Best Amplifiers for Your Car or Truck in 2023
In this article: We'll review our best pick aftermarket car amplifiers broken down by the most common amp categories like built-in DSP, compact design, monoblock and more. We'll give you tons of insight into what makes them an ideal pick for the category and our own thoughts based on our experts' experience.
An amplifier is the heart of your car's stereo. It's what pumps power to the various speaker and subwoofer components of the system. Whether you are looking to power a couple pairs of our recommended car speakers, or a monster car subwoofer; an amplifier is an absolutely necessary component to a great stereo. And one of our best picks will provide your system with the power it needs to sound great.
Many people might think their car's factory stereo has enough power for their speakers, or that their new aftermarket stereo that outputs 50 watts per channel (peak) is enough for a great sounding system. The reality is that whether it's an OEM system or an aftermarket one, more often than not people tend to have an underpowered system. And an underpowered system can lead to poor sound or even a blown speaker.
Powering your speakers (aftermarket or not) with the proper amount of power can mean a WORLD of difference in overall performance, clarity and volume. You might have a speaker or subwoofer with the best specs and ratings, but without sufficient power it means nothing. So don't let power be the bottleneck of your system. Get an amp that provides your speakers with the power they need to produce the crisp and clear music you love. Whether you're using high performance component speakers, subwoofers or OEM equipment, a top rated amplifier is a true necessity to a quality car stereo system.
We've grouped our amplifier list into a couple categories based on what people have asked for most. If you're looking for something specific or a category that's not on our list, shoot us a comment at the bottom of the page!
Here Are Our Best Car Subwoofers of 2023
- Best All Around Car Amplifier: JL Audio VXi Series
- Best Amplifier With Built-In DSP: AudioControl D-Series
- Best High Resolution Car Amp: Sony Mobile ES
- Best Compact & Slim Amplifier: Kicker PXA Series
- Best Subwoofer Amplifier: Hifonics ZRX (Zeus)
- Best Factory/OEM Amplifier Upgrade Kit: Kenwood XR600 + iDataLink Maestro AR
Best All Around Car Amplifier
This category is easily contested, and probably more subjective than some of the other categories on our list. That said, we tried to consolidate all aspects of an amplifier, from power output, material quality, build quality and technology to innovation, size and price point. This might be the most frequently changing category on our list but it's also an attempt to be the most comprehensive choice. With that said, this category stands as our best overall choice for an amplifier today.
JL Audio VXi Series
JL Audio VXi Series Amplifiers Review
It's not a secret that JL Audio is among the top-leaders in innovative audio tech. And we don't just throw JL Audio products on our lists because they're from one of the most reputable name brands in the space. The VXi-Series amplifier is another game changer to us. They're among the newest feathers in JL Audio's cap and feature some of the coolest and most revolutionary controls in the automotive vertical, which is what really stood out to us. It's features like JL Audio's NexD2 switching capabilities, which provide incredibly realistic fidelity for the most discerning listener, that really set these things apart.
Now, we also have a dedicated section for DSP amps, but the VXi series were built with Digital Signal Processor and digital tuning capabilities that are incredibly powerful when combined with JL's TüN software. The platform was basically built around the DSP functionality. JL integrated a 10-band equalizer, timing alignment, crossover controls, gain control and more directly into the amplifier software – so no more dials or knobs. And what's even more impressive is the fact that you can control all of these settings via JL Audio's TüN™ software not just from your computer, but directly from your phone as well. This software in its own right is a beast, and brings an enormous amount of tuning capability directly to your phone or computer without the need to purchase additional DSP or EQ components. All much too many features. If you're interested in reading more information about the VXi amplifiers, check out our VXi amplifier overview.
- NexD2 CLass-D amplifier
- Onboard DSP
- Advanced Rollback Protection to prevent overheating
- JL Audio TüN™ compatibility for wireless tuning on your smartphone or tablet
Best Amplifier With Built-In DSP
AudioControl D-Series Amplifier Review
Although JL Audio's VXi amplifiers double as a DSP as well, AudioControl's D-series amplifiers offer a versatile solution for those looking to improve the sound quality of their factory car audio system. With the option to choose from four, five, or six channels, these amplifiers provide a range of options to suit different audio setups too.
