Written By Matt Sampson
Published Oct. 14, 2021

Picture this: you’ve got the sickest custom whip, the coolest interior, the best playlist…and the lamest sound system. Or maybe you’ve got a good sound system, but actually powering it is a mess of wires, separate amplifiers, and other components just to get four speakers and a subwoofer. Thankfully, the solution exists, hence why we’re here with this article today. In contrast to the mess of cables, the 5-channel amp allows you to power front and rear stereo speakers and an independent subwoofer with one discrete unit, giving you ease of use, ease of installation, and unified control. But not all 5-channel amps are made equal, and so we’ve picked our favorites from around the internet to make sure that you get the option that’s right for you.

Best 5-Channel Amplifiers Reviews & Recommendations

Alphasonik is up first with an outstanding 5-channel amp for less than $300, the Venum, which is part of their larger series of various form factors of amps. Better at making automotive audio equipment than they are at spelling, Alphasonik brings us massive power, especially at this price point, allowing 75, 150, and 300 watts per speaker channel, as well as 300 or 600 watts for the subwoofer channel, depending on how many speakers you have connected, and what impedance they are. Couple this with a very clear approximately 85 decibels of signal-to-noise ratio, a remote bass knob, built-in protection circuitry, and a very nice extruded aluminum heat sink to keep this running all summer long.

Specs
  • Brand Alphasonik
  • Model V1200
  • Variable Low-Pass Crossover 50Hz – 250Hz
  • Powered by a standard 12V car battery
  • 45 dB bass boost
  • 4 x 75W + 1 x 300W @ 4 Ohms 4 x 150W + 1 x 600W @ 2 Ohms 2 x 300W + 1 x 300W @ 4 Ohm N/A + 1 x 600 @ 2 Ohms
PROS

Solid construction

Flexible setups for various impedance needs

Sound is crisp and loud

CONS

Impedance-dependent

Runs hotter than some

May go into protection mode quickly

Just because you can’t afford hundreds of dollars worth of amp for your vehicle doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your sound system, and that’s what the SoundXtreme ST-2400.5 is for. This offers 2,400 watts at 2 ohms, built-in sound-shaping controls, and a bass remote, all for less than $150. These controls include a hi-pass filter and low-pass filter to control the 10 hertz to 30,000 hertz of frequency response, allowing you to tailor your sound system to whatever kind of music you like to listen to. Unfortunately, this system comes with its flaws, given the price point, being very large and bulky, weighing 12 pounds, and having a bit of a heat management problem.

Specs
  • Brand SoundXtreme
  • Model ST-2400.5
  • Weight 12 pounds
  • 2,400 peak wattage
  • 12dB/octave crossover
  • High-speed MOSFET power supply
PROS

Powerful

Affordable

Flexible sound

CONS

Gets very hot

Large

High signal noise

Poor longevity

One of the issues that has plagued the list thus far is the fact that all of these amps are, well, kinda big. While that might not be a problem for those of us with large vehicles and tons of spare space, people with smaller vehicles, or who may not want The Slab from Courage the Cowardly dog in their trunk, want better sound as well. But this isn’t the premium pick just because it went on a weight loss program, instead also being one of the most feature-rich options on this list, and a great pick for someone who wants to buy a solid amp and be done with it. It features four 75 watt speaker channels and a 250 watt subwoofer channel with a crystal-clear signal. It is officially certified and tested, and backed with a one-year warranty to boot. One of the few issues with this platform is that older models didn’t have a protection mode that properly engaged when the amp overheated, which led to actual fires. This was only on the pre-2015 models, but it might be worth it to check with the manufacturer to ensure that you didn’t accidentally get a leftover pre-recall one, even if the likelihood of that is vanishingly small.

