It’s true that newer, modern vehicles come with impressive stereo systems straight from the factory, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be better. For many car owners, the stock stereo just won’t cut it and thankfully there are plenty of cost-efficient ways to upgrade.
Whether you’re looking for better sound quality or want to add some real bass to your stereo, an amplifier is necessary to get the most out of your speakers, especially if you’re using aftermarket speakers. If you’re planning to add a separate subwoofer, an amplifier is almost a necessity to power it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at five popular car audio brands that offer quality amplifiers, as well as go into detail on how to shop for one. For more information on car amplifiers, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- BOSS Audio
- Promoted Product: CT Sounds Car Audio Amplifiers
- BOSS Audio Riot Monoblock Power Amplifier
- BOSS Audio Monoblock and 2-Channel Car Amplifier
- Rockford Fosgate
- Rockford Fosgate Punch Ultra Compact Amplifier
- Rockford Fosgate Prime Class-D 1-Channel Amplifier (R1200-1D)
- Pioneer Class D Mono Amplifier (GM-D8601)
- Pioneer Class FD 4-Channel Bridgeable Amplifier (GM-D8604)
- Planet Audio
- Planet Audio Anarchy Monoblock Car Amplifier
- Planet Audio Anarchy 2-Channel Bridgeable Amplifier
- Alpine Mono V-Power Digital Amplifier (MRV-M500)
- Alpine 5-Channel Extreme Power Density Digital Amplifier (PDX-V9)
- What is a Car Amplifier?
- Why Do I Need a Car Amplifier?
- What to Look for When Shopping for a Car Amplifier
- Editor's Verdict
BOSS Audio has been manufacturing audio and video products for over 30 years, with the goal of delivering clean and powerful sound. The company features in-house acoustic, design, mechanical, and electronics engineers, along with global manufacturing partners to produce state-of-the-art products. With over 400 car, marine, and powersports products sold in 130 countries worldwide, there’s a good chance BOSS Audio offers something to fit your budget.
The company offers a wide assortment of amplifiers, many of which are affordable and competitively priced. If you’re looking for a decent way to upgrade your stereo without spending a significant amount of money, BOSS Audio’s amplifiers are a good place to start.
Promoted Product: CT Sounds Car Audio Amplifiers
Even the best set of speakers are nothing without a killer amp — which is where CT Sounds comes in. Despite being a relatively new entrant in the market, this Houston-based company manufactures some seriously impressive amplifiers, delivering unmatched performance at an attractive price point. Efficient, clean, and powerful, CT Sounds amps don’t just hum, they sing.
The company offers five series of amplifiers geared to fit a range of audiophile budgets and needs. The CT Series amplifiers are the company’s most cost-effective line, designed for those looking for an efficient yet powerful car amplifier that’ll rock your car, but not your wallet. Plus, the compact chassis and small amplifier footprint make CT Series amps easy to install in any car audio application.
Then there’s the T Series, which incorporates Class AB circuitry in the multichannel amplifiers and a wide variety of power ranges for the monoblock amplifiers. Equipped with a MOSFET pulse width power supply and Korean capacitors, this allows the T Series amps to deliver clean power for hours on end. Meanwhile, the AT Series, competition-graded TEAM Series and new M Series amplifiers offer audio enthusiasts even more choice.
Regardless of which you opt for though, if you’re looking to take your car’s audio equipment to the next level, it’s hard to go wrong here. And the reviews clearly agree, with users praising CT Sounds amps for their clean sound and great value across the board.
*This is a sponsored placement.
BOSS Audio Riot Monoblock Power Amplifier
Our first recommendation from BOSS Audio is the Riot Monoblock Power Amplifier. It’s available with various maximum power outputs, ranging from 1,100 watts to 3,400 watts. These are 1-channel amplifiers with MOSFET power supplies with high and low level inputs, variable low pass crossover, bass boost, and remote subwoofer control. The Riot Series amplifiers are ideal for first time car audio buyers looking to enhance the sound of their stereo, or to add bass to their system at an affordable price.
These amplifiers are designed to power subwoofers so they perform as they were meant to. A wired remote allows for easy control of the subwoofer level, so you can customize the output for superior sound. The variable low pass filter gives you control over the frequencies that pass through to the subwoofer.
