound quality. The downside is that they create a lot of heat as they waste power and are larger and heavier than class D amps.

Class AB car amplifiers (often shown as “A/B”, since it’s a combination of 2 types) differ a lot from modern class D types. Unlike newer technology, they’re based on a design principle from as far back as the 1960s or earlier (based on some of the first transistor home stereo amps).

While they’re often found in lower-cost amps and can have good sound quality, they also have some disadvantages:

  • Low efficiency: often only 65% efficient
  • Generate a lot of heat due to wasted power
  • Require a larger and heavier body (heatsink)

As they’re not as efficient as class D designs, they can’t be designed as small and they can be a bit harder to install due to requiring more space.

However, if efficiency and size aren’t a big concern to you, they’re still often a good choice. Because of their tried-and-true design, they can produce very good sound at a good price and there are many choices to choose from.

Standard class A/B amps are often sold as budget models with different manufacturer names.

Class D amplifier sound quality

Class D amps do have a disadvantage, unfortunately. They’re more prone to have lower signal-to-noise (SNR) levels and poorly designed models will have more hiss than better ones.

The higher noise is a by-product of how switching amps work, and it’s a trade-off that comes with the benefit of better efficiency and smaller size, sadly.

There’s no way around it. However, choosing a good model (like the ones I’ve recommended here) will make sure you’re getting one designed to keep noise to a minimum.

Cheaper brands don’t care much about the sound quality like better brands do – and they don’t have the same audio engineering ability that the better choices offer.

I’ve tested both good and bad class D amps and I can tell you that there’s a significant amount of difference when choosing a better class D amp. They sound better, have lower noise, and have better power to offer.

In other words, they’re just all-around better!

★ 5 of the best amps for mids and highs ★

Our top picks

Image Product Details
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★Alpine MRV-F300 4 Ch
  • Great sound for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS of clear, musical sound
  • Evolution to class D design
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageSuperb Sound!JL Audio XD400/4v2
  • High-end sound and performance in a small package. Fantastic!
  • 75W x 4, 100W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS Low-noise, crystal-clear sound quality
  • NexD high-fidelity class D design. Only 8-9/16 x 2-1/16 x 7-1/8" In size!
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sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate Punch P400X4
  • Class A/B sound quality that's affordable + modern compact design
  • Built-in amp setup gain features. Thermal heat management system
  • Bass EQ feature, remote bass option, compact size
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sample-table__imageMTX Audio Thunder 75.4
  • MTX Audio performance and classic sound in a smaller package
  • 75W x 4, 100W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS. Compact 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16" size
  • Designed with sound signal quality and reliability in mind
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageUltra compactAlpine KTP-445U 4 Ch
  • Tiny size! Only 7-7/16 x 1-1/2 x 2-1/2”
  • 45W x 4, 90W x 2 RMS power. High-pass crossover option
  • Auto-sensing turn on for speaker level inputs
Check on Amazon

Amp reviews and details

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Great sound, quality, and compact design. Excellent value!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice imageI’m an Alpine fan and always have been. To this day the company still produces some of the best mobile audio electronics available today.

The fantastic compact but powerful MRV-F300 is a great example of an amplifier done right.

One of the most compact 4-channel amps of it kind today, the MRV-F300 puts the lower-end amps to shame. There’s a sleek-looking dark brushed metallic finish on the chassis. The blue backlit power-on light on type adds a nice contrast to the design when your system is powered on.

For a more professional-quality design, end caps are included that cover the connections and help hide wiring when installed. It’s a great touch that helps turn an affordable system into a pro-looking effect.

For about $150 or less you’ll get some great features:

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

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewYou’ll get not only great power in size that’s small enough to fit under most vehicle seats but excellent crossover options, too. Speaker level inputs are no problem as it’s a built-in feature. You’ll also get adjustable full, low, or high-pass crossover controls. A Bass EQ feature boosts bass output on channels 3/4.

Measuring only 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) in size it opens up a whole new range of installation possibilities.

Alpine has once again used their advanced engineering resources to design a super-efficient class D amp that’s amazingly affordable. It’s also one of the best sounding of its kind.

You’ll get great system flexibility, too, especially for using mids and highs in your system:

  • 50-400Hz high/low pass adjustable cutoff frequency
  • 12dB/octave multi-stage crossover design
  • Front and rear crossovers are independent
  • Bass EQ boost feature for Ch. 3/4.

I was very impressed with this little amp for its price! As a matter of fact, I wrote a detailed review of the MRV-F300 found here.

It’s a great, affordable, and well-designed amp that’s an excellent compromise between power, size, sound quality, and price.

You simply won’t match the quality from competitors at this price range (around $150).

PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 75W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (150W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Alpine quality design
  • One of the most affordable/great value
  • Includes end caps for stealth install
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Bass boost on ch. 3/4
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice satin brushed metal finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Auto turn-on for speaker-level inputs
CONS:
  • Bass boost is only for ch. 3/4
  • Bass boost could be greater (12dB vs 18dB of others)
  • No remote level control option
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Bass boost frequency not adjustable
  • No auto-sensing turn on for RCA inputs (only speaker level)

I’ve awarded this one the Editor’s Choice for these many great reasons. It’s simply one of the best choices around today!

Don’t pass it up. Head over to see the happy buyer reviews and find out more at Amazon.

2. JL Audio RB XD400/4v2 – Music the way it’s supposed to be heard + modern amp tech & features. Fantastic!

RB-XD400/4 amp side viewJL Audio has been for years, and still is, a true leader in the car audio industry. The RB XD400/4v2 is another result of their pursuit of the best car amplification technology possible.

JL Audio has taken the modern class D switching design and upgraded it with their own higher-performance version called NextD.

You’ll get performance both in terms of power and sound quality that’s far above average. NextD uses a faster switching speed than lower-performing competitors do result in power that’s always available.

The audio design and higher-quality circuit board layouts also ensure lower noise and better signal quality, too.

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

The XD400/4 is simply without comparison when it comes to sound quality and performance. The crossover controls are on top (included cosmetic cover not shown) for easier control access. You’ll need the included hex wrench to connect power and speaker wiring as it uses different connectors for those than most.

You’ll get plenty of power to drive your mids and highs, too:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 Ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 Ohms
  • Bridged: 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms

These are under-rated numbers, too! The XD400/4 can actually exceed rated power output by a bit.

It’s a small amp too, measuring only a tiny 8.52 in. x 7.09 in. x 2.05 in. (217 mm x 180 mm x 52 mm). It’s one of the few ultra-compact amps that can accept a 4 gauge power wire.

You’ll get great signal and crossover features too, making it easy to drive the perfect system giving your mids and highs powerful, distortion-free sound:

  • Low/high-pass 12dB/octave cutoff frequencies: 50-500Hz adjustable
  • Pass-through RCA jacks for 2nd amp connection
  • 2/4 ch. input adapter switch
PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • 2/4 ch. input switch
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Advanced class D (NextD) technology
  • Top-of-class quality and power
  • Includes control cover to nice install
  • Green power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Optional remote level (HD-RLC)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Brushed aluminum and black powder coating finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • 3 remote-on methods (auto-sensing)
  • 2 RCA pass-through jacks
  • 4 gauge wire capable
CONS:
  • Optional remote sold separately
  • No bass boost feature
  • Speaker-level inputs require RCA splicing
  • Expensive

If you’re wanting one of the most powerful, smallest, and best-sounding amps available today, look no further.

It’s sold many places but I've found some of the best pricing over at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 – Great sound in a small package – plus cool set-up features built in.

Punch P400X4 top view

 

Looking for a compromise between price, size, and features? The Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 is one of the best and most refined versions of classic A/B audio technology available today.

Unlike other class A/B 4 channel amps, Rockford Fosgate has used their proprietary Trans-ANA circuitry design to not only reduce noise but to take sound quality a step further.

It’s a well-designed amp that I’m impressed with – the build and engineering quality really shows. Unlike competitors, Rockford’s design takes up less space and is designed to be able to handle stressful power situations with ease.

The Punch PX400/4 features a microprocessor-based heat management system that allows it to safely keep the amp running instead of shutting off like lesser amps.

That means during really hot days or high-power maximum listening levels you’ll be ok – the music won’t stop. Instead the system will monitor and maintain a lower power output to keep the heat at a safe level.

One thing I really like is how the company was able to fit so much technology into a package only 11-1/8″ x 2-7/16″ x 8-13/16″ in size.

Punch P400X4 controls view

A great choice for mids and highs, the P400X4 is an excellent choice for your money. It’s a CEA-2006 compliant rated amp so you know the specs are honest and it’ll deliver as promised. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at the rated power output is a fantastic 105dB! It’s unique in that not only do you get flexible crossover features but additional set-up features to help you set the gain and input level settings during installation.

You’ll get plenty of power to run clear, loud, and enjoying quality music from component speaker mids and highs:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

You’ll get some great crossover features, too:

  • Fully adjustable high/low-pass frequency levels: 50-250Hz
  • Optional adjustable Punch EQ w/ up to 18dB boost @ 50Hz or 12.5KHz
  • 2/4 channel input source switch
  • Input level control allows speaker-level inputs

There’s also an optional Punch EQ remote control for easy dashboard bass level adjustments while driving.

Unfortunately, I did find one issue with the amp, and that is that it doesn’t offer speaker-level inputs so you’ll need an RCA line level adapter for that. However, a good one that will work with the amp is only around $15-20 or so.

Special built-in installation features

What helps make the P400X4 so different is the C.L.E.A.N. gain setup system built into it. With it, setup is easier and you’ll be sure you get the most from your amp and head unit!

Working with the including test tone CD (or test track MP3s can be used), the amp monitors and indicates input signal levels so you can adjust the gain for maximum output and minimal noise.

That’s a really cool advantage to have as it takes the guesswork and frustration out of trying to set up your system. It also means you won’t need to buy additional test equipment or accessories, too.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under some seats
  • C.L.E.A.N. setup features & test CD
  • Punch remote option
  • Input clipping indicators
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Rockford Fosgate quality
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Punch EQ boost adjustable (+18dB max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice black brushed metal finish
  • Muted turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • Punch level control not included
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • A bit larger in size than class D

As a great-sounding, well-made, and wonderful little amp you’ll love I highly recommend it!

Don’t waste any more time searching or shopping. Go find out today why it's one of the best-rated amps for highs and mids at Amazon.

4. MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 – Great power, sound, and affordability in a compact size.

MTX Thunder 75.4 side view

Wanting excellent sound but need more power? I totally understand! In my own system, I use two 4-channel amps with 75W RMS per channel for crisp and detailed sound that won’t bottom out.

The MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 4-channel amp has exactly what you need for the same great sound.

The Thunder 75.4 gives you legendary MTX Audio design quality, great power and sound, and reliability, too. It’s also an under-rated amp and can slightly exceed the rated power specs.

And yet’s it’s still affordable, too, at around $200.

You’ll get plenty of power to drive component speaker mids or highs:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

Using tiny surface mount technology (SMT) components, MTX designs their amplifiers not for bottom-dollar pricing like the competition does but instead for the best performance, signal quality, and value for your dollar.

In addition to a compact size that’s easy to install, you’ll also get a lower noise floor and excellent resistance to vibration. DC offset, thermal, and short-circuit protection are built in as well to keep your investment protected in case a problem comes up.

Based on classic and proven class A/B audio technology, MTX has taken the traditional design a bit further by using higher-quality audio path components as well as reducing signal path lengths to keep noise minimized.

