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Lead image

A powerful car audio demo at Kicker HQ

Kicker amplifiers — the answer to weak factory sound

A recent trip I took to Kicker’s headquarters in Stillwater, Oklahoma, confirmed what I’ve noticed over the last few years: Kicker is becoming a major player when it comes to car amplifiers. And that’s a great thing.

Kicker speakers and subwoofers have long been favorites of our customers. That’s not surprising. They’re efficient, they sound great, and they’re built to last. So to see Kicker excelling in a category that’s become very important in car audio is pretty cool.

Kicker's Fiat 500 installation

Kicker gear in its natural environment

One of the highlights of the tour didn’t take place in a lab but out in the parking lot, in Kicker's Fiat demo car. The Fiat is a tiny car, yet Kicker didn't have to sacrifice much cargo space  to fill it with incredible sound. 

Amplifiers are more important now than ever before

In newer vehicles, factory stereos are more challenging than ever to replace. That makes a car amplifier an essential component in the quest for better sound. A good amp will connect to your factory stereo and allow you to power aftermarket speakers for an immediate improvement.

Kicker does amplifiers right

Two important aspects of modern amps are efficiency and sound processing. An efficient amp produces less heat, so it’s less prone to distortion, and puts very little strain on your car’s electrical system. Good sound proces­sing, meanwhile, can weed out the fundamental flaws of your factory stereo and deliver a sonic signature that’s clean and full.

Kicker is doing both of these things exceptionally well these days, as a couple of cool demos at their HQ — one in the Fiat you see at the top — clearly showed.

Kicker 46CXA1800.1T

Performance matters, and efficiency is a big part of that

At one point in my tour of their HQ, Kicker engineers measured the efficiency of an older model amplifier and one of their newer KX Series amps with the same power rating. The older amp came in at 47% efficient, which meant that it wasted more than half its power generating heat. The KX Series amplifier, on the other hand, measured 77% efficient. So Kicker’s packed a large amount of power into a small chassis that will fit almost anywhere in a vehicle, and won’t overheat or shut down. 

[Update: Since this article was published, Kicker updated this line of amplifiers to their CXA Series amps, with the same or higher efficiency operation. 

Kicker KEY180.4 4-channel amp

The future in car audio is automatic tuning

The folks at Kicker are rightfully proud of their KEY180.4 amplifier with automatic-tuning digital signal processing (DSP) — since updated to the KEY200.4. I sat in the driver’s seat of this car listening to music, switching the DSP on and off repeatedly, and heard very clearly the sound improvements brought into the Fiat.

The KEY amplifier's setup uses a calibration microphone to measure the sound response of the vehicle’s interior acoustic space, and automatically adjusts equalization, time alignment, and speaker levels to achieve true high-fidelity sound in any vehicle. Perfect sound can’t get any easier.

Kicker's Fiat 500 install

Since the Fiat is a demo car, Kicker mounted the KEY180.4 inside a custom enclosure so that people could see it. Most of us, in our personal vehicles, would hide the amplifier under a seat or behind a panel somewhere. It's that small. 

What you power matters

Factory speakers can sound better with more power, but aftermarket speakers absolutely thrive with extra juice. Kicker speakers, with their big power handling and satisfying performance, are some of our best sellers. 

Check out our selection of Kicker speakers

Kicker's Fiat 500 install

Kicker subwoofers, especially the square L7 series, are legendary, and Kicker had to include a pair of them in the Fiat's trunk. They're designed for one purpose — to create bass that's powerful and accurate. And two of those in this small car truly deliver. 

See all of our Kicker subwoofers

Kicker's Stillwater, OK Headquarters

From loudspeakers to beyond — a little bit about Kicker

The story behind the creation of Kicker is that founder Steve Irby couldn’t hear his keyboards over the drums in his rock band. So he built a powered speaker (shown below) and rocked on. Then he discovered he loved building loudspeakers more than he did playing through them. Steve founded Stillwater Designs in 1973, and was soon sending out truckloads of his “Kicker” loud­speakers for bands, clubs, and auditoriums everywhere.

Steve Irby's speaker

What really impressed me on my visit to Kicker was the company vibe. It’s laid back and friendly, but still with plenty of focus on building great gear. I found it to be a lot like Crutchfield, honestly. And I was struck by the similarities.

Like Steve Irby, Bill Crutchfield was looking for something that didn’t exist (in his case, a mail-order car stereo business to help with a restoration project), so he created it himself. It makes sense, then, that we’ve had such a long and fruitful relationship with them.

Kicker 46CSC674 6-3/4" 2-way car speakers

Check out our Kicker store

Crutchfield offers a wide selection of Kicker products, including speakers, amps, and subs, all made to fit into a wide variety of cars, motorcycles, boats, and other off-road vehicles. Check out our Kicker brand page. See something you like? Give us a call and an Advisor will help you find the right Kicker gear for your setup.

  • Aaron W Wolfe from NORTHWOOD

    Posted on 6/10/2021

    I just purchased Kicker Component Speakers and Kicker Speakers which were delivered yesterday. Can I submit my receipt for the 10% rebate or will I have to return the speakers I have and then reorder them?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/11/2021

    Aaron, I don't see any rebates offered for Kicker speakers. If you purchased yours from Crutchfield, give us a call to find out what's offered and how to receive it.
  • Mark from Yuma

    Posted on 6/10/2021

    I have a complete kicker system in my dodge ram 3500, 2 amps and all the speakers and the subwoofer are kicker. I have no issues with any of the systems and the sound is AMAZING!!! I found this article to be a pleasant read and it verifies my choice to go completely kicker. Thank you for the article and the information!

  • Daniel Morgan from Malabar, FL

    Posted on 6/9/2021

    There's some over-simplification in this article that I'd like to comment on. This statement, "An efficient amp produces less heat, so it's less prone to distortion, and puts very little strain on your car's electrical system", is somewhat true, but thermal management of the amp, both internally and externally, must be taken into account. It isn't heat generation so much that's important, but what's done with the heat to keep the temperature inside the amp from rising too high that's most important. On the electrical side, many factors are going to determine whether or not an amp is going to put a strain on a particular car's electrical system or not, such as electrical system capacity, and the power requirement of the amp at a particular sound level. For instance, even an ideal 100% efficient amp could be driven so hard that its power requirement from the car becomes excessive and overloads the car's electrical system.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/9/2021

    Daniel, Any heat generated by an amplifier is energy taken away from the production of power, and so contributes to the inefficiency of the amp, no matter what steps are taken for thermal management after the heat is created.