Amps are a great way to improve the sound quality of your car stereo system. Here are some of the best two channel car amplifiers that you can buy.
Getting a car audio amplifier is often considered the ‘Big Step’ in upgrading your car audio, powering subwoofers and the like. That’s when you graduate from high-power head units to something that requires a little more skill.
The biggest element of that ‘step up’ is undoubtedly the fitting. Even a small amplifier will require up to 20A of current draw from your electrical system and the wire to draw that needs to go through the car’s bulkhead. Installation requires skill, knowledge, the right tools and a rubber grommet.
Assuming you’ve got that under control though, how should you choose which amp to fit? Well, there’s looks, brand image, features, and power to think about, as well as possible upgrade paths. For most, the best upgrade is to simply get a second amplifier. They all look good in matched pairs! For the technical, as ever, we care most about the WATTS (power), then the current draw that high-wattage systems require. The features count will be about personal usefulness, so avoid paying for functions you won’t use.
Oh, and one final thought before we dive into the details: OEM is all about forty speakers and low power. Aftermarket kit is all about making you feel the music. The car speakers will have to handle your power, obviously, but the difference made by an aftermarket amp is simply massive.
So, enough with the intro. To get you started, here’s our guide to some of the best two channel car amplifiers, and why you might pick each one.
Best Two Channel Car Amplifiers
RRP: $119.95. Buy it here.
A small but classic Class A/B amp, made as Alpine do best. The power supply to the output chips is a posh one for this price and is the MOSFET type. This makes for better, faster power delivery. As this may get used by the enthusiastic, there are also protection circuits making it harder to blow up. These include over-temperature protection methods, as well as over-voltage and over-current protection.
You also get RCA outputs – a higher-end feature. This means that you only need to run one RCA signal cord from the front. The signal goes into the amp, where a simple internal ‘Y’ lead circuit splits it. The signal can then transfer to another set of RCA sockets next to the inputs, allowing you to connect a shorter RCA cord to the second amp’s input (if you’re running the classic one amplifier for the speakers, and one for the bass, configuration).
Overall, the BBX-T600 is highly evolved, benefitting from Alpine’s decades of experience in making car amplifiers sing, under real world conditions. One final neat little feature is that there are two little LEDs on the end with the controls. The green one shows power and the other one in red is to indicate a protection circuit has kicked in. If the red one lights up, you need to check what’s gone wrong.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 50W, 2ohms 2 x 70W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 130W
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 20A
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 95dB
- Features Rich? Switchable 80Hz to 1.2kHz highpass filter or 50Hz to 250Hz lowpass filter: 0 to 12dB 45Hz Bass EQ, input 0.2V to 8V, RCA line output
RRP: $69.99. Buy it here.
Stripped down of features, this Pioneer amplifier offers a few more watts for your money – as evidenced by the extra five amperes of fusing. If you don’t need filters for building a system, this is perfect the perfect option, especially when bridged to drive a small subwoofer. The power rating used is the brilliant CEA2006 standard from the Consumer Electronics Association of America. There used to be such awful fibs in the USA on amplifier products’ boxes, and in fact, it’s still seen in the stupid thousands-and-thousands of watts amps found in the dodgier corners of the Internet. So, the US created a standard measurement. The UK has always used a serious RMS or ‘Root mean Square’ way of rating amplifiers honestly, but the fact that this one complies with CEA means that it’s a good system with believable claims.
Pioneer have always been great at making a lot of music for your money. They apply a slice of of real world thinking. This just means a good balance between power and sound quality for the money. Clean enough to rock, not so posh as to cost too much. Great bang for your buck from a legendary brand.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 60W, 2ohms 2 x 95W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 190W
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 25A
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 95dB
- Features Rich? Fixed switchable 80Hz lowpass filter and speaker or RCA input
JBL Stage A6002 (£117)
RRP: $104.95. Buy it here.
With the same RCA line input or speaker wire adapter loom as most, this doesn’t need an input power switch. You just plug in the music – speaker or RCA level – and adjust the gain. The A6002 has a slightly narrower breadth of voltages it is sensitive to, stopping at 5V, which is still big. Also, the signal to noise ratio is a slice lower than say, Alpine’s is. This is because JBL are being honest. They know you want to rock if you buy JBL entry-level stuff, rather than being a HiFi nutter. They have higher level products for that. This amplifier can squeeze more watts through the 20A fuse and feels like a lot of audio for the money. That it does so at the slight cost of some fidelity is less important than the weight of the bass.