Specs
  • Brand Alpine
  • Model FBA_PDR-V75
  • Weight 7.05 pounds
  • 75W RMS x 4 plus 250W RMS x 1
  • Built-in crossover and bass EQ
  • Top-side control panel
  • Remote bass control
PROS

Small and compact

Crystal clear highs and mids

Balanced and clean audio

CONS

Lower subwoofer output power

Can get a little warm

Possible safety issues

Planet Audio’s Class A/B full-range amplifier is 1,800 watts and 2-4 ohm stable with a MOSFET power supply, ensuring a cleaner and safer overall operation. It comes with a variable bass boost, so you can control the exact amount of bass you want to output, and you can bridge the speaker channels if you only need two output channels, in exchange for a higher wattage output from the speakers. It’s great for a subwoofer upgrade in your vehicle and easily powers most mid-size speakers. The AC1800.5 also has many adjustments to tune the sound just the way you like it, such as hi- and lo-pass filters, phase, and bass boost.

While the amplifier is loud, clear, and easy to install, it has a tendency to overheat quite easily and go into protective mode. It may blow a channel within a year or less of use, and the RMS rating may not be accurate, so purchase with caution and keep your eye on the temperature.

Specs
  • Brand Planet Audio
  • Model AC1800.5
  • Weight 14 pounds
  • 300 watts x four at 2 ohms plus fifth channel 600 watts x one at 2 ohms
  • MOSFET power supply
  • Variable bass boost
  • Bridgeable
PROS

Easily powers most mid-size speakers

Plenty of sound adjustments

Audio is loud and clear

CONS

Overheats and goes into protection mode easily

Fragile circuitry

RMS rating may not be accurate

This one is tiny but mighty, as one of the smaller and lighter amps on this list. Still, it provides 70 watts per channel and 500 watts to a subwoofer. It also features adjustable high- and low-pass filters, so you can tune the amp to whatever speakers that you have connected. The sound is outstanding, and the amp drives your whole setup without breaking a sweat. It’s easy to install, set up, and adjust, and in spite of the light weight, is entirely encased in stainless steel. The amp isn’t the quietest though, and it may make your speakers squeal and hiss on start up. It may also go into protection mode easily, and it runs warm.

Specs
  • Brand Polk Audio
  • Model PAD50005
  • Weight 4.41 pounds
  • 70 watts RMS x four at 4 ohms plus 500 watts RMS x one at 1 ohm
  • Wired remote subwoofer level control
  • Preamp inputs
  • 12 dB per octave
PROS

Very compact and lightweight

Stainless steel case

Great sound

Easy to install and set up

CONS

Speakers may hiss on start up

Easily goes into protection mode

Runs warm

How We Selected the Best 5-channel Amp 

When evaluating these amplifiers we considered a mix of power (gotta have those watts!), ease of use and installation, and of course price. While many different 5-channel amps can make the base bounce, just how much you pay for the experience can vary wildly. 

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide

When buying an amplifier for your vehicle’s sound system, it’s important to understand the characteristics that marketing people are going to use to try to lure you in. Here’s our FAQ and guide on these terms, characteristics, and functions that are desirable to have in a car stereo amplifier.

Types of 5-Channel Amps

Most modern car amps fall into one of two categories. They are specifically designed to output signals to drive your speakers. These two types of amps are slightly different when it comes to how they operate internally.

Class A/B

A class A/B amplifier is very common and has been around the industry for many years. An A/B amp provides really good sound quality and efficiency by using the top traits from both class A and class B amps. Car amps have relied on this type of technology for decades. Some products continue to use solely class A or class B technology instead of a combination of both. Less expensive models tend to be class A/B; however, it is not uncommon on more expensive amps.

Class D

Class D is a newer technology that takes an input audio signal from the head unit and drives a circuit that quickly switches on the power transistors to produce a waveform. This results in a lighter, smaller, and extremely efficient amp. Class D amps run cooler than other amps, and many are cheaper since they don’t require aluminum heatsinks. One of the drawbacks is that class D amps may not sound as good as A/B amps unless they are premium quality. In addition, if the gain is turned on high, you may hear a hissing sound.

