The 10 Best Mono Amplifiers

Updated July 30, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
So your car is now fast and furious, but what's missing? Earth shattering bass, is what. Install one of these mono amplifiers to drive your subwoofer and you'll soon be annoying everyone in your neighborhood. We've included models to fit a range of systems, so whether you have a single 10" sub or two 18s, you'll find what you need here. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best mono amplifier on Amazon.

10. Alpine MRV-M500

The Alpine MRV-M500 comes with snap-on terminal covers for quick, easy installation and removal if needed. It doesn't overheat, even after hours of continuous playback, and the compact size allows for a variety of placement options.
  • very durable chassis
  • quality circuitry
  • doesn't have a subsonic filter
Brand Alpine
Model MRV-M500
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Rockford Fosgate R250X1

Considering the brand name, the Rockford Fosgate R250X1 is surprisingly affordable. It's not going to push a pair of 15s, but if you just need to produce low frequency bass from a single 10" subwoofer, it will do the job nicely.
  • works with any head unit
  • convenient top-mounted controls
  • poor crossover labeling
Brand Rockford Fosgate
Model R250X1
Weight 6.4 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. Kicker 12CX3001

The Kicker 12CX3001 has a compact 7-inch by 8-inch chassis, yet still manages to push out 300 watts RMS. It is equipped with extra large transistors and a heavy-duty heat sink that allow it to withstand years of daily use without the power fading.
  • works with factory radios
  • good interference shielding
  • can be mounted vertically
Brand Kicker
Model CX 300. 1
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Pioneer 9601

The Pioneer 9601 offers unrivaled power at a low price, making it an exceptional value, and it comes from one of the leading names in car audio technology. It produces exceptionally clear and rich sounding bass without distortion.
  • stays cool at high output levels
  • runs on three 40 amp fuses
  • automatic input switching
Brand Pioneer
Model GM-D9601
Weight 8.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Hifonics Brutus

The stylish Hifonics Brutus gives you power and style in one. It has an illuminated Hifonics logo and lighted connectors for a high end look that will make you want to leave it on display rather than hide it away in the trunk.
  • very efficient and not a power hog
  • strong enough to blow subwoofers
  • screw-down wire terminals
Brand Hifonics
Model BRX2000.1D
Weight 14.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. JL Audio Jx500

The JL Audio Jx500 has a built-in adjustable low-pass filter that allows you to fine tune your sound, especially when paired with the integrated bass boost. There is also an optional remote that allows you to adjust the bass right from the driver's seat.
  • surprisingly powerful for its size
  • built with quality components
  • no distracting blinking lights
Brand JL Audio
Model JX500/1D
Weight 5.8 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Hifonics Zeus

The Hifonics Zeus is available in a range of power options, from 1,200 to 2,500 watts, so there is one to match every need. They put out a wattage true to their listed rating and all feature a stylish logo across the housing.
  • most include a remote bass knob
  • effective heat sink
  • good power to price ratio
Brand Hifonics Zeus
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Rockford Fosgate Prime

The Rockford Fosgate Prime is a quality amp made by a reputable company. Match it with a pair of the company's subs and get ready to impress your friends as you lay down some earth shattering bass that will let people around the block know you are coming.
  • clean power output
  • thermal and short circuit protection
  • easy to install
Brand Rockford Fosgate
Model R1200-1D
Weight 7.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Kenwood KAC-M3001

If you are looking for a great budget option that is durable enough to last for years, and you aren't planning on pushing huge subwoofers, then the Kenwood KAC-M3001 is a smart choice for your needs. It's a compact option that fits almost anywhere.
  • signal sensing turn-on
  • soft start to protect speakers
  • suitable for marine applications
Brand Kenwood
Model KAC-M3001
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Soundstream Tarantula

The Soundstream Tarantula is a powerhouse that pushes out 3,000 watts RMS, putting all other amps to shame. It has a variable 12 dB, 50 Hz bass boost, making it a serious piece of equipment designed for true audiophiles who want to make their car shake.
  • dash-mountable gain control
  • doesn't get too hot
  • adjustable subsonic filter
Brand Soundstream
Model TA1.3000D
Weight 16.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

History Of The Audio Amplifier

In 1906 the first electronic device capable of amplifying sound was created and it was called the Audion and was invented by Lee De Forest, who was an electrical engineer. The Audion was a triode, meaning it consisted of three electrodes that were placed inside of a partially evacuated glass envelope or tube. The invention of the Audion hailed the beginning of the electronics age and made possible things such as amplified radio and long-distance telephone calls.

