Tag: car amp

Car Audio 101: Car Amplifiers

An amplifier is really a simple piece of your aftermarket sound system. A car amplifier basically amplifies a signal from a source (in the case of a car sound system, your stereo) to a much greater signal. Signals from source units are typically fairly low voltage, which is fine for most speakers (but not subwoofers), amplifying your speakers will make them perform to their full potential. Now, your speakers can be powered by just your source unit, but a subwoofer will require an amplifier. Giving your system more power will improve both sound quality and how loud your system will play.

When looking for an amplifier, it’s important to know what you intend to use it for. If you’re simply adding a subwoofer to your system you will only need a monoblock amp while with a complete system (4 speakers and a subwoofer) your best bet is either a 4 channel and a monoblock or a 5 channel amplifier. It is critical to the success of your sound system that you match up all of your equipment (speakers, subwoofer, source unit) with the right amplifier to make sure everything is powered properly to give you the best sound possible.

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Car Amplifier Buying Guide

jad12001

Intro

Buying an amplifier for a car audio system can be a daunting task. It can be a challenge for someone new to the industry to select the perfect amplifier for their application, so we’ve put together this guide to help you find out what type of amplifier you need for your new system. Remember – you should either choose an amplifier first and build your system around it, or you choose the other components first and choose an amplifier (or amplifiers) to power the components. This guide assumes you have an idea of what type of system you want without any idea about the amplifier.
Let’s get started!

Selecting a Channel Configuration

All amplifiers are designed to output power into different “channels”. This helps pair the amplifier to the application it’s being used in. The most common amplifiers are 2-channel, 4-channel, and monoblock. Now, just because an amplifier is branded as “2-channel” doesn’t mean it’s only capable of powering 2 speakers. In theory, it’s possible to have as many speakers as you want paired with a 2-channel amp, it will just change the impedance (ohms) and change how the power is distributed between the speakers. Even though it’s possible to wire many additional speakers, it’s most common to use a 4-channel amplifier for 4 speakers, a 2-channel for 2 speakers, and so on.

Here’s a list that helps identify each different amplifier channel configuration and more information about each one.

2-Channel

40KX2002

  • Stereo
  • Full-range
  • Bridgeable
  • Can be used to power one set of speakers (2 total speakers)
  • Most commonly used to power a subwoofer, or multiple subwoofers
  • Usually has Class A/B Circuitry, but can also have full-range Class D as well

Perhaps one of the most popular selections, 2-channel amplifiers are great for multiple purposes. Two channel amplifiers output dedicated power to two separate channels, great for powering one set of car speakers (2 total speakers). The two channels can also be combined, or bridged together to provide more output to one dedicated channel, and is commonly done to power a subwoofer or subwoofers. 2-Channel amplifiers are stereo, meaning they have a Left and Right output. This is important for staging, and tuning. These amplifiers are capable of playing what is considered the full spectrum of sound that humans can hear, usually around 20-20,000 Hz.

4-Channel

40KX4004

  • Stereo
  • Full-Range
  • Bridgeable (most of the time)
  • Usually used to power two sets of speakers (4 total speakers)
  • Also able to be used in other configurations, however this is not as common
  • Usually has Class A/B Circuitry, but can also have full-range Class D as well

Another popular option, 4-channels, are commonly used to power an entire set of door speakers (4 total speakers). 4-Channel amplifiers are also bridgeable, allowing for a ton of configurations, but the most popular application we find these amplifiers in is powering door speakers.

Monoblock

40KX12001

  • Mono (one channel, no Left/Right differentiation)
  • High-powered car amplifier
  • Not full-range since subwoofers do not play higher frequencies
  • Usually used to power one or more subwoofer
  • Commonly has Class D circuitry, however can also have Class A/B as well

Monoblock amplifiers are designed primarily for subwoofers. Subwoofers require a lot more power than standard speakers, and the signal does not need to be as clean as the signal going to a full-range amplifier. Bass doesn’t need to be processed as much for high quality sound, like a really nice full-range amplifier does. Monoblocks are also not usually full-range capable, because higher frequencies are not played by subwoofers. Having these amplifiers capable of playing high frequencies would be a huge waste in efficiency. Because subwoofers require much more power than smaller tweeters or door speakers, monoblock amps are designed for maximum efficiency and power output first.

