While the technology that brings music to our ears may have changed, from tape decks to MP3s, to streaming from the cloud, there has always been one constant in car sound systems: factory-installed car amplifiers that suck big time.
Car manufacturers are too busy optimizing seatbelts or redesigning sleek chassis to bother with the sound system, and car amplifiers and speakers tend to be an afterthought.
Don’t settle for cheap sound with your factory-installed amplifier.
If you’re a music lover or a karaoke queen, it just won’t do. It’s time to upgrade your car amplifier, and turn the commute into a rock concert!
But upgrading your car’s audio system can be intimidating. Most of us don’t know our ohms from our asses, and the thought of getting wired into car electronics puts us to sleep.
Whether you’re rocking a pickup truck or a small city runaround, we’ve got the best amplifier for you.
The Best Car Amplifiers in 2023
Here are the best aftermarket car amplifiers for every vehicle in 2022.
- Offers enhanced sound and quality lows
- Aluminum heatsink prevents overheating
- Good budget option
- Space-saving & powerful
- High powered unit
- Easily adjustable under-seat
- Easily installable
- Premium sound quality
- Easily fits even in smaller vehicles
- Max power at 2-ohms
- Excellent sound output
- Top-mounted control panel
- Premium price-tag
- Multi-purpose amp
- Remote subwoofer controls
- Requires more space
- Produces peak power at 800 watts across 4 channels
- Built to last
- Neat little system
- Produces 3000 watts maximum power at 2 ohms
- Affordable price tag
- Compact footprint
- Easy to install
- Power efficient unit
- Easy to install
- High power speaker
- Neat little footprint
- Wired remote for easy sound customization
- Reassuring long-warranty
- Great balance between energy efficiency and high output
- Remote subwoofer control
- LED illuminated
Let’s dive deeper into the details of the these twelve top rated car amplifiers:
1. Rockford Fosgate R500X1D – Best For Bass While Saving Space
Rockford Fosgate R500X1D, mono amplifier makes the list for its affordable price and compact size. Let’s take a closer look.
Measuring up at 8.5 x 6.7 x 1.9 inches and weighing in at 6 pounds, Rockford Fosgate R500X1D is one of the smallest amps of its class. Thanks to this compact construction, you can squeeze this amp under the seat – no need to find room in the trunk.
Despite a smaller size, there’s ample power here, maxing out at 500 watts at 2 ohms. While mono amps, with their single-channel output, are best for subwoofers, the respectable power of the Rockford Fosgate R500X1D means it’s a good budget option for powering multiple speakers.
In terms of sound, R500X1D comes with Rockford Fosgate’s trademark Punch EQ, enhancing sound and offering great quality lows that your current car amp likely can’t compete with.
An aluminum heatsink should capture excess temperatures, but Rockford Fosgate R500X1D still runs a little hot. However, power supply thermal sensing will prevent it from ever overheating.
2. BOSS Audio Systems R1100M Monoblock – Best Premium Amp For Subwoofers
For arena-style quality in your car sound system, you need plenty of power. BOSS Audio R1100M offers just that, powering multiple speakers with ease. But it doesn’t come cheap.
At 9.13 x 10.44 x 2.25 inches, you’ll still be able to nestle BOSS Audio R1100M audio system under the passenger seat, saving trunk space. Installation is straightforward, but the settings are hidden on the back panel, so once wired in it’ll be harder to adjust your sound system on the go.
However, as a high-powered unit, overheating is a concern with BOSS Audio R1100M. If you’re stashing this amp under a seat, make sure it’s well enough ventilated for the amp to cool.
In terms of power, the BOSS Audio R1100M offers 1100 watts at 2 ohms and 550 at 4. MOSFET technology allows it to handle the higher power supply, and as a Class A/B amp you can have multiple channels as output, making it ideal for whole-car sound systems, and thanks to the inclusion of low-level output as well as high – you can fit it to your car’s current speaker system.
3. Rockville dB15 6000 Watt Peak/1500w – Best For Subwoofer Power
As a single channel amp, this isn’t going to power your whole set-up, but for those looking to amplify the lows, it’s a surprisingly powerful little unit.
The Rockville dB15 measures up at 9″ x 2.4″ x 17.8″, a sizable unit but something you can still stow under the seat. As a single channel amp, it’s relatively simple to install and should be a quick DIY wiring job.