BOSS Audio Monoblock and 2-Channel Car Amplifier
Another line of amplifiers from BOSS Audio come in the form of monoblock and 2-channel, with power output ranging from 1,200 watts to 2,500 watts.
The 1,200-watt 2-channel amplifier has max power of 600 watts at 2 ohm by 2 channels, or 300 max power at 4 ohm by 2 channels. It can also support up to 1,200 watts max bridged power at 4 ohm by 1 channel.
The other 2-channel amp offering in this lineup is a 1,600-watt unit with 800 watts max power at 2 ohm by 2 channels, 400 watts max power at 4 ohm by 2 channels, and 1,600 watts max bridged power at 4 ohm by 1 channel.
If you’re looking for a monoblock amp, this lineup offers 1,500 watts, 2,000 watts, and 2,500 watts.
The amps feature MOSFET power supply, low and high level inputs, variable filter, variable bass boost, and remote subwoofer control.
Certain models can also be purchased with an install kit.
One of the most well known brands in the car audio industry is Rockford Fosgate, having been associated with the market for decades. As you can expect, the company offers plenty of different amplifiers, but these are more expensive options. If you choose to purchase an amp from Rockford Fosgate however, you’ll get a higher quality product that is likely equipped with proprietary components, resulting in better sound quality. More importantly, many of the company’s amplifiers feature a case design that allows for more effective heat dissipation. Like other high-end electronics, the cooler they run, the better and longer they’ll perform.
With such a large lineup of amplifiers, you may need to do some extensive research before you narrow it down to exactly what you need for your system. But here are two recommendations of highly rated and popular products from Rockford Fosgate.
Rockford Fosgate Punch Ultra Compact Amplifier
Rockford Fosgate’s Punch BRT lineup features mono, 2-, and 4-channel 300-watt amplifiers. These are ultra compact amplifiers designed to save you space while offering decent power for your stereo and come with a one-year limited warranty.
The mono amp has MOSFET output stage, a 12 dB/octave Butterworth crossover, as well as high- and low-level inputs. It is rated at 300 watts at 1-ohm RMS power rating, or 150 watts at 2 ohms, or 75 watts at 4 ohms.
The 2-channel amp also features MOSFET output stage and a 12 dB/octave Butterworth crossover, with rated power of 100 watts x 2 channels at 4 ohm, 150 watts x 2 channels at 2 ohm, or 300 watts x 1 channel at 4-ohm bridged.
The 4-channel amp has all the same features as the other two models, along with a 2/4-channel input switch. RMS power is rated at 75 watts x 4 channels at 4 ohm, as this amp can only operate at 4 ohm. It is not bridgeable.
All power ratings on Rockford Fosgate amplifiers conform to CEA-2006 industry standards, which means the output power ratings are real power numbers, rather than inflated marketing ratings.
Rockford Fosgate Prime Class-D 1-Channel Amplifier (R1200-1D)
If you’re looking for a more powerful amplifier, Rockford Fosgate’s Prime lineup has a 1,200-watt Class-D mono amp. Designed to offer high efficiency through its Class-D circuitry, this amp will deliver rich, full bass to any system. It is optimized for subwoofers, thanks to an infrasonic filter to keep ultra-low, inaudible bass notes from damaging your subwoofer system. It’s ideally matched to a 4-channel amp that powers your mids and highs.
This amplifier features a 12 dB/octave Butterworth crossover, infrasonic filter, on-board Punch EQ with +18 dB boost at 45 Hz, remote Punch Level Control, RCA pass-thru outputs, real time output and power supply thermal sensing, cast aluminum heatsink, top mounted controls, 4-gauge power and ground connectors, MOSFET power supply, short circuit protection, muted turn on, and comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Total power is rated at 1,200 watts, while RMS is 400 watts x 1 channel at 4 ohm, 800 watts x 1 channel at 2 ohm, or 1200 watts x 1 channel at 1 ohm.
Although Pioneer’s lineup of amplifiers isn’t as extensive as other manufacturers, the company has established itself in the audio industry with quality head units, speakers, and subwoofers. Its amplifiers are priced as mid-range options, offering good performance and quality at an affordable price.