5-Channel

40KX8005

  • Stereo
  • Hybrid amplifier
  • Front 4-channels are stereo/1 channel is mono
  • Basically a 4-channel amp and a monoblock amp combined
  • Allows an entire system to be powered from one amplifier (4 speakers, 1 or more subwoofer)
  • Good for those who don’t want multiple amplifiers powering their entire system

5-Channel amplifiers are basically a mixture of a 4-channel amplifier and a monoblock amplifier, built into the same chassis. This helps eliminate the need for multiple amplifiers and elaborate wiring scenarios. These amplifiers are a great, simple solution for those looking to power 4 speakers and a subwoofer. They’re a bit more difficult to use for high powered audio applications, since 5-channels are usually only capable of running around 600-1000W RMS. This amount of power is perfect for mid-tier audio systems though.

3-Channel

JAD1200.1

  • Hybrid Amplifier
  • Front 2-channels are stereo/1 channel is mono
  • Basically a 2-channel amp and a monoblock amp combined
  • Most commonly allows an entire truck system to be powered from one amplifier (2 speakers, 1 or more subwofer)

3-Channel amplifiers are a smaller version of a 5-channel. They’re basically a 2-channel amplifier and a monoblock combined. They’re most commonly used to power an entire audio system in 2-door truck, or other small vehicles similar to this. You’ll also find 3-channel amps used to power just the front speakers and a subwoofer in a budget system.

6-Channel

JAD1200.1

  • Stereo
  • Full-range
  • Similar to a 4-channel amplifier, but with 2-extra channels
  • Allows powering of a center channel, or two additional sets of speakers
  • Usually for specific audiophile applications

6-Channel amplifiers are usually reserved for audio enthusiasts or those with specific audio applications in mind. These amplifiers are most commonly used in vans, SUVs, and boats where you may require more than the traditional 4-speaker setup. They can be used in a lot of installations, but usually they’re bought with a certain application in mind.

Determining Power Requirements

Trying to match up your system’s power requirements with an amplifier can look confusing, but really it’s easier than it seems. The first thing to always remember is to only look at RMS power. Looking at peak or max power without a deeper understanding of it, will only confuse you. Secondly, impedance (or ohms) is a way to measure resistance. All speakers have an ohm rating, or impedance that tells the amplifier how much power to output. Lower impedance means more wattage from the amplifier. At 4 ohms an amplifier will output less power than at 2 ohms; however, an amplifier is more comfortable running at higher impedance and will tend to run cooler. For example, an amplifier at 4 ohms may put out 75 watts RMS, and at 2 ohms this same amplifier will output 100 watts RMS. Finally, you’re going to want to match up the impedance and RMS wattage of the speaker and amplifier. For example, if the manufacturer specifies that each speaker will require 100 watts RMS at 4 ohms, you will want to find an amp which pushes between 70-130 watts RMS at 4 ohms.

 

For more information regarding impedance, check out this video on matching subwoofers and amplifiers:


You may also want to check out our subwoofer wiring diagram:
Subwoofer Wiring Guide

Although you will get sound from a speaker even if you’re powering it with less than 70% of the rated RMS power, it’s usually not advised. When underpowering a speaker or subwoofer there’s a problem you’ll run into called “clipping”. This occurs when the amplifier tries to push more power to the subwoofer or speaker than the amplifier is safely capable of reproducing. For more on clipping, check out this video.

 

 

Determine if Auxiliary Battery is Required

Batteries are underused in car audio, when in reality they should be overestimated and overused. It’s understandable, considering that adding an additional battery is a bit of an investment to an already expensive complete system build, however the investment can be put to exceptional use in moderate and higher powered systems. Personally, I agree with the rule of thumb that systems running over 1000 watts of total RMS power should ALWAYS have at least an upgraded starting battery. An auxiliary battery should also be highly considered in these types of systems. The reason for this is, car audio systems are very demanding when it comes to using power. Your vehicle has a battery used to start your car, but also power things like your head unit, air conditioner, power windows, illumination on the dash, and, perhaps most importantly, headlights.

A common symptom you’ll see when adding a higher powered car audio system (600W RMS and up) is that when the bass hits, you’ll see your headlights dimming. This is because bass is very demanding, and every time it’s hitting it’s pulling a ton of voltage from your battery. In order to combat this, I’d personally recommend any system over 600 watts of RMS power (or fuses that add up to 60 amps or more) should highly consider either upgrading their starting battery to one more capable of keeping up with their system, or adding an auxiliary battery.

Determining Wire Gauge

Now, you’ve picked out your amplifier, you’ve picked out the speakers and subwoofer(s). You’re reading to get this system ordered and installed. Hold up. One last final thing to mention is wiring. Now, we’ve stressed before the differences between Copper Clad Aluminum(CCA) and Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) wiring before in some of our videos and blogs. This is important to consider, but mainly we’re going to assume you went with OFC and are curious about the gauge of wire to choose.