When it comes to power, Rockville dB15 are boasting of some big numbers. 6000 watt peak power should be able to handle anything your system throws at it, and an RMS of 1500 watts gives you a steady supply. It’s built for 2 ohms, so make sure your speaker measures up.
However, these power ratings from Rockville dB15 are for optimum performance and not everyone will see 1500 watt RMS from this machine – give yourself some wiggle room if that’s the power you require.
Rockville know that mono amps aren’t all-rounders, so they’ve wisely optimized Rockville dB15 for what it can do best – powering subwoofers and offering you premium sound quality in the lows.
Rockville dB15 includes a bass remote, giving you easy access to tweaking your sound system. And the fully adjustable 12dB equalizer gives you greater control over the balance in your system.
4. BOSS Audio Systems R1004 – Best For First Time Upgraders
BOSS Audio R1004 is an exceptionally affordable four-channel amp that lets you power your whole system, from speakers to subwoofer, on a budget.
That’s what BOSS Audio R1004 have built here – an amp aimed at first-time upgraders. The sound quality won’t knock your socks off, but it won’t break the bank either.
BOSS Audio R1004 is a small unit less than a foot long, and should easily fit in even the smallest vehicles. As a four-channel system you’ve got more wiring to do to reach every speaker, but with a good amplifier wiring kit (not included) it’s a job you can do at home.
When it comes to power, you have to admit BOSS Audio R1004 is a compromise. With 100-watt, max power at 2 ohms, this isn’t going to cut it for bigger speaker systems, and if your speakers require more than 50-100 RMS, well, you’re going to need a bigger boat.
But for low-power needs, BOSS Audio R1004 sounds just fine. And as an A/B class amp, it can work with your whole system, meaning you don’t need an additional mono amp for your subwoofer.
5. Rockford Fosgate R1200 – Best For Rich Bass
The Rockford Fosgate R1200 is a single channel amplifier, optimized for subwoofers. By building this amplifier for a particular job, Rockford Fosgate have managed to produce a powerful unit that offers exceptionally rich sounding lows and is a great addition to any pre-existing sound system in your car.
Rockford Fosgate are a well-respected brand in the car audio world, known for build quality and excellent sound output.
As a mono channel amplifier, Rockford Fosgate R1200 is probably not the only amp you’ll be installing – but fortunately its compact dimensions (2″ x 6.77″ x 11) mean that it can easily be squeezed alongside a multi-channel amp, or placed under the passenger side front seat. With top-mounted controls, however, you’ll want to make sure you have access to the top panel of the unit for fine-tuning your audio sound.
The Rockford Fosgate R1200 will deliver a steady 1200 watts of RMS power, which should be ample for big bass sounds. Punch EQ and +18dB boost let you optimize sound quality, and the remote bass control makes it easy to select the settings you need.
Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap. A premium product from a premium brand always carries a hefty price tag and when you factor in that this Rockford Fosgate R1200 amplifier is only suited to your subwoofer, you have to ask if that’s what your system needs.
6. BOSS Audio Systems PV3700 – Best Versatile Amplifier
BOSS Audio PV3700 is a 5-channel amp that’s highly versatile and super-powered amp for anyone looking to run a big sound system in their car.
When you’re looking for a multi-purpose amp, you can’t compromise on size. And the BOSS Audio PV3700 is a big boy in the amp world, measuring up at 17″ x 10.31″ x 2.25″.
With a height of only 2.25” however BOSS Audio PV3700 can still be tucked away in the trunk – just make sure you’re leaving some room around the sides to access the control panels as there’s no top-mounted control on this model.
However, remote subwoofer control with BOSS Audio PV3700 gives you instant and easy access to the lows whenever you need to make a tweak to your system’s sound.
With 5 channels, this BOSS Audio PV3700 amplifier can handle your whole system, from speakers to subwoofer. And these channels are bridgeable, meaning you can combine four channels into two with half the ohms. This makes it a versatile amplifier for a range of sound systems.
While 3700 watts doesn’t top the list in terms of power, BOSS Audio PV3700 should be adequate for big systems – across 4 channels at 2 ohms you’ll get 550 watts of max power, or with bridged channels, 1100 watts across two channels. And a respectable RMS output of 413 watts across 4 channels.
