Digital vs Analog: What Car Amplifier Is Better?


While each has different attributes, deciding between a digital and analog amplifier involves prioritizing each’s benefits to discern which is best for your car audio system.

Both musical outputs are vibrant and detailed for the typical user, but a true audiophile may veer toward analog because of its authentic quality. Still, after weighing the options, you might wonder if an analog or digital amplifier is better for your car.

As a general rule, a digital car amplifier is better for the average user because it’s efficient and easily configurable. However, professional or high-end music connoisseurs may find analog to be a more authentic sound. With enough money, a customized digital system can match or exceed analog systems.

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In this article, you’ll learn more about both options, looking closely at how they work. First, digital and analog amplification is defined, the pros and cons for both options are listed, and then a recommendation is given. Moreover, you’ll know what to keep in mind when making your decision.  

Digital vs. Analog: An Introduction

An analog electronics system accepts a continuous output signal and amplifies it. While digital circuitry accepts the binary symbol “0” or “1” as a signal, converts it to analog, and amplifies it. 

Therefore, the analog system converts the signal very early in the process, whereas a digital system keeps the signal in a digital format all the way to the speaker. When the speaker is reached, the digital signal is converted and checked for errors. Corrections occur for issues such as overcurrent, under-voltage, and more. 

is analog or digital amplifier better

Since noise is unlikely at the digital to analog conversion stage, which occurs at the end, digital amplifiers are known for a cleaner sound. However, in analog amplifier conversion, which occurs initially, any noise may be picked up and amplified, thereby affecting the output interference noise. 

It is a common misnomer that the “D” in a Class D amplifier means digital. The class is a convenient way of differentiating amplifier circuit types, specifically, how much current runs through the amp when there is no audio input signal. The most common classes are A, B, C, and D, as explained in this 9-minute video:

Digital Amplifiers: A Basic Overview

Digital amplifiers, commercially available in 1998, were well received due to ease of use, lower heat, and strong performance. Read on to discover the pros and cons of digital amps.

Pros of Digital Amplifiers

The advantages of digital amplifiers are as follows:

  • Fine signal quality detail, creating an exact replica of the source.
  • Noise immunity in the signal path, clarity.
  • The highly efficient interrelation of parts, lighter, and move compact.
  • Configurability which can easily be set in the factory or by the user.
  • Due to the addition of software, changes can be made quickly without affecting.
  • More complex circuitry than analog.
  • Currently fabricated in such a way that tones can be emulated to the satisfaction of some audiophiles. 

Cons of Digital Amplifiers

Here are the disadvantages of digital amplifiers:

  • Audiophiles do not believe the digital signal provides the best amplification and authentic sound.
  • A big difference between a mass-produced digital amplifier for consumers and a customized, hand-picked, hand-built, and trimmed to be exact audiophile amplifier.

As examples, two strikingly different digital car amplifier price points are the high-end 20,000W Genius Car Amplifier Monoblock Class-D The Beast Competition Series and the 1,200W Planet Audio Class D Car Amplifier Digital, Monoblock, Mosfet Power Supply.

Neither are hand-built; therefore, the price only goes up accordingly. However, the electronic specifications are the differing factors.  

Analog Amplifiers: A Basic Overview

Analog amplifiers are historically known for explosive dynamics and breathtaking true-to-life sound but technology has come a long way. The sound may only be important to the audiophile. Read on to discover the pros and cons of analog amps.

Pros of Analog Amplifiers

Consider these advantages concerning analog amplifiers:

  • Analog amplifiers have more feeling, a classic warm sound, closest to the true high-fidelity sound as if you were at a performance in the audience.
  • Simple to repair due to standard circuitry.
  • Distinctive scope of equalization that some audiophiles find distinctive. 

Cons of Analog Amplifiers

The disadvantages of installing analog amplifiers are:

  • More expensive due to the labor-intensive process to manufacture.
  • It can be expensive to repair due to parts no longer being made, and equivalent substitutions must be found.
  • Overheating issues under certain conditions.

Which One Should You Choose?

Ideally, the digital amplifier has more pros. They both have excellent sound quality, but the digital amplifier is more easily obtained for a wide variety of car audio system specifications and runs cooler, therefore safer. Plus, sound quality is subjective based on listener preferences. Non-audiophiles probably can’t tell the difference; listen to both and decide.

When choosing the correct model, take a look at the connectivity, electronic specifications, and control to decide what works best with your sound system. Items to compare between models are:

  • Number of channels
  • Frequency response
  • Maximum volts out
  • Sensitivity level
  • Signal to noise ratio
  • Input impedance
  • Power consumption
  • Dimensions
  • Vacuum tube or solid-state

In this short 10-minute video, digital versus analog sound differences are discussed. Kyle of Audio University gives his unbiased viewpoint and points out that every digital system utilizes some analog technology. 

Things to Keep in Mind

To create a smooth installation, decide where to place your new amplifier. The best location is usually the trunk or under the passenger seat. Keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Read manufacturer’s recommendations in the user manual.
  • Don’t bolt an amp directly on the car’s chassis or you risk creating ground loops; consequently, attach it to a wooden or plastic plate first and then bolt securely. Be sure it’s tight and can’t break free and injure passengers. 
  • Leave room for air circulation, and don’t mount upside down to allow for the heat generated from the component to disperse away from the amplifier. 
  • Install 3-feet (.91 meters) away from the car radio to avoid noise interference. 

For the dedicated car stereo aficionado, multi-amp installations are popular. Accordingly, it is important to create a full-blown car audio wiring design template before starting any work. Be sure all equipment is ordered and incidental tools and materials are handy before starting.

Is your amplifier malfunctioning? Measure electrical problems safely and precisely with a multimeter. Amazon has plenty, including the reasonably priced AstroAI Digital Multimeter with Ohm Volt Amp and Diode Voltage Tester with a 5-star rating.

  • If there is no power, measure the voltage at the amplifier, ground wires, and terminals with the multimeter. 
  • If the amp is on, but there is no sound, check all wires, cables, input, and outputs to ensure all is securely in place.

If you cannot hear a sound, check out this 30-minute amp fault-finding video demonstration using a multimeter. To learn, follow the process through repair and testing. Or contact technical support for help. There are plenty of resources on the Internet; just search for your brand. 

Conclusion

Since technology has improved over the years, digital sound quality is no longer considered below analog amplification standards for the typical music lover. For an advanced audiophile experience, analog may be the way to go for the best sound reproduction capabilities and true musicality. But the digital amplifier altogether is best. 

The key benefit is that it is efficient and uses a cheaper digital circuit to produce as much amplification as an analog amplifier. Subsequently, it makes sense to buy a digital amp.

Martin

Welcome to ImproveCarAudio! I am Martin, and I love to write about everything related to car sound systems. I strive to provide the most accurate and helpful information about car audio through extensive research, as well as my experience with car audio installations.

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