My guess is that when you picked up that fat new subwoofer for your car, studio, or wherever, you were expecting to be pulverized with raw bass power, leaving you weak at the knees and perhaps even loose of bowels.
But what you’re actually met with is a little less low end apocalypse and a little more, well… nothing.
Subwoofers, 9.99999 times out of 10 simply will not function on their own — boo! Nope, to get that bass beast of yours barking, you need a specialized subwoofer amplifier, otherwise, you’ll have forked out for your pricey new speaker to enjoy naught but the sound of silence.
Luckily for you, I spent the last few weeks researching the best subwoofer amplifiers in the business, and today, I’m happy to share what I have learned with you! Welcome to my definitive list of the most awesome sub amps in town
Best Overall — Boss Audio Systems R1100M
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I’m sure you’ll have already come across Boss Audio Systems before, and there’s good reason for that — they make some of the best speakers and amps in the game.
The R1100M is an impressive, high output unit designed to establish a happy compromise between energy efficiency and output. To accomplish this harmonious marriage of contradictory notions, it utilizes an A B class system.
The A B approach, in very simple terms, is like having two amps in one, sharing (or exchanging) the load. This reduces thermal issues and keeps energy usage down.
The drawback is that the internal exchanging of workload can cause a minimal latency issue, but nothing you’re really going to pick up on.
It’s a monoblock amp, meaning it has a single power channel, perfect for pairing with a powerful standalone subwoofer, and it has a MOSFET power supply for increased efficiency and reduced distortion.
Although it’s by no means the biggest, baddest amplifier on the block, during our tests, the 1100 watts of power was more than enough for some truly bouncy bass, and the fact you can incorporate a remote sub control is fantastic!
- Price — Great value for money considering the quality and power
- MOSFET — Higher audio quality with less distortion
- Compact & durable — This thing is a diminutive tank!
- Thermals — Keep the vents free and you should run into no problems on this front.
- Mono — Only really suitable for a single sub
Also available from…
Best Budget Pick — Nobsound NS-03G
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As long as you’re not looking to melt faces and rattle teeth with your sub, you’ll love the NS-03G sub amplifier from the hilariously named company, Nobsound.
This diminutive dynamo offers a 100 watt output for those that need a bass boost on a budget, and it works like a charm. It’s also incredibly user friendly, so it’s the perfect little unit for those looking to cut their teeth in the realm of sub amplification.
The incredibly simple, one-dial interface allows you to turn on your sub and set your levels with ease, and the metal enclosure is just as rugged as those you’ll find surrounding amps 10 times the price of the NS-03G.
One small caveat to mention is that it doesn’t arrive with a power supply. Now, during our testing, we found that you can use certain laptop adapters to fill this void, but it’s not worth risking it.
My advice would be to fork out for a dedicated supply. You should be able to pick one up for about $15 or so, and even then, this is still the best budget option on the market.
- Price — Simply can’t be beat!
- Footprint — Won’t take up too much room in what may be a compact or crowded space.
- Full metal enclosure — Can really roll with the punches
- User friendly — The interface couldn’t be more intuitive.
- Power supply — It isn’t included.
- Limited power — It’s only a very basic unit.
Also available from…
Premium Pick — Skar Audio SKv2-3500. 1D
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Skar Audio are an industry leader and always come out with the most exquisite gear, but with the SKv2, they’ve truly outdone themselves.
Firstly, this is a D class amplifier, which, for the uninitiated, means it uses the most advanced formatting technology for a performance that is exquisitely energy efficient and pristine in terms of sonic integrity.
Class Ds are also infamous for packing way more power into much smaller units, so even though this thing packs one mighty punch, the footprint isn’t anywhere near as gargantuan as you’d expect — it’s certainly a space saver!
With a peak power of 4700 watts at 1 ohm, it’s capable of teaming up with the beefiest subs around to brutal effect (in a good way!). This is what you’d call a competition-grade amp, and during our tests, its performance reflected that title and then some.
