Your car radio amp is responsible for reproducing the sounds from your media and sending them to your speakers. Car stereo amps are also referred to as power amps or just amps. Even though there are radios that have built in car stereo amps, some people choose to use a separate amplifier. The first reason is sound quality; many car stereo amps do not have the range that a specialized amplifier has. The second reason is power or wattage. Most built in car stereo amps do not have the power output to satisfy the user’s needs.
One of the first things to consider is the power capabilities of your speaker system. If you speakers can only handle 50 watts of power, than buying a 200-watt amplifier is a waste of money. The first time you crank up the volume you will burn out your speakers. Moreover, you need to pay attention to the type of speakers you have. If you have separate speakers like a sub-woofer, woofer, mid-range and tweeter, then you should be considering a car radio amp that contains specialized filters and outputs for all of those speaker types.
The next thing to consider is what you will be playing through your car radio amp. If you have a DVD setup in your vehicle, you may want a car radio amp that can process Dolby Digital signals. Otherwise, all that great surround sound embedded into the movie will be lost.
The output impedance of the amplifier also needs to be considered. The impedance of your speaker system must be matched to that of the car radio amp, or you will not obtain the desired output power or sound. There are car stereo amps that have selectable impedance, but you still need to know what to set it to.
There are quite a few amplifier choices out there. Car stereo amps range from monaural (single channel), to stereophonic (two channels), to multi-channel (surround sound). At moderate listening levels, monaural car stereo amps sound muddled. However, at very loud listening levels, the small distinctions in the sounds are not discernable, and this type of amplifier will work acceptably. Full range car stereo amps are best suited for the typical speaker system found (stock) with most vehicles. These amplifiers produce outputs for front left and right, and rear front and back channels. External filters and bridges can be used to run separate speaker types, but you would be better off using a specialized amplifier.
Amplifiers are further divided into digital and analog types. Each of these types brings a different quality to the listener. Analog amplifiers reproduce sound like it occurs naturally. It contains all of the nuances of the frequencies that make music sound full and rich. However, digital car stereo amps make sounds more singular and separate.
Picking out a quality car radio amp can be time consuming because of all of the variables. However, knowing the type of sound material being played, speaker system and personal sound qualities you desire, the search will be much shorter.