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Best Car Amplifier

“Your stereo is the soul of your vehicle.”

 A bit too much, you say? We’ll have to disagree.

Obviously, you have the all-important engine, battery, exhaust and all these other parts that make a car what it is. But what’s the one thing that keeps you company whenever you’re on the road? The one thing that makes all those daily commutes a little less dull? Where is the divide between a mechanical contraption that simply gets you from one place to another and an escape from the bleak gray of everyday life?

That’s music.

Good music naturally comes hand in hand with a quality stereo system, and an amp can turn the auditory experience of your rides to a whole different level. Whether your car sports factory speakers, component speakers or subwoofers, an amp is a must if you want to get those crisp tunes out of them.

Best Car Amplifiers of 2017 – A Brief Comparison

Boosting your stereo system is going to be as daunting as it sounds, no pun intended. When you’re out to buy an amp, it’s imperative to know what kind of sound system you own and how an amp can fit inside all of that. But before we get to the nitty-gritty details, a general rule of thumb you can follow is: the more powerful the amp, the better the performance. Amps are there to enhance the sounds coming from your speaker, and you’re going to want one that is capable of boosting your music to that pitch perfect range. An amp that is low in power will just result in your speaker output falling short of its peak performance. And that’s not why we’re here.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here is a list of our top picks.

Product NamePowerGeneral Specifications
Alpine MRV-M500300 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

500 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohms
Class D Monoblock Amplifier

Variable low-pass filter (50 - 400 Hz, 24 dB/octave)

Variable bass boost (0 - 12 dB at 50 Hz)

Preamp and speaker-level inputs

Preamp outputs

Remote Sensing automatic turn-on when using speaker-level inputs

Fuse rating: 30A x 2
BOSS Audio AR1500M1125 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohmsClass A/B Monoblock Amplifier

High- and low-level inputs

Variable low-pass crossover

Switchable bass boost

Remote subwoofer control
Rockford Fosgate Prime R600X550 Watts x 4 RMS Power @ 4-ohms + 200 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

75 Watts x 4 RMS Power @ 2-ohms + 300 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohms

150 Watts x 2 RMS Power @ 4-ohms (Bridged) + 300 Watts RMS Power x 1 @ 2-ohms
Class A/B|D 5-Channel Amplifier

Variable high- and low-pass filters (50 - 250 Hz, 12 dB/octave) on front and rear channels

Variable low-pass filter, always engaged (50 - 250 Hz, 12 dB/octave) on subwoofer channel

Variable bass boost (0 - 12 dB at 45 Hz) on subwoofer channel

Selectable Punch EQ bass boost (0, 6, 12 dB at 45 Hz) on front and rear channels

Preamp and speaker level inputs
Pioneer GM-D9601500 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

800 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohms

1200 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 1-ohm
Class D Monoblock Amplifier

Variable low-pass filter (40 - 240 Hz, 12 dB per octave)

Wired remote control adjusts

Variable bass boost (0 - 18 dB at 50 Hz)

Preamp inputs and outputs

Speaker-level inputs via supplied RCA-type adapters

Fuse rating: 40A x 3
Audiopipe APCL-15001D600 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

950 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohms

1500 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 1-ohm
Class D Monoblock Amplifier

Frequency Response: 80 Hz to 180 kHz

Signal Noise Ratio: 70 dB

Variable low-pass filter (40 - 180 Hz)

Subsonic filter (5 - 50 Hz)

Variable Bass Boost: 0 to +12 dB bass boost at 30 - 80 Hz

Fuse Rating: 100 A x 1
JL Audio JX1000/1D500 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

1000 Watts x 1 RMS Power @ 2-ohms

 
Class D Monoblock Amplifier

Variable low-pass filter (50 - 200 Hz, 12dB/octave)

Variable bass boost (0 - 12dB at 45 Hz)

Preamp inputs and outputs

Speaker level inputs
Planet Audio ANARCHY AC1000.2375 Watts x 2 RMS Power @ 2-ohmsClass A/B Full Range 2-Channel Amplifier

High- and low-level inputs

Variable high- and low-pass crossovers

Bass Boost

Remote subwoofer control
Hifonics Zeus ZRX2016.4250 Watts x 4 RMS Power @ 4-ohms

500 Watts x 4 RMS Power @ 2-ohms

1000 Watts x 2 RMS Power @ 4-ohms (Bridged)
Class A/B 4-Channel Amplifier

Variable high-pass filter (60 - 1200 Hz, 24 dB/octave)

