Last updated on September 15th, 2020 at 09:54 pm

A car amplifier is the heart of your car's stereo and whether you are looking to power a set of 6.5″ speakers or a pair of monster subwoofers, we've assembled a list of the best amps on the market to help you power your system.

Most people believe that their car's OEM stereo has enough power for their speakers, or that their new aftermarket stereo putting out 50 watts per channel (peak) is enough for a great sounding system. The reality is that whether it's an OEM system with ‘300 watts' or an aftermarket unit with 50 watts per channel, most ratings don't match the demands of an aftermarket system, which can lead to poor sound or even blown speakers.

The ratings might be shown for a head unit or amplifier in ‘Peak' power, instead of ‘RMS' power. For example, a 50 watt Peak per channel aftermarket stereo might actually only be pumping around 15 watts RMS to each of your speakers. And an amplifier that is rated for 1000 watts might only put out half of that continuously (RMS).

Powering your speakers (aftermarket or not) with the correct amount of power can mean a WORLD of difference in the performance of both subwoofers and speakers alike. You may have the highest performing speaker or subwoofer but without the power, it means nothing.

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.

The list we compiled is intended to show some of the best amplifiers on the market today. We grouped amplifiers by the type of installation to make it easy for you to pick an amp that will work great for your system. And if you're looking for something to power your subwoofer specifically, we have you covered in our best monoblock subwoofer amplifiers article.

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Best Factory/OEM Upgrade Amplifiers

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.

1. Kicker VSS Powerstage

Kicker VSS Amplifiers

Kicker VSS Powerstage Amplifiers Review

Kicker is a legendary brand when talking about bass. Their subs and amps are among the best in the world. The engineers at Kicker came up with the VSS, or Vehicle Specific Solutions to solve the problems with replacing factory equipment. The VSS Powerstage series is available for select vehicles. Components, including wiring harnesses and brackets, are specifically designed to fit and work with your factory equipment while providing a big upgrade to factory amplification.

Key Features:
  • Seamless, factory-looking installation
  • Minimal impact on charging system
  • 32-bit Digital Signal Processor
  • No modifications to vehicle needed

Enter your vehicle information and find the VSS setup for you on Crutchfield or directly at Kicker.

Best Aftermarket Car Amplifier Upgrades

So, you’ve managed to swap your factory head unit and speakers out for some slick upgrades, but the bass is lacking and the mids sound muddy. Getting a powerful amp installed that works with your system is key to getting the full richness and original tones from your system. There are literally hundreds of options that can work, but to get the most out of your brand-new head unit, you will want an amplifier with high-tech specs. Keep in mind that many amplifier ratings for power are measured at 14.4 volts. In most cases, you will need to add an additional car battery or modify the charging system to get maximum power from an amp.

1. Good for Subwoofers & Bass: Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Amplifiers

Hifonics ZRX Zeus Best Car Amplifier

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. The ZXX-Series includes multi-channel and monoblock amps to give anyone the power they need. 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:

  1. Two-channel A/B ZRX516.2, 500 watts
  2. Four-channel A/B ZRX616.4, 600 watts
  3. Four-channel A/B ZRX1016.4, 1000 watts
  4. D Class subwoofer amplifier ZRX 1216.1D, 1200 watts
  5. Subwoofer amplifier D Class ZRX1816.1D, 1800 watts
  6. Four-channel A/B ZRX2016.4, 2000 watts
  7. Class D subwoofer amplifier ZRX2416.1D, 2400 watts
  8. Class D subwoofer amplifier ZRX3216.1D, 3200 watts

A higher standard in amplifiers is in the Zeus Elite Series (ZEX). This special line of high-end amplifiers tops the charts in sound fidelity, variable bass boost, power, and use of heavy duty materials.

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 prevents overheating. Also, it uses 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)
  • Diagnostics

With all these features, the bottom line question remains: how does it improve the audio? The answer to this question is based on hours of testing – the audio is tremendously loud and satisfying. 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Nothing worth noting

2. Design Pick: Kenwood eXcelon X Series Amplifiers

Kenwood Excelon X Series Amplifiers

Kenwood eXcelon X Series Amplifiers Review

Kenwood's eXcelon X-Series of amplifiers are designed inside-and-out for high-performance audio systems. The X-Series includes two multi-channel amps and a monoblock for powering subs. The X802-5 is a full-range amplifier for powering an entire system. This amp is capable of producing 1,600 watts of Peak power, ensuring your front speakers sound as powerful as your subs, all in one very fine looking amp.

The eXcelon line offers amps of all channels for almost all applications. Whether you just need a mono for a subwoofer, or require 2-5 channels, you can find an eXcelon amp to fit your audio system’s needs. They’re touted as the brand’s most advanced line of audio products. The amplifiers offer excellent performance all around. They have a perfect 5-star rating on Crutchfield—people love these amps!

If you take your car’s audio seriously then the eXcelon series of amplifiers is right for you. It’s the perfect system for music lovers. The sound quality is always reproduced faithfully, playing music the way it was meant to sound.

