Would you spend five figures on car audio tech? Here are the world’s most expensive car amps – each will make your wallet very, very sad indeed.

The CES or Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas every January, and is where all new consumer technology gets launched. It’s on a scale that one cannot comprehend without experiencing it. Sin City is built to absorb insane numbers of conventioneers, with 150,000 hotel rooms.

The North Halls of the 2.5 million square feet Las Vegas Convention Center were always filled with car electronics. It was in North Hall 1, LVCC that I got to sit in the Galpin Scythe. A cost-no-object totally from-the-ground-up custom car, made for the owner of Galpin Auto Sports, of Pimp My Ride fame. It cost $990,000. They didn’t need to spend another $10,000 to make it a million. Clay-modelled full size, like a proper car manufacturer. Inside, it had an amazing JL Audio sound system and it was exhibited on the JL Audio booth.

However, that wasn’t the most expensive system at CES, as boom car demo vehicles were always throbbing. It was what made the show the most exciting thing ever. I would come away at the day’s end, tired from the adrenaline overdose, and with aches and pains from the walking. Oddly boring by comparison was the pig-ugly-to-British-eyes Lincoln Town Car. For Europeans, watch Donnie Brasco with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, for the Lincoln Town Car legend. “Forgeddaboudit”. Anyway, this car had full surround sound and every speaker apart from bass was a custom electrostatic panel. These are costly and made custom, and it all added up to, yes, a million dollars. And there it was on show, as above all else, we are fascinated by the utterly top end, the cost no object purchase.

Thus, for the few who can buy them and those who wish to dream, I’ll now present to you the highest fidelity, most expensive car audio amplifiers ever made.

World’s Most Expensive Car Amps



Price: $2,000 / £1,580.

These guys have been around for what feels like forever, but in fact since 1974. They used to be famous for seriously out-there designs, with their power supply electronics and output stages in different boxes. There was a special connector cable and a multi amp system which looked really badass but was very complicated to assemble. I worked for the distributor of Zapco in the UK before I was a journalist. One of their then promo items was a paperweight of a piece of thick plate glass. It had the Zapco fin-logo enameled on the top. It was the Eighties and I think it had more uses than weighting paper.

But sheer excellence will last and Zapco have outlived companies that have come and gone. The Z-150.6 AP is a seriously high end single-footprint solution of six big power channels, with even more muscle, bridged. How about three by 500W or even 3×1,000W if you show each bridged pair of channels just 2ohms? It’s got big power and big flexibility and at the incredibly high signal to noise ratio of 110dB, is truly amazing. Even crazier is that despite being over $2,000 / £1,500, there’s still good value for your high end car audio dollar (Pound, Euro, Yen…). If you were to add any combination of high end amp to get that power with that purity, you’d soon spend more.

A slice of the finest, for a price you could call ‘sensible’, certainly amongst the rest on the list of the world’s most expensive car amps.

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 6 x 150W, @ 2ohms: 6 x 275W, @ 1ohm: 6 x 500W
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 30kHz ±1dB
  • Signal To Noise Ratio: 110dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 1V to 9V
  • Dimensions: 190mm x 600mm x 62mm, mass not quoted
Alpine HDP-D90

Alpine HDP-D90

Price: $2,400 / £1,699.

An amazingly sexy piece of Japanese electronics. The Alpine HDP-D90 houses a monumentally potent digital signal processor or DSP. There are also 12 channels of watts to boss inside. HDP-D90 can be used to feed three-way speaker systems up front, two-way rears and have two channels left for bass. All actively controlled and all within the strict mad-end new Hi-Res HD Audio rating. This is to certify that the electronics have sufficient performance to cope with the incredibly wide frequency passband of Hi-Res. A need created only by streaming, as the fancy high bit rate disc formats have all remained minorities.

The HDS-990 media player from Alpine is what you really want to boss and feed this beast. That HD standard reaches up to data bit rates of 384kHz/32Bit sampling rate. That’s dozens of times the resolution of CD. Even the nearly seven-times the resolution of CD ‘standard 96kHz/24Bit rate makes CD seem less than perfect. The HDP-D90 can cope with up to 192kHz sampling rate and 32Bit depth.

Created as the third generation of kit descended from the original Alpine F#1 Status system. (Alpine flew us to Japan to launch it. I still have the huge jacket.) They sell this within their ‘more affordable’ range called simply ‘Alpine Status’.

Pro tuning software inside, and a 31 band equalizer as well as crossovers. All controllable via a laptop interface. There’s even an optical TOSlink input to take a fiber cable from the front end HDS-990.

