Best Car Amplifiers to Buy In 2018

Amplifiers

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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:

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$$$
8.MTX ThunderClass D | A/BMonoblock | 4-Channel$$$

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 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 Best Car Amplifier

JL Audio Slash Series V3 Amplifiers Review

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.

Pros
  • Great sound quality across the board
  • Good power output and remote control
  • Accurate controls
  • Compact, sleek design
  • Plenty of features
Cons
  • A little bit difficult to tune
  • Price is on the high end

2. 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.

Pros
  • High performance amplifiers
  • Incorporates great technology
  • Excellent power delivery
  • Packed with a load of features to serve a wide range of music enthusiasts
Cons
  • Price is on the high end
  • A little hard to find online

3. Best Bluetooth: JBL GTR Series Amplifiers

JBL GTR Amplifiers

JBL GTR Series Amplifiers 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
  • Eye catching design
  • Powerful output delivery
  • Compact construction for enhanced durability
  • Price is on the affordable end
Cons
  • Nothing significant

4. Best Technology: Infinity Kappa K Series Amplifiers

Infinity Kappa K Series Amplifiers

Infinity Kappa K Series Amplifiers 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
  • Reliable performance
  • Affordable
  • Great build quality
  • Awesome technology and extras
Cons
  • No variable bass boost

5. Best for Bass: Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Amplifier Review

Hifonics ZRX Zeus Best Car Amplifier

Hifonics ZRX (Zeus) Series Amplifiers Review

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.

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

6. Best Design: Kenwood eXcelon X Series Amplifiers

Kenwood Excelon X Series Amplifiers

Kenwood eXcelon X Series Amplifiers Review

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.

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.

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

Alpine PDX Series Amplifiers

Alpine PDX Series Amplifiers Review

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.

Pros
  • Simple to control
  • Good power handling
Cons
  • Price point is higher than others

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

Polk Audio PA D Digital Series Amplifiers

Polk Audio PA D Digital Series Amplifiers Review

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.

Pros
  • Offers a wide range of customization options
  • Small and compact – can fit in most spaces
  • Delivers value for your money
  • Reliable construction that guarantees durability
Cons
  • Not the most stylish design on our list

9. Best Power: MTX THUNDER Series Amplifiers

MTX Thunder Series Best Car Amplifiers

MTX THUNDER Series Amplifiers Review

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.

Pros
  • Great sound amplification capabilities
  • Small in size hence great for limited spaces
  • Compact and durable
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • Nothing significant

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!