In this article: We'll review everything you need to know to figure out whether or not you need an amp in your car to improve your sound.

What’s the first thing anyone notices about a car stereo system? It isn’t usually the car amplifier. Instead, it is the head unit or speaker grills. Still, the car amplifier is one of the most essential components for high-quality sound. While most factory sound systems don’t have a separate amplifier, you will find that it is a simple upgrade to add one yourself. Let’s talk about how to use an amp for better sound in your vehicle, whether you have a factory system or aftermarket unit.

What are Car Amplifiers For?

In the vehicle’s head unit, there is a small built-in amplifier that powers the speakers. With premium audio systems, the amplifier might be more powerful, but is still nothing compared to what you can create with aftermarket equipment.

In any system, the amplifier takes the audio signal and literally amplifies it. That’s why it gets the name it does.

Obviously, you don’t want to amplify the factory speakers. They might have a low impedance voice coil or another attribute that makes them incompatible with most aftermarket amps. To truly achieve the best sound out of your car stereo, you want to replace the speakers and then add an amp for better sound.

Do You Really Need an Amplifier?

Knowing that the factory head unit with a built-in amp isn’t enough, there are a number of other good reasons to install an amplifier for your car stereo system.

You Want Loud Sound Without Distortion

As we previously discussed, your factory setup will produce distortion when you crank up the volume. Test it out – turn up your car stereo now and see what happens. Likely, you can only get so far before the sound becomes terrible.

A high-quality amplifier allows you to increase the volume without all of the distortions you hear from your OEM system.

You Want to Power a Subwoofer

If you plan to add a subwoofer to your vehicle, you will also need an amplifier. Yes, you could run the sub without an amplifier, but that doesn’t produce the best sound. In many cases, the car radio doesn’t contain the connections required for the subwoofer so that you will have no choice.

Both the three and five-channel amplifiers are equipped to handle a subwoofer, but sometimes it makes sense to add one dedicated to the sub. In that case, you actually want two amps for better sound – one for the speakers and another for the subwoofer.

You Want the Best Out of Your Speakers

If you want the quality to improve, you need an amp for better sound. Sure, you can add new speakers to the factory system, but installing a new head unit combined with an amplifier is the best way to experience the quality you desire.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind a small amount of distortion, you might be fine with a new head unit and speakers. Some premium head units provide decent sound on their own when paired with the right speaker. However, when you turn it up to its maximum volume, you will still notice a breakdown in sound quality.

We understand that upgrading both the head unit and buying an amplifier costs more, but it’s the only way to remove distortion altogether.

You Want More Flexibility and Features

Serious audiophiles understand how important customization can be. If you want access to signal processing and equalizers without adding a new unit, the amplifier can make that happen. You can also use the amp to add or remove various channels to the system.

You Want More Bass

Sure the speakers play a large part in how much bass you receive, but so does the amplifier. No matter how good the speakers are, you can only achieve the best performance by adding power. For example, if your factory stereo system puts out 200 watts, you might think that’s enough. Still, there’s a big difference between 50 watts peak power per channel and 50 watts RMS coming out of an outboard amplifier.

With an aftermarket amp, you get clean power, better than any car stereo can offer. Instantly, you notice the night-day difference in sound quality.

Choose the Right Amplifier

Of course, it matters what amplifier you choose if you want to achieve the results listed above. You can’t just slam a cheap amplifier into the vehicle and hope for the best results (although it won’t hurt anything).

We recommend choosing a head unit, speakers and amp to work together. If you desire the best sound, you need to revamp everything, unless you already upgraded the head unit and speakers. Then, you need to find the best amp to work with your existing setup.

Check out our Choosing the Right Amplifier article for more info. We can also help you find the best car amp and show you how to wire it into the system.

But, Do You Really Need An Amp For Better Sound?

You don’t NEED an amplifier at any time. If you don’t care about the sound quality and you are happy to use the system you have, then there’s no reason to buy an aftermarket amplifier.

However, if you prefer to experience the music in the way it was intended, then it’s time to make a small investment in an amp. The clarity, sound quality and volume of bass will all confirm for you that you do, in fact, need an amp for better sound. Once you experience it for yourself, you will understand the difference.

Whether you prefer to listen to the latest piano composition or you plan to blast Teenage Dream from Katy Perry, you know you will have the sound equipment to back it up.