Car amplifiers or car amps have sufficed the need for audio entertainment on the go for more than five decades. And while the idea of entertainment on the go is constantly evolving, some timeless technologies have been retained throughout the years, such as – an FM radio and car speakers.
But knowing where it’s used isn’t enough to get the ultimate audio experience. So, if you want to buy a car amp but you’re not sure where to start or if you’re working with a tight budget – this article is for you.
These principles I’m going to tell you will help you precisely know how to find the right amp for cars, what car amps to look for, what budget to spend on a car amp, and more. And by the end of it all, you’ll know exactly what does a car amplifier do?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Does a Car Amplifier Do?
- 2 Why Do You Need a Car Amplifier?
- 3 How Does a Car Amplifier Work?
- 4 What Types of Car Amplifiers Can You Get?
- 5 What are Car Amplifiers Classes?
- 6 How Do I Choose a Car Speaker Amplifier?
- 7 How Much Power Do I Need for My Speakers?
- 8 How to Install a Car Amplifier?
- 9 Wrapping It Up
What Does a Car Amplifier Do?
In simple terms, a car amplifier takes a weak audio signal and converts it into a stronger audio signal that produces louder sounds. It strengthens the weak signal that would normally produce no sound into a powerful audible signal. So, you can say that car amps are related to high-performance car audio.
All cars have an amp by default in their radio and audio devices. But the standard amplifiers are usually not that strong – meaning they don’t carry enough power. So, trying to force your regular amps to create better sound would not result in creating clear quality sound with no sound distortions.
However, a separate amplifier solves these problems as you can choose one that conveys more power. This allows you to tune your audio’s overall quality. So, to sum it up – you definitely need an amplifier to make the stereo work.
Why Do You Need a Car Amplifier?
If you want your music to be loud and clear, then a good amplifier is a must. Most car manufacturers provide OEM amplifiers along with dedicated sub-woofers with their cars when they’re targeting to provide a top-notch audio experience. But normally, that’s not the case, as most cars usually come with a low-powered amp that only serves a general-purpose.
Naturally, you would want to draw more power from your car for a proper audio experience. So, by choosing the right vehicle audio amplifier, you can up the quality, lower the distortion when raising the volume, and add sound peripherals like – subwoofers to customize your audio experience.
How Does a Car Amplifier Work?
All amplifiers have a general working principle. It takes an input signal from the source, makes a larger version of that signal, and then feeds it to the output, where it is played on the speakers. And it uses the power from the main source to amplify these signals.
Three parts work together to make this happen – The Preamp, the Power amp, and the speaker.
The preamplifier or the preamp processes the audio signal before it enters the main amp. The raw signals from the head (CD-player, radio player) are collected as input and sent to the preamp for processing before being sent to the main amplifier.
Multiple preamps work together to process the input signal before transferring it to the power amp. Even more, the preamp controls the audio signals as the bass, treble, and equalization is done in this stage before it enters the main amp.
Crossing over consists of the circuitry inside the amp. The crossover determines which audio signal coming from the input will be the player in which speaker. Simply put, the crossover is like a traffic sergeant on the road that distributes the traffic in each direction from time to time. In this case, the distribution occurs based on the frequency level.
The power amplifier is where the signal is modified and increased to make the sound signal good enough to be played on the stereo and deliver more current and voltage.
Finally, the amplified signal from the power amp is delivered through the channel to the speaker, where it is played to perfection.
What Types of Car Amplifiers Can You Get?
There are four types of amps for cars available in the market. These are – Mono, 2-Channel Amps, 5-Channel or 6-Channel Amps, and Multi-Channel Amps.
What are Channels on Amplifiers?
Channels are paths taken by the audio signal from the input to create a signal at the output. In simpler terms, each channel on an amplifier is a dedicated path that powers only one speaker.
Most amps consist of 2 or 4 channels, even though there are more options. In the end, it all boils down to how well you can match the number of channels with your sound system. This is important to get that full-surround sound experience.
1. Mono Amplifiers
Mono amplifiers come with default features such as – bass boost and low-pass filter and are designed to produce low-frequency audio.
If you are going for a mono amplifier, the best choice is a Class D Mono Car Amplifier. The reasons are straightforward – dissipate less heat, work on low power, low electricity consumption, and are more efficient.
2. Two-Channel Amplifiers
Two-Channel Car Amplifier is used for component speaker systems, i.e., speakers with mid-range frequency, a crossover, and separate tweeters.
Normally, any two-channel amplifier consists of high-pass filters that are used to restrict the bass frequencies from mid to high ranged speakers.
3. Five and Six-Channel Amplifiers
A Five or six-channel amplifier has more clarity and definitely sounds better. Even more, the six-channel amps have multiple input/output (I/O) selectors that connect up to six devices altogether.
These units are good when you’re using mid to high-range power-consuming speakers, bass woofers, and subwoofer audio systems.
For example – in a 5-channel speaker, 4 channels are dedicated for the speakers while 1 channel is kept specifically for the subwoofer. In a 6-channel speaker, the last 2 channels are kept for the subwoofer and the bass woofer, respectively.