Having used and installed MTX many times in my installation career I can tell you that they’re some of the best and definitely worth the money!

MTX Thunder 75.4 end 1One of the smallest amps in is power class, the Thunder 75.4 measures a compact 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16″ in size. Don’t let the small size fool you – it’s a hard-hitting little powerhouse! I like how the RCA inputs and crossover controls are placed on one end and the power & speaker connections are on the other. Well put-together, it’s a great choice for nearly anyone.

You’ll get some great crossover features as well – perfect for a custom system running separate mids and highs or even a 2-way front stage with a rear subwoofer.

Crossover specs include:

  • Front low/high-pass: 12dB/octave, 0-200Hz adjustable
  • Rear low/high-pass: 12dB/octave, 0-750Hz adjustable
  • Rear channels: Full-range, low-pass, or high-pass

The power connection block allows using 4 gauge wire, which is something I haven’t found on a lot of amps this size.

Sadly, to my disappointment, there’s no speaker-level input support. However, line-level adapters are relatively inexpensive, so that’s more of an inconvenience and definitely not a show-stopper.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under many seats
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (175W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Adjustable crossovers (hi/low 0-200Hz, 0-750Hz)
  • Great sound quality
  • Reduced noise design
  • MTX design quality & reliability
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Great buyer feedback
  • 5V capable RCA inputs
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Includes MTX test certificate
  • Soft turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • No remote level option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • No bass boost feature

Unless you have the most extreme demands, you’ll love this one. It’s a great sounding amp with fantastic power and it’s small enough to fit in many vehicle installations.

Check it out! Find out why it's a favorite among smart amp shoppers over at Amazon.

5. Alpine KTP-445U Ultra-compact – Great power powering mids and highs from a tiny size!

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

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

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

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

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

The KTP-445U can deliver:

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

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

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

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

Image of Alpine KPA-445U mini amplifier controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional parts & reading

Need a great amp kit you can afford? Check out my recommended good amp kits here.

Thinking about installing an amp to an existing factory system? You can find out how to hook up a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers here.

Advice On Finding The Best Place To Buy A Car Stereo

Advice on finding the best place to buy a car stereo featured image

Everyone – whether it’s the average car owner who just wants a simple upgrade or the person looking to build a sweet sounding, multi-channel system – deserves the best for their money. And I hate seeing good people get ripped off or getting terrible advice from salespeople.

It’s very important to be well-informed when trying to figure out the best place to buy a car stereo.

Unfortunately, there’s still a good chance you could make a mistake.  My goal is to give you a solid, helpful understanding of the different places you might buy a car stereo.

Contents

How the car stereo retail world has changed

Things have changed remarkably when it comes to the products available for car audio electronics as well as the way you can buy them. 15-20 years ago buying items online was nearly unheard of and (normally) unless you lived near a big city it was hard to find brand name speakers, car stereos, amplifiers, and accessories.

Market and pricing control

Local small shops were the primary way of buying the equipment, and unfortunately, in many cases, they had a monopoly on the market because of it. Prices were very high and the selection was very limited.

Additionally, while do-it-yourself was possible for the average person there wasn’t much information out there like today. It often came down to just a lot of hard work, investigating everything with a test meter, and getting creative.

Many car audio manufacturers would sell only to authorized distributors and retail stores.  The local small shops had little or no competition and so they could charge more and would gladly do so – you didn’t have other choices!

Image of front of Auburn AL car stereo shop

Local shops used to be the only place you could find the best car stereo brands, and the mark-up was huge! It was a great money-maker for them (especially when paying for more accessories) but very expensive for the average customer. I used to drive down to this shop on occasion (Opelika, Alabama) but the prices were outrageous.

I remember having to save up a lot of money to buy some of my favorite brands because they were next to impossible to find and buy. That meant I was at the mercy of retail shops if I wanted any at all.

t always made me angry because I knew I was being forced to pay far too much for something, and similar for my friends.

There I was, a student and part-time worker, having to pay an outrageous amount of money for a particular Clarion head unit and additional items I wanted And that’s if I could find it! All the stores I checked had very limited models to choose from and I had to special order items at times.

Image of Clarion DRX937R font

In the 1990s several major brands like Clarion, Alpine, and others were major players in the car stereo world and considered “high-end.” I owned a Clarion DRX9375R and paid $400+ for it and paid $97 for a special cable I needed because of market control back then. Today a shopper has far more options and you can pay close to 1/2 as much as those days for the same or better technology!

A few stores like Wal-Mart and others did carry some brands but were generally cheap junk and not very good quality. Not something you’d want to buy if you want great sound and a quality stereo – that’s for sure! If you lived in a relatively small area you had very few choices and just had to do the best you could with limited options.

How the internet changed car stereo buying

Brands that were once only selling through traditional retail stores tried to fight it, but as the availability of the internet began to grow and flourish in the 1990s eventually the free market won out.

Eventually “big box” stores like Circuit City and Best Buy also began providing customers with the ability to buy more reasonably priced brands as well as offering installation too.

By the time the 2000s had come, it was too late – online car stereo websites began selling brands that were once limited to only authorized distributors, whether “forbidden” or not, and you could now buy it on websites like eBay.

Eventually, more places like Amazon started and for the most part, the sales and pricing control held by the small store market was busted!

Chain stores like Circuit City and Best Buy were large competitors to the traditional small car stereo sales & installation shops that once ruled the marketplace. Although these were once your only option I began to notice that they had a definite impact on the small shops.

Circuit City storefront image

Circuit City and other “big box” electronics stores were the next biggest competitors to small car stereo shops and offered a more reasonably priced option, along with installation services too. Amazon and other strong customers soon came and as internet retail sales grew things were changed forever.

Unfortunately for the customer, things weren’t always great when dealing with retail salespeople when it came time to buy as I’ll explain more below.

More options, more info, and do-it-yourself (DIY) possibilities

As the internet grew places like car audio and electronics forums could help you find out more about what you needed to buy. You could buy your own electronics online for a great price online then either have it installed by someone or do it yourself and save a substantial amount of money.

One of the benefits of the internet for car stereo shoppers today is choice.

You’re able to read reviews, examine specs, and (hopefully) determine what’s best for you, rather than having to settle for a limited number of options in a retail store like in the past. Installation guides and wiring details are now available for a small fee or for free.

These wiring guides and vehicle color listings were in the past available only to dealers in CD format and were expensive.

These days it’s just a matter of knowing the best place to buy a car stereo and then going from there

Comparing places to buy and recommendations

In order to keep it simple, I’ll focus on the 3 main categories today, and because it’s not as simple as “this is the best place to shop for one” I’ll explain the pros and cons of each. I feel confident this will give you a better understanding of where to being shopping based on what your goals and budget are.

1. Small shops

Image of car stereo shop salesmen

A local small shop can offer friendly and personalized attention and won’t be clueless like general-purpose retail salespeople. A good shop will also have better installation quality and will be faster at correcting problems than others.

Local car audio shops still exist today for a good reason: despite the internet competition, they can still offer personal attention to service, advice, and you can deal with a real person face to face and get to know them. Also, when things go wrong you can simply return and a reputable shop will make it right.

Additionally with a good shop today you can read reviews and be fairly confident you can walk right in and have your questions answered.

It’s a lot better than walking into an empty sales area with no salespeople around like happens electronic chain stores.

Small car stereo shops: the good and bad

Small shops can also solve one of the most annoying problems when you go to buy a car stereo or amplifier: chain stores typically have salespeople with no understanding of car audio equipment and don’t have the real-world experience to help you.

I’ve seen people become frustrated and walk out of a store because no one could give them a “real” answer to their questions!

For personalized installation and in cases where an install in your vehicle needs clever workarounds, they’re the best.

Always do your homework, read reviews, and get 2nd opinions if possible before visiting a local shop to be well-prepared.

PROS:
  • Personalized service – get to know you personally
  • Offer higher-end brands that may not sell online and in other stores
  • Reputable shops have good, experienced installers and a proper shop and tools, great results
  • Good shops will “make it right” quickly when there’s a problem
  • Nearly always someone available to help you
  • Value your business much more
  • Offer extras like a ride during your installation, custom orders, etc.
  • Can work-around more difficult installations
  • Offer sensible recommendations for your needs and the type of car stereo sound you want
CONS:
  • Higher cost for car stereo products (25%-40% is not uncommon)
  • Poor-quality shops can damage your vehicle or do poor work (causing a re-do for extra money elsewhere)
  • Limited car stereo product selection
  • May not wish to sell you product models available online
  • Likely cannot price match online retailers

2. “Big box” retail stores

Image of retail electronics store interior

Major retail stores make it easy to buy a car stereo the same day, but salespeople generally aren’t reliable for good advice and questions. Also, prices are often “ok” but still not as competitive as major sources like Amazon. People today often use them as a “showroom” before buying at an online-only retailer!

Stores like Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy offer more mid-tier or low-tier products than small shops generally do. Therefore you can walk in, buy a budget car stereo, and walk out and install it yourself the same day. Most medium-to-large size locations like these also offer installation service and

However, in my experience (and according to many people I’ve known personally) they’re not very knowledgeable. Installation services are available and some may offer free installation unlike like smaller shops (plus required parts of course) but the labor quality isn’t on par with reputable small shops.

I’ve had customers I did work for tell me the recommendations that salespeople have made, and they were totally wrong, or not at all what the best choice would be for the customer.

Also, chain stores do have moderately and well-priced selections, but are still somewhat limited.

More to think about

If you’re lucky you can get what you’d like and be done quickly (assuming it’s in stock, which is another issue) but generally you need to do your homework first to find what you need then head out to buy it.

You can’t get personalized attention like at an independent shop and you can’t rely on special favors and treatment. For example, keeping your car overnight if you’re out of town for work or having them work around your schedule. Some will even give you a ride to and from work if needed.

It’s definitely something to consider.

In my opinion, it’s better if you know what you’re looking for and it’s available. You can often run right in, buy it, and have it the same day.

Prices are generally close to but usually not quite as low as online-only retailers. Selection is moderate to low.

PROS:
  • Generally good pricing
  • Extremely simply purchase process, can often check it it’s in stock before driving
  • Walk-in, walk-out same day purchase ability
  • Many offer installation for reduced labor cost
  • Many sell lower-priced, low-tier budget brands
  • Longer store hours than small shops
  • Special promotions and sales on car stereo products sometimes available
CONS:
  • Salespeople normally aren’t knowledgeable, may not be available at all
  • Moderate-to-limited product selection; some stores don’t carry a good selection of quality brand products
  • Oriented more towards sales than good service
  • May be frustrating to deal with
  • Some give out bad advice and don’t understand car stereo knowledge as needed
  • Installation labor quality can’t match that of the best independent shops
  • Takes more time and sometimes is difficult to get issues resolved
  • Cannot special order particular models you’d like to buy after shopping online
  • Harder to search through the store production selection than online-only retailers

3. Online-only retailers

Image of man casually shopping online with a tablet

Shopping from online-only retailers is often the best choice and today is nearly the only way to find the best price and reviews before buying. Also, the maximum number of choices are out there and the biggest online sellers normally carry many in a product line.

Online-only retailers with a great reputation like Amazon.com and Sonic Electronix make the shopping experience much easier to accomplish today if you’re not looking for advice before making a purchase. That’s the main drawback – being able to get questions answered.

You’ll usually need to do your research to find out what car stereo is best for you before buying.

In my opinion, the most significant advantages are the lowest prices are available through them and the excellent selection. It’s much easier to find a wider range of models from manufacturers than anywhere else.

