The most important part of a high end car audio system is the amplification. That’s right, amplification. You can get everything else RIGHT (speakers, subwoofers, wiring, head unit, etc) and still be frustrated with the final outcome. However, if you have great amplifiers and tune them right, you will get very good results from your system. You can fix your deficiencies as you go, but at least you know you’re on the right path.
Perhaps the most talked about “most important thing” for any audio system are the speakers. Naturally, great speakers are very important to high end sound but in order to get the most of them (and justify their high cost) you’ll need great amplifiers to do so. Often times I’ll see discussions about what speakers to buy and the amplifier discussion that follows is very complacent like “Oh, just make sure you have at least 150 watts per channel and you’ll be good”.
If you do this, you’ll most likely be in for a big letdown. There is far more to an amplifier’s quality than how much power it produces in watts. Many of the factors that contribute to a quality amplifier are beyond what is printed in a spec sheet.
So what else should we be looking for? Knowing what “Class” it is helps (e.g. Class A, B, A/B, D). Depending on your application and your car’s electrical system, one of these classes will be ideal.
Knowing the dimensions and weight of an amplifier also helps. A very light amplifier with a tiny footprint putting out say 150 watts per channel versus an amp 4 times the size and weight putting out the same power should leave you suspect of the smaller amp (in many cases).
Knowing if the amplifier is a high current design or not is also critical. Since current is what actually drives the speakers, it is important that you get a high current amplifier. Power in watts is the product of current times voltage. So it is very possible for two different amplifiers putting out the same power in watts to have different current and voltage ratings.
Finally, you need to know what type of amplifier you need in your particular application. An amplifier to drive a full range component system might be different than one needed to drive a pair of tweeters, or a pair of subwoofers.
So to repeat, speakers are important but not as important as the amplifiers…in a HIGH END SYSTEM. To truly experience the power and ambience of the music, a good amplifier is imperative.