But even though this thing deals in raw power, an advanced integrated heat sink means you’ll never have to worry about thermals… like ever. And as it arrives with some pretty nifty control parameters, such as a low pass filter, you can really tailor your sub sound to perfection!
- D class — Energy efficient and the sound is unparalleled
- Heat sink — Push it all you want; thermals won’t be an issue.
- 4700 watt peak — Pairs well with truly beefy subs.
- 15 – 270 Hz frequency response — Wider audio spectrum than most sub amps
- Price — Power like this doesn’t come cheap.
Also available from…
Best Mid-Power D Class — Skar Audio RP-1200. 1D
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Like the sound of the SKv2-3500, but you’re not looking to pair up a comp-grade amp and sub? This slightly more modest D class masterpiece from Skar Audio (again) is your best bet!
That D classification means that it’s highly energy efficient, and, more importantly, it has the most immaculate audio profile you can imagine.
Combine that with the flexible gain, LPF, and subsonic parameters, and you can create your own low end ecosystem within your mix.
It also has a very similar integrated heat sink as the SKv2, which means you can really push this thing without worrying about overheating, and 4-way protection circuitry, as well as the ground and gauge power terminals ensure optimal current flow.
This is another contributor to its amazing sonic potential.
It also arrives with a MOSFET power supply, meaning you can enjoy max efficiency and basically zero distortion, something we definitely picked up on during our tests.
- MOSFET — Efficient and minimal distortion
- D class — Highest quality performance
- Integrated heat sink — No overheating here
- Small footprint — Nice and space-friendly
- Price — You may have to smash your piggy bank.
Also available from…
Best Multi-Channel — Rockville db55
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You may have noticed that all the amps thus far have been single-channel devices, so let’s take a look at this fine example of a multi-channel sub amp from the folks over at Rockville.
The db55 has an incredible 5 channels available, meaning that it has the means to establish 5 discrete power connections with numerous speakers, which in turn means you can introduce more than one sub to your sound system.
Four of the available channels are A B class, for a compromise between efficiency and audio quality, but you also get one D class channel for one immaculate, high performance, low thermals connection.
That said, during our tests, none of the channels seemed to cause any thermal issues, even after hours of use, so whichever channels you use, you’ll have very little to worry about.
I noticed very little distortion at high volumes with the db55, and the dash-mountable bass control is a lovely addition to make use a total breeze.
- 5 channels — Lots of power multi-speaker power potential
- D class channel — 1 super high quality connection for flawless audio
- Dash-mounted bass control — Don’t have to seek out unit to adjust output
- A B class — These channels aren’t quite as distortion-free.
Also available from…
Subwoofer Amp Buyer’s Guide
Now that you’ve had a taste of the low end excellence out there in the form of sub amps, it’s the perfect time to learn a little bit more about what makes them so. This way, you’ll be guided directly to the perfect sub amp for you — consumer conundrums be gone!
One thing you’ll pick up on early in your sub amp search is that most amplifiers will be graded either one or a couple of letters. But this isn’t a graded system in a traditional sense, as, technically speaking, neither is better than the other. Grades all have their pros and cons.
These grades refer mostly to wave functionality.
Let’s talk about grade A first. This grade tells us that the amplifier conducts wave forms in a 360 degree fashion, which, I know, means very little to you.
What this actually means in plain English is that it’s constantly conducting, which produces a higher quality audio with less interference and distortion.
Sounds fantastic, right? Well, the drawback is that this constant conduction wastes a whole load of energy, as the jacked current must continue to flow regardless of whether there’s an output power. This also leads to thermal issues.
But that’s not all. Class A amplifiers are almost definitely also going to be quite a bit bulkier than others, which can be a big deal if space is running a premium in your setup location.
Another common grade is A B, which essentially means that it utilizes 180 degrees of the wave at a time and alternates function between two sets of components.
A B units are much more energy efficient and don’t come with the same thermal issues, but, unfortunately, there’s something of a latency issue that occurs during the 180 degree switch that can slightly impact the quality of the audio output.
G & H Classes
We don’t need to know about these classes in this context, but I thought I’d mention their existence nonetheless.
Here we have the crème de la crème of amplifier setups.