Another great benefit to think about is the product reviews posted by existing customers. It’s a big help and it’s something working considering when shopping.

But like with everything else, not all reviews are legitimate or helpful, so look for patterns of the “cons” for products, as if you find a lot of similar reviews it’s likely to be true and not an exaggerated experience.

Best for smart shoppers and DIY

Online retailers are great for the DIY car stereo installer (which feels great to do, and is very rewarding!) but if you buy online and need someone else to install it, you’ll have to do the additional legwork of finding a shop willing to install internet purchases. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, however.

In my opinion, and for those of us who want to save a lot of money and get the best car stereo for our money this is a fantastic way to buy! 

You just need to stick with online retailers that make returns less of a hassle, offer better shipping methods, and can even combine a purchase with the other parts you buy in order to save costs (and maybe get free shipping, too!)

PROS:
  • Lowest prices!
  • Excellent selection – models not available in stores can be found
  • User reviews help when research choices
  • Parts and accessories can be bundled with purchases for reduced cost or free shipping
  • The best online sellers have excellent return policies to make it easy
  • It’s a compliment to the research you’ve already done online – only a few steps more
  • Avoids having to drive to multiple retail stores
  • Avoids having to deal with salespeople
  • It’s the best way to determine if your initial choices are truly the best choice for you
  • In some cases you can view the product in a retail store before buying online
  • Some online sellers like Amazon offer special shipping programs (Prime, etc.)
CONS:
  • Must be installed either yourself or taken to an installation shop
  • Wait time for shipping (can’t buy and install the same day)
  • If you’re not happy with the item you’ll need to spend extra time returning it
  • Some manufacturers may not honor warranties when purchased from unauthorized online sellers
  • May have to sort through many online sellers in order to find the best – many misleading search results

Final thoughts – the best place to buy a car stereo

If you’re here it’s because you’re more than likely planning to buy a car stereo online. That being said, in my opinion, online-only sellers overall give you much more value, research value, and better model options than buying anywhere else.

Shipping speeds and costs have improved over the years, too.

I don’t generally recommend visiting retail stores for buying an item unless the cost is comparable to online pricing and/or you need it right away.

I’ve generally been pretty disappointed with the number of items in stock as well as the buying process. It takes a while and is just a big turn off.

Sonic Electronix is one of the best online sellers to buy a car stereo from, but Crutchfield also offers far more application guides, product overviews, customer service, and basic information for customers that no one else does.

However, the problem is that their overhead for the paper sales catalog, the dedicated staff, and so on means that the prices are often much higher than at places like Amazon.com.  I’ve seen car stereos sell for $50-$69 higher, for example!

Therefore I can’t recommend Crutchfield as the best place.

The best choice

I recommend Amazon as while it’s not perfect overall it makes buying a car stereo a lot easier and saves a lot of money, time, and hassle. You can find the latest cutting-edge models there rather than hunting them down in stores.

Reviews (although some are not useful or are garbage and contribute nothing) are often quite good and are written by sensible people just like you who have honest expectations for what they bought.

The brand selection is very good (Alpine, JVC, Kenwood, Clarion, and many more quality brands) so you won’t have to spend a great deal of time visiting different sites.

Feel free to reach out to me if you need more advice or have comments.

PS: If you’re looking for an excellent car stereo, check out my review of this amazing Alpine unit that will get you excited!

The Best 4 Channel Amps For Sound Quality – Top Picks And Buyer’s Guide

Best 4 channel amp for sound quality featured image

Finding a good-sounding amplifier can be tough. I’ve put together this guide and recommended models to help you find the best 4 channel amp for sound quality.

Sound quality depends on a number of factors – not just one thing. It’s important to choose a well-rounded amplifier designed with sound quality in mind

As class D amps are also more common, I’ve added some important information about those as well.

Contents

Infographic – Car amp sound quality facts

Car amplifier sound quality facts infographic

What is a 4 channel amplifier?

A 4 channel car amplifier, as you may have already guessed, is extremely similar to most 2-channel (stereo) car amplifiers. However, there are a few differences you should be aware of. Just like 2 channel (or single-channel “mono block” amps) they contain a power supply with steps up the +12V battery voltage to a higher one.

This is necessary to create more power for the speakers you use. This is because when only 12V is available, a speaker can’t be driven with much power. That’s largely related to Ohm’s law and the basics of electrical power.

While similar, 4 channel models are built slightly differently. They’re a bit more compact as they incorporate 4 (instead of 2) independent audio amplifier signal paths and amplifier sections.

Many 4 channel amps also feature a 2/4 channel input switch. This is useful if connecting to a head unit with only 2 channels available in order to drive 4 channels of power.

Most today also are “bridgeable” – that is, they can be connected to drive a single speaker load from 2 channels for more power. Some 4 channel amps are configured slightly different than others and have additional options like bass boost or crossovers that can only be used for 2 of the 4 channels.

These types of details vary from brand to brand and model to model. You need to be careful when shopping to ensure the amp you’re buying meets your needs.

2 channel vs 4 channel car amplifier diagram

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

Diagram showing the basic differences between a 2 and a 4 channel car amplifier. Both work the same way: the +12V supply is “stepped up” (increased) to a higher voltage with both positive and negative outputs. These supply the amplifier transistor stages which are fed with the signal from your stereo. This basically just amplifies the very small signal from your stereo to a higher voltage that can drive speakers with a lot of power. Note that 4 channel amps are usually more compact than other models (especially class D amps).

What to look for in amps with good sound quality

The best sounding car amplifiers have a number of important features you should be aware of before buying. It’s important to have at least some understanding of what the specifications actually mean, what kind of power rating you need, and what you can generally expect to pay.

There are several basic factors to check when choosing a great-sounding 4 channel amplifier:

  • Signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio
  • Built-in crossovers/crossover specifications
  • Design quality
  • Root Mean Square (RMS) power rating per channel

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio car amp diagramThe signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), rated in decibels (dB) is a way comparing the amount of audio signal to the level of noise signal in a car amplifier. Ideally the amount of noise will be low compared to the audio signal level. A 4 channel amplifier with good sound quality will have a number around 90dB and above. The best, depending upon the rating used, will be 100dB and higher. Background noise exists in all amplifiers and appears as a slight “hiss” when you listen with no music playing. It’s also more noticeable with the amp’s gain turned up.

Good amplifiers have a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio. The SNR, listed in decibels (dB) is a way of comparing how much audio signal the amp has vs the amount of electrical noise it has internally.

Generally speaking, the higher the number, the better. Amps with great sound quality tend to be listed as having an SNR of 90dB and above, in my experience. Some of the best list their specs at 100dB and above.

However, it’s important to know that the specs can be a bit misleading. For example, it’s unfortunately pretty common for many to exaggerate their specs or they don’t list all of the ratings at certain power output levels.

It’s common to see better brands list the SNR with no signal output and also at 1 watt power output, where it tends to be lower.

Example image of car amp internal noise level

An enlarged image of the internal noise produced by a car amp (zoomed in for better viewing). Noise in an amplifier is to be expected – all amps have it! However, a good amp is designed to keep the noise low and the music signal high.

In a system with great tweeters and good sound reproduction, it’s easy to hear the amp’s noise if you turn up the gain very with no music playing. Generally speaking, an amp with good sound quality will have the least amount and will be more difficult to hear. Driving your amp with a strong, high-quality audio signal means you can turn down the amp gain and keep noise to a minimum, too.

Crossovers and sound options

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end view

A great-sounding amp like this Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel model will have good crossover features built in. While it’s important to pick an amp with the best sound you can afford if your speakers are driven to distortion and can’t handle some frequencies any amp can sound poor. Making use of the crossovers can have a huge impact on your system’s sound quality!

The speaker crossovers (normally called just “crossovers”) can be very important for a great-sounding system. What’s fantastic to know is that even budget models today have them built-in unlike many years ago.

The crossovers (like on the Alpine amp pictured above) give you the ability to get more volume with less distortion out of your speakers. You’ll also get better clarity and sound quality.

Basically, small speakers like coaxial door speakers and even some higher-priced component speakers simply cannot produce low-end bass well as a subwoofer can. Because of this, when playing some of your favorite music you’ll begin to hear distortion and the music will begin to break up when you start to crank the volume.

Always buy a 4 channel amplifier with high-pass crossovers built in when using the amp for full-range speaker sound. For bass, be sure to buy a model with low-pass crossovers as well.

Some models have fixed cutoff frequencies (the frequency at which sounds above or below are blocked), which is less flexible than adjustable models. However, generally speaking, fixed ones are set around 50 to 60Hz which is ok in my experience.

Some models also include a bass boost feature which can help if you don’t have good sound controls on your stereo.

Design quality

RB-XD400/4 amp internal viewGreat-sounding amps like this JL Audio XD400/4 have well thought out and designed circuit boards, better quality components, and a design goal of better sound. They place the quality of the music above cost and manufacturing shortcuts that you’ll find in low-end amps. The result is a difference you can hear.

There’s quite a big difference in sound between lower quality (and cheaper) amps and car amps with better design. One huge reason why is that there are a lot of small details that get ignored by lesser amps that are used by amps with better engineering and design.

For example, car amps with better sound have things like the following in common:

  • Better (and thicker) printed circuit boards (PCBs)
  • Surface-mount technology (SMT) components for shorter and smaller paths
  • Higher quality components
  • Better designs with sound quality in mind
  • Low-noise parts and proprietary circuits to improve sound quality

What’s especially interesting to know is that you don’t have to spend a ton of money for these things – even some amps just under $200 can provide excellent sound.

The big difference is that the respectable name brands like Alpine, JL Audio, MTX, Kicker, and others have the engineering resources and expertise to produce car amps that are designed to sound good. The problem with picking just any old car amp is that they’re designed for profit. Not for great sound quality!

How can you know which models are worth buying? A great start is to check my list below.

RMS power ratings

CEA logo

These days, high-quality amplifiers provide reliable, demonstrated, and documented specifications for their power ratings and sound quality.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) – 2006 compliance standards were established because of the confusing and misleading advertising ratings used by many car stereo manufacturers. It was created to give you clearly defined specs and ratings you can rely on when choosing an amplifier.

When choosing an amp with good sound quality, it’s best to shop for models (where possible) that advertise CEA-2006 compliant specifications. Doing so means there are no advertising gimmicks and that power ratings aren’t misrepresented.

Choosing the right amp power for good sound

For good sound, you’ll need adequate power. The reason why is that when an amplifier begins to be driven beyond its maximum power output level, it is driven into clipping, or cuts off, the audio signal driving a speaker. This is both a cause of serious, terrible-sounding distortion and potentially damaging to speakers too.

Amplifiers with adequate power won’t reach this point as they’ll still have enough power remaining before they begin to produce distortion.

I recommend a 4 channel amplifier with at least 50W RMS per channel for most people. If you’re like me and like to occasionally really crank it up, 75W RMS per channel is even better. Feel free to buy an even bigger amplifier if you like.

The most important part is to have an amplifier with adequate power that can produce music at the volume you want without beginning to distort.

What is a class D car amp?

When shopping for car amplifiers, you’ll be seeing more and more models in this category. It’s helpful to know a bit more about them before spending money. You’ll also want to know a bit more about sound quality as well. Some are great and some are disappointing.

Class D car amplifiers work on a relatively new type of amplifier design technology. They’re very efficient – in some cases up to nearly 90%! This contrasts with older designs which are around 65% efficient or less. What that means to you is they take up less space, generate less heat, draw less power, and often require smaller power wire.