The fuses on your amplifier (if your amplifier has them, lately more manufacturers have been opting out of external MIDI fuses and relying on your main fuse near the battery to protect your amplifier) are a good place to start to determine what wire gauge to choose. The reason for looking at fuses instead of rated power, is because power ratings with amplifiers can be very misleading. Reliable manufacturers in the industry who follow CEA compliant power ratings are much easier to determine wire gauge for than manufacturers who just list peak power or over-inflate their RMS power ratings.

Looking at total RMS power for your amplifier(s) is the way to determine the main run from your battery to your amplifier area. Another factor to consider is the length of the wire run. If you have your amplifiers under your front seat, you may be able to get away with a small gauge then if you’re running it to a trunk. Consider the RMS power, the length of the run, and the quality of wire that you’re choosing to find out if you’re using large enough wire to allow for proper system requirements.

Outro

Now that we’ve talked about some of the main points to consider when purchasing your next car audio system, get to building out that system! If this seems like a bit too much info for you, and you just want that sound in your car, give us a call! We have experts on the line who are complete car audio enthusiasts who will be happy to help you get exactly what you’re looking for!

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RMS V.S. Peak Power

PeakvsRMS

Car audio is all about the power ratings. The objective is to match up the power of your amplifier with the power handling capabilities of your speakers or subwoofers. Seems simple enough…until they throw around words like RMS, peak, max and dynamic and then throw the word “power” after it. As a basic rule of thumb, RMS power is considered true power and all other ratings are relatively mute when making comparisons or finding that perfect system. Below I go a bit more in depth with the different types of power.

RMS Power Ratings:
The RMS power rating is the measure of continuous power that an amplifier can output, or a speaker can handle. RMS power is derived from Root Mean Square which is a statistical measurement of the magnitude of a varying quantity and is applied to voltage or current. Yeah…you can disregard that and just concentrate on the fact that RMS power should be what you use to compare any car audio products. Even the RMS power has its flaws and inaccuracies, but for the most part it’s the most accurate depiction of real, continuous power so far. Here is the kicker, the way a company calculates its RMS power is different for each company which then makes RMS power inaccurate as well. Not so fast, all products that are CEA-Certified are tested using the same testing methods and can be compared in an apples to apples fashion. For more information on CEA Certification, read our articles on CEA-2006 and CEA-2031 compliant devices.

Peak, Max or Dynamic Power Ratings:
No matter how you word it, this form of power rating refers to the maximum amount of power an electronic device can handle or output in an instant without damage. Often times this rating could be reached with a big bass hit or a very loud note in a song as it’s played using the correct amplifier. We do not recommend that you use the peak, max or dynamic power rating when configuring your system because it does not reflect the products capability under everyday use. So why then is this power rating still listed if it’s somewhat exaggerated and unreasonable? Manufactures still advertise peak power because most consumers are unaware of its meaning and believe that larger numbers are better. Peak power is used to make a product seem more powerful than it actually is, sometimes even five or six times more powerful than the RMS rating.

And there you have it. Play it safe and stick with RMS power ratings while staying away from peak, max or dynamic power listings. Try to find CEA Certified products to get the best apples to apples comparison!

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How to Match a Subwoofer and an Amplifier

As you scavenge deeper into the realm of car audio, you begin to realize that figuring out the proper amplifier/subwoofer setup is a lot harder than just matching power ratings. As you sift through all of the different manufacturers, you might notice that the word “ohms” appears often.  Have you found yourself wondering, “Well the subwoofer is 2 ohms, so I should probably get an amplifier at 2 ohms?” In most cases you would be incorrect, for various reasons. To avoid confusion, we’ll let scientists deal with Ohm’s Law and instead focus on the actual matching process. In this article I will explain to you how to match a subwoofer and amplifier so you do not end up blowing any fuses, mentally or physically.

There are a few criteria we have to look at first. For example, the distinction between a monoblock amplifier and a 2-channel amplifier, as well as the difference of a single voice coil subwoofer versus a dual voice coil subwoofer. I will discuss these categorically and explain each one, so when it is all said and done, you just have to match up your equipment in a chart to find the answer! Let’s start with some terminology:

Channels

This does not refer to the channels that you switch between on your TV while trying to find the Lakers game, and it does not refer to a channel that is filled with water. In the audio world, the word “channel” refers to the stream of data on one line, or in the case of amplifiers, one cable of power. A single channel amplifier has one terminal that distributes power to a speaker, while a two channel amplifier has two terminals that distribute power. Likewise with 4 and 5 channels amplifiers, it’s the number of routes available for information or power to flow.

