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Do You Need an Amp for Door Speakers?

If you want your music to be loud and distortion-free, amplifiers are definitely part of the picture. Whether you like to crank it up or keep it low as great background music, a powerful amplifier can make a night and day difference in terms of sound quality, bringing out all of your music’s excitement and detail.

There’s no denying that a good amplifier can do wonders even in a stock setup, but the question that’s begging to be answered is: Do you need an amp for car door speakers?

Let’s find out…

Main reasons to add an amplifier

There are a number of reasons to add an external amplifier to your car audio system, and you definitely need one if you want:

1. To get better sound quality

Every car sound system has an amplifier of some sort, but most are built into the receivers. An amp built into your headunit leaves a lot to be desired.

If you’ve ever cranked up the volume on your headunit, and your speakers started to distort, the headunit’s built-in underpowered amp is likely the culprit (assuming you’ve got some good speakers in there). Therefore, adding an external amplifier to your system gives you a clean power source that can drive your speakers without straining. This means your music will sound much more cleaner and more defined at all volume levels.

2. To get the most out of your upgraded speakers

Aftermarket speakers require much more power than what most in-dash receivers can provide. Thereby, if you’re swapping your factory car door speakers with high quality aftermarket ones, the latter may require more power for optimal performance than your existing in-dash receiver can provide.

3. To add some Oomph to a factory system

Factory headunits leave a lot to be desired when it comes power output. Most of them usually have no more than about 10-20 watts RMS output power per channel, which is usually not enough power to overcome vibrations and road noise without sounding shrill.

Most factory speakers don’t require a ton of power to sound good. Therefore, a compact 4 channel amplifier  should be more than enough to breathe life into your music without tearing a hole in your wallet.

Most mini car amplifiers out there are powerful enough to boost the power for your rear and door speakers, increase the quality and clarity of your sound whilst being able to fit into some sort of nook and cranny in most vehicles.

P.S: If you’re wanting to keep your factory headunit, bear in mind that most of them don’t have preamp outputs needed to hook up an external amplifier. Hence, you’ll need to look for an amplifier with “speaker-level inputs”. These amplifiers can handle the high-level signal from the vehicle’s factory speaker wiring, making it easier to install them without a line output converter (which converts speaker-level output signal into RCA preamp-level signal).


How much power do my aftermarket speakers need?

Generally speaking, most aftermarket speakers, especially component sets, can handle a lot more power than what a factory or even an aftermarket stereo can put out.

So, matching your speakers to your system is highly recommended. A system with power hungry speakers will require an amp whose power rating is close to what the speakers can handle. And remember, the key spec in power handling is the maximum RMS, not the peak power handling. RMS ratings realistically measures the amount of power the speaker can handle on a continuous basis, not just for a short period of time.

Do not exceed the RMS power ratings:

So, if you already have aftermarket speakers, get an amplifier whose maximum RMS output per channel is no higher than the speaker’s top RMS rating.

If you already have an amplifier, get speakers with RMS ratings that are equal to or slightly higher than each amp channel’s top RMS output.

How many channels should my amp have?

Each “channel” of an amplifier is a discrete source of power, intended to drive one speaker. The most common amplifiers are 2-channel, 4-channel, and mono channel. There’s also 5 channel and 6 channel amplifiers which gives you greater flexibility. How many amp channels you need depends on your plans for your audio system now and in the future.

I’m only powering my front speakers

Some people like their music with a strong front soundstage and don’t even use rear speakers. A 2 channel amplifier is the most practical solution when you only need to drive a single pair of speakers.

I’m powering both my front and rear speakers

If your vehicle has both front and rear speakers, and you want to retain front-to-rear fade control, a 4-channel amp is for you — one channel for each speaker.

I want to power speakers and a subwoofer

There are some other amp configurations to consider if your system comprises of a subwoofer and a single pair of speakers. A 3-channel amp for example can take care of a single pair of speakers and a subwoofer quite effectively.

A bridgeable 4 channel car amplifier can also be used to drive a pair of speakers plus a subwoofer – with two of its channels bridged to run the subwoofer and the other two to power the speakers.

Opting for a 4 channel amplifier gives you the option for future expansion of your sound system, allowing you to switch the amp to run four speakers and add a separate amp for the sub down the line.

A 5 channel amplifier on the other hand can be used to power your entire system from one convenient and compact package. Its Four channels to power the front and rear speakers, and the remaining 5th channel for the subwoofer.

For more system-building flexibility, you might want to consider a 6 channel amplifier or even an 8 channel amplifier.

Amp for door speakers : is it worth it?

Well, the short answer is: Yes. But again it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If sound quality and volume are a priority for you, then an amplifier is definitely a must. However, if you don’t mind a little distortion, and you have no desire to crank your in-dash receiver up to “11” (on a scale of 1-10 metaphorically), then you can probably skip the amp and focus on your head unit and speakers.

Some aftermarket headunits are fitted with beefy components and can deliver ultra-clean signal to your speakers. However, these head units tend to cost a pretty penny, at which point it’s often a good idea to just get a dedicated amplifier.

In order to get the best possible sound out of your car audio system, it’s of paramount importance to pay close attention to the three basic components that your system comprises of, and those are the speakers, the amplifier, and the headunit. The latter provides an audio signal, the amplifier boosts it, and the speakers reproduce it.

These components together chalk up to reproduce your music. They are highly dependent on one another, and the overall quality of a car audio system is determined by how efficiently they interact.

With that in mind, a standard in-dash receiver will not do justice to your upgraded speakers. And adding a powerful amplifier without upgrading your stock speakers might do more harm than good, unless the power rating of the amplifier and the power handling of the speakers are perfectly matched.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, if you like your music with a strong soundstage, but your in-dash receiver isn’t powerful enough to make justice to your speakers, then you definitely need to consider an amplifier. However, if you don’t care much about neither sound quality nor volume, then you can probably skip the amplifier.

Alex Brown

Hey There, my name is Alex Brown, I'm an LA-based sound engineer with over 10 years experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. I've installed highly competitive car audio systems, and everything from navigation systems to full car stereo systems, remote starters, alarms and beyond. I enjoy creating solutions and simplifying everyday needs. I also love helping people get great sounding gear, thereby, saving the world from bad sound one customer at a time.

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