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Do Car Stereos Have Built-in Amps?

Do Car Stereos Have Built-in Amps?
Do Car Stereos Have Built-in Amps?

One of the common questions car audio enthusiasts ask is whether their car stereo features a built-in amp or not.

That’s because they want to confirm whether they can pair that amp with a subwoofer.

Well, the short answer is yes, most car stereos have built-in amplifiers that power the speakers. These amplifiers are usually designed to provide enough power to drive the speakers without the need for an external amplifier.

However, it’s not good enough to power aftermarket speakers or a subwoofer in most cases. Therefore, you’ll have to upgrade to an external amplifier for that.

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What is the Car Amplifier?

The amplifier is a critical component of the car’s audio system. That’s because the audio signals produced by the head unit are not powerful enough to drive the speakers.

This is where the amplifier comes in. It amplifies/boosts those signals before sending them to the speakers or subwoofer.

Built-in vs. External Amplifier

Many people believe that car amplifiers only come in external form. But that’s not true.

That’s because a car audio system technically cannot function without an amplifier.

“But what about those factory audio systems?” you might be asking.

Well, those audio systems feature a built-in amplifier in the head units.

When Should You Upgrade to Aftermarket Car Amplifier?

When Should You Upgrade to Aftermarket Car Amplifier?

The following are some common reasons that might compel you to upgrade to an aftermarket car amplifier.

Average Sound Quality

Due to their smaller size, built-in amps can only produce average-quality, flat sound. You’ll get distortion if you play bass-heavy songs or music at higher than 50% volume levels.

Therefore, you’ll have to upgrade to a 3rd-party external amplifier to get a clean sound with extra clarity.

Related Posts: Best Aftermarket Head Unit for Sound Quality

Speaker Upgrade

Another reason you might want an external amp installed is the aftermarket speakers. While factory amps might be good enough for the factory speakers, they’re too weak for high-quality 3rd-party car speakers.

So, to get the most power out of those speakers, you need an external amp.


The last reason is the subwoofer. The subwoofer is necessary to add a thumping bass to the sound.

But they’re also power-demanding, which means the factory amp will be too weak to power them. Moreover, you need to customize the crossover settings to get the best performance out of these subs – something only external amps can do.

Related Posts: Best 12-inch Subwoofer


Most car stereos have a built-in car stereo. But that amp is not powerful in most models and can’t be used to power powerful speakers or a subwoofer.

If you’re comfortable with the sound quality of the factory car audio system and don’t want to rank value up to the highest level, these built-in amps would be good enough for you.

Otherwise, you’ll need to upgrade to an external car amplifier.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know If My Car Has A Factory Amp?

Most cars have some information/labels on the door panel or dash if there’s any factory amplifier installed. If there’s no such information, you can ask your local dealership about it by giving them the VIN number.

How Many Amps Does My Car Stereo Draw?

Most single-din factory car radios draw 2-3 Amps from the battery. But this value can reach as high as 10 Amps if you have an aftermarket radio with a touchscreen, GPS, CarPlay, etc. For more info, you can read this post.

Do You Need An Amp In A Car Stereo System?

Yes, you need an external amplifier in your vehicle to add high-power speakers/subwoofer or to reduce distortion on higher volume levels.

Do Car Stereo Amps Drain The Battery?

Yes, car amplifiers can drain the battery if improperly installed. Or if they remain turned on when the engine is off.

Do Car Amps Damage The Alternator?

If a car amp is too powerful, it will demand more power from the alternator. For that, the latter will have to work harder, which can cause overheating and permanent damage in the long run.

What Is Big 3 Upgrade In Car Audio?

The big three upgrades in-car audio refers to upgrading your vehicle’s three main power and grounding cables. These include a cable between the alternator’s positive terminal and the battery’s positive terminal, a cable between the battery’s negative terminal and chassis ground, and another cable between the engine block and the chassis ground.
This upgrade is essential for improving your vehicle’s overall electrical system.

Miles Walker is the founder and lead reviewer at CarAudioWise. com. With over 20 years of experience in the car audio industry, he is an acknowledged expert on all aspects of car audio technology and installation.

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