If you have ever heard the terms “mono” and “stereo” you most likely link that to a sound system. If music is recorded in “stereo,” it means that it has a left and right side, so the left side might output the sound of the guitar while the right side pumps out the vocals. Stereo is effectively 2-channels, so the recording engineers can choose to have certain music play on one side or the other at any given time.

Bridging

When you bridge two channels together, they create one channel. This is used most often in 2 or 4 channel amplifiers. If you have two channels but only want to run one speaker, the channels can be bridged, or wired together, to create one single channel. It’s exactly like a wooden bridge in that it connects two paths together as one (Learn more about amplifier bridging).

Monoblock and Class D Amplifiers

Monoblock and Class D amplifiers have only one channel that is typically used for powering one subwoofer at lower frequencies. I find this type of amp to be the best choice for running one or two subwoofers. How do you run two subwoofers off of an amplifier that has only one channel? This can be a headache for those who do not know the difference between series and parallel wiring. If you have two subwoofers, you can wire the subwoofers together in series or parallel and then wire them to the amplifier.

Two Channel Amplifiers

A two channel amplifier can be wired in a few different ways because it has two channels which you can bridge together to create one channel. You can run one channel to each subwoofer, which acts as though each sub has its own monoblock amplifier hooked up to it. You can bridge the channels together into one channel and run one subwoofer or more, but this option forces you to run the amplifier at a 4 ohm load. While two-channel amps are a good option, I prefer to run a monoblock amplifier system.

Four Channel Amplifiers

A four channel amplifier has, well, four channels. This type of amplifier is mostly used to power speakers, not subwoofers. The average car has four speakers, two in the front and two in the back. Each channel connects to one speaker. Simple enough, right? But we can make this somewhat complicated by using subwoofers instead and bridging the channels together. If you have four channels (1,2,3,4), you can bridge channels 1 and 2 together, and then bridge channel 3 and 4 together. So you end up with two channels total. You cannot bridge those two channels into one channel; it will end up destroying your amplifier. The majority of the time, when a channel has been bridged, it turns into a four ohm channel. So if you have two channels, each at 2 ohms, and then bridge them together, it turns into four ohms (I will address ohms soon, so don’t worry!).

Single/Dual Voice Coil Subwoofers

Now I have to introduce the two major types of voice coils, Single Voice Coil (SCV) and the Dual Voice Coil (DVC). You will see this a lot as you look through different subwoofers. A SVC subwoofer has one voice coil and one set of terminals, one positive (+) and one negative (-). A DVC subwoofer has two voice coils, each with its own set of terminals. Because of this, DVC subwoofers offer more wiring options than SVC speakers. You will see that most DVC subwoofers can be wired at two different ohm levels, unlike a SVC which can be wired at only one ohm level. There is little to no difference in sound quality between the two types of subwoofers.

Ohm

First let’s check the dictionary’s definition of an ohm. “A unit of electrical resistance equal to that of a conductor in which a current of one ampere is produced by a potential of one volt across its terminals.” Confusing right? Don’t worry, sometimes I have trouble understanding it too! Basically, it’s the resistance to the flow of energy. The higher the ohm, the more resistance. So, 2 ohms has less resistance than 4 ohms. Amplifiers often give their power ratings at 2 ohms and 4 ohms. You will notice that the power rating at 4 ohms is less than the power rating at 2 ohms, or even 1 ohm on some amplifiers. The goal is to buy an amplifier and subwoofers that will give you the most power when you wire them together.

Parallel Wiring

If you have two parallel lines, it usually means they run next to each other but never touch. Parallel wiring is similar to it. If you wire in parallel, you would hook all of the positive speaker terminals together on one line, and all of the negative speaker terminals on the other.

Series Wiring

Series wiring can become a bit confusing. You take a single current path and arrange it among all of the components. It effectively makes a chain, so everything is hooked together as one. The parallel wiring, you would hook together similar terminals only, instead of wiring everything together.

