Do you really need an amplifier for your car? Shouldn’t you get an extra set of speakers instead? Well, here are the facts: if you have a decent stereo installed, an amp will make a dramatic change in the sound quality. That won’t be possible with a couple of extra tweeters, though. First of all, an amp can provide a big boost to loudness/volume.
Secondly, you’ll get a clean, precise, distinctive audio signal that makes every single piece of music sound richer and more satisfying to the ears. Besides, if you’ve got a subwoofer, an amplifier is a must. So, the big question is – what does the best car amp for the money look like? Join me, and let’s find out. The following list includes five top-notch units for your vehicle. Take a look!
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Best Car Amplifiers for the Money Review
1. Planet Audio – Best Budget-Friendly Car Amplifier
Do you feel like your car’s stereo can’t handle low frequencies properly, and you’re not getting enough bass? That can be fixed with Planet Audio’s external amp. It does a great job of strengthening the low-end, making it deeper and more “in-your-face”. In fact, AC1500 comes packed with a wide range of customization options that allow shaping the tone to your liking.
A variable low-pass filter and bass booster are just some of the built-in features. Now, Planet Audio puts out 1500W of peak power, but that’s not the only available configuration. With this amplifier, you’ve got a choice between a number of different editions and variations (with more/fewer channels and stronger/lower wattage). What I didn’t like about PA was the customer support. The agents take a while to respond and aren’t very helpful.
- Lots of customization options for tone shaping
- Brings the lows forward for a rich sound
- Available in different configurations
- Poor customer support
What will you get with Planet Audio – is it worth the price? AC1500 can be a great investment if you want more bass in your car’s sound system and like to fine-tune the sound to match your mood. And while the customer service leaves a lot to be desired, this amp is still a bargain.
2. BOSS Audio Systems – Best Car Audio AMP for the Money
Moving up with the list, we’ve got another 1500W third-party amplifier, this time manufactured by BOSS. This company needs no introduction and has a strong presence on the market of audio equipment. As for the amp, it features a very compact, lightweight body that’s easy to carry around and takes very little space in the car. A retro design is part of the deal as well. More good news: the installation process is straightforward and intuitive.
All you’ll have to do is get the amp connected, and that’s it. And if something goes wrong/the amp doesn’t fit, you can always take advantage of the six-year Online Dealer warranty. The only downside: AR1500M’s cooling system isn’t that great, and the amplifier might overheat when pushed to the limit. Other than that, BOSS did a great job with this unit.
- Takes very little time and effort to install/connect
- Compact, lightweight, and vintage design
- Backed by an Online Dealer warranty
- Weak protection against overheating
If you’ve got limited space in your car and need a compact amp, BOSS has got you covered. The installation process is fast and simple, and you’ll also get a generous warranty for peace of mind. Overheating can be an issue, though, so, make sure not to exploit this amplifier very hard.
3. Lanzar – Best Cheap Car AMP
Like most audio equipment, car amplifiers tend to be quite fragile. And, that can be a problem, especially if you don’t have a specific spot for it on the dashboard where it’s properly mounted. That’s why Lanzar deserves our attention: it boasts a heavy-duty, reinforced body that can take a beating. On top of that, it makes the high-end come through, delivering a rich, saturated sound even through the cheapest speakers.
Another standout point is the affordable price. Compared to the market average, it is, indeed, low-priced, despite the big pros. Sadly, some customers report issues with quality control and assurance. Mostly, it’s slow deliveries, dented packages, and damage to the amp. This was only reported by a small percentage of buyers, but can still be a problem.
- Adds a crispy, “expensive” touch to higher frequencies
- Sturdy, heavy-duty, impact-resistant construction
- Available at a very attractive price
- QA and QC issues
Lanzar is one of the most durable and reliable amplifiers out there. Thanks to the sturdy, shock-/impact-resistant body, it won’t break if you accidentally brush it. Plus, this mono-block is pretty cheap and adds clarity and precision to your favorite tunes. Quality control isn’t very good, however.