Variable low-pass filter (30 - 250 Hz, 24 dB/octave)

Speaker-level (high-level) inputs

Variable Bass Boost (0 to +12 dB bass boost at 45 Hz)

Wired remote bass level control

Now as you can see, there are certain features you’ll want to take note of when selecting an amplifier, some more crucial than others. For example, the RMS power rating. This is different from the ‘Peak’ power ratings that you sometimes see on the packaging. The difference lies in that ‘Peak’ power is the maximum output of the amplifier; whereas the RMS power rating is the continuous output the amplifier is capable of generating. So for a better gauge of the amplifier’s performance, always check for the RMS power rating and not the Peak power rating. Besides that, there are other aspects to an amplifier you could pay attention to, such as the high- and low-pass filters, subsonic filters, speaker-level inputs, bass boost, and so on and so forth.

All in all, there are many ways you could fashion your car’s stereo system, and depending on what type of sound quality you’re going for, you will have a different set of requirements to look for in an amp, so read on to get a better idea of what we recommend.

1

Alpine MRV-M500 – Best Beginner’s Amp

With almost 50 years of history behind its back, Alpine Electronics has always been a big player in the in-car multimedia industry, offering a variety of audio equipment such as speakers, subwoofers, and obviously, amplifiers. Notable car manufacturers that sport their line of products include BMW, Honda, Jaguar and Dodge.

Its top-of-the-line MRV-M500 sports an RMS rating of 300 Watts at 4-ohms and 500 Watts at 2-ohms, capable of powering most subwoofers and speakers. The variable low-pass filter allows for easy tweaking of the frequencies that go to your sub and the bass boost gives you that extra punch you need for some heart pounding bass. Speaker-level inputs let you hook up the MRV-M500 directly to your factory system, and the preamp outputs will serve nicely if you’re planning on setting up a multi-amp rig.

Another great feature of the MRV-M500 is the Enhanced Shutdown Performance technology, which lowers the output to a manageable level whenever the amp is at the verge of overheating from playing too long, instead of turning itself off completely. There’s no need to worry because your music will still be played. Just give it ample time to cool down before blasting it at full capacity again.

Sporting a compact, minimalist design with a sleek, black coat finish, the MRV-M500 is easy to install in most small cars. If you’re relatively new to the field of amplifiers and car stereo systems, then the Alpine MRV-M500 will be a very stable option to work with. Not only is it the product of a well-established company, the presence of features such as speaker-level inputs are highly desirous, especially for the greenhorn who has never been behind a dashboard.

PROS
  • Compact and sleek design
  • Speaker-level inputs for easy installation
  • Efficient power management procedure when the amp is close to overheating
CONS
  • Wiring could loosen after some time
  • No high-pass filters for fine-tuning the higher frequencies
2

BOSS Audio AR1500M – Best for Small Vehicles

Founded in 1987, BOSS Audio Systems is the company behind close to 400 different kinds of audio/visual products for on- and off-road, as well as marine motor vehicles. The company is based in Oxnard, CA, and boasts an international network with over 130 countries.

Contrary to its name, the BOSS Audio AR1500M is quite modest in appearance, but don’t be fooled by its small size. The AR1500M is capable of enhancing your in-car experience with a continuous output of 1125 Watts, and the variable low-pass filter lets you call the shots in the lows that come out of your sub, along with a switchable bass boost to help give those same low frequencies that extra kick.

A few other things the AR1500M is good for is the automatic shut-off feature to protect your amp whenever it starts to get too hot or if the speakers ever fail and thus causing a short; the ability to connect to both speaker level and preamp inputs; and a wired remote for you to control the subwoofer level for a fully customized output.

Suffice to say, the AR1500M is a tiny gizmo that packs a heavy punch. Its compact size makes it a great addition for similarly small vehicles, and its output capacity is nothing to make light of. Not to mention, it comes at a very economical price point of a little under $60. So if things like size and footprint are important to you, the AR1500M should work greatly without compromising on power and functions too much.

PROS
  • Lightweight and has a small footprint
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Low-pass filter and bass boost makes it a great match for subwoofers
CONS
  • Power rating does not comply to CEA-2006 standards, and has a tendency to fall short in terms of performance
  • No high-pass filters for fine-tuning the higher frequencies
3

Rockford Fosgate Prime R600X5 – Most Versatile

True to its slogan, “Car Audio for Fanatics”, Rockford Fosgate is a tried and tested brand in the industry. It would be no exaggeration to say that no car audio review list is ever complete without at least one of this company’s products. Using the culmination of over 35 years of knowledge and innovation, Rockford Fosgate make some of the best in-car multimedia equipment to date, and have its numerous accolades as well as hundreds of thousands of users to prove it.