7. Rockville dB45 3200 Watt/800w RMS 4 – Best Four Channel Amplifier
Although it isn’t Rockville’s most powerful amplifier – see the Rockville dB45 for that – this is a good option for those looking for an amp that can power multiple speakers.
The Rockville dB45 stands out with its slightly nontraditional dimension – at 9″ x 2.4″ x 21.0 it’s slimmer but longer than many amps on the market. That can make it harder to install, so save some trunk space for this. If you’re rocking a truck, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
However, with its even-channeled setup (4 channels total) Rockville dB45 is an easier wiring job than many full-system amplifiers.
With peak power at 800 watts across 4 channels (3200 watts total power) and RMS power of 200 watts, Rockville dB45 amplifier can handle a range of speakers. And for added power you have the option of bridging channels, bumping it up to 1600 watts over two channels at 4 ohms.
What stands out about Rockville dB45’s range are neat added features like the ‘soft start’ system which tones down the power when you boot up the system – that means no surprises when you leave the volume high.
8. Lanzar HTG157 – Best Budget-Friendly Monoblock Amplifier
Lanzar HTG157 is a Class D monoblock amplifier with single-channel option that offers powerful and distortion-free sound.
As a mono channel amp, Lanzar HTG157 can’t power your whole system but thanks to the inclusion of a line-out jack you can easily hook chain amplifiers together to build a complete sound system.
Lanzar HTG157 is a neat little system – at 13” x 8.81” x 2.24”, you can stow it anywhere in your vehicle, leaving space for another amp to power your speakers if you wish.
Lanzar HTG157 comes with 3000 watts maximum power at 2 ohms and 1250W at 4, there’s ample power for a wide range of subwoofers. In terms of RMS power, you’ll get 650W at 4 ohms and an impressive 1500W at 2. Even working at 4 ohms you can expect this speaker to provide big sound.
Lanzar HTG157 also comes with an impressively affordable price tag. Sticking with your car’s factory speakers and installing an aftermarket subwoofer to boost the lows is one of the best ways to improve your audio system with ease, and the Lanzar amp is a great choice for this setup
Lanzar aren’t a big name brand in the amplifier world and as the amp comes with just a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, you’re taking a bit of a gamble. But the low price tag and decent power make Lanzar HTG157 worth the risk for building a sound system on a budget.
9. Planet Audio AC1500 – Best For Customizable Lows
Planet Audio’s monoblock amplifier is built for powering premium subwoofer sound, and thanks to the incorporation of class A/B technology you’ll get higher fidelity and greater power efficiency over comparable class D single-channel amps.
Compact dimensions make Planet Audio AC1500 easy to install and a space-saving option for boosting your bass. At 10” x 10” x 2.4” it can slip under the passenger seat, or be installed as part of a larger sound system in the trunk.
On the matter of power, Planet Audio AC1500 is not the heftiest monoblock subwoofer amplifier going – but at 2 ohms it’s more than ample, offering 1500 watts. If you’re picking out a 4-ohm sub, and looking for premium sound quality, then the 750 watts from this amplifier might struggle in your system.
As part of Planet Audio’s Anarchy range, Planet Audio AC1500 is an exceptionally customizable amplifier, giving you complete control over your sound. Variable low pass crossover lets you adjust the threshold frequencies your subwoofer works under and variable bass boost gives you instant access to bigger lows.
10. Kenwood KAC-9106D – Best For Tight Spaces
Kenwood KAC-9106D is a Class D amplifier is built to be a premium subwoofer amplifier, and has a price tag to show it.
At 15.3 x 4.8 x 10.2 inches, this is a beefy subwoofer amp, but the Class D design means Kenwood KAC-9106D is exceptionally power efficient. With less energy lost in heat, you can therefore install this amplifier in tighter spaces without worries of overheating.
Built with an intuitive design and, thanks to the one channel, featuring an easy wiring job, this Kenwood KAC-9106D subwoofer amplifier is particularly easy to install. That makes it a great choice for those just starting out on their car sound system journey.
