An upgraded car audio sound system isn’t possible without buying a highly rated amplifier. We remember when we first spent a few bucks to increase our music listening experience and we haven’t gone back since. Unless you’re buying some type of luxury car that has a built-in higher-end system (even then, we’d at least add a few extra watts or tweeters if you can). If you’re just starting out your question to build the best car audio sound system, one of the first steps is grabbing your amp. So which car amplifier is the best? That depends on a few factors, which we list below. We then compiled a list of the top 10 best car amplifiers for the money to help your shopping endeavors.
How to pick the best car amp
- Budget – Amplifiers aren’t too costly, especially when compared to the best car subwoofers, car speakers and car stereos that are popular in the market. There’s a decent range from under $100 to above, so how much cash you have will really steer you in a particular direction.
- How many channels? Here’s when putting together a car audio system is a little tricky, especially finding the “best car amplifier” for your particular car as well as setup. Simply put, there are a few possibilities when it comes to car amps in general. As explained further in Crutchfield’s car amplifier guide, it all depends on what you’re going to be powering up (amps provide power, so the channel count you need will determine how many other pieces you’ll be needing to provide this to). We list a few of each in our 10 best to give you some options.
- Mono: Best for providing power to a subwoofer only. Your speakers will still work of course, they just won’t be getting extra power from your amp.
- 2-Channel: These are ideal for powering both a sub and a pair of speakers (if you aren’t wanting to use or have a rear pair).
- 4-Channel: Great for powering up not only your sub, but two pairs of speakers as well. If you perhaps plan on powering the other speakers in the future, you can always bridge to keep it simple at first to power a sub and one pair of speakers. You can always upgrade later.
- Impedance – This is important when matching your amp to either the subs and\or speakers you’ll be connecting to. If you’re upgrading your factory system, try to find a sub that has speaker-level inputs). More info on this can be found in MTX’s calculating subwoofer impedance article.
- Installation – When it comes to installing car amps, it can sometimes get tricky. We always recommend getting your car audio system professional installed. If you do plan on installing the amplifier\speakers\subwoofer yourself, please be sure to do your research! Our guide on setting up a car audio system can help you with more details if you’d prefer to do it yourself — it’s definitely possible if you have some time on your hands.
The best car amplifiers for the money
Rockford Fosgate R500X1D
The Rockford Fosgate R500X1D is one of the best amplifiers for cars thanks to the technology it uses and highly functional circuit topology. This is a 500 W mono amplifier that can function with up to 2 ohms impedance; it comes with ‘Punch Bass’ option and remote operated bass level control if you’re one to tweak the lower-end based on your mood for that particular ride. The phase switch can change-up to 180 degrees, with high level inputs and real-time output. The power supply is average but is thermal sensitive and the heat sink is made of highly durable cast aluminum. It also includes four gauge power and ground connectors. The Rockford Fosgate R500X1D comes with MOSFET that can switch or amplify signal, which is an excellent improvement for audio systems and the quality of sound in cars in general. A one year guarantee further proves the quality of this car amp on top of it all — just a solid amp here to start off our list of the best car amps in the market today.
Up next, Kenwood’s KAC-M1804 is a highly rated 4-channel car amplifier that will definitely improve music listening in your car. Thanks to its great technical aspects, this is one of the best car amp options for your vehicle audio system. You can enjoy powerful 45 watts RMS for every individual channel, with up to 4 ohms impedance, which almost doubles the majority of usual car amps. It has a great compact design that will enable it to fit in about any vehicle, even when space is small and limited. The cover is made of waterproof plastic that safely protect its power circuitry, so you can use it on land and on water without worry that the system will get damaged if it gets wet. Let’s not forget to mention the reliable and variable MOSFET for extra protection.
The Boss AR1500M is one of the best car amplifiers due to a number of its great qualities. With 2 ohms lowest impedance, it will reliably provide power to subwoofers or speakers. It is a mono amp that belongs in the A/B class amplifiers that deliver crystal clear sound. It comes with both low and high level inputs that will enable you to create an audio system with just about any available unit source. The Boss AR1500M also comes with MOSFET that will amplify or switch a signal, which is better than the usual FETs as they don’t require as much energy to function – and this is definitely a better option when it comes to an audio system for cars. The AR1500M lastly has remote operated subwoofer control and the option to switch the bass boost which is never a bad thing.
Up next in the budget-friendly best car amp world, the Pyle PLMRMP3B is the best amplifier for car system enthusiasts and everyone looking to enjoy high quality music sounds while saving a bit of money at the same time. Pyle Pro offers a wide range of electronics products that are typically priced with the lower tier. This one comes with a 10A fuse and up to 4 ohms impedance that will ensure excellent signal amplification and switch. It has an RCA adaptor, line input and real-time output that are level adjustable, which enables diversity when it comes to usage in a car, on boat or in an RV. With turn on that is anti thump safe, as well as soft switch on and off, it will ensure some decently clear sound and device protection to prevent damage. Channel separation goes up to 65 decibel, and thanks to the remote control, you can easily reach maximum sound. The PLMRMP3B also comes with electronic crossover and a power protection network.