Class D car amplifiers are those designed with a different type of power supply and sound reproduction than conventional, older technology. They work off of a type of high-frequency switching supply to modulate – or “chop up” – the incoming audio signal into a continuous flow of electrical on-off pulses.

These are then reconstructed and smoothed to drive speakers.

Originally this was used only for home stereo amps with decent but not impressive performance. However, the technology has greatly improved and now they’re capable of producing the great sound you’ll enjoy. I’ve used class D amps at home for some time now, and I’ve been pretty happy with them.

Class AB vs class D

Internal image of a 4 ch. amp

Class AB amps like this Diamond Audio model take up more room, are heavier, and use much more electrical current than class D car amps. The additional metal heatsink they’re built inside of also adds to the cost. Some modern amps can deliver the same power with about 1/2 the physical size!

Class AB car amplifiers (often shown as “A/B”, since it’s a combination of 2 kinds) are different from class D amps in how they operate. Unlike class D designs, their transistors are switched on nearly all the time, consuming more power. Much of this power is wasted and appears as heat.

Most are around only 65% efficient or less. That means if an amp is delivering 100W of power to your system, it’s actually drawing around 135W and more! (Some additional power is wasted by the power supply and other sections)

That’s one reason they’re heavier and need a large (and costly) metal body: they have to get rid of the additional heat. Even without any sound playing, you’ll notice a class AB amplifier gets warm after a period of time.

Class AB designs are a combination and compromise between the older class B designs (more efficient than class A, but slightly worse sound) and class A (best sound quality, but less efficient). Hence the name they’re given.

They do have one advantage: The design is cheaper and easier to produce with pretty good sound on a budget.

Class D amplifier sound quality

These types of amplifiers can have a harder time producing low-noise audio. One of the drawbacks to class D amps is that higher noise levels (appearing a low-level hiss and so on) are a by-product. Lower-quality amps will have an amount of noise most people can hear if they listen closely.

There’s no way around it. When it comes to class D car amps, you’ll have to buy a very well-designed amplifier to get good sound quality. Cheaper brands compromise on the amount of filtering and the kind of circuitry they use.

Name brand amplifiers like those I recommend below have custom designs and advanced ways of dealing with those drawbacks.

Additionally, many cheaper class D car amps use off-the-shelf chips. The result is poor sound quality and high noise levels. I’ve personally tested both good and bad brands, and there’s a big difference in the sound quality!

Today’s choices are very good and do a great job of powering an entire system with fantastic, clear sound production…all while fitting into small spaces.

★ 5 of the best 4 channel amps for good sound quality ★

Our top picks

Image Product Details
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick! ★Alpine MRV-F300
  • Great low-noise sound quality for less money! An excellent value
  • 50W x 4, 75W x 4, 150W x 2 RMS
  • Evolution to class D design
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageHigh end soundJL Audio XD400/4v2
  • Excellent signal/noise ratio. Superb sound quality
  • 75W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS
  • Only 8-9/16 x 2-1/16 x 7-1/8" in size!
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageRockford Fosgate Punch P400X4
  • Built-in gain setup features for optimal sound
  • 50W x 4 / 100W x 4 / 200W x 2
  • Compact size + bass remote option
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageMTX Thunder 75.4
  • Only 12-5/8 x 2.25 x 6-5/16" in size.
  • Advanced class A/B sound design
  • 75W x 4, 200W x 2 RMS underated power
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageUltra compactAlpine KTP-445U
  • Tiny size! Only 7-7/16 x 1-1/2 x 2-1/2”
  • 45W x 4, 90W x 2 RMS power. High-pass option
  • Auto-sensing turn on for speaker level inputs
Check on Amazon

Reviews and amp details

1. Alpine MRV-F300 – Great sound, powers a whole system, and affordable!

Alpine MRV-F300 amplifier Editor's Choice imageAlpine developed an affordable but great-sounding amplifier small enough to fit under a seat but still power your whole system.

One of the smallest 4 channel amps on the market, the MRV-F300 puts lesser amps that are twice as big in size to shame! It’s a great-looking amp with a sleek dark brushed metal finish and cool blue power-on indicator on top.

The included optional end caps snap on and off for an even cleaner looking installation. For those of you looking to flush-mount your new amp in a custom install, it’s a perfect choice.

The MRV-F300 is rated at a clean-sounding 50W x 4 RMS @ 4 Ohms and 75W x 4 into 2 Ohm speakers. It’s one of the best next steps in the evolution of car amplifiers. It’s bridgeable to 150W x 2 into 4 ohms, by the way.

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewOh, snap! So many features for the price that it’s nearly impossible to beat. Not only does it have speaker-level inputs (wiring harness included) but also adjustable high/low pass crossovers, bass EQ (boost), and removable end caps.

Measuring a tiny 7 7/8″ W x 6.5″ D x 2 3/16″ H (200 x 165 x 55 mm) it fits into installation spaces that are impossible with older amps.

Alpine has used their engineering expertise to create an amp that’s one of the few super-efficient class D amps in its price range with reduced noise for enhanced sound quality.

Don’t just take my word for it – check out the great buyer reviews!

As expected, you’ll enjoy great system flexibility with the built-in crossovers (50-400Hz adjustable high and low pass, 12dB/octave) and a bass boost feature for channels 3 and 4.

I was really impressed with this little amp for its price! So much so that I wrote a full review of the Alpine MRV-F300 here.

It’s a sweet little powerhouse with great sound quality for what you pay. At near $150 or so, you’re simply not going to match the quality when buying a lesser brand. (You’ll need to shop carefully to avoid paying more than you should)

Why did I rank this one #1? Because it’s one of the best sounding all-around values that fits in places not many can.

PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 75W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (150W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Alpine quality design
  • One of the most affordable/great value
  • Includes end caps for stealth install
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Bass boost on ch. 3/4
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice satin brushed metal finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Auto turn-on for speaker-level inputs
CONS:
  • Bass boost is only for ch. 3/4
  • Bass boost could be greater (12dB vs 18dB of others)
  • No remote level control option
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Bass boost frequency not adjustable
  • No auto-sensing turn on for RCA inputs (only speaker level)

The MRV-F300 checks all the boxes in terms of sound quality, size, power produced, features, and quality. It also features speaker-level inputs for adding it to a factory stereo.

It’s priced right for just about everyone. Definitely head over to check out the amazing reviews and happy buyers at Amazon.

2. JL Audio RB XD400/4v2 – 75W x 4 of some of the best sound for your money that can still fit under a seat

RB-XD400/4 amp side viewAlways a car stereo industry leader, JL Audio has been known worldwide for excellent sound, hard-hitting power, and some of the best engineering you can buy.

Their approach to building a super-compact and ultra-efficient class D amp was to take the average approach to amp design and throw it away – and used their unique NexD circuitry which uses a much faster switching speed than low-end amps do.

The result is improved power delivery and much lower noise levels. As far as sound quality goes, it’s one of the best modern car amps that money can buy.

RB-XD400/4 amp top view

The XD400/4v2 is one of the best sounding and best-designed amps in its class. The crossover features are built facing the top (which features an optional cosmetic cover) for an easier way to reach them in many systems. Note that you’ll need the included hex wrench to tighten and loosen the higher-grade wiring terminals. It’s a great amp!

Specified at an under-rated 75W RMS x 4 into 4 Ohms (100W RMS x 4 into 2 Ohms) it’s capable of exceeding its rated power.

Measuring a mere 8.52 in. x 7.09 in. x 2.05 in. (217 mm x 180 mm x 52 mm) it’s one of the few in its size class that can accept 4 gauge wire.

Adjustable 50-500Hz low/high pass crossovers are provided for great system flexibility and to help you block distorting bass when driving full-range speakers. The 2/4 channel switch allows driving a whole front and rear system without the need for rear RCA inputs.

Additionally, a pair of RCA output jacks make it easy to connect it to a second amp for system expansion. Wire terminals are audiophile-quality and it’s one of the best-rated amplifiers sold today.

PROS:
  • Very compact – fits under seats!
  • Class D power efficiency
  • 2/4 ch. input switch
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Advanced class D (NextD) technology
  • Top-of-class quality and power
  • Includes control cover to nice install
  • Green power-on accent light
  • High-level speaker inputs
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Optional remote level (HD-RLC)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Brushed aluminum and black powder coating finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • 3 remote-on methods (auto-sensing)
  • 2 RCA pass-through jacks
  • 4 gauge wire capable
CONS:
  • Optional remote sold separately
  • No bass boost feature
  • Speaker-level inputs require RCA splicing
  • Expensive

If you’re looking for one of the best sounding and smallest amps today, this is it.

It’s available at many places online but you can get it for a better price (and free shipping) at Amazon.

3. Rockford Fosgate Punch P400X4 – Excellent sound, small size, and great set-up features included

Punch P400X4 top view

Able to spend a bit more? The Rockford Fosgate P400X4 provides some of the best sound out there in a 4-channel amp. While it may seem just many competitor’s products, there’s more to offer, however.

Unlike other conventional A/B class amps, the company has used its own proprietary Trans-ANA circuitry design to not just reduce noise, but to take sound reproduction to the next level. It’s a well-designed amp with real engineering quality through and through.

Additionally, the amp has a special heat management design using state-of-the-art microprocessor circuitry to manage heat levels without having to shut the amp off.

Because of their car electronics expertise and resources, Rockford was able to fit all this into a package only 11-1/8″ x 2-7/16″ x 8-13/16″ in size. Other amps in its power and price range (near $200) can’t match the size, quality, or features.

Punch P400X4 controls view

The P400X4 is capable of excellent sound quality. It’s a CEA-2006 compliant rated amp, meaning the specs are proven and reliable. Signal-to-noise (SNR) performance is excellent, with up greater than 105dB at rated power! As you can see in the image, crossovers, sound EQ options, and the set-up features are accessible with the top cover removed. A nice blue power-on indicator rounds out a sleek, modern design.

Power ratings are great, too, featuring enough to run most systems:

  • 50W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

High and low pass crossovers are provided and are fully adjustable from 50 to 250Hz. The Punch EQ is cool bass and treble feature that helps enhance your sound with an adjustable 0-18dB of boost at 45Hz bass or 12.5KHz for treble.

An optional Punch EQ remote control know (sold separately) allows easy dashboard control of the bass level while driving. One drawback of the amp is that is doesn’t offer speaker-level inputs, but it does include a 2/4 ch. input switch.

The unique feature I like about this amp is the C.L.E.A.N. gain setup system built into it. When used with the included test tone CD, the amp can show signal levels to aid in setting up the gain for optimal performance. It’s a great advantage as it makes setting up your amp for the lowest-noise and best sound levels much more easily.

It’s conservatively rated, too, meaning the amp will exceed its rated power output. For added confidence when buying, a certificate of performance is included with each amp, too!

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under some seats
  • C.L.E.A.N. setup features & test CD
  • Punch level controller optional
  • Input clipping indicators
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • 2/4 channel input switch
  • Good power (50W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (200W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Great sound quality & reduced noise
  • Rockford Fosgate quality
  • Includes control cover panel
  • Blue power-on accent light
  • Accepts higher-voltage signal (12V max)
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Punch EQ boost adjustable (+18dB max)
  • Excellent buyer ratings
  • Nice black brushed metal finish
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Muted turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • Punch level control not included
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • A bit larger in size than class D

It’s a fantastic amp and I highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out the amazing owner reviews and the lowest price over at Amazon.