And the full-on Alpine F#1 Status system, generation three is $30,000 / £25,000 as a single system. Then, there’s installation…

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 8 x 50W + 4 x80W
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 40kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio (A-weighted – MUCH more rigorous): >100dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 260mV to 8V
  • Dimensions: 256mm x 278mm x 58mm, & 4.5kg
GZPA Reference 4PURE

Ground Zero GZPA Reference 4 Pure

Price: $4,450 / £3,499.

Ground Zero started as new take on the absurd power woofer. They had names from the metals used to make Nuclear Bombs and owned the name long before 911 happened. Their woofers are all about massive to and fro travel and huge power handling. They have special ones made for the literal ‘who-has-the-loudest?’ competitions. There’s a Propper Droppers (sic) van in Finland using twelve GZ 18 inch woofers that’s making 160dB SPL at 20Hz. That’s enough to make a whale throw up.

But then, GZ started to offer speakers for the rest of the system and amplifiers, too. They wanted to offer posh high quality sounding kit as well as stuff to hurt bones with. It seems a strange bedfellow for a pure sound quality product to come from a brand named after nuclear explosions but this is very high quality. Fancy Rhodium-plated RCA sockets revel this product’s high end intent. Their specifications are classically Teutonic in their choice of non-exaggeration.

You get a level control not just for each pair of channels as is normal, but a separate gain control for each channel. Very high end. Finally, each pair of channels has a bias control that is kind of posh. At minimum, it is a Class AB amp, that switches really fast for HiFi sound. Crank the bias control and it becomes nearly Class A, with the output devices ‘always on’.

Hand selected, top quality audio electronic components, laid out symmetrically, is why it is so expensive. Check out price comparisons for your region below:

Spec Sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 4 x 150W, @ 2ohms: 4 x 270W, @ 1ohm: 4 x 425W, 2×1,000W max CEA-2006A
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz to 38kHz ±1dB
  • Signal To Noise Ratio: >90dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 1V to 6V
  • Dimensions: 236mm x 590mm x 68mm, & 4.5kg


Price: $5,240 / £4,125.

Another slice of German high end, these 4ch amps are handmade to order. The selecting of the parts is again cited. They even brag about having their own design of test and measurement equipment to do this. Makers Audiotec Fishcher say this in-house equipment keeps tolerances low. Differences between individual components, is what it’s about, as they can vary. Brax’ ultra-low ESR electrolytic capacitors are made especially for Audiotec Fischer. Brax can charge more-for-better to their domestic market, as German folks understand engineering. They tell us that their power transformers (those wire doughnuts I keep talking about) are good for 1,800W of muscle. Thus the 4×300 watts rated output stage has seemingly limitless headroom. Very posh, very costly.

The power supply is also tightly regulated to basically ignore the load. Instead of sucking ever yet more power like a Vibe Black Death bass amp, it gives the same no matter what. Into four, two or even a single ohm, it unwaveringly delivers a clean 300W.

There are four channels of RCA input and two optical Sony Philips Digital interFace (SP-DIF) sockets for digital signals. There are also two more RCA SP-DIFs. Inside, a fabulous 24 Bit Burr-Brown DAC (digital to analogue convertor) feeds the amplifier section. You can use their URC.3 or ‘DIRECTOR’ fancy remotes to boss MX4. That means digital level control with no loss of data. That huge PSU can also be abused for up to five seconds at a low 6V supply! That means a stop-start car on crank can carry on playing music even if the voltage sags badly on restart.

You get swag with your amp. An Allen key, a certificate of your MX4 Pro’s tested performance, a signed instruction manual and a tee shirt. Fabelhaft and literally alles klaar!

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 4 x 300W, @ 2ohms: 4 x 300W, @ 1ohm: 4 x 300W
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 80kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio both RCA & SPDIF (A-weighted – MUCH more rigorous): >116dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 1V to 8V on RCA
  • Dimensions: 360mm x 360mm x 79mm, & 12kg
Audison Thesis HV Venti

Audison Thesis HV Venti

Price: $10,000 / £9,999.

Here is where the price soars off to ten grand as we have an Italian maker. The Italians can sell beautiful (and very expensive) cars, suits and shoes. Some of the word’s most gorgeous (and expensive) HiFi comes from Italy. Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati and Riva wooden deck power boats for Lake Como. All pure millionaire brands and all Italian. So the look of the thing is not just Germanic black box. Nope, it’s beautiful. It has a see-through top, it looks like a work of art inside and the specifications as to the performance are awesome. All backed up by Audison being one of the most technical and advanced car audio brands of all. Check out their processor in the OEM interface article, for example.

