There are various ways of improving car audio quality. For any car audio enthusiast, adding subwoofers, an equalizer, and an amplifier are among the first steps toward achieving thumping bass and ultra-high fidelity sound.
The value of subwoofers is straightforward. However, amplifiers remain one of the critical parts of an audio system whose function many people don’t really understand. But it’s important to note that no matter how good your subs are, you can only get the best out of them by adding more power.
Do car amplifiers really improve car audio quality?
“Car amplifiers are mostly for bass enthusiasts”, some people say. But are you fine with sub-optimal sound quality, even though you are not a bass fan?
Riding in a car with an audio system that has clean music with deep bass and accurate high frequencies is refreshing. No matter how small your audio system is, and regardless of the type of audio you like, adding an amplifier is essential to getting better sound in your car.
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How does an amplifier work?
An amplifier takes the low-level audio output from a source device and increases the audio output to a power level high enough to drive speakers. This higher power output/amplification depends on the size of the amplifier.
Car amplifiers can range from OEM to aftermarket amps. They can be built-in or external. Built-in amplifiers sit in amp stages inside the chassis of the car stereo. On the other hand, external amps are located separately under the seat or in the rear side panel of the car.
Why the OEM amplifier is inadequate
Every car stereo has an OEM amplifier. While this amplifier performs the basic function of amplifying audio signals, it only helps to make the sound audible but not enjoyable. Try increasing the volume on a system that doesn’t have an external amplifier and you’ll hear highly undesirable distortion. Turning up the volume results in a total breakdown of sound quality.
In addition, an OEM amplifier is not strong enough to drive aftermarket speakers. As a matter of fact, the amplifier under-powers these speakers and can easily damage them over time. Therefore, it’s clear that adding an external amplifier ensures that the audio system has enough power to achieve better sound quality, especially at high volumes.
Below are key reasons why you should add an external amplifier to your car audio system:
Benefits of adding an external amplifier to your car audio system
i. An amplifier helps to overcome other noises to improve the clarity of car audio
Different sounds can fill a car’s interior. Hooting from the busy traffic outside, a noisy engine, and air conditioning are the most inevitable sources of noise. A car stereo amplifier boosts the car audio sound and improves music clarity and intelligibility. At a higher volume, the car audio system completely overcomes noise sources.
As a result, an external amp allows you can enjoy whatever you are listening to regardless of what’s happening outside. Also, there is no concern that your turbo engine, which you love as much as your music, will distract you when you pick up speed on the highway. You enjoy the best of both worlds.
ii. It eliminates distortion
Adding an amplifier will increase your audio system’s headroom. Headroom is the ability to play sudden music blasts with ease and power. This explains why aftermarket speakers sound better when powered by an external amplifier than they do with just an in-dash stereo.
iii. An external amplifier provides better power for low-quality speakers
Are you planning to do an overhaul of your car audio system but want to do it step by step? Start with adding an amplifier and your speakers’ performance will be boosted significantly.
This solution works well for people still using factory-installed speakers, which are poor in terms of their audio quality. It’s good to note that their poor performance is partly due to the fact that the speakers are receiving weak signals. Thus, you experience a lot of distortion and dropping of frequencies and sounds.
An external amp can save you from the terrible audio from factory speakers while you prepare to replace them. Even the smallest external amp will help the system to produce cleaner, deeper, louder, distortion-free music.
iv. It provides additional features for sound quality improvement
Do you wish to fine-tune your car audio to your liking?
Many older car stereo systems won’t provide customization functionalities that give you control over the audio quality. But you don’t have to buy a brand new stereo player to get the music quality you want. An amplifier gives you access to vital customization features such as signal processing and equalizers.
Besides, a multi-channel amplifier allows you to add or remove specific channels. Car enthusiasts who always want to upgrade their car audio system find this adaptability aspect of amplifiers crucial. Some stereo amps integrate many channels inside one. Having such an amp ensures that your system’s audio delivery is incredibly classy.
v. An external amplifier improves power efficiency
Everyone wants higher power efficiency in their car. Installing an amp enables you to improve the range in audio while avoiding increases in the use of car fuel. High-end amps are popular for delivering great power efficiency. In addition, a properly fitted amp contains sound inside the car.
You don’t have to put up with boring car audio.
An external amp enables the car audio system to give you the sound quality you deserve – better tone, clearer sound, and more accurate bass response.
It is worthwhile noting that if you are planning to install high-power output channels such as subs, there is no way the system will work without an external amplifier. Subs need a lot of power to propagate massive air volumes to enable the production of bass sound waves. Also, not just any amplifier will work with the subs you’ve chosen. You need to match the speaker with an amp that has equal power capabilities.
Tips on how to improve car audio quality with an amplifier
Pro-tip #1:Choose the right amp for your system
Car amplifiers have different configurations, that is, with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 channels. Channels refer to the number of outputs you can link to the amplifier at the same time. A 2-channel amp, for instance, can power a system that has two speakers. Correspondingly, a system with four speakers will need a 4-channel amp.
Please note that this doesn’t mean a 4-channel amp cannot power a system with two speakers. If you have two speakers today but plan to add up to three more speakers and a sub later, you should purchase a 6-channel amplifier. More channels mean that you always have room to expand your audio system.
Pro-tip #2: Use high-quality cables to wire the amplifier
Amplifier cables of the right size and type allow for a balance of power between the cables and the amplifier. They allow the amp to exchange frequencies smoothly for better sound output.
Without high-quality wires attached to the amp, you won’t realize much of an improvement in audio quality. The vehicle’s factory wiring cannot handle an amp’s high-current demands. For example, a car amplifier can draw about 50 amperes when driving subs hard at a high volume. Factory wiring is not rated for such high current demand. Thus, using the factory wiring could result in massive voltage losses and the many benefits of car amplifiers would not be achieved.
Pro-tip #3: It’s better to overpower rather than underpower your speakers
An amp’s power rating is a critical thing to consider when choosing the best amplifier for your system. The power of an amplifier indicates the wattage it can send to the output channels (speakers).
Check the RMS of the amplifier and make sure it matches the power handling of the speakers. Also, take note here that an amp that overpowers your speakers (RMS rating is more than the speaker’s power handling capacity) is better than an amp that underpowers the speakers (RMS lower than the speaker’s power capacity).
Pro-tip #4:Only amplify upgraded aftermarket speakers for best sound quality improvement
Even though it was noted earlier that you can use an amplifier on low-quality speakers, this can work for you only in the short run. In many cases, manufacturers of factory-installed speakers design the speakers with a low-impedance voice coil so that the speaker is not compatible with aftermarket amplifiers.
The ultimate solution, therefore, is to upgrade both your speakers and the amplifier. When an external amplifier powers aftermarket speakers, your in-car audio entertainment receives a drastic improvement.
If you love listening to your favorite jams or going through an audiobook while driving, an amp is a great addition to your car audio system. A good amp will allow you to increase volume without experiencing any distortion of sound.
For music lovers, there is nothing that supports the production of clean and powerful bass better than an external amplifier. No matter how complex your system is, or how good your speakers and subwoofer are, you need an amplifier to achieve that extra layer of sound quality in your car audio system. Whether you like the audio hard or soft, the extra power an amp provides adds fine detail and crispness to your system’s audio.