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

Most people believe that their car's OEM stereo has enough power for their speakers, or that their new aftermarket stereo that puts out 50 watts per channel (peak) is enough for a great sounding system. But, 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 recommended ratings for an aftermarket system which can lead to poor sound or even blown speakers. In addition, the ratings that might be shown for a head unit or amplifier may be 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 a monoblock amplifier that is rated for 1000 watts might only put out half of that continuously.

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 your using high performance component speakers, subwoofers or OEM equipment, a top rated amplifier is a true necessity to a quality car stereo system. And if you are going to add a subwoofer, a monoblock amp is an absolute necessity.

Here's a list of the top rated amplifiers of 2018. Click an amplifier to go to the full review, or just scroll down to view all of the reviews:

Best Car Amplifiers 2018 | Top 9

Our RankAmplifierAmplifier TypeChannels OfferedPrice
1.JL Audio Slash V3Class DMonoblock | 4-Channel$$$
2.Audison VoceClass ABMonoblock | 2-Channel | 4-Channel | 5-Channel$$$$
3.JBL GTRClass DMonoblock | 2-Channel | 4-Channel$$
4.Infinity Kappa KClass DMonoblock | 2-Channel | 4-Channel | 5-Channel$$$
4.Hifonics ZRX (Zeus)Class AB | DMonoblock | 2-Channel | 4-Channel$$
5.Kenwood Excelon XClass DMonoblock | 4-Channel | 5-Channel$$
6.Alpine PDXClass DMonoblock | 4-Channel$$$
7.Polk Audio PA DClass DMonoblock | 2-Channel | 4-Channel$$$
8.MTX ThunderClass D | A/BMonoblock | 4-Channel$$$

Choosing the Right Amplifier

Max (Peak) Vs RMS Power

Lets start by going through some general speakers and amplifier ratings and what they mean.

The difference between “Peak Power” and “RMS Power” is simple, so don’t let it confuse you. RMS Power is a measure of the amplifier’s continuous power. It’s the realistic amount of power that the amplifier is rated for. It’s more of an average of the wattage output over a set amount of time. Peak Power can best be described as the “peak” amount of power that the amplifier can generate or handle in a very short amount of time, a burst. It is not the amount of power the amplifier emits on a continuous basis, but more of a quick burst.

Even though the Peak Power ratings are marketed by speaker and amplifier manufacturers to catch the eyes of consumers, it is not the Peak Power, but the RMS Power that you want to use as a tool to match the right speaker with the right amplifier.

Matching an Amplifier With a Speaker

Now that you know an amplifier’s RMS Power rating is a more accurate measurement of the power output, you can use it as a tool to correctly match it to the speaker(s) and subwoofers you want to use. You will want to match the RMS rating of the amplifier to the RMS rating of the speaker or subwoofer. The closer these two numbers are to each other, the better match you have. For example, if an amplifier has an output of 100 watts x 4 channels RMS, this will mean that you want a speaker that has a 100 watt RMS rating (or in this case 4 speakers with a 100 watt rating). Same goes with a subwoofer.

Check out this great video from Crutchfield that walks through the key points when you're choosing an amplifier:

Best Car Amplifier List

#1 Best Class D: JL Audio Slash Series V3 Amplifiers

JL Audio Slash Series v3 Amplifiers Review

JL Audio Slash Series V3 Amplifiers Review

Editor's Rating:

Originating from one of JL's most legendary and best-selling amplifiers, the Slash Series v3 amplifiers were built on upon the solid and successful platform that made history in automotive amplification. Tweaked, refined, and renewed, the v3 amps encompass some of JL's latest technology and finest manufacturing materials. The monoblocks are 20% more powerful than previous generation amplifiers with a new patented Class D output circuitry. And the four-channel amplifier offers JL Audio's patented Absolute Symmetry Class A/B output stage, offering a 75W x 4 output.