Series/Parallel Wiring Charts

Single Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohms 2 Ohms
2 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohms
4 Ohm DVC 2 Ohms 8 Ohms
6 Ohm DVC 3 Ohms 12 Ohms
4 Ohm SVC N/A 4 Ohms
8 Ohm SVC N/A 8 Ohms

Dual Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
2 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohm 2 Ohm
4 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
6 Ohm DVC 1.5 Ohm 6 Ohm
4 Ohm SVC 2 Ohm 8 Ohm
8 Ohm SVC 4 Ohm N/A

Combining Subs and Amps

Hopefully you have a greater understanding after reading the terminology section. This next section is aimed at helping you find the perfect amplifier and subwoofer combination. If you did not understand any of the terminology, the subwoofer wiring chart will help you out. The chart is based on a one channel amplifier wiring setup. If you have two subwoofers, it assumes you are wiring them to a single channel. If you have two subwoofers and two channels, you would look at the “1 Sub” section, because each sub gets its own channel. In the end, the power of the amplifier needs to equal the power of the subwoofers. For example, and amplifier that has 400 watts should be paired with one subwoofer that runs at 400 watts, or two subwoofers that run at 200 watts each. Regardless of the combination, the main goal is to equal out the power while running the products at their respective continuous power ratings.

Alright, so let’s say you buy two Kicker 10CVR124 subwoofers. Each sub has an RMS power rating of 400 watts, and each subwoofer is a 4 ohms, Dual voice coil sub. Scan the chart for 2 subwoofers, then find the matching ohm level and voice coil type. So, we look for the DVC (Dual Voice Coil) and then the 4 Ohms right next to it. From here we see that It lists the ohm levels that wiring these subwoofers together in series or parallel will produce. So looking at the chart it says these two subwoofers can be wired in parallel at 1 ohm or series at 4 ohms. Remember what I said about the ohms? The lower ohm level has less resistance. So let’s choose a 1 ohm stable amplifier to give these subwoofers the most power! Because each subwoofer runs at 400 watts RMS, we need to find an amplifier that runs at around 800 watts RMS.

Let’s look at a Monoblock, or single channel amplifier. The Rockford Fosgate R750-1D monoblock amplifier puts out 750 watts at 1 ohm at one channel. While it is not exactly 800 watts, we do not have to be perfect. Just don’t go too much over or under. As it is, this would be a near perfect match. If you decided to wire the subs at 4 ohms, you would have to find an amplifier that puts out 800 watts of power at 4 ohms, which can be very expensive.

Let’s keep the same subwoofers but choose a two channel amplifier. Assume we will not bridge the channels. This changes things a bit, because you need to act as though you have one subwoofer instead of two given that each subwoofer has its own channel. So in this case, we look at the chart for 1 subwoofer, with a dual voice coil, at 4 ohms. It says in Parallel it wires to 2 ohms, and in series it wires at 8 ohms. Lets choose the 2 ohm stable amp to get the most power. I found an RE Audio CTX-1600.2 amplifier which has 700 watts of power bridged at 4 ohms (each channel has 350 watts of power at 2 ohms). Each subwoofer gets one channel, so each subwoofer gets 350 watts to it. This is just about right since each subwoofer has an RMS power rating of 400 watts.

If you took the same amplifier and bridged the channels together, once bridged they stay at 4 ohms. So while these subwoofers would still work, you would have to look back at the 2 subwoofer chart. It has to be wired in series, because this amplifier is not 1 ohm stable.

I would not recommend a 4-Channel amplifier for subwoofers, but if you have to have one, just know that you will not be able to find an amplifier that puts out 400 watts each channel. However, you could bridge each of the channels together, making it a 2 channel amplifier. In this case you would need to bridge a 4-Channel amp with power levels at 200 watts per channel. Once bridged it turns into 400 watts at 2 channels. Does this work with our subs? According to the chart, a bridged four channel amp is classified as a two channel amp. Since each sub gets a channel, you will also look at the 1 Sub section on the chart. The chart tells us that a 4 ohm dual voice coil wires to 2 ohms or 8 ohms, not 4 ohms. Since the subwoofers we choose can only be wired at 4 ohms, you would need to find a different set of subwoofers that are suitable for 2 or 8 ohm loads.

Now you should be ready to start building your own system. Besides an amplifier and subwoofers, you will need to purchase speaker wire, wiring kits among other install accessories. Call us at 1-877-BUY-SONIC if you have any questions along the way.

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Car Subwoofer Wiring Rules

Wiring a Subwoofer Can Be a Complicated Process

Two of the most important specifications to look at when matching subs to an amplifier are impedance and RMS rating. The total combined RMS rating of all the subwoofers should not exceed the power the amplifier produces at the impedance that your subwoofer draw. Remember, ohms measure resistance. The lower the ohm rating, the lower the resistance. The lower the resistance, the higher the power flow from the amplifier.

