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Video: car amplifier build quality

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I've written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. I'm an avid music listener, with a real love of classical and film music. I love having a great system in my car, and I'll still match the system in my 98 Ford Ranger (may it rest in piece) up against anything else I've heard for great SQ. I attended West Virginia University, where I received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History. Let's Go Mountaineers!

More from Ken Nail

I've been a camera nut all my life, so it makes sense I'd end up being a video producer. Of course, it has been a roundabout journey for me, as I started at Crutchfield in 2007 writing about car audio gear. Over the years I've learned about all the electronic items we sell, and it is my job to make sure we are making videos that you will find useful, whether you're shopping for something specific or trying to install some new gear yourself. My job is a lot of fun because I get to play around with all the cool stuff you see on our website while I'm making videos about it. Getting hands-on with the gear helps me see what I should show you about a product, though the flip side is my personal wish list is a mile long...

More from Zak Billmeier

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.

Video Transcript

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.

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