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Everything You Need to Know About Car Stereo Amps

Tips for Choosing Amps When Upgrading Your Car Stereo in Ottawa

Amplifiers are important components to consider for car stereo upgrades. They take a weak audio signal from the head unit and turn it into an audible sound that comes out of the speakers.

A typical factory car stereo system will have an amplifier built into the head unit but these amps tend to lack power. You’ll notice when you turn up the volume, the sound becomes cracked and distorted.

High-quality amps have noticeably more power. So when your favourite song comes on you can turn up the volume and maintain clear, distortion-free sound. To drastically improve your car stereo sound, pair your amps with speakers that are equipped to handle this level of power.

A head unit installation with preamp outputs pairs extremely well with amps that have line level inputs. This provides an unamplified signal from the head unit to the amp, resulting in clearer sound. But if your head unit doesn’t have preamp outputs, look for an amp with speaker level inputs.

Take it up a notch by upgrading your amps when installing new subwoofers and speakers. A new amp installation will help you get the most out of your car stereo.

Here’s everything you need to know about car stereo amplifiers.

Do I Really Need an Amplifier?

If you’re looking for high-quality audio, then the answer is yes!

While your car stereo will have a built-in amp. But these amps don’t usually have enough power to produce quality sound. If you’re looking for high-quality audio, then you need a better amplifier in your car stereo system.

A new high-quality amplifier will give you louder sound without distortion. You should also get a new amp to power a new subwoofer and to make the most of new speakers.

New amps will:

  • Improve sound quality. External amps aren’t limited to space like built-in amps, so they are better designed to provide a clean power source and clear sound at all volumes;
  • Power upgraded speakers. New speakers may have higher power requirements that only upgraded amps can adequately power; and,
  • Power subwoofers. Subwoofers require more power than a built-in factory amp can provide.

How Many Channels Do I Need?

Amps come in different configurations, ranging from one (mono) to six or eight channels. The number of channels you choose with an amp will depend on how many speakers you have in your car stereo system.

You will need at least one channel per speaker in your car audio system. But there are channel configurations suited to specific component speakers and stereo systems.

Mono Channel

If you plan to install a subwoofer, a mono-channel amp will work for this component.

Note: mono amplifiers with Class D ratings are specially designed to use less power and emit less heat while powering subwoofers.

Multi Channels

Amps with two, four, or six channels are typically more versatile. For example, a two-channel amp can power two woofers, or two coaxial speakers. Or you can bridge it to power a single subwoofer or two sets of coaxial speakers.

Four Channels

If you plan to install a subwoofer and add power to your two rear full-range speakers, you can use a four-channel amp. One channel will power each speaker, while the other two channels will be bridged to power the subwoofer. But if bridging the two channels won’t provide enough power to the subwoofer, use a mono amp with enough power to match the subwoofer’s power needs.

Amps might come with built-in low pass or high pass filters, which are suited to power woofers and tweeters. There are also amps with variable filters, bass boost, and additional features.

It is possible to use more than one amp in your car. For example, you could have a four-channel amp to power the four coaxial speakers in your car, plus a separate mono amp to power your subwoofer.

How Much Power Is Needed?

The power of an amp will determine the volume and quality of sound. For optimal sound, your amp will need to have enough power to amplify speakers and subwoofers. The sole purpose of an amp is to increase the strength of the audio signal; therefore, its power is essential to its function.

This power is referred to as the amount of wattage an amp can send to the speakers. Amps typically have their measure of power in RMS (Root Mean Square). The power of amps should match the power handling of the speakers and subwoofers in the audio system.

For optimal sound, aim to have an RMS power that is between 75 and 150 percent of the power your speakers can handle. And remember, it’s better to overpower your speakers than under-power them.

Installation Location

When shopping for new amps for your car stereo, think about where you would like to have the amps installed in your car. You will have to account for the size of the area and wiring for your new amps.

Popular amp installation locations include:

  • Under a seat;
  • Against the passenger-side firewall; and,
  • In the trunk.

Take measurements of your preferred location to make sure your new amp(s) will fit. Also measure areas if you plan to install new subwoofers and speakers.

Consider new amps if you upgrade to a new Bluetooth car stereo head unit. Or if you get new speakers and subwoofers. Or even if you just want to add an external amp to your existing car stereo.

Contact your Ottawa car stereo experts to choose the right amps for your car audio system.

About AudioMotive

For over 10 years, AudioMotive has and continues to be, Ottawa’s premier vehicle upgrade experts. With more than 25 years of combined industry experience, we proudly specialize in all things related to HID lighting and mobile electronics sales and installation.