Here is an example that will help illustrate how to figure out possible wiring combinations. For our example, we will use a Kicker ZX750.1 monoblock amplifier. Despite the monoblock designation, a monoblock amplifier can power more than one subwoofer. In fact, monoblock amps usually produce greater amounts of power than multi-channel amps, which makes them ideal for powering car subwoofers.

The Kicker ZX750.1 has the following power specifications:
–   RMS Power (4 ohms) 375 watts x 1 channel
–   RMS Power (2 ohms) 750 watts x 1 channel

Based on the amplifier’s specifications, the possible subwoofer combinations are as follows:
-    2 subs: 4 ohm SVC
-    1 sub: 2 ohm SVC
-    1 sub: 4 ohm DVC
-    2 subs: 2 ohm DVC

Since we know that this amp can provide power up to 750 watts of RMS at 2 ohms, we should use a subwoofer combination that requires less than 750 watts. Add the RMS ratings of each subwoofer together and make sure it is less than 750 watts. Most manufacturers recommend slightly overpowering your subwoofers. Contrary to popular belief, underpowering your subwoofers can lead to blown or damaged cones. Of course, this refers to RMS ratings, so be sure that you do not exceed peak power ratings.

I have included a table below to help you learn how to match subwoofers with amplifiers. This is not a comprehensive guide to wiring but it does contain some good guidelines.

Single Voice Coil (SVC) Wiring Rules

4 ohm SVC

# of Subs   Final Impedance
1 Sub 4 ohm
2 Subs 2 or 8 ohm

2 ohm SVC

1 Sub 2 ohms
2 Subs 1 or 4 ohms

Dual Voice Coil (DVC) Wiring Rules

4 ohm DVC

# of Subs   Final Impedance
1 Sub 2 or 8 ohm
2 Subs 1 or 4 ohm

2 ohm DVC

1 Sub 1 or 4 ohms
2 Subs 2 ohms

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How to Install an Amplifier in your Car

Required Tools:

You may also need one or more of the following:  Screwdrivers (Flat, Phillips) and Screws, Drill, Pliers, Knife, Flashlight, Soldering Gun, Panel Remover, Electrical tape

Decide on a Mounting Location

Find a suitable location in your vehicle. Be sure that there is sufficient air circulation around the intended mounting location. The mounting location should not interfere with walkways or any other space occupied by passenger extremities. Many common locations include the trunk space or underneath the seat.

Mark the location for the mounting screws by positioning the car amp over the mounting spot. Use a scribe or mounting screw to reach through the mounting holes and mark the mounting surface. Drill holes in the mounting surface for the mounting screws and attach the amp to the mounting surface with screws. Prior to drilling, investigate your vehicle to figure out where the gas tank, gas lines and electrical lines are located. This way you can avoid drilling through these areas.

Wiring Configuration

Prior to wiring, read your amplifier’s manual to get an understanding of the power, input and speaker connections. Make sure you understand the diagrams before you proceed.

Low-level input wiring, or RCA wiring, is the optimal wiring configuration. High-level input wiring, or speaker input wiring, is only recommended if your head unit does not have RCA inputs. For systems without RCA outputs, connect the speaker outputs from the receiver to the high level inputs of the amplifier.

In order to connect your amplifier to your vehicle’s power system, you will need an amplifier wiring kit. Install kits provide all of the necessary wires and parts required for the install.

Step by Step Guide

To prevent an electrical short circuit, engage your vehicle’s parking brake and disconnect the negative terminal on your battery.

The first step is to connect a ground wire from the power ground terminal of the amplifier to the vehicle’s chassis. Try to make this as short as possible. The next step is to attach the power wire to the positive battery terminal. Run the wire through the firewall (you may need to drill a hole to do so). Next connect the remote terminal to the remote output of the head unit. Now connect an empty fuse holder, and run wire from this fuse to the amp location. Connect the fuse holder to the power connection on the amplifier.

If your system has multiple amplifiers, you will need to run a pair of separate cables from the battery and a chassis ground to each amp. Each cable must have its own inline fuse. You will also need to ground each amplifier, either by using a distribution block or by running a separate ground wire for each amp. If you are running multiple amplifiers, you may need to install a digital capacitor to help modulate power from the vehicle’s electrical system.

Now you are ready to connect your speakers to the amplifier. Use the line inputs and outputs to connect all of the speakers. Be sure to follow proper polarity rules. After this step, now insert the fuse(s) into the battery fuse holder(s) and check all of the connections before powering the amp. Make sure all of the wires are concealed and tucked away. Set all of the controls to the minimum levels, and set all of the crossover controls and switches to the desired frequency points. Now you are ready to turn on the head unit and the amplifier. Adjust the volume control on the head unit to about 75% of the maximum, and adjust the amplifier’s input level control(s) to just below the level of distortion. Tune the amp until you find your desired sound output.