All Slash Series v3 models feature JL Audio’s R.I.P.S. (Regulated Intelligent Power Supply) technology. This system maintains a consistent power output over a wide range of battery voltages and load impedances. It automatically will adjust to maintain the amplifiers rated output at all times, no matter what the condition or input. And an Advanced Rollback Thermal protection feature keeps your music playing under the most climatically demanding conditions.The JL Audio Slash Series v3 amplifiers are sleek, sexy, powerful and continue to raise the bar in automotive audio equipment.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 600W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 1200W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω

#2 Best Splurge: Audison Voce Series Amplifiers

Audison Voce Series

Audison Voce Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

“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.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 700W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 2-Channel
  • Power Handling: 260W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 5-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 2 + 140W x 2 + 600W x 1 @ 4Ω

#3 Best Bluetooth: JBL GTR Series Amplifiers

JBL GTR Amplifiers

JBL GTR Series Amplifier Review

Talk about keeping it in the family! JBL has the same parent company as Infinity, and inevitably that leads to some commonization. In particular you'll notice that the JBL GTR amps offer the same Clari-Fi™ "music restoration technology," as well as multi-phone BlueTooth pairing.

All the GTR amps are Class D and come with a cabin-mounted control panel with microphone for phone calls. The JBL GTR's are a little larger than the Infinity Kappas. Does that result in better sound quality? Honestly, it's hard to say, although the GTR's are also slightly more expensive.

Other points to note:

  • Accepts preamp and speaker-level inputs
  • Variable bass boost
  • Phase switch (0, 180 degrees)

Pros: Good quality product

Cons: Nothing significant

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 380W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 700W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 2-Channel
  • Power Handling: 200W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 100W x 4 @ 4ohm @ 4Ω

#4 Best Technology: Infinity Kappa K Series Amplifiers

Infinity Kappa K Amplifiers

Infinity Kappa K Series Amplifier Review

Music files are compressed for easy storage. Unless you listen exclusively to the FLAC format, that reduces their quality. The Infinity Kappa range of amplifiers (monochannel, 2, 4 and 5 channels,) addresses this with Clari-Fi™ "music restoration technology." The idea is to restore the details you didn't know you were missing.

A second intriguing feature is the BlueTooth pairing. Kappa amplifiers will pair with up to three phones and Party Mode lets them all stream music. They can also connect with other Kappa amps, so you could link a sub with a 4-channel Kappa for example.

These amps are Class D, meaning they are designed for efficiency. They were also designed for show, with an eye-catching brushed aluminum housing and signal-level LEDs. They incorporate both preamp and speaker-level inputs and work with both sealed and vented enclosures, thanks to frequency and boost control adjustment.

Dynamic Bass Optimizer and a Phase switch (0, 180 degrees), help with getting this set up for your vehicle. Note that wiring and hardware are not included.

Pros: Attractive styling and finish
Cons: No variable bass boost

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 300W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 700W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω

Infinity Kappa K2


  • Amplifier Type: 2-Channel
  • Power Handling: 100W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 100W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 5-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 4 @ 4ohm + 200W x 1 @4Ω

#5 Best Bass: Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Series Amplifiers

Hifonics ZRX Zeus

Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

Hifonics “Power from the Gods” is a US-based company with an impeccable reputation in the car audio industry. It’s Zeus series draws its strength and design from years of experience in amplifiers so one can expect tremendous power, range, and innovative technologies. In fact, among uncompromising car audio lovers who get very involved in car shows and competitions, the Zeus line of amplifiers is a common choice among competitors and industry guru’s.