One of the key features of the D-series amplifiers, and why we chose this for the category though, is their built-in DSP (digital signal processor). AudioControl's DSP feature allows users to make precise adjustments to the amplifier's sound quality via a laptop connection, including control of a 30-band equalizer, parametric filters, and time delay/alignment for both inputs and outputs. The DSP also includes features like phase correction to help ensure that the amplified signal is clean and distortion-free.
One of the biggest reasons why the VXi didn't double as a great option for this category though is because of the ease of use and installation. The D-series amplifiers feature both active speaker level inputs and line-level inputs in a more traditional, easy to use platform (instead of special, probably patented JL plugs) making it easy to connect both factory and aftermarket speaker inputs. And although the TüN™ software is incredibly powerful and comprehensive, it's also very complex. We'd argue that it's definitely more geared towards professionals than average installers and users than AudioControl's DSP software, which admittedly is a little clunky but far easier to make the core changes/tuning tweaks for the average system.
Overall, we think the D-series amplifiers are an excellent choice for those looking for built-in DSP functionality and, in general, looking to upgrade a factory car audio system. Their ability to combine multiple signals into a single and easy-to-control DSP makes them particularly well-suited for this purpose. With their easy-to-use software, powering tweeters, midrange speakers, and a subwoofer simultaneously was never easier. These amplifiers offer a comprehensive audio enhancement solution.
- D-Series amplifier
- Works with factory and aftermarket systems
- DSP with Smart-User DSP software package
- AccuBass™ bass correction
- Great Turn On (GTO™) signal-sensing circuitry
- On-board LED lights
- Available in 4, 5, 6 channel models
Best High Resolution Car Amplifier
High-resolution audio is either just trendy right now or being more heavily emphasized in today's car audio world because cars are more insulated and quieter (e.g. electric). Road noise was always the killer of a high-resolution audio. Nonetheless, its valuable – high-resolution audio files are truly the pinnacle of audio quality because they include the incredible details that your standard Spotify, Apple Music or other streaming music sources compress and remove in order to save space.
So in light of the growing trend to incorporate high-resolution audio in your vehicle, here is our top pick for the category. But bear in mind – if you're driving around in a loud, 2000 Toyota 4Runner with all-terrain tires, high-resolution won't do much good for you unless you're sitting in the parking lot!
Sony Mobile ES Series
Sony Mobile ES Amplifier Video Review
Join us for an exclusive unbox and first look at two of Sony's Mobile ES amplifiers in our latest video. We'll walk through the key features that make these amplifiers a great choice.
Sony Mobile ES Amplifiers Review
Sony has been adding new products to their flagship Mobile ES lineup since they launched them in early 2021. What started with an unveil of four different sized car speakers and a 10” subwoofer, has now turned into a much more comprehensive lineup of stereo products including three amplifiers – a monoblock, 4-channel and 5-channel.
The Mobile ES line is their highest-end automotive products on the market today, and these new amplifiers showcase their dedication to sound control, quality, and of course sound performance. We unboxed and reviewed a few of these Sony amplifiers, and were very impressed with their power handling, input/output configurations, control panel with granular control over frequency ranges/outputs and of course their stylish design. These are Class D amplifiers, and although they don’t come with a built-in DSP with tuning software, Sony made a noticeable effort to provide as much configuration and tuning control onto the amplifier that they could. Their line-output modes with signal summing, high-level or low-level signal input selection, input mode configuration and range control are among some of the great features that clearly indicate an amp that’s designed for competitive or high-performance applications.
Check out our in-depth review of the Mobile ES amplifiers for more information about each feature.
Best Compact & Slim Car Amplifier
Space is an obvious limitation for components like subs, it's why we have a dedicated category for the best shallow subwoofers. But the same space limitations in a coupe or single cab truck also extend to the amplifiers that power those subs (and speakers). So finding a compact amplifier with respectable power outputs and a unique ability to disperse heat in tight areas is very relevant to a large number of people with certain types of cars and use cases. This category is our recommendation for a uniquely compact and efficient amplifier that'll fit under or behind a seat.