4. MTX Audio Thunder 75.4 – More power with good sound and build quality in a small package

MTX Thunder 75.4 side view

Planning a system that needs a bit more power? I totally get it – in my system I’m using 4 channel amps with 75W per channel. It’s great having that power on tap.

With the Thunder 75.4 you’ll get legendary MTX Audio build quality and under-rated power (yes, their amps often can go past rated power!) in a size that fits in less space. And it’s still affordable, too!

MTX has cleverly designed the amp to squeeze in lots of power:

  • 75W RMS x 4 @ 4 ohms
  • 100W RMS x 4 @ 2 ohms
  • 200W RMS x 2 @ 4 ohms

The design uses tiny surface mount technology (SMT) components for shorter audio paths and for excellent resistance to vibration. Thermal, DC offset, and short-circuit protection ensure your amp will protect itself in case a problem occurs.

It’s based on classic and proven A/B amp design with MTX’s own patented audio design touches. Having installed both budget and higher-end MTX amps many times, I can tell you they’re definitely well worth the money.

MTX Thunder 75.4 end 1The Thunder 75.4 is one of the smallest in its power class at only 12-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 6-5/16″ in size. It’s a great basic, hard-hitting, and compact amp. It’s well-made and a good use of your money if you’re looking for a good compromise between sound quality, power, and installation ease. I really like the user-friendly crossover features and how simple and uncluttered it is.

The high-pass crossover is adjustable up to a nice 750Hz, while the low-pass is adjustable to 200Hz max. 4 gauge wiring connections are available and are very well made – they’re some of the best I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, speaker-level inputs aren’t available on this model.

If you demand extreme sound quality, then it’s probably not for you. However, if you’re wanted very good sound quality in a smaller, easier-to-install package that won’t break the bank, it’s a good choice.

PROS:
  • Compact size – fits under many seats
  • Class A/B sound quality
  • Great power (75W RMS x 4, 100W RMS x 4)
  • Bridgeable (175W RMS x 2 @ 4 Ohms)
  • Adjustable crossovers (hi/low 0-200Hz, 0-750Hz)
  • Great sound quality
  • Reduced noise design
  • MTX design quality & reliability
  • Adjustable high/low-pass crossovers
  • Great buyer feedback
  • 5V capable RCA inputs
  • CEA-2006 Compliant
  • Includes MTX test certificate
  • Soft turn-on
CONS:
  • No speaker-level inputs
  • No remote level option
  • No auto-on remote feature
  • No RCA pass through jacks
  • Less efficient than class D models
  • No bass boost feature

At around $200 or so, overall I’d say it’s a good value and is worth checking out.

Head over now and have a look at the many happy buyer reviews left at Amazon.

5. Alpine KTP-445U Mini Amplifier – A good-sounding amp with tiny size for difficult installations

Image of Alpine KPA-445U with accessoriesI’ve decided to include the KTP-445U here as well. While it doesn’t have the same high-end specs like other amps I’ve recommended, it’s a great sounding amp for more difficult installations. Some installations like pickup trucks and motorcycles are especially tough.

That’s where Alpine’s expertise provides a solution not just for extremely limited amp space, but for anyone wanting an amp that’s easier to install and draws less power.

As I explained in my detailed review of the Alpine KTP-445U, it’s an example of advanced engineering and satisfying sound quality in one of the smallest sizes in the world. This is a highly efficient class D amp that runs cool and provides 45W RMS to 4 channels. Not only that, but it’s bridgeable to 90W RMS x 2 channels, too!

Despite that, it runs cool and draws minimal current. During installation you can even connect it directly to standard head unit wiring for the power supply, if using it for typical (average power) systems like driving 4 full-range speakers.

It handles 2 ohm speakers as well.

Image of Alpine KPA-445U mini amplifier controls

The KTP-445U is one of the smallest car amps in the world today. Despite measuring only a tiny 7 7/16 x 1.5 x 2.5″ (189 x 38.2 x 64.5 mm) in size, it’s capable of delivering great sound and good frequency response. It’s so small it’s about the size of a laptop power supply – yet delivers enough power to drive a full system in your vehicle!

What’s particularly great (in my opinion, based on my experience) is that it also provides both speaker level and RCA inputs. It’s a great match for both factory and aftermarket car stereos.

Don’t have 4 RCA jacks, only 2? That’s no problem, either. The 2/4 channel switch allows you to drive the additional rear speakers without a problem.

Alpine’s design is especially effective at reducing noise levels and to maximize sound quality while providing crisp sound and the kind of high-end treble response you’ll enjoy.

Of course, quality often doesn’t come cheap, but this little guy is affordable, priced near $150 or so depending on where you shop.

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

Buyer reviews are great and based on my personal experience, you’re going to love it. It’s an installer’s dream come true, too!

I’ve found some of the best pricing anywhere here at Amazon.

Suggested reading

Don’t forget your amp kit! Check out my helpful guide for good amp kits here.

Need some more information on how to install it? Here’s a great guide on how to hook up a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers.

5 of the Best Car Tweeters You Can Afford – And You’ll Love!

Best car tweeters featured image

Tweeters are a critical part of a great sounding car stereo system. But which ones should most people buy? And what do you need to know before spending money? There are a lot of questions to find answers to along the way.

In this post, I’ll share 5 of the best car tweeters for your money. I’ll also provide a helpful buying guide and information so you’ll be better prepared before spending money.

Contents

Car tweeter basics

Construction & power ratings

What is a tweeter - diagram of tweeter parts

The parts of a common car tweeter. Notice how small the voice coil is and how thin the wire that makes up the coil is. It’s one reason why you can’t expect the average tweeter to handle higher power ratings.

As they’re small in size, tweeters typically also have small voice coils, too. A tweeter’s voice coil is a coil of conductive wire wrapped a paper or other material that’s round and is suspended inside a magnet. When an audio signal from an amplifier (like a car stereo or car amp) drives it  the tweeter’s dome moves back and forth, producing sound.

Unlike woofers with a large voice coil winding and more mass to help dissipate heat, tweeters have a harder time handling high power.

A tweeter’s voice coil winding is also made of smaller wire – it can’t handle the same amount of power delivery that larger speakers can. Size really does matter, in this case.

This combination of factors, for the average tweeters sold today, means that you should expect car tweeters to handle smaller amounts of power than larger speakers. This is true even for speakers at $100 and above!

What power rating is ok?

Power ratings of about 25W to 50W RMS are realistic and what you should expect to find most often. Don’t be fooled by low-cost tweeters being sold as having a huge power rating like “100W” or “200W.” It’s misleading and very often is false advertising.

To avoid these kinds of problems, I recommend going with a good brand with specifications you can trust.

Honestly, tweeters rated at 25W to 50W are good, and unless you’re really driving them hard, even at high volumes, for most people they’ll do great. 

For higher-volume applications (especially for open-air vehicles like a Jeep or boats) you’re likely better off with “super” tweeters which can handle more power and are even more efficient.

Common tweeter dome types

Polk Audio DB1001 silk dome tweeters example image
Silk dome tweeters are some of the most common types available today. They’re found in both low and high-quality brands. A great example of a good pair is the
Polk Audio DB1001 pair. Silk is a lightweight and inexpensive dome material but can provide good performance when done well.

There are so many different kinds of tweeters sold today that it can be very confusing! To make matters worse, some brands (especially lower cost ones) don’t clearly describe the dome material they use to produce sound.

Additionally, you may be lead to believe that one type of material is always better than the next – when in fact it’s not quite that simple.

What makes a good car tweeter?

It’s not just the power rating or dome material that makes a good, well-performing tweeter. It’s a combination of things.

Here are a few factors that, when done correctly, add up to tweeters that will help you really enjoy the music you love the most:

  • Good power rating
  • Stiff, yet lightweight and sonically well-performing dome material
  • Good frequency response and good sound production range
  • Ferrofluid cooling (if available)
  • Good mounting options

There are more factors we could discuss like off-axis response, but that’s a bit outside the scope of this post and not a real issue for most people.

Tweeter dome materials compared

Here’s a simple comparison table I’ve put together to help you be better prepared when shopping. It’s important to explain that there are always exceptions to the rule, but for probably 95%+ of tweeters it holds true – certain tweeter dome materials correspond to certain quality & sound performance levels.

I’ve installed, tested, tinkered with, and owned many different types of tweeters so I speak from experience.

Tweeter Type Description & Notes
Piezo Very efficient but most often found in low-quality tweeters. Poor sound quality. Loud but harsh sound. Not recommended.
Mylar or PEI dome (plastic) Lower quality and found in coaxial speaker’s tweeters also. Low-cost but low performance also. Not recommended.
Silk dome Generally good performance with low/medium cost. Sound quality greatly depends on the brand & design. In some cases, excellent frequency response in low-cost tweeters. Known for “smooth” sound (not too bright in treble). Generally speaking, good tweeters. Recommended.
Titanium, ceramic, aluminum, and metal-coated domes Known for crisp, clear sound if done properly. Greatly depends on the tweeter’s frequency response. Generally speaking, good tweeters. Some are excellent. Recommended.
Compression horn or super tweeter Less common and more difficult to use. High efficiency, good & loud sound, higher power, but larger magnet is difficult to install. Crossover points are also harder to work with. Not applicable to average systems. Not recommended for most people.

Tweeter installation basics

Crossovers & sound range

Tweeters are sold both as a separate set or, as shown above, as part of a set of component speakers. In either case, passive crossovers (speaker crossovers) are used to prevent low-frequency sounds like bass from reaching them. This prevents terrible distortion from sounds they can’t produce as well as preventing damage to them.

Tweeters are a bit different from full-range models in that they require a passive crossover in order to work properly and prevent damage. Because their speaker domes are so small (1″ or .75″ diameters are fairly common) they can’t handle the cone movement caused by low-frequency sounds. For woofers, that’s not an issue, but tweeters are more delicate in that regard.

Likewise, attempting to play musical notes (especially bass) causing terrible distortion. Hence the need for using speaker crossovers with them.

The great news is that most include speaker crossovers so you won’t have to worry about that.

Typically, tweeters produce sound in the range of somewhere around 3 KHz (Kilohertz) and above. It varies from model to model.

Most car tweeters pairs sold today include “2nd order” crossovers, which means they attenuate (filter out) sounds below the crossover frequency at -12 dB (Decibels) per octave. That’s a reference to how filters work in the audio and speaker world.

This means they’re pretty good at preventing bass from reaching the tweeters. Definitely much better than a simple “1st order” crossover!

How to hook up tweeters – diagram and example systems

Here’s a simple diagram showing some of the most basic systems where tweeters are used and their connections.

How to hook up tweeters diagram

There are a few special notes to be aware of:

  • For factory systems with existing tweeters, often the crossover is on the tweeter itself. In that case, use the crossover included with the set you purchased
  • For factory systems with the crossover built into a factory amplifier, you won’t need your crossover included in the box
  • Tweeters shouldn’t be connected in series with other speakers. Tweeters must be connected in parallel with other speakers

Be sure to use a full-range signal source like the main speaker wires or an amplifier output with full-range or high-pass output.

When adding tweeters alongside existing speakers you can often strip a portion of insulation from the existing wire to the speakers and tap off of them for tweeters. Be sure to use a solder or crimp connector for a reliable, solid connection that will last. Always insulate wiring with a high-quality electrical tape if not using crimp connectors.

Car tweeter shopping: expectations vs reality

Lanzar car tweeters example image

Budget models like No products found. often are sold under several brand names with a different logo or slightly different cosmetic design. This is known as “rebadging.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’ve got to be careful when comparing to other brands & models. Specifications for low-cost products are often vague, outdated, or even change during production! I recommend buying brand name car tweeters instead for that reason. Plus you can get better technology and build quality for only a little bit more money.