But when it comes to power, Kenwood KAC-9106D will appeal to those looking for an upgrade, too. With 2000 watts total (1000 watts RMS at 2 ohms and 500 at 4) this amplifier has massive amounts of power – you’ll likely find you can’t turn your system up to 11 without waking up the neighbors.
Ultimately, a Class D amp compromises fidelity for power and efficiency, and Kenwood KAC-9106D offers fewer customizable options around sound than many competitors. But the big sound from this high-power speaker will impress regardless of bass boost.
11. BOSS Audio Systems AR1500M – Best For Mid-Range Subwoofers
BOSS are a big player in the amplifier world, with an option for everyone. The AR1500M is a budget-friendly monoblock amp, aimed at powering subwoofers in your upgraded aftermarket system.
BOSS Audio AR1500M is a compact unit, just 10” in its maximum dimension, so it’ll easily squeeze under seats if you’re lacking trunk space. And single channel amps for subwoofers are easy to install with the right wiring kit. However, this amp has been known to run hot so make sure there’s plenty of airflow in the region you’re placing it.
BOSS Audio AR1500M boasts of big power – over 1100 watts RMS at 2 ohm, in fact. However, many users won’t see these results, and the amplifier seems to struggle to run efficiently. If you’re pairing a BOSS AR1500M with the baddest subwoofer on the market, your sound quality might suffer.
The wired remote makes it easy to customize your sound – in fact, having a wired remote rather than wireless is a great feature of BOSS Audio AR1500M as you can’t lose it in the front seat. Bass boost lets you subtly bump up the lowest notes by +18dB, further enhancing your sound.
12. Planet Audio TR1500 – Best For Style Points
Planet Audio TR1500 specialize in powerful amplifiers and while the TR1500.1M comes at the bottom end of their power range, it’s still an impressive amplifier that can offer powerful system-boosting bass.
Unlike many amplifiers which tend to be longer in one dimension, Planet Audio TR1500 have designed a square-built amp. At 10” x 10” x 2”, it’s a manageable size for installation anywhere in your vehicle.
While it may not impact the sound, the LED illuminated Planet Audio TR1500 is a stylish addition – because let’s face it, looks matter with your rig.
Planet Audio TR1500 Class A/B design strikes the best balance between energy efficiency and high fidelity output, and with 1500 watts max power and 1125 watts RMS at 2 ohm, you should have ample supply for most mid-range subwoofers. Added technology to stabilize power at 2 ohms means you can get away with fewer ohms and still get great sound.
Variable low pass filtering, bass boost and subwoofer level of Planet Audio TR1500 control give you a huge range of customization over your rig, and the remote subwoofer control gives you easy access to these features.
Before You Buy: The Buyer’s Guide To Choosing Right Car Amplifiers
Hello, roadheads! If you’re planning to soup up your car’s audio system, here’s everything you need to know about car amplifiers.
This ain’t no drive-by – here’s an in-depth exploration of these products for the ultimate automotive audiophiles.
What Is A Car Amplifier?
Most people never think twice about the sound systems they own, either in their home or their cars. Amplifiers are built into many of the products we use and are often taken for granted. So what exactly are they doing?
The amplifier plays an integral role in any sound system, however. Amplifiers are placed before the speakers, and take weak audio signals and convert them into powerful pulses that drive your speakers.
The more powerful an amplifier, the better sound your car speakers can produce. Even a small investment can make a big difference to the overall audio quality coming from your car.
Why you Need A Car Amplifier
Let’s face it – few people are buying their cars based on the specs of the built-in amplifier, and car manufacturers know this. Most manufacturers install cheap amplifiers in the factory, keeping costs down but cheating you out of that fine-tuned audio sound. If you want quality, you’ll need an aftermarket amplifier.
For those of us with just a passing interest in audio, we usually think the biggest and best speakers mean a better sound. The humble amplifier is often neglected, but in fact, these pieces of kit play a vital role in sound production. Even a small upgrade to an aftermarket amplifier can have a big impact on the sound system of your motor.
Installing A Car Subwoofer
Another reason to pick up an aftermarket car amplifier is if you’re installing a subwoofer. Subwoofers are speakers that are fine-tuned to the lows, creating deep and rumbling bass that adds new dimensions to your tunes.
Even if you don’t want to completely rejig your car’s audio system a subwoofer can work wonders – and every subwoofer needs to be powered by an amplifier.