If you have never heard of Pioneer, the company was originally founded in 1938 by Nozomu Matsumoto, who made speakers in his garage. Since then, the company has been on the forefront of various electronics technologies and introduced innovations such as the consumer laser disc, car CD player, GPS car navigation, and more.
Pioneer offers mono, 2-, and 4-channel car amplifiers and we’ll take a look at two of its most popular ones below.
Pioneer Class D Mono Amplifier (GM-D8601)
This Class D mono amplifier from Pioneer offers 1,600 watts of max power in a compact design that allows for a number of installation options. RMS power is rated at 800 watts x 1 channel at 1 ohm, 500 watts x 1 channel at 2 ohm, or 300 watts x 1 channel at 4 ohm. This amp features Pioneer’s new digital amplifier circuit called “Protection Control System,” which senses its internal temperature and automatically moderates input level accordingly. The system not only helps prevent circuit shutdown, but also enhances the flexibility to connect multiple subwoofers to a system.
For added flexibility, the Class D amp also has a variable low pass filter, helping make audio frequency more adjustable according to your subwoofer(s) characteristics and personal listening preferences. The low pass filter is adjustable from 40 Hz to 240 Hz. Included with the amp is a wired bass boost remote control for optimal bass level adjustment.
Pioneer Class FD 4-Channel Bridgeable Amplifier (GM-D8604)
This 4-channel, bridgeable amplifier from Pioneer offers 1,200 watts max power and features a compact design for a variety of installation options. Like the Class D mono amp, this 4-channel unit features Pioneer’s Protection Control System, which senses the amp’s internal temperature and automatically moderates input level accordingly. There are also variable low pass and high pass filters on this amp, adjustable from 40 Hz to 500 Hz so you can fine tune your listening experience.
Continuous power output on this amp is rated at 125 watts x 4 channels at 1 ohm, 150 watts x 4 channels at 2 ohm, 100 watts x 4 channels at 4 ohm, or 300 watts x 2 channnels when bridged at 4 ohm. This is a Class FD amp that offers extreme efficiency and high quality sound, great at powering your mids and highs.
More affordable options are available from Planet Audio, a company founded in 1997 by a group of business-minded car audio enthusiasts. Planet Audio’s focus is to provide outstanding car audio products that are powerful, valuable, and appealing without necessarily being expensive. The company is headquartered in Oxnard, California and has since grown from manufacturing amplifiers and car speakers to subwoofers, in-dash, overhead, and head rest mobile video products.
Planet Audio has a very comprehensive lineup of amplifiers, so if our two picks don’t fit your needs, make sure to look at the rest of the company’s products.
Planet Audio Anarchy Monoblock Car Amplifier
If you’re looking for an affordable mono amplifier, Planet Audio’s Anarchy lineup offers a variety of wattage output: 1,500, 2,500, 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 watts. These are affordable mono amps, even if you’re shopping for the 5,000-watt unit. Everyone of these amps also come with a six-year Platinum Online dealer warranty, so long as they’re purchased through Amazon.
The 1,500-watt amp offers maximum power at 2 ohms into one channel, or maximum power output of 750 watts at 4 ohms into 1 channel. It features both high and low level inputs, a low-pass crossover, and variable bass boost. The AC1500.1M measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 10-inches deep.
For the 2,500-watt monoblock amp, it’s rated at 2,500-watts max power x 1 channel at 2 ohm, or 1,875 watts x 1 channel at 4 ohm. This amp features high and low level inputs, variable low pass crossover, variable bass boost, and remote subwoofer control. The AC2500.1M measures 10-inches wide by 2-inches tall by 14-inches deep.
The AC3000.1D is rated at 3,000-watts max power x 1 channel at 1 ohm, 1,500 watts x 1 channel at 2 ohm, or 750 watts x 1 channel at 4 ohm. This amp has all the same features as the other models, while measuring 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 13-inches deep.
For even more power, there’s a 4,000-watt max power monoblock at 1 ohm, or 2,000-watts max power x 1 channel at 2 ohm. You can also run it at 4 ohm for 1,000-watts max power. The AC4000.1D also features switchable phase control and a variable subsonic filter, while measuring 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 15-inches deep.