Car tweeters, like other mobile sound products, are especially subject to being “rebadged” and sold under many brand names. It’s important to understand this for a number of reasons.

Brand name products like Kicker, MB Quart, Alpine, and more have original tweeter designs in most cases and use unique technology for better performance than their budget competitors.

The great news is generally speaking many brand names actually don’t cost much more money at all! In fact some are only $15-$25 more and up, depending on the model.

Cheaper brands that you’ve never heard of aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just that they’re not quite at the quality level of the big names. Additionally, often their specifications aren’t fully listed or have been known to change during production.

The main reason for this is that most in the lower price range are simply re-branded and are sourced from Chinese manufacturers who are notorious for inconsistent products and quality issues.

That’s not necessarily a reason not to buy cheaper tweeters, but always be on guard and be very careful when buying.

★ 5 of the best affordable car tweeters ★

Our top picks for the money

Image Product Details
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick ★Polk DB1001
  • Excellent, smooth sound production for under $65. Great tweeters!
  • Marine certified 1" liquid cooled silk polymer composite domes
  • 60W RMS power, 92dB sensitivity, protection circuit
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageBudget WinnerCT Sounds Meso
  • Fantastic looking, smooth-sounding silk dome under $40
  • Ferrofluid cooled, 25W/each RMS rated
  • Machined aluminum body, -3dB tweeter switch, 90dB sens., great freq. response
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageKicker 43CST204 Titanium Dome
  • Crisp, loud, detailed music with .75" titanium dome design.
  • Flush, surface, and angle mounting options included
  • 50W RMS rated, 92dB sens., great for amp-driven systems
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageKicker KST2504 KST250
  • Amazing 94dB efficiency for extra volume. Responsive, smooth silk dome sound you'll love
  • 75W RMS power handling
  • Great mounting accessories make installation easier
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageHigh end soundAlpine SPR-10TW
  • Not the cheapest (around $110) but great. Great for high vol., high-end sound
  • 150W RMS power handling, great frequency response: 1K-29KHz
  • Advanced Alpine silk dome design and audiophile quality crossovers
Check on Amazon

Tweeter reviews and details

1. Polk Audio DB1001 1″ silk/polymer tweeters – Excellent sound, great quality, and marine certified for less than $65

Polk Audio DB1001 silk dome tweeters example image

I’ve installed a variety of Polk Audio speakers in customer vehicles over the years and I’ve always been pleased with the results. The DB1001 model tweeters are no different.

At first glance they look like your average cookie-cutter tweeters…but don’t let their modest appearance fool you. They’re above-average performers that hide some cool features you won’t find in the el-cheapo models.

For starters, the magnet is actually not the standard ceramic magnet but the more dense & lighter weight neodymium type. There’s liquid cooling also inside to help dissipate heat and keep your jams going without failing early.

Image of Polk Audio DB1001 with included itemsIncluded are flexible and very handy installation accessories: surface and flush mount adapters. You’ll also get well-made and good-sounding 12dB/octave high-pass crossovers with durable wire for a great installation.

Power handling is a little bit above average at 60W, which is pretty good for its price range.

Sensitivity is one of the best with a 92dB/1W rating. That means you’ll use less power to drive them – and you’ll use up to half the power of lower efficiency tweeters at normal listening levels!

They’re a great match even if you don’t have an amp – they’ll work well with a decent head unit too.

Image of Polk Audio DB1001 tweeters custom installed in car door panel

Get a great looking installation in your ride! The DB1001 tweeters look right at home in both economy and high-end vehicles. Keep it classy and great sounding on a budget. In my opinion, the design is nice and modern while not being tacky unlike some competitors.

The mounting hardware is pretty good in my opinion, with stainless steel hardware and both flush and surface mount swivel cups. Standard -12dB/octave crossovers are included, and while they’re pretty standard, they’re well-made and don’t fall apart like cheaper ones.

What’s unusual is that they’re a great choice for boats, too! They’re marine rated for use in outdoor vehicles and boats of all types. This means if you’re a Jeep owner they’re a great choice for durable, lasting sound with the top off.

And of course the most important part – how’s the sound? The sound is excellent, with a “smooth” response without harsh treble during music playback.

PROS:
  • Good power handling ability (60W RMS)
  • Great efficiency with 92dB/1W
  • 4KHz – 23KHz frequency response
  • The same Polk Audio quality I’ve come to trust
  • Great buyer feedback
  • Excellent, smooth sound
  • Good crossover design
  • Electronic tweeter protection circuit in crossovers
  • Marine rated
  • Good mounting hardware
  • Nice, clear owner’s manual
  • Nice, professional appearance
  • Well-made
  • Good pricing
CONS:
  • Silver trim may not work well for some interiors
  • No tweeter attenuation settings built-in
  • No metal dome version available
  • 4KHz cutoff isn’t suitable for all systems

If you’re looking for great sound that won’t break the bank, I definitely recommend them. Don’t hesitate to head over and check out the great buyer reviews.

2. CT Sounds Meso 1″ aluminum body silk dome tweeters – Great sound, expensive looks yet budget priced!

Front facing image of CT Sound Meso aluminum car tweetersIf you’re on a budget you might be thinking you’ll end up with cheesy, low-end tweeters. However, the good news is that if your sound & power requirements are modest, the CT Sounds Meso series is a great choice.

Why not spend less but still get great sound and looks that stand out, too? CT Sounds is a relatively new brand but has offered some of the best woofers and component speakers around – without the high price tag.

The cool design really stands out – CNC machined aluminum with a matte finish and laser-cut logo. You won’t see that every day, at least not in this price range (under $50).

Featuring a silk dome, neodymium magnet, and ferrofluid cooling, they provide a smooth response from 1.5KHz – 21KHz. Because of this they’re also a great choice for replacing factory premium sound system tweeters.

The efficiency and power handling could be better (25W RMS, 90dB), but for most tweeters, you’ll need to spend more if that’s what you need.

Image of CT Sound Meso aluminum car tweeters and accessoriesIncluded crossovers are small and easy to install, with -12dB/octave filtering at 3.5KHz.

Sadly, there’s no swivel mount available as the tweeters housing are solid metal rather than plastic. One complaint I have is that they’re flush mount only. More mounting options would be great.

PROS:
  • Great looks – machined aluminum & laser-cut logo
  • Good value
  • Ferrofluid cooling
  • Great frequency range (1.5-21KHz)
  • Good speaker crossovers/frequency (3.5KHz)
  • Included wiring is good quality & long; easy to connect
  • Great buyer feedback
CONS:
  • No tweeter reduction setting on crossovers
  • 90dB efficiency is lower than some others
  • Flush mount only
  • Lower power rating (25W RMS)
  • Included instructions are adequate, could be better

They’re an overall great value and I’m impressed with the sound and looks despite their lower power rating. For average systems that want above-average sound, they’re a great option.

Don’t just take my word for it – checkout the fantastic feedback now.

3. Kicker 43CST204 3/4″ Titanium Dome CS series – Metal dome sound and Kicker quality…with a value price

Kicker 43CST20 tweeters image 1What list would be complete without a great option for those who love the fantastic detailed sound of metal domes?

Kicker’s 43CST204 series feature 50W RMS of power handling and a nice 92dB efficiency rating. They’re well made and the installation instructions are clear & well-done.

The .75″ titanium dome provides excellent frequency response and crisp, detailed music reproduction from 4.5KHz to 21KHz. Sensitivity is a very nice 92dB/1W, meaning they’re also a good choice if you don’t have an amp installed yet.

Kicker 43CST20 tweeters image 2

With the Kicker tweeters, you’ll get everything you need for a great installation. Included are mounting adapters, screws, crimp terminals, crossovers, and slide connectors for the tweeters as well.

The mounting depth is a shallow 9/16″. Included are -6dB/octave crossovers and hardware for flush, angle, and surface mounting. However, there aren’t any additional brackets included, so you’ll want to either fabricate some or pick up brackets too.

For your convenience, they’ve also included crimp connectors which is a great touch and helpful for some installation situations.

It’s hard to get good quality titanium dome tweeters on a budget so I recommend you check them out.

PROS:
  • High-performance titanium dome
  • 3 mounting options
  • 92dB sensitivity
  • Nice design & appearance
  • Kicker quality (well-made)
  • Clear instructions & diagrams
  • Good wire length and easy connections
  • Includes crimp connectors
  • Good frequency range (4.5KHz-21KHz)
  • Good price ($50 and less)
CONS:
  • Crossovers are -6dB, not -12dB like others
  • No mesh metal grill over tweeter domes
  • No additional brackets included

I’m a bit picky so I’m not personally happy about the -6dB slope of the crossovers, but in practical use, it’s not a real issue. It’s just not a great match for a fancier, more demanding system. Also, there’s no metal mesh grill over the tweeter domes themselves.

However, they’re excellent tweeters with great sound and provide good value with better quality than many others.

If you’re up for higher-end sound without the higher price, head over to read the great reviews and check the sale price at Amazon.

4. Kicker KST2504 silk dome 1″ – Great efficiency, excellent sound, high quality, and famous Kicker performance

Kicker KST2504 silk dome tweeters example imageLooking for higher power handling and excellent sound, with above-average performance? What about spending less than $100 for some of the best? Then the Kicker’s KST2504 1″ tweeters can deliver that and more.

Why get cheaper, harsh-sounding tweeters that can’t handle the same power and will surely let you down later? These silk dome tweeters feature 75W of power handling ability and a whopping 94dB of efficiency at 1W.

That’s excellent for this size range. That means even if you are don’t have an amp you can expect great volume at lower power.

Kicker KST2504 mounting hardware image

Kicker’s KST2504 tweeters include more installation hardware than I normally see. It’s a nice touch and a big advantage for custom installations. Every little bit helps!

Like other models in this quality level, they feature neodymium magnets for better performance with less mass & size, along with only 9/16″ of top mounting depth. They’re quite small but pack a lot of performance in a small package.

The included hardware opens more installation possibilities, whether it’s flush, surface, or angle-mounting.

The -12dB/octave crossovers are small so they’ll fit into even tighter installations. They’re simple but well-made, and the included wiring is solid and features good construction. I’m pretty pleased with those, although the lack of tweeter level settings is a feature I think definitely is needed with these.

The sound is excellent, with great musical reproduction and no ringing or overly accentuated frequencies like budget models. Highs sound crisp and really bring out the music you love. What I enjoyed the most about them was their pleasing sound and how little equalization I needed to get them to sound just right for my taste.

I’m sure you’ll love them, too. They’re good-lookin and are all-around great performers that sound excellent.

PROS:
  • Good power handling (75W)
  • Great sound and clarity
  • More installation hardware
  • Good instructions
  • Style compliments most interiors / systems
  • Good frequency range: 3.5KHz – 21KHz
  • Higher sensitivity (94dB) than most
  • Top-mount depth is only 9/16″
  • Connecting wire is sturdy & reliable
CONS:
  • No tweeter level feature on crossovers
  • No swivel feature for mounting cups
  • Logo isn’t removable from grills

When you’re ready for a smooth sound that wastes less power but can deliver more sound at higher power, the KST2504 set is a wise choice.

Find out why they’re so great. Head over now to read more about them at Amazon.

