Monoblock vs 2 Channel vs 4 Channel vs 5 Channel Amps: Which one to Choose?

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When you’re deciding on what amplifier to buy for your audio system, one of the biggest factors is how many channels it has.

If you’re looking for an amp to power subwoofers, in most cases you only need a single or “mono” channel Class D amplifier, even if you’re running multiple subs.

This can be achieved by wiring the voice coils of multiple subs together in series or parallel configurations which will present a certain ohm load to the amp depending on how it’s wired and what the ohm rating of the voice coils are (usually 2 ohm or 4 ohm).

About Wiring

Here is an example of some voice coil wiring configurations:

Dual voice coil series Connection
Dual voice coil parallel Connection

While your voice coils are either going to be wired in series or parallel, some subs have only one voice coil while others are dual voice coil and each voice coil will be rated at either a 2 ohm or 4 ohm load, so there are quite a few different wiring configurations possible, the main thing to remember is that your amp must be capable of running the ohm configuration that it is presented to it.

Many amps for instance are not 1 ohm stable and can overheat if the subs are wired incorrectly.

2-Channel Amplifiers

Now what about amplifiers with multiple channels? Most 2 – 4 channel amps are going to be in the Class A/B category and are designed for powering your front stage (mid-bass and tweeters).

amplifier and speakers

Typically you will need one channel for each speaker.

Coaxial speakers combine the mid-bass and tweeter into one speaker with the tweeter being mounted in the center above the woofer cone (as well as a small crossover, usually some type of small resistor).

Component speakers separate the woofer and tweeter for better imaging and typically include an external passive crossover network. While the woofer and tweeter are physically separated, the crossover provides the ability to use one amp channel to power them instead of two.

Recommended: What Is The Best 2 Channel Amplifier?

In most cases component speaker systems will only need two amp channels to provide power to all four speakers.

When it comes to getting the best possible sound quality, a lot of people will utilize an active crossover system, which means that each speaker has its own amp channel and the passive crossovers are not used, as each speaker channel feeds into a DSP/EQ unit that allows each speaker to be set to a specific crossover frequency and power setting.

This means that a component speaker set being run actively would require four channels for a two way system and six channels for a three way system.

Some higher end passive crossovers are bi-amp capable, meaning you can power each speaker with its own amp channel and still use the passive crossover instead of a dedicated DSP unit.

4 Channel Amps: What For?

Another typical scenario is using a 4 channel amp to run both speakers and subwoofers. We did a comparison on 4 channel amps that you should read.

In this setup the amp is typically put into a bridged mode for the rear channels meaning that the front two channels power the front coaxial/component speakers while the two rear channels are bridge into a single, more powerful channel to run the subwoofer(s).

This can be a helpful option for saving the space and cost associated with running multiple amps for speakers and subwoofers.

The downside is that most aren't going to put out a lot of power, which can be required for larger subwoofer setups.

What About 5 Channels then?

5 Channel amplifiers can be a combination of amplifiers, for example, the two front and two rear channels are Class A/B for running mid-bass and tweeters while the fifth channel can be its own Class D subwoofer amplifier.

5 Channel amps are a good option if you want to run four speakers instead of two for your front stage while still providing an extra subwoofer channel.

5 channel amplifier

Again, this can be an effective space and cost saving measure but like a 4 channel amp in bridged mode, it still does not provide adequate power for large subwoofers.

separate amplifier

I typically recommend running a separate amplifier for front stage and sub stage.

Active crossover systems commonly take this a step further and utilize a separate amp for tweeters, mid-bass and subwoofers.

This gives a more precise ability for delivering the correct amount of power to each type of speaker.

With all of these different options and different amplifiers available, it can be confusing to decide what is best for you.

Typically cost is going to be the main factor in your decision making, but you should also factor in how much space you are willing to dedicate to audio equipment in your vehicle.

Monoblock Amps

For more information on monoblock amps, please read our review article.

The good news is that with advancements in Class D amp technology as well as the shrinking size of amplifier components, you can get larger amounts of power out of smaller packages.