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, based on hours of testing, is that 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.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 200W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 500W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 325W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 800W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
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  • Amplifier Type: 2-Channel
  • Power Handling: 125W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 60W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 250W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω

#6 Best Design: Kenwood Excelon X Series Amplifiers

Kenwood Excelon X Series

Kenwood Excelon X Series Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

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 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.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 300W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
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  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 50W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 5-Channel
  • Power Handling: 40W + 300W x 1 @ 4Ω

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.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 400W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 60W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 5-Channel
  • Power Handling: 60W x 4 + 400W x 1 @ 4Ω

#7 Runner Up, Best Design: Alpine PDX Series Amplifiers

Alpine PDX Series Amplifiers

Alpine PDX Series Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

Also a compact amplifier in itself, the PDX is Alpine’s vision of a versatile amplifier that packs a punch. A Class-D amp on a mere 2” tall frame, Alpine made this amp design capable with an effectively heat distribution system that even disperses heat to its heatsinks to cool the entire stack. But the stand-out feature on the PDX amplifier is it’s control and connector design. Easy pop out connections make installing and removing the amplifier a breeze, and it’s front-mounted controls make tuning and adjusting the sound after installation easier than ever.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 600W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 1200W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 100W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 150W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω

#8 Best Value: Polk Audio PA D Digital Series Amplifiers

Polk Audio PA D Digital Series Amplifier Review

Polk Audio PA D Digital Series Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

Any of Polk’s PA D Digital Series amplifiers will offer a great upgrade to your car’s audio system. Whether you’re looking for a monoblock or a 5-channel Class D amplifier,  the PA D series from Polk are a great choice for whatever setup you have.

The Polk Audio amplifiers are great for providing just the right amount of power to your system. And when paired properly with your system, you’ll never have to worry about blown out speakers!

These top rated class D amplifiers also allow for a lot of versatility. They’re bridgeable, giving you the power to create custom wiring options and different power handling ratings. This way you have plenty of options, without sacrificing any efficiency or quality. This also means that this amp is great for all car audio systems.

  1. A. The PA D Digital Amps use a highly-efficient class D design, mitigating the potential of running too hot. It also uses stainless steel hardware, which prevents corrosion in hot and humid environments. If you take a lot of long car trips, this is something you’re really going to appreciate.

For example, the PA D1000 Amp was built to be minimalist and ultra-compact. In general, these amplifiers may be smaller than you expect, which makes them convenient for any size car. This again adds to the versatility of the Polk PA D Digital Series as you can complete setup in whatever way is most convenient for you. You’ll never have to worry about struggling to find a place for your oversized amps. The PA D Digital series amps will fit anywhere!

Polk is certainly not a best budget car amplifier, but it is reasonably priced and you are going to get your money’s worth. The sound quality isn’t sacrificed either. The audio is perfect and the power is really impressive for the size of these amps. Any amplifier from the PA D Digital series is going to offer a tremendous value, both in terms of sound quality and durability.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 500W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 2-Channel
  • Power Handling: 125W x 2 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 5-Channel
  • Power Handling: 70W x 4 + 200W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω

#9 Best Power: MTX Thunder Series Amplifiers

MTX Thunder Series Best Car Amplifiers

MTX Thunder Series Amplifier Review

Editor's Rating:

MTX Audio is a US based company that’s well-known for its car audio products such as subwoofers, speakers and of course, their amplifiers. They have been producing amplifiers for more than 40 years alongside their subwoofers and speakers. The MTX Thunder Series is their top of the line amplifier and has proven to be one of the best car amplifiers on the market. Here’s why:

Under the small chassis MTX Thunder series are three models:

  1. Thunder 1000.1 1000W RMS Mono Block Class D which has a maximum peak power of 2000 watts
  2. Thunder 500.1 500W RMS Mono Block Class D which has a maximum peak power of 1000 watts
  3. Thunder 75.4 400W RMS 4-Channel Class A/B Amplifier that gives power to any full range speakers

There are only a few words to describe this series: powerful and thunderous yet small and reasonably-priced. These models are the perfect match for limited spaces and professional audio quality. The MTX series amps include features such as:

  • Surface-mount design for minimal vibration even under rough terrain
  • Small size for tight spaces like behind seats
  • An extruded heat sink for adequate ventilation negating any need for an auxiliary fan in times when the amp is used for extended periods
  • Variable crossover and compatible with many types and brands of speakers
  • Low pass filter and subsonic filter

Also, all models have a much-desired bass boost and control panels that are easy to access. With a little tweaking, this amp can seamlessly be part of a full customization for your car’s audio system. You can expect high clarity with low voltage draw from your car’s power supply.