Kicker PXA Series
Kicker PXA Series Amplifiers Review
The Kicker PXA series amplifiers are some of the most compact designs we have seen yet. Even better than the tiny footprint though is the durability that is built into these impressive amplifiers – they’re certified for use in marine and offroad environments and carry an IP66/67 rating that will keep this amp running in damp, dusty conditions far longer than a typical car amplifier. We highly recommend this amp for your next car or UTV system build for its durability and compact size.
Kicker PXA amps are available in monoblock and multi-channel designs with power ratings from 100 watts x 4 up to 600 watts x 1. The PXA series also includes one of our favorite multi-function amps, the ultra-compact 48PXA1000.5 that provides 400 watts on four channels and a dedicated 600 watts for your subwoofer.
The amplifiers are Class-D with a compact case. The tuning controls include a high-pass filter for the front channels and a low-pass filter for the subwoofer channels and a selectable KickEQ Bass Boost that adds an extra six decibels. The tuning controls are concealed beneath a removable bottom plate on the amp to ensure weather tightness. An optional remote bass knob can give you control over the bass without having to uninstall the amplifier.
- Mono- and multi-channel models
- 100W x 4 to 600W x 1, 1,000W x 5
- Class D amplifier
- Selectable high- and low-pass filters
- IP66/67 rating
- Sealed tuning controls
- Preamp and speaker-level inputs
- Works with optional Remote Bass Knob
Best Subwoofer Amplifier
>>> Check out our full list of subwoofer amplifiers <<<
Now for the power-hungry use case – subwoofer (or monoblock) amplifiers. These are unique and differ from many of the other amplifier categories in that their sole purpose is to supply incredibly power hungry subwoofers with enough watts to go boom. When we choose this category, we de-prioritize features like compact size, DSP functionality and favor simplicity and raw power/stats. So this category represents our recommendation for this one use-case: heavy bass. If you're looking to power a subwoofer with a more traditional monoblock to power, let's say a single 12″ sub, we recommend taking a look at the monoblocks in some of the other amplifier categories on this list.
Hifonics ZRX (Zeus)
Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Series Amplifiers Review
Hifonics builds really nice looking amps that seriously crush the bass. The Zeus ZXX-series meet the demands of today’s head units. This series includes multi-channel and monoblock amps, giving a variety of configurations the power it will need. For example, the ZXX 5000.5 is a beast of an amp, but it can power your entire system. The amp has four channels of full range powered by an A/B-Class circuitry for high-quality playback and a Class-D circuit dedicated for an amplifier.
There are nine models under the Zeus ZRX series. They are:
- Two-channel A/B ZRX516.2, 500 watts
- Four-channel A/B ZRX616.4, 600 watts
- Four-channel A/B ZRX1016.4, 1000 watts
- D Class subwoofer amplifier ZRX 1216.1D, 1200 watts
- Subwoofer amplifier D Class ZRX1816.1D, 1800 watts
- Four-channel A/B ZRX2016.4, 2000 watts
- Class D subwoofer amplifier ZRX2416.1D, 2400 watts
- Class D subwoofer amplifier ZRX3216.1D, 3200 watts
There are clear reasons why the Zeus series is the top rated car amps. Aside from offering the good range of options in wattage and class, these amplifiers have the Hifonics heatsink for efficient ventilation that helps prevent overheating while under extreme load. They also use military grade Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) that can perform under the most rigid and extreme conditions attesting to the brand’s guarantee of reliability and long hours of playtime.
Other key features::
- Simpatico Coil Design
- PWM MOSFET power supply
- Low RCA input and outputs levels
- DC, overload, thermal, and short circuit protection
- Hifonics Surface Mount Design (HSMD)
With all these features, the bottom line question remains: how does it improve the audio? Well, you can expect nothing but quality, high volume output from these amps. Plus, it stays cool to the touch and does not feel like it’s being stressed, even when it’s under the heaviest of loads. This is a keeper and hands down, among the best car amps on the market today.
- Good bass output
- Price tag is relatively great
- Versatility – can work in most rigid and extreme conditions
- Great sound quality
- Wide range of models to choose from
- Durable and able to handle stress well
- Not too much to note!
