As a car owner, your music is obviously very important to you. If you want to step out of the dismal stock sound and set up your very own custom audio; amplifiers are a necessity. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you prefer to play your music with booming bass or soft melodic charm, an amplifier will definitely breathe life into all types of music while bringing out the detail. But what exactly does an amplifier do for you? Here’s a little car amplifier 101 to help you better understand:

What Is An Amplifier?

Informally referred to as an amp, an amplifier is an electronic device with the ability to increase the power of a signal, voltage or current. An amplifier works by taking power from a source and controlling its output to match the input signal shape but with a much larger amplitude. Car amplifiers receive the signal from the head unit and make it strong enough to drive your vehicle’s subwoofer and speakers. This allows you to get a clean power source that can drive several components without strain. Unlike factory amplifiers that are built into the dashboard, external amplifiers are in no way limited by available space. A great amplifier translates to significantly cleaner sound and more defined volume levels.

Types Of Car Amplifiers

The most common way of categorizing car amplifiers is by the channels. Alternatively, you could use classes, but they all eventually fall under channels. The different types of car amplifiers include:

Mono Amplifiers: These are amplifiers with only one channel that typically generate more power than multi-channel amps. Mono channel amplifiers are also known as Class D, and they process sound in a way that is very different from the rest. It uses multiple transistors that can be turned on or completely off. This creates plenty of crossover distortion, but the signal is then filtered before reaching the speakers. The end result is a smoother sound with no distortion. Since they have less power loss and even lesser heat generation, making this amp ideal for subwoofers.

Two Channel Amplifiers: Since these amplifiers have two channels, they can power two speakers. They are generally positioned in Class A and AB to handle two subwoofers or bridging for one subwoofer with more power.

Three Channel Amplifiers: This is like having two amplifiers built into one casing. Normally, class AB and D are built into one amp that can run on either mono channel as well as two channels. This is an excellent option for vehicles with little space for a second sub.

Four Channel Amplifiers: These are among the most versatile amplifiers capable of powering your entire car’s speaker system. They are most effective in cars with no rear speaker and several subwoofers.

There are some crucial factors that come into play when selecting a suitable amplifier for your car. This includes:

Power Rating And Wattage

Manufacturers use different methods to rate their speakers. Some amplifiers are rated in Peak power while others use RMS. All these terms may make the process of matching your amplifier with your system’s power requirements more complicated than it needs to be. However, it is highly advisable that you try to match the RMS wattage power since peak is a measurement that should never be utilized. The Root Mean Square (RMS) power rating on your amplifier should match up so it can provide more than adequate power for the entire system. You should also look at the impedance or measurement of resistance. All speakers and subwoofers come with their own impedance rating. The lower the Ohms, the more wattage you get from the amp. For example, a 4-ohm amplifier can be used to power a 4-ohm subwoofer or two 2 ohm speakers.

Wiring And Installation

After picking out your amplifier, the next thing is the wiring for installation. Some amplifier kits come with their own wiring kits while others may require you buy this kit from other sources. The best type of wire to get would be oxygen free copper that offers the least levels of resistance. Ensure that you have points where the amplifier can be grounded to avoid build up of excess electricity. Typically, people install their amplifiers at the dashboard, under the seats and most popularly in the trunk (cargo space) of the car.


If you are going to buy an amp, you can’t leave the store without an appropriate equalizer to boot. An equalizer simply lets you tune the sound of your vehicle’s audio system by giving you various tone adjustments that are otherwise not covered by standard bass, midrange, and treble controls. You can choose to install your EQ at the dash for convenience, or a larger more sophisticated equalizer to be installed with the amplifier.


At the heart of every great car sound system is a powerful amplifier. As long as you match power ratings and install the unit properly, your music experience will be transformed. Also the best way to find out what an equalizer can do for your system is to try one out for yourself. With a hands-on approach, trial and error, and tweaking, you’ll turn into an audiophile soon enough and learn to shape the sound in your car, maximizing your system’s output.

JL Audio custom car audio display