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Types of Amplifiers

There are several types of amplifiers used in car audio systems that are unique to different purposes and types of installations. It is important to install the proper amplifier to ensure the speakers sound the best, warranties are not voided, and equipment doesn’t get damaged. The following sections outline the various types of amplifiers primarily used for car audio installations.

Amplifiers by Class

Each car audio amplifier has a class that defines the topology, or how the amplifier’s circuits are designed to amplify a passing current. The amp class can define the size of the amp, the efficiency, and the overall sound quality of the amplifier’s output.

  • Class A/B Amps – This is the most traditional class for amplifier. These amps are moderately efficient, usually have a larger chassis, and traditionally have the best sound quality.
  • Class D Amps – This is a newer amplifier design that is becoming very popular due to the smaller chassis, high efficiency, and relatively good sound quality.

Amplifiers by Channel

The most common way to separate types of car amplifiers is by channel, or how many different sets of speakers the amplifier can power. For example, a 1 channel amplifier is great for powering 1 speaker and a 4 channel amplifier is best for powering 4 speakers. It is most common for the single channel amplifiers to power a subwoofer and the multi-channel amplifiers power the speakers.

  • 1-Channel Amps – These are most common for subwoofer installations and often are designed for processing low frequencies. These amps are also referred to as monoblock or single channel.
  • 2-Channel Amps – Most commonly used to power 2 full range speakers in the front stage or the rear fill. Occasionally it is more cost effective to bridge the two channels together and turn the two channel amp into a single channel for subwoofers.
  • 3-Channel Amps – These amps are not as common, but are highly sought after for installations that are comprised of a subwoofer and two full range speakers. Three channel amps typically have a single channel dedicated to a subwoofer (with low frequency filters) and the other two channels dedicated to a front right/left speaker pair.
  • 4-Channel Amps – Most commonly used to power the front right/left and rear right/left speakers.
  • 5-Channel Amps – The all-in-one amplifier that has four channels designed for the front and rear speakers and the fifth channel reserved for the subwoofer.
  • 6-Channel Amps – An amp used more frequently in the marine environment when the installation requires powering speakers in the boat and on a wake tower.

Amplifiers by Feature

Another way that amplifiers can be organized is by the unique features and technology. Amplifier manufacturers are always trying to find new innovative ways to make installation easier, set-up/tuning faster and simpler, and be the first to launch new amplifier tech. While the basic function of the amp stays the same (that is, to amplify an audio signal), these convenience features could make or break an amp.

  • Micro Amplifiers – These amplifiers are uniquely designed to fit in small areas, such as near the spare tire, in a glove boxes, behind the dash, or inside a motorcycle fairing. Due to the power inputs and physical size constraints, these amps typically don’t put out insane amounts of power, but most of them will fit the needs of the average car audio installation.
  • Bluetooth Amplifiers – Bluetooth amplifiers allow users to send an audio signal from a source unit to the amplifier without running additional cables. In a traditional car audio set up, this means that a set of RCA cables would not need to be run from the headunit to the amplifier and would instead simply connect via Bluetooth. The more common application is to forget the headunit completely and just steam directly from a smartphone or tablet. For custom iPad in-dash installations, Bluetooth amplifiers are perfect because installation is simple and the installer doesn’t need to use a bunch of additional adapters. These amps are also great for ATVs, UTVs, and other vehicles where a smartphone is more convenient to use.

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How to Wire Two Dual 2 ohm Subwoofers to a 2 ohm Impedance

Wiring two dual 2 ohm subwoofers to a final impedance of 2 ohms can be achieved by wiring the voice coils together in series/parallel.

This is a popular wiring method used because the subwoofers are able to maintain the stable 2 ohm impedance, while being able to receive more wattage from the amplifier than the conservative 4 ohm wiring configuration. The wiring method is also very simple to do by wiring the voice coils together in series and the subwoofers together in parallel.

