Choosing An Amplifier For Your Car's Audio System
One of the most important components of a car audio system is the amplifier. This device takes the audio signal and amplifies it and then passes it on to the proper speakers. When selecting an amplifier you need to keep the following in mind:
- Amplifiers come in 1, 2 and 4 channels. Each channel routes the audio signal to a particular speaker or set of speakers. Most common to an audio system is the 2 channel amplifier which provides the audio signal to the speakers on the right side of the car and the left side of the car. A 1 channel amplifier is used typically to provide the audio signals to the subwoofer or subwoofers. An elaborate system may use a 4 channel amplifier with each channel providing the audio signal to the speakers in each of the 4 corners of the car. Moreover, some amplifiers can be bridged. This means that you are combining 2 channels into one. This is commonly done with 4-channel amplifiers. 1 channel powers the subwoofer or subwoofers and the other 2 channels power the midrange speakers and the tweeters on the left and right side of the car.
- You will want to select an amplifier that is properly matched with the speakers of your sound system. You don’t want to feed too much or too little power to a speaker because that could cause damage. So you want to match the amplifier with speakers that can take the power the amplifier offers. A spec called RMS Power Rating provides you with the information you will need to match amplifier to speakers. The RMS power rating should be the same as the power handling of the speaker. That is if the speaker has a power handling of 50 watts, then the RMS power rating of the amplifier should also be 50 watts.
- Consider the ohms load or impedance capability of the amplifier. Impedance is the resistance of the current flow presented by a speaker or speaker system. This is measured in ohms. So in your research of amplifiers you will see, for example, that the amplifier is “4 ohm stable” or “stable down to 2 ohms,” etc. Typically, amplifiers are stable down to 4, 2, 1 and even 1/2 ohm. The number of speakers on a wire as well as the way the speakers are connected influences the ohms load of the speaker system. So you need to understand how the speakers will be installed to have some idea of what the ohms load will be. And you need to select an amplifier which can take the load. Consult with the salesperson and installer of the shop from which you are purchasing the amplifier to give you guidance here.
An amplifier has other features that are important to your system. For example, it includes low-pass and high-pass filters. This routes the low-pass audio signals to the subwoofers and the high-pass audio signals to the midrange and tweeters. There are also amplifiers that have extra features like a built-in equalizer and/or a bass boost.
However, when selecting an amplifier the most important features you need to consider are the ohms load capability and the RMS power rating.