The bottom line is that MTX Audio has come a long way with the Thunder series. They are designed to be universal and used with mix-and-match car audio systems, not to overheat, and to last for years. Between the great features of these amps and the company’s proven track record in consistently producing quality products make the MTX Thunder series yet another preferred choice as one of the best car amps on the market today.

  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 300W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: Monoblock
  • Power Handling: 350W x 1 RMS @ 4Ω
  • Amplifier Type: 4-Channel
  • Power Handling: 75W x 4 RMS @ 4Ω

Tuning Your Amplifier

If you have aftermarket amplifier to power your speakers or subwoofer(s), but how do you tune it to reach both your speakers, subwoofer(s) and amplifier's full potential?
CarAudioNow has put together a quick guide to do a basic tune on your amplifier to make your stereo reach it's potential. Use it to tune subwoofers or speakers alike. But before we get into tuning, lets review a few basic and common terminology, features and functions that will help you better understand the tuning process.

Common Tuning Terms

Max (Peak) Vs RMS Power

The difference between "Peak Power" and "RMS Power" is simple, so don't let it confuse you. RMS Power is a measure of the amplifier's continuous power. It's the realistic amount of power that the amplifier is rated for. It's more of an average of the wattage output over a set amount of time. Peak Power can best be described as the "peak" amount of power that the amplifier can generate or handle in a very short amount of time, a burst. It is not the amount of power the amplifier emits on a continuous basis, but more of a quick burst.
Even though the Peak Power ratings are marketed by speaker and amplifier manufacturers to catch the eyes of consumers, it is not the Peak Power, but the RMS Power that you want to use as a tool to match the right speaker with the right amplifier.


Gain is the input sensitivity adjustment necessary that is used to match an amplifier's input to the receiver's output. A properly adjusted gain reduces background noise, distortion and prevents speaker damage.
Gain Setting:


Frequency is the pitch at which your speakers emit sound at. You will need to know the range of your speakers or subwoofer in order to tune your amplifier properly.

Low-Pass/High-Pass Filters

Low-pass (LPF) and high-pass filters (HPF) are filters that pass signals with a frequency lower/higher than a certain maximum/minimum frequency. If you choose the high-pass filter on your amplifier, the corresponding frequency dial will set the minimum frequency that the amplifier will send to the connected speakers/subwoofers (HPF is typically used for smaller sized speakers). Vice versa, if you choose the low-pass filter, the frequency dial will set the maximum frequency that your amplifier will send to its connected speakers/subwoofers (LPF is typically used for larger sized speakers and subwoofers). The optimal setup will have speakers that cover the high range frequencies, while subwoofers will cover the low range frequencies, without any gap in between the frequency coverage.
In addition to low-pass and high-pass filters, there is also a "Full" selection, that does does not filter the frequencies and sends a full range of frequencies to the connected speakers/subwoofers. If you have a system that does not have subwoofers, and the amplifier is being used to power 6.5", 5" x 7"/6" x 8" or 6" x 9" speakers, you can use this option to get a full range of sound.
Filter Selection:
Frequency Dial:

Bass Boost

Bass boost is a feature designed to boost the low range frequencies. It's typically used for subwoofers, however, can be very touchy and dangerous to use. We recommend not using bass boost unless you have to.