What to Look for When Buying a 5-Channel Amp

Not all 5-channel amplifiers are the same. They all come with different features, and you want to find a high-quality device that will satisfy both your listening needs, and the electrical requirements of your vehicle. These features can involve everything from power output to frequency response, size, and accessibility.

Power

The first thing you need to consider when purchasing an amp is whether or not it matches your audio system’s power requirements. Your speakers and sub have specific power ratings known as RMS and MAX. Use these ratings when selecting the best 5-channel amp for sound quality.

Keep in mind that it’s better to overpower than underpower your speakers and sub. If you underpower your speakers, they’re likely to get damaged. Therefore, look for the best 5-channel power amp with an RMS rating that is higher than what your speakers and sub provide.

Bridgeability

Another feature you want to consider is whether the amp is bridgeable or not. Even though the best five channel car amp is designed for a 5-channel system, you could still use the same amp for a three-way system as long as it is bridgeable, say, in a smaller roadster with two speakers and a subwoofer. Fortunately, many amps have this capability, so they’re not difficult to find.

This is an appealing feature because it provides more flexibility for your system. In the future, for example, you may reconfigure your car’s audio system (i.e., add additional speakers). If your amp is bridgeable, then you’ll be able to do this without requiring an additional amp.

Impedance Rating

Before you invest in a car stereo amp, check the impedance rating. Every amplifier comes with a rating described in ohms. The ohms refer to the unit’s impedance, which is how hard it needs to work to generate power. The lower the impedance rating, the easier it is for the amp to function, and the higher the impedance rating the harder it is for the amp to work.

Typically, 5-channel amplifiers have either a 2- or 4-ohm rating. It’s important that you select the right impedance so it works seamlessly with your audio system.

Tips for Buying and Using 5-Channel Amps

While building a custom audio system isn’t necessarily hard, there are some things you need to keep in mind. If you want the amp and the corresponding components to operate efficiently, you need to do your research so the music you produce is loud, crisp, and clear. See the tips below to get optimal performance from your amp.

Tips

  • Properly set the gain on your amp to prevent distortion. Distortion can cause cringe-worthy sounds, such as crackling or hissing, that interrupts your music. To remove distortion, set the amp gain on low, play a song, and turn up the volume until you hear distortion. Then turn it down until the music is clean. This is where the maximum volume on your receiver is. Then turn the amp’s gain up until you hear the distortion and then down until it disappears. This is how you set the amp gain.
  • Review the specs of your system’s components before connecting a subwoofer. 
  • Don’t drive a sub with a lower impedance rating than is required (4 ohm or 2 ohm, for example), because it can cause the amp to overheat and turn off.

Best 5-Channel Amp FAQ:

When you’re choosing a five-channel amp, you may have some questions. We’ve included some of the most common questions people have about five-channel amplifiers.

Q. What is a 5-channel amplifier?

5-channel amplifier is the central power source of your automotive sound system, differing from other types of amps in that they can power four discrete channels of sound as well as a subwoofer. It’s not to be confused with surround sound, as these channels are usually the same stereo channels repeated front and back, i.e. in a sedan, with a subwoofer placed somewhere in the car.

Q. How many speakers can a 5-channel amp power?

At the most simple level, a 5-channel amp powers four speakers and one subwoofer, so it’s more of a 4+1 channel amp. In more advanced applications, people will split channels into speaker-tweeter pairs for each channel, or bridge the channels into fewer channels to increase output power.

Q. Where are the best places to install a 5-channel amp?

You need to consider where you will route the connecting wires. In general, people install their amps in the trunk or under a seat. Make sure to measure the area where you plan on installing the unit to make sure it’s the right size.

Our Top Pick

Our top pick is the Alphasonik V1200.5 Venum 2400 Watt 5-Channel Car Amp. It’s reasonably priced, has solid build quality, and produces a clean, crisp sound. It’s also pretty easy to install and comes with easy-to-use controls. The subwoofer volume control is also a nice feature. The amp also comes from a reputable company that’s been making car audio and live audio for decades.

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