A good example of this is the JL Audio HD1200/1. It delivers 1200 watts of power out of an amp that is 8.5 x 11” or about the size of a standard sheet of notebook paper.

Jl audio Hd 1200/1

Another example is the Alpine MRV-M1200, which puts out up to 600 watts @ 4 ohms and 1200 watts @ 2 ohms, at a size that is comparable to the JL Audio HD1200/1.

As you can see, size is less of an issue than in the past for amplifiers but still needs to be taken into consideration especially when factoring in subwoofers and their enclosures.

alpine mrv m-1200

As I’ve explained in the article, the number of speakers you plan to run should be the other deciding factor on selecting an amp.

Also, don’t forget that you also need to account for the power that will need to be supplied to the amp.

A lot of people over look this necessity when designing a car audio system.

Some amps are more power hungry/less efficient than others. Take a look at this article on amplifiers for more information on amplifier types and efficiencies.

How to power all this

Amplifiers are powered by your vehicle’s alternator and depending on how many amps your alternator puts out, you might need to upgrade to a high output alternator.

Adding or upgrading batteries can help as well but keep in mind that if you don’t have sufficient alternator amperage to charge those batteries, they aren’t going to provide enough power.

Recommended: What Are The Best Batteries For Car Audio?


Typically stock alternators on most vehicles should be sufficient for powering a system up to 800 – 1000 watts, again depending on what your alternator amperage is rated at.

This article is meant to give a basic description of different kinds of amps based on number of channels and different scenarios in which they are used.

As always, if you need help selecting an amp or have questions about your specific vehicle and amplifier needs; please don’t hesitate to ask!

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8 thoughts on “Monoblock vs 2 Channel vs 4 Channel vs 5 Channel Amps: Which one to Choose?”

  1. Good info i thought that in a 4 channel that 2 were for 2 indivisual subs and the other two for mids and highs thanks for clarifying this. I’m personally a bass head and i’d like to ask is there a difference btw the kenwood kac-8106D monoblock and the kac-5001 Ps mono both are 1000w max and 300rms @4ohms and 500w @2 ohms please explain thanks again.Peace

  2. I want to run duel 12” sub in the back of my car and I have to small subs in the front what amp would you recommend how many channels ? Thanks -matty

  3. I have a pioneer unit I added 4 new jbl 60 watt rms 180 max watt power coaxial 6×8 speakers sounds better than the stock speakers. In the f150 but my son wants an amp and a small under seat sub
    There’s a 600 watt 5 Chanel amp will that do the job. Someone told me if I use a 4 channel and a sub it will cancel out 2 of the speakers while using the sub

  4. I just bought a ppi Trax 5 2200 watt 5 channel amp. I have it running jl speakers that are all 4ohm. I have dual kicker c10 subs that bridges are 2ohms will this work or not? Will it fry the amp?

  5. I want to run the 4 factory speakers and radio with 2- 12″ 4ohm dual voice coil subs in Jeep renegade. What do you recommend as set up.
    Barry Ferrell

  6. I have one skar zvx- 12″v 2 dual 2 ohms. 1500 rms 3000 watt. Wat is your suggestion on AMP and brand of amp. For fullest potential ????? I I was looking at a 8000 Watt 1 channel monoblock Power Acoustik not sure if that’s the right choice I don’t want to waste money I would rather spend more money and get the right amp

  7. Hello, great article very good information all in one place.

    My quandary is this, I have an aftermarket reciever (kenwood excelon kdc3) and I have two 10inch JL subs in ported box and I’m using a cheaper 1100 watt Boss Audio mono block to power it. Which does okay with but lacks that sharp powerful kick. But it’s still enough to overpower the stock speakers in my camry. My friend sold me 2 Clif Designs midbass comps(4ohms 240w peak, 120w RMS) with tweeters and also a pair of polk audio full range 6×9’s. I know I need to use crossovers for the comps to work with my subs. Id prefer active crossover but I would need a new amplifier or 2? How many channels? This is where I’m lost and need advice. Or I could even use passive X-overs if I had to but what do I need to make this setup function properly?

    Thanks for your help!

  8. I have 4 15” kicker subs,
    What would be the best amp for them…
    An how many ways it would take…

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