At the top of the lineup is the AC5000.1D, a Class D amplifier rated at max power of 5000 watts x 1 at 1 ohm, 2,500-watts max power x 1 at 2 ohm, or 1,250-watts max power x 1 at 4 ohm. The 5,000-watt monoblock amp measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 18-inches deep.
The 3,000-, 4,000-, and 5,000-watt amps only offer low level inputs.
Planet Audio Anarchy 2-Channel Bridgeable Amplifier
Planet Audio also has a lineup of 2-channel amplifiers in its Anarchy family, offered at an affordable price. These Class A/B amps are bridgeable and 2- or 4-ohm stable, with max power output ranging from 600 watts to 2,600 watts. Like the Anarchy monoblock amplifiers, the 2-channel amps offer a six-year Platinum Online dealer warranty when the product is purchased through Amazon.
The most affordable product in this particular lineup is the AC600.2, a 600-watt amp that offers low and high level inputs, variable filter, variable bass boost, and MOSFET power supply. It is rated at 600 watts max bridged power x 1 channel at 4 ohms, or 300 watts x 2 channels at 2 ohm, or 150 watts x 2 channels at 4 ohm. The 600-watt amp measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 7.5-inches deep.
The 1,000-watt amp is rated at 1,000-watts max bridged power x 1 channel at 4 ohm, 500 watts x 2 channels at 2 ohm, or 250 watts x 2 channels at 4 ohm. Along with the same features as the AC600.2, the AC1000.2 comes with remote subwoofer control. The AC1000.2 measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 9.5-inches deep.
Offering slightly more power is the AC1200.2, rated at 1,200-watts max bridged power x 1 channel at 4 ohm. The 1200-watt amp measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 12-inches deep.
The 2,000-watt amp has 1000-watts max power x 2 channels at 2 ohm, or 500-watts max power x 2 channels at 4 ohm, or 2000-watts max bridged power x 1 channel at 4 ohm. The AC2000.2 measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 16-inches deep.
The most powerful offering in the lineup is a 2,600-watt max bridged power x 1 channel at 4 ohm amp. It can also be set at 2 channels and 2 ohm for 1,300-watts max power or 650-watts max power x 2 channels at 4 ohm. This amp measures 10-inches wide by 2.4-inches tall by 18-inches deep.
Originally founded in 1978, Alpine has since become an industry-leading manufacturer of high performance mobile electronics. The company is focused on delivering high-quality, competitively priced products and uses leading edge digital technology in pursuit of excellence in sound reproduction. So as you can expect, Alpine offers a wide assortment of car audio electronics, including head units, amplifiers, speakers, subwoofers, navigation systems, and rear seat entertainment systems.
You’ll find that Alpine’s amplifiers are competitively priced as mid-range options, similar to Pioneer’s offerings. The company has quite a bit to choose from, so we’ll focus on two of its most popular options.
Alpine Mono V-Power Digital Amplifier (MRV-M500)
A popular mono amplifier from Alpine is the V-Power Digital Amplifier, offering 500-watts RMS x 1 channel at 2 ohm, or 300-watts RMS x 1 at 4 ohm. The V-Power amplifiers are now in their fourth generation of delivering dependable, quality power and the latest versions are now Class D digital amplifiers. Alpine says the latest V-Power amps benefit from huge efficiency gains over their predecessors, without draining your battery or wallet. Compared to Class A or B amplifiers, Class D amps operate at 80-percent greater efficiency, providing continuous clean power to your stereo.
These amps also benefit from a new circuit and heat sink design, which allows for gradual thermal absorption and gentle power control. Also now integrated in the V-Power amps is dual internal error correction technology. According to Alpine, the audio input signal is analyzed, compared, and corrected twice dynamically as the signal is processed through the amplifier. The result is wide frequency response, higher damping factor, and low noise.
This particular amp is compatible with Alpine’s RUX-KNOB remote bass knob, which is sold separately.
Alpine 5-Channel Extreme Power Density Digital Amplifier (PDX-V9)
It’s one of the most expensive amplifiers on our list, but it’s also what you should look for if you’re a true, hardcore audio enthusiast. The PDX-V9 has max power of 1,600 watts and its RMS power ratings are 100-watts RMS x 4 channels + 500-watts RMS at 4 ohm, 100-watts RMS x 4 channels + 500-watts RMS at 2 ohm, or 200-watts RMS x 2 channels at bridged 4 ohm.