Tuning Your Amplifier - Steps

Great, so now that you have an idea of some of the basic terms, lets get to setting up your amplifier:

Step 1: Setting Volume and Gain Control

Turn your stereo off and disconnect the RCA cables that run to your amps. Then turn your system back on, turn the volume on your radio/receiver all the way up to max without any music playing on them. If your speakers are running off of your radio, and you are tuning your amplifier for an additional subwoofer, make sure that you disconnect all speakers before you turn your radio to prevent damaging your speakers.
Now that you have found the maximum volume (many radios denote the maximum by a number), turn back the volume to around 80% of the maximum, and set your radio's Equalizer to 'Flat'. Then turn your amplifier's gain and bass boost to zero and turn the crossover filters to off or full.
Now, plug back in the RCAs into the amplifier channel for which you would like to tune (e.g. if you are separating speakers by channels and have separate RCAs that for each, choose one to tune). With your favorite genre of music, or purchase a test disk for tuning, slowly turn the gain up until you begin to hear distortion in your speakers. Once your speakers start to distort, back of the gain until you no longer hear distortion. This is the base gain that you will use now to tune frequencies.

Step 2: Tuning Frequencies

Now it's time to switch to the built-in cross overs and filters that are built into your amplifier. For subwoofers, select the low-pass filter (LPF) and for speakers (for a system that has a separate subwoofer or speakers to cover the low range frequencies), select the high-pass filter (HPF). If you are using the amplifier to power mid sized speakers that are meant to cover a full range of frequencies, select the full or off position, and disregard this tuning.
Now, find the frequency range of your speakers/subwoofers. If you are tuning for speakers and select the HPF, you will align the frequency dial with the lowest frequency that your speakers are rated for (note that the numbers on the dial may be in 1000s). If you are tuning a subwoofer(s) and select the LPF, you will align the frequency dial with the highest frequency that your subwoofers are rated for.

Step 3: Bass Boost

If you're feeling risky, and don't mind putting loudness in front of longevity, bass boost is a great way to increase how loud your bass is but can be very tricky to use and hard to set properly. If you are going to turn your bass boost up, make sure you turn the gain down. Each subwoofer is different, so finding the right combination of bass boost and gain is up to your ear, but bottom line is to have the highest output without distorting.

Step 4: Back to Gains

Now that frequencies and bass boost have been set, turn back to your gains while your radio is at 80% to max with music playing, and tune the gain again until you hear distortion, tuning back once you hear it.

Step 5: Finish it Up

Last step! Reconnect all amplifiers (if you were tuning channels or amplifiers separately) and turn your radio down to zero. Slowly ramp up the volume until you reach the 80% or distortion, whichever comes first. If everything is set correctly, you will reach the 80% without any distortion in any of your speakers. If not, find the corresponding gains for the speakers/subwoofers that are distorting, and turn the gain down until they no longer distort.
And that's it! Do not exceed the 80% maximum on your radio. Keep in mind that different genres of music might need different tuning to maximize the output. Now you're all set and your amplifiers are tuned!

How To Install a Car Amplifier

You could pay someone to install this for you, but it's not a particularly difficult project for anyone even slightly familiar with auto electrics. Why not do it yourself and put the money saved towards new speakers or that subwoofer you've been thinking about?

We're going to talk you through the main steps in installing a car amplifier. Each make and model of car is different, so we can't provide precise instructions for your specific vehicle but we will take you through what you need to do. In doing that we'll address:

  1. Amplifier types and integration
  2. What you'll need (tools and parts)
  3. Installing the amp
  4. Running power
  5. Speaker hookups
  6. Finishing up

1. Amplifier types and integration

If you've done your homework you'll understand how to size your amp for the speakers you intend using. You'll also know that amplifiers come with various numbers of channels and usually two speaker input options. (Our top list will help you find the best car amplifier for your needs.)

Channels and speaker inputs have a large bearing on how long the install will take. A mono channel amp has only one output and that you'll use for driving a subwoofer. A two-channel amp will most likely be hooked to the front speakers, although you could bridge the outputs to drive the subwoofer.

Likewise, a four-channel amp works with either four speakers or the two fronts and a subwoofer. And if you haven't already figured this out, a five channel works with four speakers plus the subwoofer.