What looks like two crossovers is just one. You choose with the switch, between highpass, or off, or lowpass and then set between 32Hz and 320Hz. A truly entry priced product, the versatility is still up there with the expensive amps. Like other models with this sort of crossover, arrangement, you could use two to run a sub-plus speakers system. Great value for money.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 60W, 2ohms 2 x 70W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 140W
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 20A
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 75dB
- Features Rich? Switchable 32Hz to 320Hz highpass/lowpass filter: 0 to 12dB 45Hz Bass EQ, input 0.5V to 5V
RRP: $199.99. Buy it here.
A collision between the high end sound quality of a top end Class D amplifier and a degree of affordability. At a lower price than the JL offering and yet still with an impressive signal to noise ratio. Definitely a proper HiFi amplifier, although not as expensive as Morel’s (see below), you get a compact power house with the HCP2. To run it bridged in mono, you need to press the special button. Normally, you merely connect the speaker cable to just one terminal on each side. There is another button to leave pressed if you wish to use the auto turn-on feature.
The crossovers are cleverer than normal. Fact is, 80Hz is truly the best frequency to highpass. It is operated by the push-switch and is fixed, so if you pick highpass by the switch it will be at 80Hz. That means that all frequencies below 80Hz are cut off at that point. This is great for feeding your regular speakers. The lowpass function, meanwhile, works via a knob. It may be that you have a peak in bass as the cabin’s acoustics can boost the low tones, but careful adjustment of the lowpass frequency can control the subwoofer better. It’s a symptom of higher-end thinking. The bass boost is a bit blunt, though: fixed at 45Hz, you can choose to double it at 6dB, or quadruple it at 12dB.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 65W, 2ohms 2 x 100W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 200W
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 40A
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 103dB
- Features Rich? Switchable lowpass filter for 50Hz to 500Hz and switchable +6dB or +12dB Bass boost fixed at 50 Hz: Speaker or RCA input: RCA line output: Auto turn-on feature button
JL Audio JL XD200/2v2
RRP: $449.99. Buy it here.
A true product of the new Class D high end amplifier scene. The small current draw and form-factor utterly belie the clean, muscular output of this little thing. Class D can be amazingly good if done right and that 104dB specified signal to noise ratio is astounding.
JL Audio call their Class D offering, ‘NexD™’, as in next generation Class D – and it is fabulously clean and crisp. It does want a full fat 14V to work its best though. JL say this ultra-high-speed switching design allows for full bandwidth Class D and huge efficiency. This ‘v2’ version added the remote control knob socket for using one to drive say, a MicroSub with level control (See our subwoofer guide). Alternatively, the single crossover filter can be set to run the amp above the bass. Then it will play a set of full-range speakers louder, without the power-sapping lows. Again, you could run two; one bridged, on a two-channel amp wiring kit, to play a sub and separate speakers.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 75W, 2ohms 2 x 100W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 200W
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 20A
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 104dB
- Features Rich? Switchable 50Hz to 500Hz highpass and lowpass filter: Remote/Voltage offset/Signal input switch: RCA line outs and Remote level control wire socket
Morel MPS2.150 LTD
RRP: $899.00. Buy it here.
Called a Limited Edition, this is a typical Morel product. Sumptuous looking and beautifully badged. It is made to celebrate their 45th Anniversary. Expensive due to the fabulous levels of sophistication, this is true HiFi for the car. Look at the 111dB Signal to Noise Ratio. That means it is astonishingly fast and detailed. You can input via speaker level if you must but you’ll need an optional MPS-HL adapter. Morel reckon you’ll be using an RCA feed from a classy front end unit, though, so it’s not included.
Deceptively simple-looking, it comes set to run ‘High Current’ – optimized for 4ohms speakers, the purist route. You can reposition the two 15A fuses underneath to convert from High Current to High Power use, though. The 4ohm only method will give you fidelity and grip of the speakers that true audiophiles will appreciate. The High Power setting allows use of 2ohm loads.
This is the sort of car amp that has reviewers use words like ‘Airy’ and ‘Spacious’ when talking about music and how it feels. Morel brag about their Burr-Brown OPA2134 op-amps, the WIMA metalized film capacitors and the Sanken bi-polar output transistors. It’s next level stuff, as high quality as exists.
- Power Output: 4ohms 2 x 100W, 2ohms 2 x 150W, Bridged 4ohms 1 x 300W in High Current Mode
- Current Draw/Fuse Rating: 2x15A (verified in the warehouse after we called!)
- Signal To Noise Ratio: 111dB
- Features Rich? 40Hz to 220Hz lowpass filter: Selectable Voltage rail design: Remote/Voltage offset/Signal input switch: High/Low level input switch: independent level input for each channel: Stackable with included plates