This amp isn’t your typical Class D amplifier, as it claims to be the first ever Class D amp to break tradition by offering extremely high resolution and detail. Typically, Class D amplifiers aren’t known for both low distortion and wide frequency response, but the PDX-V9 is different. Its frequency range is 5 Hz to 100 kHz for 4 channel, 5 Hz to 400 Hz for mono, and 3 Hz to 600 Hz for 5 channel.
The amp is also stable at low impedances and is capable of its rated power from 2 to 4 ohms. It also incorporates Alpine’s new Power Management circuit, which controls all aspects of amplifier performance, monitoring voltage, temperature, and output for non-stop listening. If the amp happens to get too hot, the Thermal Protection circuit will activate and decrease output power until the amp cools down. Once it does cool down, power output will automatically be increased back to its previous level.
The PDX-V9 is also compatible with Alpine’s RUX-KNOB, which gives you full control of bass adjustments from within your car. You can also control multiple amps with just one controller with telephone cord adapters.
What is a Car Amplifier?
Whether you realize it or not, every car with a stereo has an amplifier. The thing is, most factory amplifiers are built into a car’s head unit so you’re not even aware they exist. At the end of the day, a stereo simply doesn’t function without an amplifier.
In the most basic sense, an amplifier is a device that increase the power of a signal. For a car stereo, that means taking a weak audio signal and amplifying it so it can drive your speakers. Naturally, the more powerful an amplifier is, the better sound it can produce – so long as your speakers can handle it.
Why Do I Need a Car Amplifier?
So what’s the point of purchasing an aftermarket amplifier if your car already has one, you might be asking. Well, simply put, factory amplifiers that are integrated into a head unit just aren’t very good. Most car owners didn’t make their purchasing decision based on whether or not the car’s factory stereo sounded great, which means automakers don’t necessarily have a strong reason to use high quality components.
For some vehicle owners, simply upgrading their car speakers may be enough to increase the sound quality inside their cabin. But if that’s still not enough, you’ll want to add an aftermarket amplifier to really make those new speakers shine. As we mentioned before, an aftermarket amplifier is basically a necessity if you plan on adding a subwoofer to your car.
It’s worth mentioning that you may not necessarily need an amplifier depending on your listening preferences. Sometimes an upgraded head unit might provide enough additional power to your speakers to make them sound just good enough for your ears.
What to Look for When Shopping for a Car Amplifier
If this is your first time doing research into car amplifiers, you might find it a bit overwhelming and possibly confusing. Fear not, you’re not the only one and we’re hoping to simplify it for you.
There are many features that differentiate amplifier A from amplifier B, but there are some things you need to determine before choosing the right one. Are you planning to use the amplifier to power new speakers or a subwoofer? Do you want a single amp that can power everything?
To answer those questions, you need to first understand that at least one “channel” is necessary for each speaker. That means you can have more than one amplifier in your car if you want to throw more power at everything. For example, you can use a 4-channel amp to power four separate coaxial speakers, while a mono (1-channel) amp can be used for your subwoofer.
Most importantly, you need to understand that an amplifier must be matched to the needs of your system. Some amps will feature low or high pass filters that are ideal for woofers or tweeters, while others focus on boosting bass.
The other aspect to pay close attention to is the power an amplifier provides. You want to look at the RMS value, rather than what an amplifier’s maximum power rating is. Do your best to match the RMS value to the power handling of your speakers, to get the best sound out of them.
Our Final Verdict
As you may be able to tell by now, it’s very difficult to recommend a single product since the correct amplifier largely depends on your stereo’s needs. We do recommend sticking to reputable brands that offer a warranty, such as Pioneer, Alpine, and Rockford Fosgate. Unless you’re really on a budget, sometimes it’s better to spend the extra money for a quality product from a company that will take care of any issues that may arise.
Just remember, amplifiers are electronics, and some will run hot depending on how they’re installed. It’s always a possibility that something can go wrong with them, so you’ll want good customer support. Always consult a professional installer if you’re not comfortable wiring and installing an amplifier yourself.
February 19, 2021: Updated with a promoted product recommendation.
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