Best Factory/OEM Upgrade Amplifier Kit
Many modern cars have factory-installed amplifiers to help produce great sounding tunes. Unfortunately, many of these amps are wimpy and leave you wishing for more. Upgrading a factory amplifier dramatically improves the sound of your car’s system. Many of the most popular cars and trucks on the road today use touchscreen infotainment systems that are notoriously difficult to replace. The good news is that you aren’t stuck with what the factory gave you. Aftermarket solutions to factory amplifiers can be done when using the correct components. This category is dedicated to amplifiers that are direct and easy replacements to an already factory amplified system.
Kenwood XR600 + iDataLink Maestro AR OEM Replacement Amplifier
Kenwood XR600 + iDataLink Maestro AR Review
The biggest problem with installing aftermarket stereo equipment in modern, infotainment-equipped cars and trucks is losing factory functions. This is true even if you simply want to swap out the factory amp. Kenwood and iDataLink got together and created this solution, the XR600-6DSP amplifier with a built-in Digital Signal Processor built to work with the iDataLink Maestro AR module, sold separately. This package gives you a tremendous amplifier and retains all factory functions you need including fade, balance, and levels that are controlled by factory amps.
Key Features- Kenwood XR600-6DSP
- 6-Channel input/ 10-Channel output
- 1,200 watts Peak/ 200 watts RMS per channel at 4 Ohm
- 32-bit Digital Signal Processor
- Tuning through app on smartphone or tablet
Key Features- iDataLink Maestro AR Module
- Works with over 500 vehicles MY 2005-Up
- Provides full factory features with aftermarket amps
- Online audio tuning
- Works with amps from Kenwood, Audison, and Arc Audio
When you're reading through all of the options for amplifiers on the market, it can be overwhelming sometimes. This can make choosing your amp difficult. Arm yourself with knowledge first, and better understand how to choose the right amplifier and learn what to look for. Ultimately the right amplifier for you is going to depend on your setup as a whole.
And if you want to get the most out of your amplifier with your speaker setup (or subwoofer), you're going to need to tune your amp. This will not only optimize the power of your amp, it could help you save your speakers from under-power or over-power issues that could lead to damage. It's a critical part to the amplifier installation process!
Typically, mono (or monoblock) car amplifiers are designed to drive a single driver, like a subwoofer. Multi-channel car amplifiers are meant to drive multiple speakers, including subwoofers, tweeters, and mid-range speakers.
In order to choose a car amplifier for your system, you'll want to consider total output required by the speakers you are looking to power. To do this, you can sum up the RMS ratings of all of the speakers in your system. Next, count the number of channels needed. For example if you are looking to power 4 speakers and a single subwoofer, you'll likely want a 5 channel amplifier. Ideally the output of each channel will align with the output of the speaker(s) that you're powering it with. Finally, you'll need to check the available space in your vehicle and compare it with the amplifier specs to ensure that the amplifier will fit.
Yes, you can add an aftermarket car amplifier to your vehicle's factory sound system. Before you do, be sure to check the specs of your vehicle's factory speakers and align it with an aftermarket amplifier. You'll also need to ensure you have the proper wiring schematics, wire, or pre-fabricated adaptive wire harnesses to perform a proper install.
RMS power (also known as Root Mean Square) refers to the continuous rated power output of an amplifier. Peak power refers to the maximum power output it can deliver in short bursts. When you're choosing the right amplifier for your car stereo, be sure to use RMS ratings and not peak.
Bridging an amplifier combines the power of two channel outputs on an amp into one single channel. This will allow you to drive a subwoofer or speaker with more power. Make sure that the amplifier is capable of being bridged. In most cases, this can be checked in the amp's owner's manual. Bridging an amplifier that is not capable of being bridged can lead to damage – for both the amplifier and the speaker/subwoofer you're powering.
If your car has a premium sound system from the factory, it doesn't mean that you won't benefit from an aftermarket amplifier. Generally, an aftermarket amp can provide additional power, give you more control over your system and improve the overall sound quality.
However, in some vehicles that have more complex premium sound systems (e.g. a Cadillac's 34-speaker Bose system), you might degrade the sound quality by adding an aftermarket amplifier.