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How to Bridge an Amplifier

amp-bridge

Bridging refers to combining two (four) channels of an amplifier into one (two) channel(s) with twice the voltage. A two channel amp can be bridged to one channel, and a four channel amp into two channels. Bridging the channels increases the power output. An amplifier is usually bridged to combine two channels to power one subwoofer, or to combine four channels into powering two subwoofers.  To clarify, you cannot bridge a monoblock amplifier! The definition of bridging is combining two or more channels, and a monoblock amplifier has only one channel. You will need opposing channels in order to bridge the amplifier. In technical terms, you using a low source impedance to drive a large load impedance, which results in maximum voltage transfer.

Bridgeable amplifiers are designed with an inverted channel for bridging purposes. The inverted channel produces voltage that is generated at the opposite polarity of the regular, un-bridged channel. Bridging an amplifier produces almost four times the amount of power as it would in an un-bridged status.

Before you attempt to bridge an amplifier, there are certain conditions you must keep in mind. Only bridge an amplifier that can handle the increased power load. Do not bridge an amp that will be unstable at the bridged load, or if the speakers cannot handle the increased power. Always check your product’s paperwork and diagrams before you bridge your amplifier. Using your amplifier’s paperwork is the easiest way to figure out how to bridge your amplifier.

Unless otherwise stated, all multi-channel amplifiers have a minimum bridged stability that is higher than the minimum stated impedance from one of its channels. For example, a 2 channel amplifier that is 1 ohm stable per channel would have a minimum impedance of 2 ohms when bridged. In reality, most amps are only stable at a 4 ohm load in mono/bridged configuration.

Amp Bridging

To bridge your amplifier, locate the amp terminals. For a 2-channel amplifier, you will see four terminals. A positive and a negative terminal for channel one, and likewise for channel two. If you are bridging this 2-channel amp to one subwoofer, you will connect one piece of speaker wire from the positive terminal of channel 1 to the speaker’s positive terminal. Next connect a separate cut of speaker wire to the negative terminal of channel 2 to the speaker’s negative terminal.

That’s the gist of amplifier bridging. If you are totally inexperienced, ask a knowledeable friend to help guide you.

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Types of Amplifiers

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Amplifiers are classified by different class ratings (A, AB, D, etc.) and categorized by the number of channels they provide (mono, 2-, 4- etc). The class of an amplifier refers to the amplifier’s internal circuitry. Class A amplifiers have the highest sound quality, but are the least efficient and do not dissipate heat very effectively. Class AB amplifiers run more efficiently and dissipate heat better than Class A amplifiers. This is why Class AB amps are more reliable and produce lower distortion in comparison to Class A amps. In terms of the angle of flow for the input signal, Class A and Class AB amplifiers have analog designs, while Class D amplifiers have switching designs.

Class D Amp
Class D Amplifiers
Multi-Channel Amp
Multi-Channel Amp

Class D amplifiers are more efficient and produce less heat than Class AB amplifiers. While Class D amps are more susceptible to distortion than Class AB amps, this distortion is usually filtered out by the low-pass filter and is inaudible to the human ear. Mono amplifiers are single channel amps, but they can be used to power more than one subwoofer. Mono amps typically produce more power than multi-channel amps, which makes them ideal for powering subwoofers. Class D mono amps are the most efficient of all amplifier designs because they draw less current and as a result generate less heat in comparison to the classic mono amplifier design.

Multi-channel amplifiers come in the 2-channel, 4-channel, 5-channel, and 6-channel variety. 2-channel amps can power two subwoofers in stereo, or you can combine the channels (or “bridge” the amp) to create a single channel for powering one subwoofer. 2-channel amplifiers use class A/B circuitry, which is usually not stable at lower impedances. If you bridge a 2-channel amp down to 1-channel in order to get maximum power, it will be less stable. 2-Channel amps are commonly used in single cab trucks, 2-door coupes or any other vehicles that don’t have rear speakers.

A 4-channel amplifier can power four speakers, or you can bridge the channels to a 2-channel output for powering two subs. 2-channel and 4-channel amps are also used to power component speaker systems. You can power two sets of speakers from a 2-channel amplifier stable at 2 ohms. If you do so, this will make the amp more susceptible to overheating, and you will not be able to fade between the two sets of speakers. This is why a 4-channel is the optimal choice for powering 2 sets of speakers. Most 4-channel amps can bridge down to a 3-channel or 2-channel amp for more power out of the bridged channels. However, when bridged, the stability is decreased.