Subwoofer Wiring Steps:

1Connect a positive terminal on sub 1 to a positive terminal on sub 2

2Connect a negative terminal on sub 1 to a negative terminal on sub 2

3Use a short wire jumper to connect the remaining positive terminal to the remaining negative terminal on sub 1

4Use a short wire jumper to connect the remaining positive terminal to the remaining negative terminal on sub 2

5Connect the positive terminal from step 1 to the amplifier terminal

6Connect the negative terminal from step 2 to the amplifier terminal

At this point you should have the two subwoofers connected together by a positive and negative terminal. This is wiring the subwoofers together in ‘parallel’. The jumper cable that connects the positive and negative terminals on each woofer is called wiring the voice coils in ‘series’. Together, this is called wiring in ‘series/parallel’ and is a great way to maintain two dual 2 ohm subwoofers at a 2 ohm final impedance.

 


For more information on subwoofer wiring diagrams and other diagrams, please visit the main Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams page.

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How to Wire a Dual 2 ohm Subwoofer to a 1 ohm Impedance

Dual 2 ohm Subwoofer Wired to 1 ohm

Wiring a dual 2 ohm subwoofer to a final impedance of 1 ohms can be achieved wiring the voice coils together in parallel.

This is a very common wiring method used by those that really want to push their subwoofer and amp to the limits for heavy bass. Since the 1 ohm final impedance is not as stable as 2 ohm or 4 ohm configurations, it is commonly recommended by professionals to only wire to a single ohm for you know what you are doing.

Subwoofer Wiring Steps:

1Connect both positive terminals on the subwoofer

2Connect both negative terminals on the subwoofer

3Connect a positive subwoofer terminal to the positive terminal on the box

4Connect a negative subwoofer terminal to the negative terminal on the box

At this point you should have all the postive terminals connected together and all the negative terminals wired together. This method is called ‘series’ wiring and enables the dual 2 ohm subwoofer to achieve a 1 ohm final impedance.

 


For more information on subwoofer wiring diagrams and other diagrams, please visit the main Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams page.

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How to Wire a Dual 4 ohm Subwoofer to a 2 ohm Impedance

Wiring a single dual 4 ohm subwoofer to a final impedance of 2 ohms can be achieved wiring the voice coils together in parallel.

Subwoofer Wiring Steps:

1Connect both positive terminals on the subwoofer

2Connect both negative terminals on the subwoofer

3Connect a positive subwoofer terminal to the positive terminal on the box

4Connect a negative subwoofer terminal to the negative terminal on the box

At this point you should have all the postive terminals connected together and all the negative terminals wired together. This method is called ‘parallel’ wiring and enables the dual 4 ohm subwoofer to achieve a 2 ohm final impedance.

This is a very common wiring method used for most single subwoofer installations because the 2 ohm load is stable, yet offers a fair amount of power.


For more information on subwoofer wiring diagrams and other diagrams, please visit the main Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams page.

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Types of Subwoofers

There are many types of subwoofers out there and the more you know about them, the better you will be able to find the subwoofer that best meets your needs.

Subwoofers by Voice Coils

Every subwoofer has at least one voice coil and the voice coil(s) of a subwoofer determine how you will need to wire it up.

  • Single voice coil
  • Dual voice coil

Subwoofers by Impedance

Each of the subwoofer’s voice coils are engineered to a specific impedance. This impedance plays a major role in accurate subwoofer wiring and connecting it to the amplifier.

  • 1 ohm
  • 2 ohm
  • 4 ohm

Subwoofers by Size

Every subwoofer has a size that is defined as roughly the diameter of subwoofer cone. The different subwoofer sizes can impact the acoustic properties and change how the subwoofer will sound.

  • 6.5″ Subwoofers
  • 8″ Subwoofers
  • 10″ Subwoofers
  • 12″ Subwoofers
  • 15″ Subwoofers

Subwoofers by Sound

All subwoofers make sound, but not all bass is created equal. Some subs are designed more for loud sound levels, while other subwoofers are designed for accurate musical replication. The type of subwoofer you want will depend on the objective of your build.

  • SPL Subs
  • SQ Subs
  • SQL Subs

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