The class D is both energy efficient and provides the highest fidelity audio possible, so if you’re something of an audiophile, and you have some cash in the bank, these are the amps for you and your sub. They’re also quite compact, which is a bonus.
RMS — What Does This Mean?
RMS is an abbreviation of route means square, but thinking about it like that only causes more confusion. Essentially, RMS is the peak output that an amp or sub can deliver at the most explosive part of a track.
The key thing to remember here is that the RMS of your amplifier should not exceed the peak RMS of your subwoofer, so make a note of this before purchasing an amp.
RMS is measured in watts, so keep an eye out for this metric when coordinating amplifiers and subwoofers.
Impedance — What’s Going On Here?
Impedance seems complex, and it kind of is when you get down to the nitty gritty, but we don’t need the details; we just need the essence.
In simple terms, the impedance of an electrical component is the resistance a current faces during a journey. This resistance is inevitable, but it isn’t always equal from one component to the next, and when there’s a mismatch, it can cause problems.
So, all you have to focus on is matching the impedance of your amplifier with that of your sub, or if you have more than one sub, the combined impedance of both speakers together.
For the uninitiated, impedance is measured in ohms, so that’s what you’ll be looking out for when shopping around for your amp.
Another thing we should probably touch on is the concept of amplifier channel count. When looking at amps, you’ll notice that some are single-channel designs (or monoblock), and some are dual-channel designs. You may even run into a few 4-channel designs.
Channels refer to lines of dedicated power. So, a monoblock amp will only have one dedicated line of power, while a dual-channel amp will have two.
Generally speaking, people use single-channel amps for individual speakers, dual-channel amps for dual speakers, and quad-channels for four, etc., but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
As long as the amplifier has enough power in terms of RMS, and the impedance is in check, you can hook up, for example, more than 2 speakers to a dual-channel amp. Having said that, for mono amps, it’s best to use just the one speaker.
MOSFET Power Supplies: Worth It?
Some amplifiers will have a MOSFET power supply. MOSFET stands for metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor (a mouthful, I know), and this is essentially a streamlined power supply that limits energy waste and keeps Beta droop and current loss to a minimum, thereby reducing distortion.
While they’re not by any means essential, they are a good selling point, and if you appreciate top quality audio, they should be a serious consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Got time for a quick FAQ session? Excellent; let’s get to it!
Do All Subwoofers Require An Amplifier?
For the most part, yes, subwoofers do require their own dedicated amplifier, especially if we’re talking about car subs, but this isn’t always the way of things.
For example, many studio monitors will be built on an “active” blueprint, which basically means they have everything they need to function within their enclosure. In other words, they have a built-in amplifier.
This kind of sub might also be referred to as a “powered” speaker, so if you catch that phrasing, you know that the sub in question is a fully realized music machine.
How Many Amps Does It Take To Power A Sub?
If you buy the right amp for your subwoofer, you should really only ever need the one, but if you’re wondering if you can combine lesser amps to support one powerful sub, it is technically possible, but wiring everything and making sure it’s all balanced can be tricky.
I’d always recommend buying one amplifier that’s capable of powering your one subwoofer.
Do Low Ohms Hit Harder Than High Ohms?
Yep, you’ve clocked it! Being that ohms are units of resistance, the higher they go, the weaker the current passing through the electrical components will be.
The lower the ohms, the more powerful the current stands to be. For instance, a 2 ohm sub would hit harder than a 4 ohm sub.
Can I Power Two Speakers With A Single-Channel Amp?
Technically speaking, you can indeed power two speakers with a single amp, but it’s not recommended, as there are all sorts of things that can go wrong. It’s a much safer option to simply select a 2-channel amp or drop one of the speakers in question.
The world of speakers and amplifiers is a confusing one, especially for first time dabblers, but hopefully this guide has smoothed out the learning curve a bit and given you a decent foundation to grow your knowledge from.
Bear in mind what we discussed here today, and you should have no problem finding the perfect amp for your sub, but if in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to a seller or specialist to confirm an amp will be a good fit for your system.