5. Alpine SPR-10TW 1″ silk ring dome tweeters – Excellent power handling, next-level sound, and superb design

Alpine SPR-10TW tweeters image 1Alpine, an industry leader in the car audio world for several decades, has done it again. When you’re looking for the best sound in your ride, it’s time to explore more advanced designs and a company with the resources to bring new technology to the world of mobile sound.

The SPR-10TW tweeters do exactly that!

Featuring a unique silk dome but with an advanced ring design, these use an “EQ Ring” to improve the tweeter’s off-axis response. What does that mean to you? It means even if they’re not pointed directly at you, unlike lower-tier models you’ll still get excellent sound without a big drop in volume.

Featuring a copper-clad aluminum voice coil, copper shorting cap (to reduce distortion and other sound-affecting factors), a high-grade neodymium magnet, and an aluminum bobbin for the voice coil, they can handle an amazing 150W RMS of power!

Alpine SPR-10TW tweeters image 2

What’s really cool in my opinion is that sliding back their covers reveals handy tweeter adjustments: 0, -2, -4, and -6dB of tweeter attenuation for a big advantage in matching speaker levels when building your system.

And the sound? Excellent. A 1″ silk ring design produces a sound that’s best described as smooth and really accurate, even at higher power levels, which is unusual for smaller tweeters. For those of you who have more advanced criteria, you’ll be happy to know that the built-in resonance absorber keeps coloration and ringing to a minimum.

In my opinion, they’re amazing tweeters and well very well-built. Having the logo right in the center of the grill was a little bit of a turn off for me. However, after reading the owner’s manual I found out I could just remove it – it’s entirely optional.

By the way, the frequency response of these is superior also, with 1KHz-29KHz ability. Wow!

PROS:
  • Excellent power handling (150W RMS)
  • Superior frequency response (1KHz – 29KHz)
  • Crossovers are smaller than most
  • Crossover is well-built and components are higher quality than competitors
  • Nice, professional appearance
  • Ring design provides far better off-axis (non-direct) volume than most
  • Great sound reproduction
  • Better quality wiring
  • Great construction and quality throughout
  • Tweeter settings built-in
  • Very good tweeter attenuation settings: 0,-2, -4, and -6dB
  • EQ Ring and resonance absorber reduce sound coloration
  • Nice slide cover on crossovers
  • Logo is removable is not desired
  • Flush, top, and bottom-mount hardware included – includes wire ties also!
  • Cutout templates included
  • Owner’s manual has excellent illustrations for installation/assembly
CONS:
  • Sensitivity at 1W is lower than others (88dB)
  • Lower sensitivity means not a good match for low-power source (Ex: car stereo w/out amp)
  • More expensive than other with metal domes
  • 1 year warranty only
  • Installation hardware works well, but not as simple as others

When you’re ready for taking your sound to the next level, these are definitely an excellent choice.

Hunting down the best price can be a bit of a pain. However, I’ve found much better pricing for the SPR-10TW set over at Amazon.

Additional info

Thinking about installing an amp and subwoofer in your ride? Check out my great guide on how to install an amp and subwoofer.

You can also drive your new speakers with fantastic sound. Check out my buyer’s guide with some of the best 4-channel amplifiers around.

Got questions or comments? Feel free to post a comment here or reach out to me!

3 Of The Best Touchscreen Radios For Your Money

Best touchscreen radios featured image

Looking for a great new stereo for your ride? Picking the right can be a pain – especially with so many to pick from and the many features available.

Rather than give you some long, lengthy list of many models I’ve briefly reviewed 3 of the best touchscreen radios for your money. I’ll also share with you some important things to know before buying a touchscreen double DIN radio.

Contents

Touchscreen double DIN radio basic buying guide

Image with caption be prepared avoid problems
Before you run out and get a touchscreen radio, I’d strongly you advise you to read more. Double DIN stereos often have more details to consider than standard single-DIN stereos do.

Be prepared before begin and I want to you be aware of some of the obstacles you might not know about. You’ll have a much better chance of avoiding problems and making mistakes if you’re well educated.

Installation – important things to know

Installation example for hard double DIN install
Think it’s going to be easy to buy and install a double DIN stereo? NEVER assume that! If you’re lucky, all you’ll need is a custom kit or the original stereo’s brackets. In more difficult installations, however, you’ll have to fabricate your own brackets as you see here.

Double DIN stereos are a standardized (more or less) size of car radio which are sometimes more difficult to install. Especially those with extra features like an optional backup camera, GPS antenna, and so on.

If you’re a do-it-yourself (DIY) kind of person, it’s possible you can do it alone, but it’s important to anticipate the difficulties involved in installing a double-DIN (also called “2DIN”) sized touchscreen stereo in a vehicle.

It’s incredibly important to do as much research as possible beforehand – be prepared! You’ll need to find out if a kit is available for your vehicle to make it a simple job.

Otherwise, there’s a good chance it’s going to be tough and you’ll have to fabricate your own brackets. In that case, I recommend metal stereo installation straps like these:

Car stereo mounting straps 5 pack blackYou can find some excellent ones that I use here.

With these installation straps and some metric or machine screws, it’s possible to bend them into custom brackets and overcome some of the hardest installation obstacles for a touchscreen radio.

Double DIN trim rings

Sometimes, unfortunately, installing an aftermarket touchscreen stereo leaves a visible gap around the stereo itself. It looks bad and it’s frustrating to end up with that in my opinion.

Custom installation double DIN trim ringsDouble DIN trim rings can be very helpful for covering or filling in gaps left after removing a factory stereo and installing a new stereo. They’re normally around $10 or so, depending upon where you find them. Here's a great example of some readily available.

In that case, you can also purchase custom installation trim rings to help. Whether with a hot glue gun or some other type of adhesive fastener, it’s possible to cut them and attach them, covering the gap nicely.

Using original mounting brackets

Double DIN stereo with factory brackets
Installing a new stereo using original factory-installed brackets. Note: often not all of the screw holes will line up on your new stereo or the depth (for the front of the radio to the vehicle’s trim) isn’t correct. Never just assume you’ll be able to use them. Some may require using only a few of the screw holes or brackets that may need modification.

Some imported vehicles (especially Japanese) have factory metal brackets that can be removed from the original stereo. It’s possible, in some cases, to attach them to the new stereo. However, it’s rare that they align perfectly during installation.

For that reason, it’s still a good idea to check for the availability of an aftermarket installation kit.

While the cost is often a bit high, the amount of stress and time you’ll save justifies it in many cases.

Installation kits and mounting sleeves

Example double DIN installation kit Pioneer AVH-290BT

Example aftermarket double DIN installation kitTop: a Pioneer add-on installation kit available for some models of their touchscreen radios. Included is a mounting sleeve in case you have a sufficient opening to mount it. Bottom: an aftermarket installation kit designed to fit a factory opening well.

If luck is on your side you’ll be able to use an aftermarket installation kit to do the job. Most 2 DIN touchscreen radios don’t provide or aren’t designed to use installation sleeves but some Pioneer models do.

In some cases those are sold separately but if you can use them they’re an easier way to accomplish the job.

Consider paying an installer!

If you don’t feel prepared for having to do a lot of work to install a large touchscreen stereo, I highly recommend using a professional installer.

Trust me when I say, speaking from considerable experience, that it can be a very tough job sometimes. Unless you’re fairly confident you’ve read enough to know it’s not so bad, considering paying a reputable shop to do it for you.

This is especially true if your vehicle has a factory-installed premium sound system as those can be difficult to integrate with an aftermarket stereo.

Touchscreen types

Image of an example touchscreen car radio
The display panels used by touchscreen radios today are more and more using capacitive technology, although some are a number still use resistive touchscreens.

Resistive touchscreens

Resistive touchscreens are the original touch-sensing technology in which a 2nd layer of material transparent plastic is placed over the LCD display. When touched, a resistance reading is measured and the radio detects the position of your fingers.

The drawback is that they’re not as responsive as capacitive designs, and sometimes they’re slightly less clear too (due to having a 2nd material covering the display). They’re less expensive, however.

Capacitive touchscreens

Capacitive touchscreens are the type used by cell phones and tablets today. They work by sensing a changing amount of capacitance which is detected by integrated circuits and interpreted as a location on the screen.

You can expect to find these in the better quality radios as they’re generally more expensive than resistive types. They’re also more responsive than their cheaper counterparts.

Another benefit is that displays using them are more clear – even beautiful and crisp!

Features & connectivity

Apple CarPlay example image

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Some models allow integration with your phone in such a way that you can get some of the same functionality your phone provides on the stereo. Using voice commands, receiving and making calls, text message notifications, and audio app controls are a few examples.

Models that support Apple CarPlay will allow iPhone 5 and later uses to take advantage of these features and use Siri voice commands to control it. Android Auto is similar and Google Voice controls work similarly for Android phone users.

Bluetooth and Pandora control

Pioneer touchscreen with Pandora Bluetooth front image
By now I’m sure you’re familiar with Bluetooth for using a wireless connection for music playback. However, additionally, some models offer direct control of the Pandora app on your phone via the Bluetooth connection.

In this case, you’re able to control your phone’s music selection directly on the touchscreen rather than having to pick up your phone. It’s a convenient feature if you’re a Pandora music fan.

Quality sound

For getting the best sound, ideally buy a good quality brand as they tend to be better designed in terms of sound quality.

Lower-end touchscreen stereos often have a poor signal-to-noise ratio and lower signal level out RCA outputs. This is especially important if you’re building a system with amplifiers and better speakers.

Parking brake override

What you might not be aware of is that in-dash car stereos that are capable of video playback have preventative features. For example, many require the parking brake signal to be wired to an input on the radio’s wiring harness.

In this case it means typically you’ll have to activate the parking brake in a pattern before the stereo will allow videos to work.

This is a built-in safety feature and protects the manufacturer from liability due to drivers being distracted while driving. But what if you want to bypass this?

Pioneer AVH series radio parking brake bypass

In this case you’ll need a video bypass module like this one for Pioneer touchscreen radios. A bypass module will fool the radio into thinking the vehicle is stopped and you’ve carried out the safety override.

That way you can bypass safety warning screens as well as play videos as you like.

Why buying a quality radio is important

Image with representation of quality
One major issue with buying cheaper touchscreen stereos is their higher rate of defects, poor reliability, and even software problems.

Lower-end brands are often generic and sell an identical or similarly styled product under different brand names called “rebadging”. Cheaper brands don’t have the same investment in quality control and check software bugs as more reputable brands do.

I’ve noticed over the years how cheaper touchscreen radios may seem appealing at first, but they have fairly high defect and malfunction rates. It’s reflected in the buyer reviews you’ll see when shopping. Sometimes their software is buggy and also slow.

Those are the kinds of unexpected problems you won’t know about until it’s too late, and you realize you’ve made an expensive mistake!

Better brands rarely have these same issues. Because of this I strongly advise you to stay away from the cheapest models.

Considering how much you can get for just a little above $200 these days, there’s really no reason to make that mistake.

★ The best touchscreen radios for your money ★

Image Product Details
sample-table__imageOur #1 choice!Alpine iLX-207 Mech-Less Receiver
  • Fantastic sound and picture quality. Alpine advanced tech in your dash!
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Bluetooth controls. Built-in HD tuner
  • High-res. display, integrated maps/calls/apps. Great for Pandora and streaming
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageSony XAV-AX100 Apple Car Play/Android Auto
  • Excellent, icon-based display w/ maps and text message use. Enhanced 4 x 55W internal amp design
  • Fantastic audio digital processing, easy-to-use rotary control
  • Voice control w/ Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Check on Amazon
sample-table__image★ Under $250 ★Pioneer AVH-X390BS Double Din Bluetooth
  • Advanced audio controls and great visuals. A value winner!
  • 14W x RMS powerful internal amp, speaker time alignment, RCA outputs
  • Pandora/Spotify app control, system expansion options, subwoofer outputs
Check on Amazon

1. Alpine iLX-207 7″ digital media receiver – One of the most advanced touchscreen radios sold today!

Alpine iLX-207 angle view
The iLX-207 is a digital media receiver (no DVD player) with a unique design. There’s a sharp-looking double DIN 7″ capacitive display on the front and a single DIN chassis on the rear. That gives a big advantage with more installation possibilities where space is a concern.