Halfway into our guide now, this Pioneer GM-D8601 is rated highly as one of the best car amplifiers because of its simplistic mono input and remote controls over wired bass boost. It is equipped with 1600 watts for max sound power. Variable bass control enables you to create sound quality as you wish. Its compact and small design enables easy installation and usage in different size vehicles. Pioneer has invested in improved amplifier circuit protection that will prevent damage to the system, preventing circuit breakdown, reacting to temperature rise within the amp, and accordingly adjusting the input level. The Pioneer GM-D8601 comes with a variable LPF (low-pass filter) that enables easier audio frequency adjustment according to subwoofer settings and your own listening wishes. It enables easy adjustment along the array from 40 up to 240 Hz. It’s a bit up there in price if you’re comparing it to others in this guide but well worth the money if you have it and want a higher-quality amplifier for your car.
Planet Audio AC1500.1M
The Planet Audio AC1500.1M is another one of the best budget-friendly car amplifiers due to several excellent characteristics. Its lowest impedance is set to 2 ohms, which will deliver up to 1125 W power to subwoofers and speakers. It is a mono amp that is an A/B class amplifier and it has variable level inputs that will enable you to install an audio system from about any unit source. The Planet Audio AC1500.1M also has the desired MOSFET to switch or amplify the signal, which is surely a better and improved option in comparison to the usually used FETs because you need less energy to enjoy high quality sound volume – and this is definitely a better option when it comes to car amps if you wanted to save some money. It’s not the best out there in terms of overall characteristics, but it gets the job done especially for those wanted to go easy on their wallet for a car amplifier.
This is in the middle price-point of the best car amplifiers if you are looking for a reliable and not too expensive car amplifier to boost the music listening experience in your car. The Pyramid PB3818 comes with amplification on two channels and a maximum 2500 W output that will definitely enable you to load music high. It has completely adjustable electric crossovers for different sound quality. Soft turning on and off will protect the circuitry from damage and the variable bass boost will provide you excellent bass. It has variable level inputs that will enable you to install an audio system from about any unit source. The Pyramid PB3818 also comes with variable gain control and MOSFET for signal amplification and switching. The heat sink is made of quality aluminum alloy that safely protects circuits and the entire unit.
The JBL MA6004 makes it in this shopping guide as one of the best car amps thanks to its great technology and technical characteristics. It is equipped with 4 channels that provide up to 2 ohms impedance on all channels, which is excellent for sound amplification and quality at the same time. This is a max 320 watts amplifier that has dynamic energy output. It is equipped with MOSFET like the others that enables variable switching and amplifying of the signal, which is great for audio systems in cars in terms of sound quality. It has RCA outputs and sensitive inputs (from 100 mV up to 6V) and excellent protection of the circuitry in several ways (thermal, speaker protection, and protection from overloading). The JBL MA6004 is made of a durable aluminum alloy that will safely protect the circuitry from outside damage as well.
Nearing the end of our guide, the Pioneer GMA3602 is equipped with 400 watts for great sound power deliverable in two channels. It comes with a variable high pass crossover and speaker inputs for a swift and simple connection to the head unit. In order to avoid loss of power supply, it comes with a big transformer as well as a fast and functional MOSFET that will ensure great and continuous sound quality and power supply stability. The gain control is adjustable, which will give you some pretty clear sound – no matter what the source. This is an A/B class amplifier, which is further proof of the quality of sound and LPF crossover type for adjustable installation. It is compact and lightweight and will easily fit into different size vehicles. We know many out there who would say car audio gear is either Pioneer or bust — so we know it’s a brand that we can trust when it comes to reputation and overall reliability for the best car amplifier.
Lastly, the Lanzar HTG157 is one of the best amplifiers for cars if you are looking for an affordable but also reliable car amplifier that will enable you to enjoy music listening in your vehicle. It comes with maximum 3000 W output and up to 4 ohms impedance that will give you feasible sound quality. It has completely adjustable electric crossovers for sound quality that can easily follow your wish. Soft turning on and off will protect the power circuits from damage while the variable bass boost delivers excellent bass. The HTG157 comes with low pass control filters and THD under 0.01 percent. This is a reliable and strong car amplifier that will definitely improve music listening in your car. Lanzar may not be one of the most popular brands out there but this particular model is listed time and time again when it comes to popular picks as the best car amplifier. Take a look at it if the specs fit your system.