4. Pyramid – Best Car AMP Under 100
The first thing that’ll probably catch your attention with this amplifier is the power output: it delivers up to 5000W of sound, and that’s pretty impressive. True, this is the peak power, not RMS (learn more about that in the Buyer’s Guide), but it’s still quite a lot. That’s not the only pro, though: Pyramid is one of the safest amps on the market. Thanks to advanced engineering, it’s highly resistant to overloads and short circuits.
The RCA ports, in turn, are silver-plated to deliver the best possible audio quality without distortion or loss of signal. So, does that mean we’ve got a perfect car amplifier on our hands? Well, not quite: while the mids and the highs sound pretty decent, the low-end is a bit lacking – it’s not very deep or punchy.
- Impressive power output: 5000 Watts
- Silver-plated RCA ports – no signal loss/distortion
- Highly resistant to short circuits and overloads
- Not enough low-end punch
Pyramid is one of the finest amplifiers for your vehicle, as it boasts market-leading 5000 watts of power and strong protection against overloads. The bass frequencies are a bit “thin”, but good enough for a car stereo. Besides, all these perks come at a very reasonable price.
5. Alpine – best 4 channel car amp for the money
One of the biggest downsides of cheap amplifiers is a poor signal-to-noise ratio. Fortunately, that won’t be an issue with Alpine. It delivers a clean, noise-free signal that doesn’t get distorted at higher volumes. I also want to mention the built-in cooling system, as it’s quite impressive. The aluminum alloy heat-sink does a spectacular job of dissipating all the heat and keeping the amplifier cold.
MRV-F300 is 40% smaller than its predecessor, by the way, and will fit in the tightest corners. Oh, and it’s a US-made unit that meets the toughest industry standards. So, yes, overall, Apline is a worthy investment with strong power output (300W RMS). Personally, I think they should’ve gone with fork terminals (in contrast to set screws), but that’s a tiny con.
- Premium cooling system (aluminum heat-sink)
- Excellent signal-to-noise ratio for the price
- Designed and engineered in the US
- Set screw terminals (not fork)
The fans of high-quality music might want to put Alpine on their lists. This all-around capable amp has an impressive signal-to-noise ratio, an advanced cooling system, and a very clean, pronounced 300W RMS output.
The Best Spots for Mounting a Car Amplifier
Choosing the right amp is one thing – finding a good spot for it is an entirely different story! Now, the best thing about this equipment is that the audio quality won’t get compromised if you hide it somewhere in the back, away from the speakers/subwoofer. As long as the cables reach the head unit, you’ve got little to worry about. At the same time, most amplifiers have built-in features/knobs like a bass boost or gain control.
So, I’d recommend playing around with the settings for a while before tucking it under a seat or stashing it away in the trunk. Speaking of that, let’s talk about common spots for a car amplifier. In large part, this is a universal guide and applies to sedans, trucks, SUVs, and crossovers (some cars will still have more room, though). Statistically, most drivers put the amp in the luggage compartment.
Since these devices are pretty compact, that’s a reasonable choice. The seats are the next popular pick. Folks mount amplifiers under the seats, around the back, and even in-between two seats. If you drive an SUV, you might be able to hide the entire amp behind the panel. Keep in mind, though, that even the best units generate heat, and you need to ensure proper airflow. See that the amp has plenty of room to “breeze” (2-3 inches).
Now, in many ways, the trunk is the best place for an amplifier: it won’t cause any inconvenience, and the temperature is usually below average. Going back to the wires, I recommend running the power wires underneath the trimming (they stretch along the car’s door sills). As for the RCA cables, run them on the opposite side. Otherwise, you’ll have problems like distortion, signal loss, and interference.
The Best Car Amp Brands
If you’re confident in your amp-picking skills, the brand won’t matter much, as you’ll just check the specs and buy an amplifier that meets the requirements. But, even then, you should still keep the manufacturer in mind. This is especially important when it comes to customer support, warranties, replacement guarantees, and deliveries. And, obviously, the brand plays a way bigger role when this is your first time ordering an amp.