The eXcelon X series allows for more customization of your car’s audio system. For example, the X450-4 channel amplifier utilizes staggered tuning. This means different channels have different levels of output, allowing users to make the amp fit their system’s needs. This makes it all the more loved by users because they can make small adjustments to the system to make music sound just how they want.

So what makes eXcelon’s amplifiers among the best? These amps use Hybrid Digital Amplification technology, which assures low distortion. The construction of these amps assures that the sound quality is clear and precise at any temperature. Whether the notes are high or low, you can rest assured that eXcelon’s amps will put out audio quality that sounds like a live performance.

The eXcelon series amps also have a cool, modern design. They have a sleek, black aluminum finish which looks great in any car. The size of the amp is compact, however, so if you want to put the amp in a less visible spot you can easily do so.

All around, the eXcelon series is a qualified amplifier for CarAudioNow’s list. It offers tremendous power for a great price. Kenwood also offers a 2 year warranty for their products. They are not only confident in the quality of their product, but also stand behind their authorized dealers who will be able to fix any problem, if one ever comes up.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Nothing worth noting

And if you’re looking for an even smaller design, check out their XR Series (Reference Fit) amplifiers. A high-density mount circuit board in conjunction with an enhanced air cooling and heat control systems allowed Kenwood to create an incredibly compact design amplifier that blows most standard-sized amplifiers away.

3. Alpine X Series Amplifiers

Alpine X Series Amplifiers front, side and power panel

Alpine X Series Amplifiers Review

Alpine amplifiers are great for getting the most out of aftermarket speaker and head unit upgrades. The XA-Series provides a one-stop solution to getting big, rich music in your ride. The X-A90V is a five-channel amp that has a built-in crossover and bass EQ for fine-tuning your system. Alpine Image Defined technology creates a superior spatial experience and improves the “bigness” of your music.

Key Features:
  • Class-D Amplifier
  • Alpine ID Sound Stage
  • Built-in crossover and Bass EQ
  • Optional wired bass remote

Best Audiophile Car Amplifiers

Some people just have an ear for music. They can tell the difference between subtle tones, identify notes that are not reproducing correctly, and are obsessed with reproducing hi-resolution audio for that live music experience. Satisfying the demands of audiophiles can be a challenge. In recent years, several companies have really stepped up the game to produce amps that faithfully recreate music using numerous technological advantages. When you are searching for an audiophile-grade hi-res amp, these products should be some of the first you look into.

1. Best Technology: JL Audio VXi Series Amplifiers

JL Audio VXi Series Amplifiers

JL Audio VXi Series Amplifiers Review

JL Audio is a leader in innovative audio tech, and the VXi-Series of amplifiers is the newest feather in their cap. The VXi amplifiers feature some of the coolest and most revolutionary controls on the planet. Buy one of these amps and you will wonder how you lived without one all your life. JL Audio NexD2 switching capabilities provide incredibly realistic fidelity for the most discerning listener, while the on-board Digital Signal Processor keeps each channel clean and crisp. VXi-Series amps are available in multichannel and monoblock configurations.

Key Features

  • NexD2 CLass-D amplifier
  • Onboard DSP
  • Advanced Rollback Protection to prevent overheating
  • JL Audio TüN™ compatibility for wireless tuning on your smartphone or tablet

2. Kicker IQ Series Amplifiers

Kicker IQ series amplifiers

Kicker IQ Series Amplifiers Review

For audiophile-quality sound, Kicker has introduced its IQ-Series of amplifiers. They describe them as “cutting edge. and with the tech specs to prove it, you really can’t go wrong with one. They come in a variety of channel configurations including multi-channel (2, 4) or monoblock amps. All IQ amps feature Kicker’s TWEEQ IT Bluetooth tuning capabilities that allow you to adjust the amp's settings on your PC, smartphone, or tablet.

Key Features:
  • TWEEQ IT Bluetooth adjustability
  • Selectable crossovers for each channel
  • Configurable Digital Signal Processor
  • Graphical User Interface

3. Best Splurge: Audison Voce Series Amplifiers

Audison Voce Series Amplifiers

Audison Voce Amplifiers Review

“Audison” or “audio” and “sonus” in Latin, has built a reputation for designing and manufacturing high-quality, high-performance car audio products, many of which incorporate leading-edge technologies. And for the stereo enthusiasts who want to enter into the world of car audio through an amplifier of excellence, one of the best available products in its class, a perfect balance of size, versatility and power, is the Audison Voce Series Amplifiers. A direct descendant of the notable Thesis series amplifier, the Voce series now bring the legendary Thesis sound quality to a wider range of enthusiasts, as well as carries along some of the great features of the Thesis, including the ability to combine analog and digital technologies. Unfortunately (for now) the Audison Voce Series amps are still a hard to find online, so we apologize if we don't have a provider for some. But none the less, they are among the greatest amplifiers on the market today. All-in-all, an exceptionally built, performing and great looking amplifier.

Key Features:
  • High-quality amp with high-grade materials
  • Amplifier Management Processor constantly checks the operating system
  • Hi-Res audio-certified by JAS
  • Remote knob compatible

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, better understand how to choose the right amplifier and learn what to look for.

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!