The Audion tube contained a small amount of gas because De Forest believed it was necessary for the amplification properties. As it turned out, not only was the gas not necessary, it actually hampered the device's ability by limiting the dynamic range and giving the sound nonlinear characteristics, making the amplification erratic. Despite its shortcomings, the Audion was used to build the first successful electronic oscillators and amplifying radio receivers. Triode-based continuous wave radios also allowed amplitude modulation sound transmission, commonly known as AM radio.

By 1913, another inventor named Harold Arnold, who had purchased the rights to De Forest's Audio, was working on developing triode amplifiers with a higher vacuum. This device was known as the Pliotron. Eventually all of these partial-vacuum amplifiers were replaced by fully-vacuumed tube amplifiers. Without the invention of the Audion and the triode, most mass communication devices such as TV, radio, and the public address system would never have been possible.

As transistor technology become less expensive and more practical in the 1970s, transistor-based amplifiers began to replace the older vacuum tube models, but for many years after their introduction, they could not match the former's sound quality. This led audiophiles to believe that tube-based amplifiers were inherently superior. Over time, electrical engineers learned to better understand the causes for the distortion process within transistor amplifiers and eventually correct it. Currently they are far superior to the vacuum tube amplifiers.

Mono Vs. Stereo: What's The Difference?

Mono and stereo is a source of much confusion for the average consumer. Some people seem to think mono sounds better, while others feel that stereo does. Many receivers and head units these days can electronically switch between stereo and mono, but not so with amplifiers. If you have ever been listening to music in your home or car and switched from stereo to mono, you may not have heard any difference. This is because the difference is only noticeable when the music or recording has been produced in one channel, or has been recorded at a louder setting in one channel than the other.

Consider surround sound when watching a movie. Those times when you are watching a movie with surround sound and it sounds as if a noise has moved from one side of the room to another, that is making use of stereo sound recording and playback. If you were listening to that on a mono system, it would not have created that effect of movement. The rest of the time when watching a movie, it would have made no difference whether you were listening to a mono system or a stereo system as the sound was recorded and intended to be played back on both sides at the same level.

A stereo amplifier has two independent channels, the left side and the right side. These two signals are similar, but not the same. Sound or voice can be produced on just one channel, which can be used to give music and sound effects a sense of depth. They can also be produced slightly higher on one channel than the other to make a sound that seems to have originated off center. If the sound on the left channel is produced slightly higher than sound on the right channel, it will sound as if it is coming from slightly off to the left.

In a mono system, all of the audio signals get mixed together and then routed through a single audio channel. This means that even if a mono system makes use of multiple speakers, there will be no sound difference between them as the signal coming out of every one will be exactly the same.

Understanding Amplifier Specifications

There are a few important terms one must understand when considering which amplifier to purchase. Power output, which will be rated in watts, translates to how loud the amplifier is capable of getting. The larger the speakers, the more watts your amplifier will need.

Total harmonic distortion is often ignored by consumers, but actually makes a big difference in sound quality. It tells you how much effect the amplifier will have on the sound output. The higher the total harmonic distortion or THD, the more distorted the sound will be from the original recording. Ideally one should look for an amplifier that has a low THD rating.

Many amps also site the signal-to-noise ratio or SNR. This tells you how much background noise the amplifier will make. If the volume is set very loud, one may not notice the background noise of the amplifier, but at lower volumes, the electronic hum can be quite noticeable. It is best to find an amplifier with a higher signal to noise ratio. The higher the signal to noise, the less noticeable the electronic noise will be.

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Last updated on July 30, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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