Video: car amplifier build quality
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Ken Nail has written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. He's an avid music listener, whose favorites are classical and film music. When not chained to a desk, Ken spends most of his time training for triathlons and marathons, and likes getting outside for backpacking, downhill skiing, and bicycle touring. He attended West Virginia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History.
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Zak Billmeier grew up in southern Vermont and coastal Maine. After graduating from Mary Washington College with a Geography degree he still isn't sure quite what to do with, he eventually settled in the mountains of Central Virginia. He spends his free time chasing his daughter around, taking pictures, gardening and cooking. He joined Crutchfield's car A/V writing team in 2007 and is now a lead producer on our video team.
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When shopping for an amplifier, If you can get the same amount of power from two different models, is there any reason to buy the higher-priced amp? What are you getting for that extra money? We'll discuss the differences in build quality and performance between lower-priced amplifiers and more-expensive options.
Check out all our entire selection of car amplifiers at crutchfield.com/amps.
Ken: Another question we hear a lot is "Why should I buy a more expensive amp"? "What am I getting for my money"?
Zak: Again, a good question. To answer it we're going to look under the hood of two amps. One is a more entry-level and affordable amp and the other one costs a little bit more. So what are you getting for that money?
Ken: These are both mono amps of similar power built for driving subs. This one is an entry level amp that sold for about $200. It's a good amp but right away you can see a basic, generic circuit board with a lot of exposed metal traces and wires. That can let noise into the system. It's got small FETs, or Field Effect Transistors, underneath these small heat sinks. That can let them heat up and create distortion. The capacitors are small and the coil is small so you don't have a lot of reserve energy for when you crank the volume.
Zak: Now over on this side, we have an amp from Rockford Fosgate priced in the $300 range. On the inside you can immediately see what you're getting for that extra money. You've got this high-quality, custom-built circuit board tying everything together. You've got larger, beefier components throughout and you've got this vented heat sink that goes all the way around the outside and that's going to keep the amp running cool and much more efficiently. Overall, you're getting a better built amp which equals better performance and better sound.
Ken: But we haven't talked about one of the most vital factors in amp performance: amp wiring.
Zak: Your amp depends on a steady supply of power to operate at its peak, and that's why you should invest in a high-quality amp wiring kit when you buy the amp.
Ken: If you use too thin or cheap wiring to hook up your amp, you're starving it of the power it needs to do its work.
Zak: Yeah, the bottom line is that you're not going to get the performance that you paid for.
Ken: To see all the amps we carry, go to crutchfield.com/amps and be sure to check out which wiring kits we recommend.
Zak: To learn more about choosing the right amplifier, go to crutchfield.com/ampguide.
Ken: And for personal one-on-one help, call 1-800-555-9408.