Thing is, once you have processed a signal at astonishing resolution and profound beauty, you need to amplify it. And I have seen these in cars doing just that. If you are an HNV type, (rich) you may well have your head turned by shiny sparkly things. And this fan-cooled delight looks sumptuous. Begging for a very high end install in a quality car. Do bear in mind that this is just two channels. Up to now, we have seen multiple-channel amp designs. This is just stereo.

The Costly Technology

The Thesis HV Venti is a pure class A design and that does take even more heavy power supply for the output section. Audison tell us about their four Synchro-PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) power supplies and how they help that HiFi transient response. That’s the high rise time sounds like a cymbal being hit on the bell bit with a drum stick tip. Can you tell if it’s plastic or wooden? You can with an amp with a transient response that good. Running at 90V for the preamp while the output stage cooks at a happy 150V of juice. That’s Class A baby! A dual-mono rather than stereo amp, it means the innards are all totally separate. A definite high end feature.

An absolute confection of fancy-meets-performance, with top end tech available to tune it, to connect it to. You’ll need deep pockets. Check out price comparisons for your region below to see if yours are deep enough:

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 2 x 400W, @ 2ohms: 2 x 800W, 1ch @4ohms: 1 x 900W
  • Frequency Response, (-3dB, 2VRMS):4Hz to 75kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio (A-weighted – MUCH more rigorous): >100dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 250mV to 7V
  • Dimensions: 510mm x 280mm x 85mm, & 15kg

Critical Mass CM-AUE1500.4

Price: $18,900 / £15,000.

This is where we leap off into products for ballers and players. A crazy car where each person had a personal 5.1 electrostatic speaker system around their head made Critical Mass famous. It was in a Chrysler 300C and it had a huge price tag. Somehow trendy without any real packaging nor proper printed information with the products. The brand still took off and was associated with the likes of Shaq and Snoop. At the time, you had to give up your car for six months and spend over $250,000 to get on board! I cannot help but wonder how many takers they had.

Critical Mass started in Orlando in 1990 and had huge success with a 12in woofer that got ‘perfect’ reviews. This four channel amp has a bass boost and highpass and lowpass crossovers controlled by buttons and screwdriver-adjusted potentiometers. Nothing too fancy nor especially clever in design. That 119dB signal to noise ratio speaks of an insane level of HiFi quality though, and is the real story. Sadly the information about these is poor, not even the actual dimensions are available. It is weighty though! For a product with such a huge price tag, it looks like it’s made to sell to a certain demographic. Those who want the best yet don’t care to know about how it works. Ballers and players…

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 2ohms: 4 x 200W, @ 2ohms (bridged): 2 x 500W, @ 0.75ohm: 4 x 300W
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz to 58kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio 119dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 100mV to 8V
  • Dimensions: not quoted but it is not small! & 6.8kg
AudioWave CR-401

Audio Wave CR-401

Price: $36,000 / £30,000

When you look up Audio Wave as to its web presence, you will find me! I wrote their first proper news story. (Naughty, as that’s a guide briefly away to a different spot. It was just news, though, and I’m bragging.) I never got to review one as they were just too much money. The man named Grant who designs and builds these is a genius. He also got them into the legendary installers, Auto Audio in London, UK. This is where the ‘Billionaire Boys’ take their cars. They literally have them flown in from the Emirates for the London season, and take their supercars there for cost-no-object upgrades. Auto Audio regularly sell these guys the limited edition Morel speakers that cost seven grand. And these amps were in a cabinet when I visited.

In the early days you could specify gold, platinum or silver plating on those distinctive cooling rods. That would add a four-figure premium on the already huge price tag! But these days, they are just a beautiful nickel plate. Thing is, all these years later and the top end sound quality competitors have made them famous. Just one seller in territories all around the world, Audio Wave have an eighteen month lead time for this epic flagship, the CR-401.

I could start on about the three-ounce double layer Gold Plated PCB’s, and the pricey Nichicon Gold Tune capacitors. I can wax lyrical about the specially made flight case it comes in. The aircraft grade ally chassis and more. If you are in the market for an Audio Wave system, you’ll be getting the personal attention to hear one, I reckon. Billionaire audio for wealthy players…

Spec sheet:

  • Power Output: @ 4ohms: 2 x 300W, @ 2ohms: 2 x 400W, @ 4ohm bridged : 1 x 800W
  • Frequency Response: 9.5Hz to 120kHz
  • Signal To Noise Ratio (A-weighted – MUCH more rigorous): >120dB
  • Input signal sensitivity: 100mV to 8V
  • Dimensions:878mm x 270mm x 72mm, & 18.3kg