The R600X5 belongs to Rockford Fosgate’s Prime series line of amplifiers, and sports a hybrid Class A/B and D system. With its 5-channel setup, the R600X5 can drive 4 speakers with 50 Watts respectively, all the while powering a subwoofer with up to 300 watts RMS, effectively managing your entire stereo system with ease. The plus side of having multichannel amps lies in the great versatility they offer, particularly with bridging. In the case of the R600X5, you are able to channel power to a maximum of 2 high-performance components with an RMS of 150 watts each, while still sending that 300 watts to your sub.

Additionally, the variable high- and low-pass filters as well as the renowned Punch EQ technology puts you at the helm of your own stereo system, allowing you to make the most minute tweaks to get the best performance out of your subs and tweeters alike. Its build quality is also top-notch; the heavy duty cast-aluminum chassis efficiently draws heat away from internal components, ensuring stable, long-term use. The R600X5 also has various built-in sensors to keep track of output current and power supply temperature, keeping your amp safe from a drop in circuit impedance.

Whether you’re planning on simply getting a basic amp or have more elaborate designs in mind for your stereo system as a whole, the R600X5 is definitely a good choice to consider. Not only is it great amp on its own, it offers great fluidity and flexibility in terms of adapting to different stereo systems.

PROS
  • Easy to integrate with stereo systems with varying requirements
  • Offers total control of the full range of audio frequencies of each individual speaker
  • Superb build quality
  • Highly versatile with bridging capabilities to further enhance power output to high-performance speakers
CONS
  • Slightly expensive
4

Pioneer DM-G9601 – Best Monoblock Amplifier

First founded in 1938, Pioneer predates most of the brands on this list as one of the oldest companies in the industry. As its name implies, Pioneer has played a major role in the development of various multimedia technology such as the interactive cable TV, as well as producing the first automotive CD player and detachable face car stereo.

On average, Pioneer’s GM-D9601 can send approximately 500 watts RMS at 4-ohms, and up to a whopping 1200 watts RMS at 1-ohm perfectly, so you’ll never have to fret about impedance matching as you add more subs down the road. In addition to having preamp inputs and outputs, the GM-D9601 also offers speaker-level inputs via supplied RCA-type adaptors so when the amp detects the high-level signal from the head unit, it’ll automatically switch its input mode. This also makes it easy to connect to your factory stereo system as they typically don’t come with preamp outputs. The GM-D9601 has also got a low-pass filter for that super sweet bass, and the wired remote bass boost lets you tune the sound from the comfort of your front seat.

As far as mono-channel amplifiers are concerned, the GM-D9601 is definitely among the best of the best. Although it lacks the versatility offered by multi-channel amps, mono-channel amps are not without their own advantages, the most prominent being price. And not only does the GM-D9601 comes at a very reasonable price range, it has amazing build quality and boasts a great deal of convenient utilities, not to mention its powerful output capacity. So if you’re looking to upgrade your stereo system to some degree without using multi-channel amps, then the GM-D9601 may just be what you’re looking for.

PROS
  • High RMS power ratings
  • Speaker-level inputs for easy intergration with factory systems, and preamp inputs for aftermarket systems
  • Preamp outputs
  • Very reasonable price
CONS
  • No high-pass filters for fine-tuning the higher frequencies
5

Audiopipe APCL-15001D – Best ‘Boom’ for Your Buck

Naturally for most of us, the price tag plays an important role in our purchasing decisions. And with that in mind, we would like to give mention to the Audiopipe APCL-15001D. APCL stands for Audiopipe Consumer Line, and though it doesn’t sound quite as imposing as the other product lines on this list, it is nonetheless self-explanatory.

A Class D monoblock, the APCL-15001D generates an output of 600 watts RMS at 4-ohms, up to a maximum of 1500 watts RMS at 1-ohm. It also comes with a variable low-pass filter and bass boost, perfect for powering your subs. The bass level can also be remote controlled at your own convenience.  Another great feature of the APCL-15001D is the subsonic filter. A subsonic filter basically filters out the super low frequencies that the human ear can’t pick up, thereby saving more power and making your sub more efficient.

