When upgrading the car audio, there are not only speakers and radio to consider but also the amplifier that powers the whole audio system.
But what does a car amplifier do for car audio? Let’s find out.
An amplifier controls the power output to your speakers and subwoofer to achieve the sound quality and volume level you desire. It works by increasing the power and signal strength of the music coming from your stereo, which results in clearer, louder, and higher-quality sound.
In addition to this, many modern car amplifiers also have additional features such as built-in equalizers or signal processors, which allow you to further customize your sound experience.
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Tip: There are many various types of amplifiers available today, each with its own set of features and functions.
Standard options include multi-channel amps for powering your entire car audio system, mono-channel amps for driving a single subwoofer or dedicated speaker channel, and digital amps for fine-tuning your sound output with advanced settings, for example, Audio Control LC-4.800 (links to Amazon).
In the article below, I will be discussing the different types of car amplifiers in more detail and how to connect them to your old car stereo correctly.
Which Car Audio Systems Benefit From An Amplifier
Every type of car audio system out there will benefit from an amplifier, making the music pouring through the speakers louder and crisper, with the ability for the system to jump levels quickly with no issue.
When you listen to your factory stereo, there is a certain decibel level at which the system maxes out. Turn it up any further, and the music becomes distorted, and cracks, and the clarity is lost.
While the amplifier boosts the signal from the stereo, it is the outputs that benefit the most. The speakers and subwoofer are the main benefactors of the amplifier, so should you add them as well.
It allows you to upgrade both and obtain the high-quality sound you are looking for without having to upgrade the original stereo.
Adding an amplifier can allow your speakers to truly come alive.
Amps sizes are categorized by the wattage supplied to each speaker. They range from 20W per channel on the low end to over a thousand on the high end.
Wattage around 100 to 200W per channel is the most common range and will add a nice boost and sound level to the audio system, with the 150W plus being used for larger vehicles and 200’s used to blow your doors off.
I found that in my truck, the 50 watts per channel amp is more than adequate, while my larger SUV required 75 watts per channel amp to really crank up the sound throughout the whole vehicle.
A compact or mid-size car would do well with a 40W, while a larger sedan may require a 100W or bigger as well. The number of speakers and the inside volume of the vehicle will determine the size that you need.
Is An Amplifier The Same As A Pre-amp?
No. While they serve the same purpose, which is to magnify the system’s output, the pre-amp boosts the low-level signal up to a normal level where the amplifier can then push it out to the speakers.
In essence, the pre-amp gets the audio signal up high enough for the amplifier to then take over.
Do I Need An Amplifier If I Am Getting New Speakers?
While you don’t need an amplifier if you are replacing your car speakers, you may not be getting the most out of them in the end. Generally, aftermarket speakers are rated at higher watts than factory speakers.
The original stereo may not have enough power on its own to give you the full impact of the new speakers.
How To Choose The Right Amplifier For Your Car Audio
There are so many options for you to look at when boosting your car audio that you need to first think about what you want to accomplish.
The size and number of speakers in your car can help you decide what amplifier you need. The more space in your car to fill up with the sound, the more watts you need from your amplifier. You may also want to consider what other parts of your car audio system you are going to upgrade if any.
A simple 4-channel amp will boost your audio enjoyment to all four of your speakers. If you have more than four speakers, there are 5,6, and 8 channel amps for those as well.
For example, if you have four speakers in your car and want to add a subwoofer, you could get a 5-channel amplifier, which comes with a special channel just for the extra power to the subwoofer.
If you are overhauling your entire audio system and want to add a lot of power, better speakers, and a bass booming subwoofer, you would want to have an amplifier for your speakers and a separate mono amp just for the subwoofer.
The separate mono amp will be dedicated to the subwoofer and will not have any power sucked away for the speakers.
Where Does The Amplifier Go In My Car?
While there are many options for adding the amplifier to your car, these days there are so many slim options that they can easily slide under a seat or behind the front dash components.
Larger, more complex systems require some ingenuity to place the amplifier in an inconspicuous area, though many opt to give up trunk space in favor of the amp and subwoofer. There are DIY kits if you are handy with these types of installations, but there are many store chains and specialty businesses that offer installation for a price.
In the end, it will depend on the size of the amplifier that you need and how much you are willing to spend for it, as the slimmer versions usually cost more.
How Much Do Amplifiers Cost?
The cost of an amplifier depends on many factors as they come in so many sizes with so many different features. Smaller two-channel amps will run about $50, whereas a big name brand amp with 8 channels can go for upwards of $1,300.
As we discussed previously, it largely depends on your needs and what you are looking to get from your amp.
If you are using all of your original stereo equipment, then a smaller, less expensive amp would be recommended. If you are looking to overhaul your entire system and put some real oomph into your music, spring for a larger, more expensive model that can handle all of your speakers and subwoofer adequately.
Things To Think About Next
We have discussed how car amplifiers work and what you should look for if you are in the market to buy. Here is a list of what to keep in mind:
- How big is my car, and how much room is there to fill up with the sound?
- What do I want to gain from getting an amplifier?
- Am I going to keep my current audio system or upgrade other components such as the speakers and subwoofer?
- How many speakers do I have, or am I looking to get?
- What size amplifier do I need for the setup I am looking to install?
- How much do I ultimately want to spend?
- Can I install it myself, or should I look into the professional installation?
Personally, I found that the factory speakers that came in my vehicles were not adequate for the type of music and the volume that I like to listen to.
By upgrading the car speakers and adding an amplifier, it drastically improved the sound quality and high-end volume without changing out the head unit.
So, if you are anything like me, you will not regret adding an amplifier to your car stereo system, no matter how you do it!