4. Multi-Channel Amplifiers
Multi-Channel amplifiers will produce high-quality sounds like 5-channel or 6-channel amps and can be connected with 12 audio units at a time.
These amps are great for commercial purposes and are not really noticeable in cars due to their large size. Besides, the input signals are configurable so that they sound different from each output.
These units can be used using all 12 channels in mono mode. However, they can be operated in 6 stereo channels or combined.
Besides, car amplifiers are available in different classes. Take a look below to know which class of car amps to buy for your car and why.
What are Car Amplifiers Classes?
Amplifier classes A, B, C, and D are the most common commercial amps used for cars. Some trademark designs are marked by letters T and Z.
The manufacturers also produce other classes such as Class A-D. In this section, we will walk right through classes A-D and find out all about them in detail.
Take a look at the table below:
Class A Amplifiers
Class A amps produce the most accurate sound output, which is exactly what all audiophiles want. But, since it always runs on full power mode, it generates a lot of heat which quickly drains most of the power from your car battery. So, even though the sound is ideal, these are not feasible to be used on cars.
Class B Amplifiers
Class B amps are smaller than Class A amps – run on low power and consume less electricity. This makes it more efficient.
These amps operate on a push/pull method, i.e., and it operates on half power instead of running two full power units concurrently. This makes it more energy-efficient, but it can also distort the audio quality on the downside.
Class A/B Amplifiers
Class A/B amps use certain features of both Class A and Class B amps to ensure the audio is tuned to maximum perfection while maintaining efficiency. In terms of efficiency, these are more efficient than Class A amps but less than Class B.
In terms of sound distortion, it has less distortion than Class B, which is great. But it certainly causes more distortion than Class A. So, it’s safe to say that it’s sitting safely in between Classes A and B.
Class D Amplifiers
Class D amps, also called the switching amps, basically work by intermittently turning the signals ON and OFF but in a very fast-paced and continuous way. This makes the amps up to 90% more efficient, smaller, and dissipates almost zero to no heat.
Some distortions are found at higher sound levels, but regardless of the caveats, they produce the best quality sound.
Now that you know what amps to pick for your car, it’s time we shift on to the next topic.
How Do I Choose a Car Speaker Amplifier?
A good car amplifier is judged by 2 main criteria, which are:
1. Number of Channels:
- Number of channels required at the front and back
- Whether you need a sub-woofer or not
- Whether you need a bass woofer or not
2. Types of Speakers and Power Consumption:
- Total power consumption of all your audio units – tweeters, sub-woofer, and bass woofer. All these units consume different amounts of power.
How Much Power Do I Need for My Speakers?
The Amp power refers to how many Watts it can transfer to the speakers. Since the point of the amp is to intensify the strength of the audio signals, the power of the amp is an important discussion.
Two things determine how much power you need for your amp which are:
1. RMS Value
The RMS (Root Mean Square) value is the key figure that determines how much power the amp can produce when it is played. This is the key factor to look out for when choosing an amp. The goal is to match the RMS value of your amp with the power distribution of your speakers.
The best RMS level to go for is ideally between 75% to 150% of your speaker’s max capacity. Usually, this value is between 5-60 Watts RMS power range.
2. Peak Value
The peak power or max power is the maximum amount of power your car speakers can handle during a short audio burst. The peak value given by amp manufacturers is rarely important when choosing an amp.
This is because, just like you don’t drive a car at max speed, it is highly improbable that you’ll operate your speakers at max power.
The Consumer Electronics Association uses a measuring standard called CEA-2006-A as a power measuring standard for all car audio amplifiers. Most OEM and aftermarket manufacturers adhere to this standard that you will see on any packaging with CEA-2006-A written on it.
How to Install a Car Amplifier?
Typical amp installation requires gauge power wires and fastening screws to connect an amplifier. But your car’s default wiring isn’t capacitated to handle the extra power of the aftermarket amps that are designed to deliver.
Either way, your amp should have the following parts when you purchase one or you may need to collect them separately.
- +12V power wire (Large-gauge and fused)
- Negative connection
- Remote-start wire
- RCA cables
- Speaker wires
- Place a connection between the fuse holder and the positive clamp of the battery and keep 1-foot wire from the post.
- Take the positive cable through the firewall and the seal.
- Run the wire through the car interior and onto the battery.
- Connect the remote lead to the 12V wire.
- Connect the RCA cables and jacks and the speaker-level wires.
- Mount the amp to the sub-woofer box or on another board mounted on the car.
- Connect the sub-woofer wire to the amp and do bridging as required.
- Connect the ground wire with the car body and use screws to fasten them in place.
Wrapping It Up
The small details of an amplifier are what makes a good and great car audio system. On top of that, knowing in detail about amplifiers can take you a long way to create the perfect car audio system. Overall, this guide provides in-depth knowledge about what does a car amplifier do.
So, which amplifier do you choose for your car?