All things considered, the APCL-15001D comes at a very reasonable price that’s almost a steal. That being said, we should mention that it is yet to be CEA-2006 compliant. The CEA-2006 are a set of requirements for the power ratings that a car amplifier is expected to meet. Though it’s not compulsory to meet this benchmark, it is safe to say that all amps CEA-2006 certified are guaranteed to perform up to standard. Albeit so, on account of the long list of great reviews of the APCL-15001D on Amazon and other credible sites like Sonic Electronix, we’ve decided to give this title to the APCL-15001D. So with that said, if an amp that’s worth the expenditure is what you have in mind, why not give the APCL-15001D a try?

PROS
  • Highly economic
  • Subsonic filter optimizes power output and amp performance
  • High RMS power ratings
  • Low-pass filters and bass boost for fully optimized lows
CONS
  • Not CEA-2006 compliant
  • Has a relatively large footprint so may be difficult to find an ample amount of space to install
  • No high-pass filters for fine-tuning the higher frequencies
6

JL Audio JX1000/1D – Best Build Quality

Now that we’ve talked about our most cost-effective model, let’s move on to one of our premium options. Known as one of the pioneers of the car audio industry, JL Audio is very much a fan favorite among the connoisseurs, partly because of its brand, and partly because of the high quality products its brand is founded on.

So with the JX1000/1D, what you’re getting is this amazingly compact silver box that delivers up to 1000 watts RMS of power at an impedance of 2-ohms. Aimed at the heavy bass junkies, the JX1000/1D comes with a low-pass filter with a frequency range from 50 – 200 Hz. It also includes a variable bass boost with up to 12 dB of boost. Besides which, the JX1000/1D also comes with both low level RCA inputs in addition to high-level speaker outputs, making it easy to integrate with both factory and aftermarket systems alike. The presence of preamp outputs also make it a breeze to integrate additional amps into your stereo system should the need ever arise.

The JX1000/1D is engineered using the best materials to provide superb heat management and dissipation, high current flow, and stable performance in almost every situation. The oversized output transistors and the sturdy MOSFET power supplies that you can find inside are testaments to how much effort has gone in both ensuring the high performance of this model and helping it go the long haul.

Evidently, like many of JL Audio’s products, the JX1000/1D doesn’t come cheap. The best things usually don’t, anyways. What you’re really paying for here is the quality of the build. All in all, for those of you who are looking for a piece of serious audio equipment and don’t mind the extra splurge, then by all means, do take a look at the JL Audio JX1000/1D.

PROS
  • State-of-the-art build quality offers high performance and long-lasting durability
  • Low-pass filter and variable bass boost allows for the full might of the bass to come through
  • Preamp and speaker-level inputs for easy integration to both factory stereo systems and aftermarket ones
  • Preamp output ensures flexibility when it comes to installing more amps
CONS
  • An expensive option to go for
  • No high-pass filters for fine-tuning the higher frequencies
7

Planet Audio ANARCHY AC1000.2 – Best Amp Under $50

On the other side of the price spectrum, we have the Planet Audio AC1000.2 from its ANARCHY line of amps. Belonging to its ANARCHY’s 2-channel series, the AC1000.2 is capable of powering 2 component speakers simultaneously with 375 watts RMS at an impedance of 2-ohms. It sports a Class A/B design that’s rarely seen among newer models of amplifiers, and comes with a variable high- and low-pass filter. This means that you can freely tweak the full range of frequencies that is sent to your speakers. The AC1000.2 also comes with variable bass boost, and remote subwoofer level control capabilities, letting you fine tune those sounds without having to move an inch off your seat.

Some other great features include the use of preamp and speaker level inputs, making for easy integration into either your OEM stereo or aftermarket units. The AC1000.2’s variable input control also makes for efficient distribution of power as it allows the amp to optimize performance by automatically adjusting to the output signals sent by the head unit. It also comes with an automatic shut-off feature to prevent overheating.

At its price, it’s almost suspicious why anyone would ever sell something as good as the AC1000.2 for so cheap. Naturally, it’s not perfect. Some of the more frequent complaints among users include overheating, lack of power, and susceptibility to damage. As much as we like to be optimistic, and though it isn’t too badly received as compared to the positive reviews, the chance for a fault still exists. But be that as it may, this is still undeniably a very good deal. And on the off-chance it does turn out to be defective, the loss isn’t too great.