The speaker inputs you'll use depends on whether you're sticking with or replacing the factory head unit. Factory units rarely have pre-amp outputs, so you'll be tapping in to the speaker wires and feeding them to the speaker-level inputs on your amplifier. An aftermarket head unit will probably have pre-amp outputs that feed straight into the amplifier inputs.

However many channels on your new amplifier, and however you feed the signals to it, there's one other part of this project to remember: you will also be running wires from the amplifier out to all the speakers.

2. What you'll need (tools and parts)

In addition to the amplifier itself, go out and buy:

  • Amplifier wiring kit. (These come in various wire gauges. Check the instructions with your amp for the correct size.)
  • T-tap connectors (if that's your preferred wiring connection method.)
  • Zip ties or electrical tape.
  • As for tools, you should have:
  • Pry tools for removing trim pieces.
  • Crosshead and flat-bladed screwdrivers.
  • Pliers
  • Wire strippers
  • Soldering iron (if you prefer the security of soldered joins.)
  • Electric drill
  • Utility knife
  • Socket set

3. Installing the amp

Start by deciding where you want this mounted. An important aspect to consider is airflow for cooling. Amplifiers can get warm and heat is no friend of electronics. Bear this in mind when installing an amp.

The most popular places are:

Passenger side firewall (keeps the wire runs short but access may be difficult.)

In the trunk, against one of the side panels (or the back seat, if that's fixed.)

Under one of the front seats. (This will mean taking the seat out. If it has airbags built-in be very careful how you do this.)

Having settled on a location, remove any trim, mark where you want the holes to go, then drill. (Be careful to check what's on the other side of the panel!) Secure the amp with the screws provided. (From here on we will assume you put your amp in the trunk.)

4. Running power

This section covers installing the power, ground and amp turn-on wires. First, disconnect the battery.

The amp draws currently directly from the battery through a large diameter red cable. Connect the wire to the battery, then install an in-line fuse. This is essential to protect your high-value system!

Thread the power cable through the firewall and into the cabin. You may need to drill a hole for this. If so, try to fit an appropriate grommet.

Remove the kick panel and door scuff panels and run the power wire through to the back seat. Lift out the seat cushion and thread the wire into the trunk.

The amp needs a turn-on wire so it powers-up when the head unit is turned on. This joins to the turn-on output at the back of the head unit, so that has to come out of the dash. Every vehicle is different but this generally means removing the trim pieces on each side of the center console, then unbolting and withdrawing the unit itself.

If the head unit doesn't have a turn-on output, connect to the ignition wire running to the head unit. This can lead to an audible thump as the amp turns on, so an alternative is to buy a line turn-on converter.

Run the turn-on wire back to the amplifier.

Connect one end of the ground wire to the amp and the other to a good chassis ground. Then connect the power and turn-on wires to the amp.

5. Speaker hookups

Run speaker wires from the amp out to the front and rear speakers plus any subwoofer. Disconnect the wires coming from the head unit and fit the new wires to the speakers.

If the head unit has pre-amp outputs, (usually RCA connectors,) connect wires to these and run them back to the amp. Run them down the opposite side of the car to the power and turn-on wires so as to avoid interference.

If the head unit lacks pre-amp outputs, which is usually the case with the factory installed system, you'll need to connect to the speaker wires. You can do this at the head unit itself or out at the individual speakers. (The former allows you to keep the wires away from the power.) Connect your wires using either T-taps or by stripping, splicing and soldering the joints.

At the amplifier plug in wires from the pre-amp outputs. If you're using the speaker wires themselves, these go into the speaker level terminals on the amp.

6. Finishing up

Before replacing all the trim you've removed check everything works. Reconnect the battery and turn the system on. Verify you're hearing sound from all the speakers and that the amp only turns on with the head unit. Set up your amp following the instructions supplied.