4- 5- and 6-channel amplifiers are used for systems with a combination of full-range speakers and subwoofers. For example, you could use a 4-channel amplifier to power a pair of speakers through two channels and bridge the remaining two for powering a single subwoofer. You can also run multiple two channel or mono amplifiers to power systems with numerous speakers. 5-Channel amps act like two amps in one. You get a 4-channel amp to power four door speakers and a monoblock amp to produce a higher power output for a subwoofer. These are great for any vehicles with limited space. 6-channel amps are rare, but they are used for marine applications or larges SUVs. 6-channel amps feature six low power speaker outputs to power 3 sets of speakers.

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How To Choose An Amp

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An amplifier modulates power from your car battery to supply your car stereo system with the juice it needs to keep the bass booming and the speakers crooning. There are many aspects to consider when selecting an amplifier for your car stereo system. Here is quick list of what you should keep in mind.

  • First Choose your Speakers and Subs

Once you have settled on what types of speakers and subwoofers you will be running, you will now be able to choose an amp based on the speaker’s power ratings, impedance, efficiency, and voice coil configurations. This will help you figure out how much power you will need from your car amplifier and in planning how you will go about wiring your amp. For example, if you are only choosing one subwoofer, you will want to know if you can bridge the 2-channel amp that you have in mind.

  • A Powerful Amp Will “Amp” Up Your System

The higher the impedance of the speakers, the higher the impedance you must run the amp at. Along with that, the higher the impedance an amplifier runs at, the lesser the amount of power generated by the amp. Many amplifiers can run at either 2 ohm or 4 ohm loads, but some are stable at 1 ohm loads for optimal RMS performance.

Be sure to pay attention to the RMS power ratings, which refers to the amount of continuous power produced by an amplifier. Ignore the peak power ratings, these ratings are totally insignificant when trying to match up an amplifier with subs and speakers.

  • Efficiency Matters

The ratio of power output to power input, expressed as a percentage. For example, consider a Class A amplifier that produces 100 watts of power output from 200 watts of power input. This amplifier is rated at 50% efficiency.

To measure an amplifier’s efficiency, you need to know the power output and input levels, the car battery voltage, and the amp fuse size (measured in amperes). In the example above, assume the Class A amp uses a fuse size that is 10A and the car battery voltage is 14.4 volts. Multiplying 14.4v times 10A gives 144 watts in. 100 watts out divided by 144 watts in equals .6944. This means an amplifier with a 10A fuse and 14.4 v battery will need to be rated at 70% efficiency to produce 100 watts.

Since this is way beyond the realm of possibility, you will need to find an amplifier with a higher fuse rating to produce 100 watts. For example, take the same Class A amplifier above except imagine it with a 15A fuse instead of a 10A. 15A multiplied by 14.4v equals 216 watts in. 100 watts divided by 216 equals .4629, which means a Class A amp with a more realistic requirement of only 47% efficiency is needed to produce 100 watts.

Remember, Class A Amplifiers only offer a theoretical maximum of 50% efficiency. Class B amplifiers have a maximum theoretical efficiency of 78.5%, and Class D amps can operate at levels between 80-95% efficiency. This is important to note when considering the fuse sizes and power ratings of an amplifier.

  • Heat Sink Keeps Amplifier Temperature in Check

Consider the size and quality of the heat sink. The heat sink is used to dissipate heat and to keep the amplifier running efficiently. A heavy duty heat sink will provide better thermal stability. To further help prevent the amplifier from overheating, check out amps with cooling fans.

  • Damping Factor: Control Your Speakers

The damping factor measures how well the amp will control unwanted movement of the speaker coil. The higher the damping factor, the better the amplifier will be in controlling the speaker’s undesired movements. To calculate damping factor, divide the speaker’s impedance by the amp’s output impedance.

  • Speaker Level Inputs and RCA Terminals

An amplifier with speaker level inputs will allow you to run your amplifier from a factory receiver. Additionally, if you have no remaining preamp outputs left on your aftermarket car receiver, you can use the amp’s speaker level inputs. You want to make sure the speaker level inputs and the RCA connection terminals are secure, since your amp will have to survive the bumps and dips in the road.

  • Price

Make sure you plan your budget ahead of time. To install your amplifier, you will need amplifier wiring kits, and other accessories. You may also consider purchasing digital capacitors or other items to keep your system running at full throttle. We can help you choose which amplifier is right for you. Give us a call at 1-877-289-7664.

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