PROS
  • Very cheap amplifier
  • High- and low-pass filters allow for control over the full audio spectrum of the stereo system
  • Convenient utilities such as the remote subwoofer level control and the automatic shut-off feature
CONS
  • Prone to various risks such as overheating and susceptibility to damage
  • Power ratings are not CEA-2006 compliant
8

Hifonics Zeus ZRX2016.4 – Best Car Amplifier Overall

As one might be led to believe based on Hifonics’ slogan – “Power From The Gods”, the thunderous boom that comes out of one of these bad boys is magnificently divine. Offering a plethora of amplifiers, subwoofers, speakers, and signal processors, Hifonics is undoubtedly one of the more well-founded and well-established brands in the industry today.

The ZRX2016.4 belonging to its Zeus series of amps comes as a Class A/B 4-channel amplifier, so you will be able to power up to 4 speakers at 250 watts RMS each at an impedance of 4-ohms, or bridge them into a dual channel capable of producing 1000 watts RMS power, also at 4-ohms. It comes with a variable high- and low-pass filter, offering you absolute control over the full extent of your stereo frequencies. Additionally, the bass boost lets you further amp up those lows by a maximum of 12 dB. You’re also able to remotely control the bass level. Furthermore, the ZRX2016.4 comes with built-in speaker-level inputs, making it ideal for hooking up to your factory stereo; and a pair of preamp outputs in case you’d like to add more amps down the road.

Like some of the more well-known brands that we have introduced in this list, Hifonics is another long-time staple for car audio enthusiasts due to its consistent quality. But unlike those famous brands, Hifonics offers its products at a slightly more affordable price. In fact, you may be surprised to find out that the ZRX2016.4 costs a little over $150, a notch cheaper as compared to its competitors. Finally, given its vast versatility and high power output, it’s safe to say the ZRX2016.4 is truly an amp like no other.

PROS
  • Built-in speaker-level inputs
  • Able to control the full spectrum of frequencies with the use of the amp's high- and low-pass filters
  • Remote controlled variable bass boost
  • Highly versatile
  • Great build quality
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Economic price
CONS
  • Class A/B design allows for some efficiency, but is still a ways away from optimal

Best Car Amplifier - Buyer's Guide

Now that you’ve seen what our list has to offer, it will be good to backtrack and see what your stereo system needs, and what kind of sound you’re looking to create. And to better assist you in that aspect, we’re going to share with you some of the things you’ll want to look out for before making the final call.

Power

As we’ve highlighted before, power is crucial to a stereo system. No matter how good your speakers are, without the right amount of juice, performance is going to be subpar at best. So once you’ve understood how much power your speaker needs, you should try to look for an amp that either matches or exceeds that power rating. An amp with a power rating that exceeds that of your speakers will have a lot of headroom, and like all the other reviews will tell you, power is what makes or breaks the amp, and by correlation, the stereo system. So you’ll want to look for one that’s powerful enough for your speakers.

And remember, the more important figure is the RMS rating and not the Peak power rating, as it tells you the rate of continuous output of power for the amp, not just its maximum capacity.

Preamp vs. Speaker-level inputs

Preamp outputs, or low-level outputs, are processed signals from your head unit that are modified to a format that your amplifier can work with. Generally speaking, factory stereo systems don’t come with preamp outputs to connect to amplifiers. This is because your typical OEM head unit was not built with having an amp in mind. So for those of us who are a little wet behind the ears when it comes to installing our own amps, an amp that has speaker-level inputs can make a whole world of difference with the setup process.

Functionality

This refers to the utilities that are not necessarily crucial to the amp, but are capable of drastically enhancing our music experience. For example, whether the amp comes with filters or not, and whether it has bass boost. Like its name implies, filters effectively cut out certain frequencies so that our amp can focus on playing the frequencies it’s best suited for. Low-pass filters eliminate the high frequencies and in contrast, high-pass filters eliminate the low frequencies. Whether you’re planning to connect your amp to a sub or a tweeter, filters are definitely something you’ll want to keep an eye out for when buying an amp. 

To wrap it all up, these are the important aspects to look out for when purchasing an amp. Though we can’t say that’s all there is to making a choice, you won’t be off by far if you follow it to a tee.

Conclusion


Suffice to say, the world of car audio is vast. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model, and depending on your stereo system, you may find yourself with the mighty Hifonics Zeus ZRX2016.4 or an even more versatile unit like the Rockford Fosgate Prime R600X5. But regardless of what you decide to buy in the end, we hope our list was of some assistance in shedding light on the key characteristics to look for in an amp and help you decide on which is the best car amp for you.

We would like to thank you for your time and your patience, and we look forward to assisting you again in any of your future purchasing inquiries.