This is the simplest way to boost your bass – aftermarket car subwoofers can be powered by affordable single-channel amplifiers. We’ll look closer at these later.
Things To Consider Before Buying An Amplifier
We all like the sound of ultimate power in our car’s sound system for arena-style rock concerts while we drive. Here are a few factors to consider when you’re searching for the perfect aftermarket car amplifier.
Yes, we’ll start with size. Don’t bother picking up the biggest, baddest amplifier and then realizing you’ve got nowhere to install it.
Amplifiers run the gamut from bijoux under-seat units the size of a loaf of bread, all the way up to chunky big boys that will take up your whole trunk. If you’re running a truck or a small car, you might need to compromise on something that will squeeze under the seat.
Power is a major factor in car amplifiers and can be measured in max-output or RMS – the ability to run power steadily. To drive high-quality tunage, you’ll need consistent power, but at the sharpest points in your music power needs to peak, so they’re both important measures.
There’s a straightforward relationship between power and sound quality here – the bigger the better. Opting for maximum power within your other constraints is the way to go.
The third major factor driving your amplifier adventure is channels. Car amplifiers come with any number of channels, from mono up to five or even six. More channels give you more options for your sound system, but also drain your battery quicker and are prone to overheating.
Be wise and don’t go overboard on channels you aren’t going to need.
Channel Hopping: Understanding Channels In Car Amplifiers
When you’re watching TV, channel hopping is a sure sign of indifference and indecision – something we need to avoid when you’re amplifier shopping. Optimize your amplifier from the get-go by understanding channels.
Aftermarket car amplifiers can feature a range of channels, so let’s have a look at the common options and explore their use.
Mono Channel (1-channel)
Mono channel amplifiers have only one output, so right away they’re limited in their usage. They’re affordable and don’t burn too hot – but you’re compromising on how far you can take your setup.
1-channel amps tend to be binary in their output – on or off, so you’ve either got the sound blasting or it’s deadly quiet. And they produce a lot of distortion too. You can get away with that in the lows, so mono channel amps are often used as a budget option to power a subwoofer but for speakers, they’re not going to sound great.
Dual Channel (2-channel)
With two outputs coming from your amplifier you can power a couple of speakers, giving you that surround-sound experience. And 2-channel amps can also easily power your subwoofer, likely with a better sound than a mono channel can handle.
These amps are still small enough that you can fit them under a seat so you won’t need to compromise on boot space. It’s a great option for your first sound system upgrade.
Three Channel (3-channel)
Odd-numbered channels are something of a rarity, and can be more trouble than it’s worth when it comes to wiring up. But 3-channel amps do offer something special, with dual circuitry in one box. They’re a space-saving way to power speakers and subwoofers without going overboard.
Four Channel (4-channel)
Why go to a concert when you can keep one in your trunk? 4-channel amplifiers give you the chance to build a multi-speaker system with excess power and immense audio quality. These big boys do take up space, however, so you can forget about trunk space!
Five Channel (5-channel)
Just like their three-channeled cousin, 5-channel amps can be a headache to set up. But you’ll have the chance to build an arena’s-worth of speakers and wire in a subwoofer, turning the driveway into a dance floor at any opportunity. Don’t spring for five channels unless you’re sure it’s a set-up you require.
Six Channel (6-channel)
6-channel amps are usually overkill for aftermarket sound systems – but they’re sometimes found in SUV-type vehicles with speakers all over the vehicle. Maximum power, maximum space and maximum heat!
Getting To Class: Knowing Your AB From Your D
As well as channels, amps are often sorted by class. Let’s channel some wisdom and take you to class!
Class AB amps are a best-of-both-worlds combo of Class As and Class Bs and, thanks to the common combination of these electronic systems, you can pretty much forget about buying an A or B separately.
Based on the arrangement of transistors, these amps manage to limit distortion and maximize sound quality while remaining fairly energy efficient.
Class AB amplifiers also tend to have better components and better build quality – for a long-lasting amp that puts sound first, AB is the way to go.
In a class D amplifier, the transistors are either on or off, making them exceptionally energy efficient. However, there’s a cost when it comes to distortion and sound quality is compromised.
