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What Is a Multi-Channel Amplifier?

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  • Written By: Amy Rodriguez
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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A multi-channel amplifier is an electronic device that generates extra power for attached car speakers, effectively creating a louder, high-quality sound for the listener. This particular amplifier is normally connected to a car stereo and multiple speakers, including a subwoofer. Many manufacturers offer different multi-channel amplifier designs for a customized car stereo system.

Three to six channels are generally available in a multi-channel amplifier. Car stereo enthusiasts usually have approximately six speakers within the vehicle's interior, as well as a hidden subwoofer in the trunk. Each speaker can attach to the amplifier for more sound power. The resulting music retains its sound quality while boosting volume levels.

Each channel on the amplifier can have multiple speaker attachments. Installers can attach the speakers in a series or parallel configuration. A series attachment to the multi-channel amplifier will produce adequate power for each attached speaker since the wiring arrangement multiplies the load on the amplifier's circuitry; however, the extra load seen by the amplifier reduces the power output factor to the individual speakers. As a result, the amplifier is cooler and more stable with a series configuration, effectively lengthening the device's lifespan.

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Parallel amplifier layouts provide more power to each speaker compared to the series arrangement; but, the multi-channel amplifier is more prone to heat generation and instability in this configuration. Many speaker and amplifier experts agree that a series arrangement is a better choice than a parallel configuration, especially since it preserves the device's lifespan. Cooler internal amplifier components run more efficiently over time.

Each multi-channel amplifier has a different power rating. Consumers should consider the speaker power needs before purchasing the amplifier. The amplifier should not have excessive power outputs for low power speakers; this excessive electrical source can easily damage car speakers.

Consumers who have low power ratings on their multi-channel amplifier can boost the output by bridging the device. Bridging refers to combining two channels into one to create more power. The multi-channel amplifier is a common device choice for consumers who have high power needs, but do not want to purchase costly multiple amplifiers for the same sound result.

Bridging the amplifier also negates the need to purchase a separate amplifier for the trunk subwoofer. The low bass sounds in many music genres, from rap to rock and roll, are produced by the subwoofer. As a result, the subwoofer needs extra power for a substantial bass sound and vibration. Two channels bridged into one channel will supply the subwoofer, leaving the remaining channels for the interior car speakers.

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