Alpine, Boss, Kenwood, JL, and Pioneer are among the most popular brands. They’ve been around for many decades and have near-perfect reputations. Say, Alpine was founded back in 1967 in Japan and has since grown into an international mogul. This company specializes not only in amps but also in speakers and subs. JL, in turn, is a US-based enterprise that produces premium-quality amps, cables, stereo systems, home theaters, and more.
As for Boss Systems, it’s arguably the biggest name in the industry. It mostly manufactures budget-friendly, consumer-level audio equipment. But what if you like a certain amplifier, but know very little about the company? In that case, I recommend doing some research on third-party, unbiased websites/forums. While this could take a while, it’s still a tried-and-true way of learning your way around different brands before making a commitment.
Alright, so, you found the perfect spot for your new amp and even figured out which brand you want to trust. But that’s not the only thing to keep in mind, of course. What about RMS/Peak, connectivity options, protection against heating, overloads, and all the extras? How do you navigate through all the available options? Don’t worry: once you make it through this guide, you’ll become a pro!
#1: Volume Wars – Peak or RMS?
When you’re buying a new set of speakers, a subwoofer, head unit, or, as in this case, amplifier, you gotta know the difference between peak and RMS volume. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed by the power output. Here’s a quick and simple explanation: peak power is something of a marketing stunt. No equipment is capable of working at peak levels without distortion. Furthermore, if you blast the volume knob to eleven, the amp will break down.
Now, RMS (Root Mean Square) is a more accurate representation of what the unit is capable of. Say, if you see something like 300W RMS in the specifications, that means this is the actual power level/loudness of that amplifier. However, most brands put the peak numbers first in the description – keep that in mind!
#2: Inputs/Outputs: the More, the Merrier?
Well, yes: if the amp comes packed with lots of connectivity options, that’s always great news. Essentially, it only needs a couple of ports to connect to the car stereo, the speakers, and the external subwoofer (if you have one). So, look for a power input, a speaker output, RCA inputs, a remote sub control, and a set of speaker-level inputs. That should be more than enough for a quick, hassle-free installation and connection.
And, before making a purchase, I want you to check the package. Does it include all the necessary cables? As we discussed earlier, you might need a set of really long wires and cables to reach the head unit and the battery. Sadly, most manufacturers don’t include any extras with the amps.
#3: Safety Always Comes First
When dealing with any electrically charged device, you gotta always think about your own safety. Amplifiers tend to overheat, especially when you’ve got a set of speakers and a powerful woofer connected to it. That’s why the amp needs to be resistant to overloads, short circuits, and overheating. A premium-quality cooling slash heat-dissipating system might cost extra, but it will be money well spent.
In general, large-body amplifiers are less likely to overheat. And if the main body is crafted from top-notch materials (ideally, it should be aluminum), that will make it even more heat-resistant. Speaking of safety, look for a reinforced, impact-resistant amp that won’t break when dropped on the floor.
#4: Sound-Tweaking + Channels
Are you one of those drivers that like to mess around with the knobs before they get the right sound? If the answer is yes, see that the amp has enough built-in controls. The good news is – even the cheapest units will have at least a low-pass crossover, a bass booster, and some sort of an equalizer for tone shaping. And remember: if you want a stronger bass response, choose a mono-block amplifier.
A two- or four-channel device will be more versatile, but not as impressive in terms of the low end. Next, D-Class amps are usually quite loud and powerful, but they lack a bit in audio fidelity compared to the A/B amplifiers. These days, D-Class amplifiers are the go-to choice for most brands. They’re cheaper, more flexible, and get the job done.
Will an amplifier be a reasonable investment for your vehicle? The answer is yes, it most certainly will. Even if you’re not a big audiophile, the difference in audio quality will be too big to ignore. Now, most cars come with average-at-best speakers and a standard head unit. And the greatest thing about amps – they can help a system like that deliver its best performance.
This will be one of the most affordable, yet useful upgrades. If you’re looking for a cheap option, Lanzar is a good place to start. Boss is very easy to set up, while Pyramid is incredibly powerful. I’m more than confident that you’ll find a perfect fit for your four-wheeled friend on this list. And if not, use the Buyer’s Guide and the FAQ for help!