If you’re looking to limit the power demands on your car’s battery then a class D amp is a good choice – but they’re also more affordable making them great for first-time buyers.
Do OHMs Matter?
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, but bear with me because understanding a little electronics is going to help you get a handle on optimizing your car’s aftermarket sound system.
Ohms are like the language your speaker speaks – and amplifiers are powered to operate at different levels for different speaker’s ohm requirements. So if your speakers require more ohms, your amps do more translating work – and subsequently, you get less power.
It’s simple maths. If your amp produces 600 watts at 2 ohms, you’re going to get 400 watts at 3 ohms and 300 watts at 4 ohms. Multiplying watts and ohms, you’ll always get the same number: 1200 in this case, which is the maximum wattage your amp is rated at.
As what you’re asking for in ohms grows, power decreases. An amp rated to more ohms – two and four are most common but you’ll find some at eight – gives you more options, but they’re going to require more installation and wiring, and tend to be in the more expensive price range.
Max Power vs RMS
We mentioned the two measures of power as a variable that should guide your amplifier decision. Now we’re on top of our ohms, we can take a closer look at what watts you’re going to want in these categories.
When we listen to music, we experience feelings and emotion. Joy and sadness at differing intensities, maybe even nostalgia and memories of lost moments. What we rarely realize, however, is that these experiences are being mirrored in our machines, as the power required to produce these evocative sounds fluctuates.
As music changes in its pitch and range, so do the power requirements to produce that sound. Lower ranges require less power, and the sharpest peaks of our music require a peak in power. If your amplifier isn’t set up to handle this peak power, when our speakers try to draw it the system can be damaged. Max power is a measure of what your system can handle, so bigger is always better.
While music – and power – will peak and trough, there has to be a constant supply to keep the tunes flowing. RMS power (standing for ‘root mean square’ – it’s maths) identifies how much power your amp can output consistently, so it has to match up with the wattage you’re most frequently at.
How much wattage you’re going to require depends on your speakers – and an amp putting out fewer watts than your speaker can handle is a recipe for disaster. In fact, as a general rule, play it safe by picking up amps that produce twice the watts your speakers are rated at.
How to Install Your Car Amp
Professional installation of aftermarket car amplifiers is often costly and unnecessary. Installing your own car amp gives you the added satisfaction of self-sufficient sound, so here’s everything you need to know to get the job done!
Car amplifier wiring kits are affordable and save you from making multiple trips to the hardware store to grab those fuses you forgot! Once you’ve selected the optimum amp for your audio system, pick up a wiring kit that’s gauged to the power your amp requires.
Wiring is the tricky part. Inefficient wiring can cause an added strain to your car’s battery, risking you running flat, not to mention overloading your speaker system, blowing fuses or even overheating your amp. Pick out the right wiring for the job.
The biggest amps aren’t going to fit anywhere but the trunk, but if you’re rocking a pickup or just don’t want to compromise on space you’ll be able to pick up a smaller model that can fit under the seat.
The front passenger-side seat is the optimum position, close enough to everything that you won’t run out of wiring and there’s often more space under this seat than on the driver’s side.
And don’t bother bolting your amp down – a little movement will soften the impact of the vibrations of driving. Bolting your amp to the car’s chassis will create all sorts of noise, undermining your whole system.
Don’t Be Tempted By Mounting Upside-Down
It’s a common claim that an upside-down mounted amp produces better audio quality. This might sound like a life hack, but amps are built to be mounted one way, and require the other faces to be free for ventilation.
Nobody wants an amp overheating, especially if it’s under your passenger seat. We want the sound system in our car to be able to move some butts – but not by setting them on fire!
Ever thought about how much of your life is spent inside a car? From commuting to road trips to picking up groceries, our car is often as lived-in as our home.
If you’re an audiophile or just someone who loves to sing along to the classics, upgrading your car’s audio system is something you have to consider. Factory-installed sound systems are cheap and tinny and can undermine the pleasure we get from hearing our favorite songs at their best.
Upgrading your car’s amplifier is the first step to a next-level auditory experience. From rich, deep bass to shimmering highs, you can turn your morning commute to the gig economy into a gig in itself. Or make the drive home from the grocery store sound as good as the dance floor!
Don’t settle for inferior sound – amplify your life with a new car amplifier.