Re-install the head unit. Before putting trim back use zip ties or electrical tape to secure all the wires. You don't want them tapping or rattling while you drive! Finish by reinstalling all the trim.

Save money by installing a car amplifier yourself!

When upgrading your car audio system you naturally want the best car amplifier you can afford. Why not save some money to put towards the amp by installing it yourself?

Installing an amp is a straightforward job, especially if you've had some previous experience with vehicle electrics. In just a few hours you'll be enjoying deeper, clearer and crisper music from your car's speakers.

8 Comments to “ Best Car Amplifiers to Buy In 2018”

  1. Music man says :Reply

    This is a very touchy topic and it all does depend on the application and desired results. Some people setup their car audio and subwoofer setup to where the kick drums and midbass are felt exponentially which is great for rock. I’m more into SQL but to achieve this a few things need to be understood. The subwoofer amp will need to have the capability to SET THE CENTER frequency for the Bass Boost. Most amps do not have this feature or have it hard set at 45-50hz. You will want to research your subwoofer candidates well, I always pay close attention to the Q parameters and especially the FS of the sub, this is the frequency the subwoofer resonates at while operating under free air conditions. I generally like to build my ported boxes tuned very low anywhere from 26hz-35hz however the idea is to have the door speakers/tweeters cover the highs, mids and midbass and make sure the subwoofer is playing low bass, making sure they blend together well, and knowing the limitations of how high you should be cranking up the volume knob on your car stereo.
    Just 2 amps off hand that worked well for me was JL Audio Slash 500/1 or 1000/1 first generation, and Elemental Designs NINE.1 , these amps have the capability to adjust the center frequency to which the bass boost is applied, lows shine and rumbles are felt..
    Some subs that stood out over the years to me were the Eclipse 8812 DVC, Crystal CMPx2, Elemental Designs e15a, Audiomobile MASS 2012 s24 and Audiomobile EVO 2210 and JL Audio 12w6v2

  2. John Acosta says :Reply

    Ok how about a Top 5 Amp list that has not s”Sold Out” to China. There are only 2 Amps to consider when you are really serious about car Audio. Sound Quality, Power Efficiency, Size of Amp in these 3 categories there is only 1 “MMatts” Quite possibly the most underrated amp ever! This amp will destroy JL Audio! & is made in U.S.A.
    When you dont care about power Efficiency but want ear candy then a Linear Power Amplifier is the best sounding amp ever made period. Enough Said.

  3. Azhar T S says :Reply

    What about boss Audio R1004?

  4. Aaron Dunning says :Reply

    I have a 2003 chevy s10 extended cab 3 door. and would like to upgrade my audio system . I have a 12 inch pioneer sub and box with 800 watt amp. I want 1 15 inch sub or something to shake the earth and enjoy music. I want deep deep ground moving bass . so any suggestions would help .within the next 30 days I would like to do this. Thank you in advance.

    1. Frank says :Reply

      Yes go with Orion HCCA or Sundown, i have 2 HCCA 12″ in my 14 ford edge.

    2. Ziggy says :Reply

      Definitely would go with the alpine type r 15 in a sealed box and the rockford fosgate prime r1200.d amp, that’s my setup and holy shit it pounds, amazing sound quality too, one of the best sql subs i’ve ever owned, you can hear me coming from multiple blocks away lol, don’t recommend doing that in residential area’s though, no need to piss neighbors and the community off but when i’m in the city I blast my shit lol

  5. Johnathon Kendall says :Reply

    I’m trying to get an amp that pushes 5000 watts to power 2 15s really need the 5000 watts any help please

  6. Arturo says :Reply

    Hi, im currently using a pioneer 2016 head unit single din w DSL front speakers and sub wofer. I would like to consider an amplifier to further enhance the systems. I listen to a lot of vocals and jazz. Would like to experience a a stronger mid range and warmer peformances.
    Pls advise which amplifier can i consider. Of course not overly costly. Thanks

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Written By:

on January 10th, 2018