Car amplifiers are the driving force behind any in-vehicle sound system as they process the sound and send the audio signals to the speakers.
This means that the quality of sound you ultimately hear starts with the amp and the overall sound clarity, bass response, top end quality and potential volume output of a car’s audio system depends very much on this one element.
However, the speaker set-up you use is also important and this is where the issue of ‘channels’ can be confusing when it comes to choosing the right in-car amplifier.
Root mean square (RMS) power and peak power are two ratings that are used in sound systems and they can look daunting when you are picking a system for your car and read through the different specifications.
However, if you think of each speaker in your car as basically being a “channel”, things can become far more straightforward.
For instance, a four-channel amp can properly power four speakers and in most cases for an in-car system this would mean left and right front speakers as well as left and right rear speakers.
When you start to add subwoofers into the equation things can get a little more complicated and you might need to look at a configuration of amps that includes a high-power mono model with only one output which are generally used to power subs.
The numbers need not be confusing if you know how many speakers you want to use.
3/2/1 channel amplifiers and 4/3/2 channel amps are used to power different configurations.
A one channel or Monoblock amp is used exclusively for subwoofers while two channel amps have a much cleaner sound and are used primarily for pushing two speakers (i.e. one stereo pair).
Four channel amps can power four speakers and are often the standard for most good quality in-car systems.
A five channel amplifier can be used for space-saving installs as there are four channels with an extra a Class D monoblock built in, allowing two pairs of speakers and a small subwoofer to be powered for an extra low-end bass kick.
Essentially, once you know how many speakers you need any good retailer or in-car entertainment specialist will be able to advise you on a range of amps that will meet your requirements and won’t break the bank.