Of course, Bluetooth is built-in, but unlike many other products, there’s an HD radio tuner built-in as well for great radio clarity.

Looking for flash drive convenience? You’re covered there, too! A USB cable makes playing music files from your flash drive a snap.

Alpine iLX-207 showing engine data

What’s even more awesome is the engine data display capability. By adding the compatible Maestro iDataLink module, your vehicle’s operating data like RPM, speed, fuel, and more and be shown right on the screen. It also allows you to keep factory features like steering wheel controls and more.

It’s designed to work with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless voice operation if you’re a fan of those platforms. You can also view and access text messages via the front panel.

One of the coolest features is the HDMI input which allows you to display your tablet or computer’s video output on screen! Control panel buttons on the screen’s bottom can be changed, too.

Alpine iLX-207 rear and side views
18W RMS x 4 internal power is provided for driving speakers directly. However, for the best sound quality possible, use the 4V RCA outputs with provide front, read, and subwoofer outputs.

GPS navigation is provided, as well, using the magnetic GPS antenna provided. Take and make calls via the Bluetooth connection, as a microphone is included as well. Want to add a backup camera? No problem – there’s an input for that as well.

One amazing feature is the ability to control external outputs like relays to activate a winch, lights, and much more (you’ll need the KAC-001 External Accessory Controller, sold separately).

PROS:
  • Built-in HD radio
  • Text message access
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support
  • Bluetooth connectivity for audio and hands-free calling
  • Beautiful 7″ capacitive touchscreen display
  • Maestro iDataLink compatible for engine display/factory features
  • Supports satellite radio (add-on available)
  • USB flash drive support – 5′ cable
  • 6 channel RCA outputs: front/rear/sub
  • 18W RMS x 4 internal amplifier
  • HDMI input
  • Compatible with most steering wheel adapters
  • Hands-free mic included
  • GPS ability / antenna included
  • MediaXpander sound enhancement feature
  • CEA-2006 compliant
  • Includes trim ring for installation
  • Single-DIN chassis makes installation easier
  • Control up to 8 external motorized accessories w/ the KAC-001 add-on
  • Great sound quality
  • Supports FLAC/MP3/WMA/AAC/HE-AAC music playback via USB
CONS:
  • No SD card slot
  • Higher cost than competing touchscreen radios
  • No DVD player
  • Interface is well-organized but not all may like it
  • No front USB drive port
  • USB cable/jack must be routed & located where accessible
  • CarPlay reported to be slightly laggy at times
  • Requires using E-brake signal to enter settings
  • No rotary volume control

Without a doubt, this is one of the most advanced touchscreen radios sold today. It’s a great choice for anyone who uses digital media on a USB drive or via Bluetooth apps like Pandora.

Head over No products found.

2. Sony XAV-AX100 6.4″ CarPlay/Android Auto media receiver – Great sound and interface…you’ll love it!

Sony XAV-AX100 front view 1

The Sony XAV-AX100 brings you into advanced audio and features with a great interface and clean, sleek design. Its design makes Android or Apple smartphone control intuitive and user-friendly. Unlike many others today, it features a rotary volume control so there’s no fumbling with buttons or screen controls.

As it supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the hands-free operation is easy.

Sony AVX-X100 Bluetooth call interfaceSony makes taking calls and viewing text messages super easy! The display is excellent and very straightforward.

Bluetooth support allows you to use your favorite apps for streaming music or hands-free calling using the included mic. Pandora control also means you don’t have to touch your phone to channel music sources or tracks.

Don’t worry, though – with all these great features you’re not giving up great sound quality! The XAV-AX100 also includes high and low-pass filters as well as a powerful 10-band equalizer to tailor the sound to your system.

Sony XAV-AX100 rear and side viewsThe unique design uses a full double DIN front section with a smaller single DIN section on the rear, making installation easier. Got limited space? You won’t have to stress over hiding cables like with larger units.

Running external amplifiers? 5 RCA outputs are provided for front, rear, and subwoofer use. You’ve also got 20W RMS x 4 channels of power to drive speakers with. Using the high or low pass filters you can get excellent, low-distortion sound and great clarity.

Need extra punch on demand? Hit the button to engage the ExtraBass for advanced sound boosting with low distortion.

Music fans with a USB flash drive can use the convenient USB jack (cable included) to play files directly from a USB stick.

Need a rear camera input? This model has you covered there as well, as there’s a camera input provided. A handy remote control is included too.

Sony AVX-X100 remote
For those who love streaming music and digital music files on the go, it’s a fantastic choice. (Note: there’s also a version with a DVD player too).

PROS:
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support
  • Hands-free Bluetooth calling (includes mic)
  • AM/FM tuner w/ RDS display data support
  • USB flash drive port
  • Powerful 10-band audio equalizer
  • Adjustable high and low-pass filters built in (5 settings)
  • Separate subwoofer level
  • Subwoofer phase control
  • Rear camera input
  • Beep tone (can be turned off)
  • Bass boost feature
  • 6.4″ capacitive display
  • Great user interface and big, clear graphics
  • Built in amp is 20W RMS x 4
  • Separate front/rear/subwoofer RCA outputs
  • Rear chassis is smaller for more installation ease
  • Rotary volume control makes changing volume easy
  • Clean, simple design
  • Works with steering wheel controls (adapter needed)
  • Includes remote control
CONS:
  • No built-in GPS or antenna (uses smart phone GPS app)
  • No custom-color button backlighting options
  • Single mono (rather than dual) subwoofer output jack
  • Not ideal for using without AirPlay or Android Auto
  • Faceplate is not anti-theft
  • No front USB drive port
  • USB cable/jack must be routed & located where accessible
  • 2V RCA output level (vs. 4V like Alpine)
  • No HD radio tuner
  • Safety prompt at start-up you must click to override

If you’re planning to take advantage of AirPlay or Android Auto’s ease of use, it’s a fantastic choice. The sound controls are great, sound quality is excellent, and the user interface is clean and easy to deal with.

Don’t hesitate to head over and see the excellent buyer reviews and find out more.

3. Pioneer AVH-X390BS DVD receiver – Affordable quality that’s expandable. Great sound and sharp display!

Pioneer AVH-X390BS front imageLooking for a touchscreen radio that’s high on value but not short on performance? The AVH-X390BS may just be exactly what you need. The 6.2″ WVGA (800 x 480) display is sharp and clear – it looks great!

This model features AppRadio One which gives you the ability to control compatible iPhone and Android smart phone apps to have easy access to your media files right from the touchscreen. You’ll need the CD-IU52 cable for iPhones and CD-MU200 USB cable for Android phones.

Hands-free calling via Bluetooth is a snap and so is streaming the music you love! You can display the artist, album, and even use voice recognition over Bluetooth. Making phone calls often? thanks to the Wideband Speech Handsfree Profile 1.6 the signal is similar to FM reception clarity.

You can even connect 2 devices at the same time via Bluetooth!

Both Pandora and Spotify uses are in for a treat – control your favorite app’s music playback right from the screen. Pandora users can even perform “thumbs up” and “thumbs down”, too. Pandora users get the added bonus of being able to create new stations while using the app.

Pioneer AVH-X390BS equalizer

Want good sound control? You’re in luck. The 13-band equalizer gives you far more control than a lot of the competition. Built-in high and low-pass crossover filters let you build a system with more clarity and lower distortion that you can drive even harder.

And independent subwoofer control lets you get bigger bass without being limited by the front or rear output levels. For even more advanced features, you can add the CCD-MC20 for time alignment control and Auto-EQ. It’s truly an advanced head unit for the money.

Pioneer AVH-X390BS rear viewSeparate front, rear, and subwoofer outputs provide a great 4V of clean audio signal for building a system.

Pioneer AVH-X390BS remote

The AVH-X390BS includes a remote, although I think it’s a bit redundant to use it considering how easy the touchscreen is. Still, it’s a nice option to have included for the price.

Play back most major file formats whenever you like. The USB interface supports FLAC lossless audio files and even AVI/DivX/MPG4 video files, too.

The list of features goes on and on…but some of the best are:

  • Backup camera input
  • Composite video output
  • USB direct control for iPhone or iPod
  • AUX inputs (rear)
  • Customizable display and key colors
  • Choose from 13 backgrounds to customize your display
PROS:
  • Clear, sharp display with large & clear icons
  • Includes remote control
  • 13-band graphic equalizer
  • Add-on module can provide time alignment and Auto-EQ
  • Customizable key colors and screen backgrounds
  • Pandora and Spotify direct controls
  • iPhone and Android direct controls
  • Supports GPS navigation via AVIC-U280 module
  • High & low-pass filters
  • Separate front/rear/subwoofer 4V RCA outputs
  • USB port for flash drive music & movies
  • DVD player
  • Bluetooth support with higher call audio quality
  • Bluetooth music streaming & touchscreen control of phone
  • Less expensive (typically about $250 or less)
  • Works with factory controls with add-on adapter
CONS:
  • No built-in GPS support
  • No HD tuner (available in AVH-X391BS version)
  • No Apple AirPlay or Android Auto support
  • No Maestro iDataLink support for engine data display
  • Volume controls are push button (no rotary control)
  • Rear chassis is not as compact as some competing models

For the price, the AVH-X390BS is truly a great sounding and feature-packed touchscreen radio you’ll love. If you need one that’s affordable, you don’t need AirPlay or Android Auto support, it’s a fantastic choice.

I really love the customization features, 13-band equalizer, and the add-on module for time alignment and auto-EQ.

It’s a definite winner, but don’t pay too much! I’ve found some excellent reviews and one of the lowest prices over here at Amazon.

Note: Need a unit with HD radio support? Check out the AVH-X391BS, its sibling with a HD tuner built-in.

Honorable mention – Pioneer AVH-290BT

Pioneer AVH-290BT front image

Although it’s a slightly older model, another excellent choice is the Pioneer AVH-290BT. It’s a Bluetooth DVD multi-media touchscreen receiver with a lot of great features for the price.

So much so that I wrote a long review here about it here.

It’s not just my opinion that matters – check out the may great buyer reviews and the price over at Amazon.

All things considered though, if you’re an audio fanatic the many features and expandability of the AVX-X390BS are just to hard to pass up in my opinion.

In summary

When you’re looking for the best touchscreen radio for your money, remember my basic advice:

  • Avoid unknown brands and don’t shop purely by price – by a well-known brand when possible
  • Be sure to check smartphone compatibility beforehand
  • If you don’t already, consider using the Pandora or Spotify apps for streaming – touchscreen control is so much better!
  • I highly recommend getting a model with good audio controls and subwoofer output
  • Apple AirPlay and Android Auto support make using them even more safe and much easier – they support voice control
  • Don’t forget to check your installation needs beforehand – double Din touchscreen radios often are more difficult to install and require custom work. Consider using a professional installer.

Considering adding a subwoofer? Here’s some great additional reading:

Be sure to contact me via the comments section or the contact page if I can help.

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.