More Car Amps, Speakers Bow; Demand Grows

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Autosound suppliers went to International CES with a variety of new amplifiers and speakers to keep the momentum going in both product segments.

For the 11 months ending November, retail-level sales of car speakers rose 5 percent to $165.4 million, and amplifier sales rose 5 percent to $72.3 million, NPD Group statistics show.

Hoping to capture bigger shares of a growing business, suppliers such as Alpine, JBL and Kicker launched new amplifiers designed to connect to factory head units, and suppliers such as Infinity launched speakers designed to play loud when connected to thin-gauge factory speaker wires.

For their part, companies such as Rockford Fosgate, Lightning Audio, and Sony downsized amps so they could fit in more places in more vehicles, and more Class D amplifiers turned up to deliver higher power from a smaller chassis.

Here’s what dealers found:


most powerful amp ever is the MRXM240, a mono amp rated at 2,400 watts using CEA-2006 specs. The MRX-M240 can be added to factory systems because of its auto-sensing, four-channel speaker-level inputs. It works with Alpine’s RUX-KNOB subwoofer-level controller. It ships in March at a price that wasn’t available.


debuted its first two Class D amps are more compact than the company’s Class A/B and G/H amps. Both are designed for marine and car use, and they incorporate RCA audio-signal sensing technology to turn on when they detect audio signal from a head unit. The feature makes it unnecessary to connect the amps to a switched power wire for automatic turn-on, though wires must still be run to the vehicle’s battery for power and ground.

One of the amps is the four-channel XC6410 rated at 4x85 watts RMS into 4 ohms and 4x125 watts into 2 ohms. It’s bridgeable to two channels. The two-channel XC6210 is rated at 2x85 watts into 4 ohms and 2x125 watts into 2 ohms. It’s bridgeable to one channel. Both feature high- and low-pass filters and will retail from $300 to $400 on an everyday basis.


Reference X series of 10 car speakers uses a variety of technologies to play loud when adding the speakers to factory head units or to low-power aftermarket head units. (See TWICE, Jan 10.)


has seven new GTO-series car amplifiers are designed to connect to any existing factory or aftermarket sound system and ensure that input sensitivity is set correctly for optimum performance, the company said.

The selection consists of two four-channel amps, a three-channel amp, a five-channel amp, and three mono amps. Pricing was unavailable.

To connect to most factory systems, the multichannel amps accept any analog audio signal from 50mV to 15V, making it unnecessary to install high-to-low-level adapters. For factory systems that lack a remotetrigger wire, the amps turn on automatically when they sense audio signal.

To ensure that input sensitivity is properly set, the amps come with a setup CD for insertion in the car’s head unit. While the CD plays, the installer turns an input-sensitivity knob on the amp until an LED turns green.


launched new ZXS series monoblock car audio amplifiers that feature significantly smaller heatsinks than the company’s ZX series amps with similar features.

The company also announced January shipment of a $249-suggested amplifier/controller that turns an iPod or iPhone into a source unit for vehicles not usually equipped with a sound system.

The ZXS amps are the $799-suggested ZXS1500.1 and $549 ZXS1000.1 mono Class D subwoofer amps, both less than 14 inches long and rated, respectively, at 1,500 and 1,000 watts into 2 ohms at 14.4 volts.

Like the ZX amps, the ZXS amps feature isolated differential inputs to make them compatible with any factory or aftermarket radio. Three automatic turn-on modes are included: remote, DC offset, and audio-signal sensing.

Kenwood unveiled three amps in the Excelon series that are said to combine high performance with high value. They are the $350-suggested X700-5, $280 X450-4 and $200 X500-1.

The X500-1 is a mono amp rated at a maximum 1,000 watts RMS into 2 ohms. The four-channel X450-4 simultaneously delivers 2x75 watts and 2x150 watts into 2 ohms and can be bridged into three channels.

The five-channel X700-5 delivers 4x50 watts plus 1x500 watts into 2 ohms. All ship in February.

Also in the Excelon series, the company expanded its subwoofer selection with two value-oriented models, the $150-suggested KFC-XW12 and $140 KFC-XW10. The KFC-XW12 is a 12-inch model with 1,200-watt maximum power handling, and the KFCXW10 features 10-inch driver. Both ship in February.

In Excelon component-speaker systems, the company launched the $200-suggested KFC-XP184C with 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and 7.1-inch woofer. The speaker fits into factory speaker locations ranging from 6.5 inches up to 6x9 inches via a placement adapter. The speaker can therefore replace OEM speakers in Chevrolet, GM, Toyota, Dodge, Chrysler and other vehicles with higher sound quality and higher power handling, the company said. It ships in February.


launched multiple new amps and speakers under the Rockford Fosgate brand as well as under the Lightning, Brax and Helix brands.

Under the Brax brand, the company expanded the amp selection with two new Matrix series amps and two Nox series amps. All are Class A/B amps.

The Brax $4,499 MX-4B is rated at 4x275 watts into 4 ohms and 4x285 watts into 1 ohm. The two-channel MX-2B is rated at 2x550 watts into 4 ohms and 2x570 watts.

Pricing wasn’t available. They ship in the second quarter with separate power supplies.

The two Nox amps, shipping in January, include the $2,999 Nox 4B, rated at 4x100 watts into 4 ohms and 4x170 watts into 2 ohms. The $3,499 4BDSP delivers the same output and adds integrated six-channel DSP to tailor the sound to the vehicle’s interior. It’s the first time that DSP is turning up in the Brax line.

In the Helix line, the company expanded the speaker selection with three new Competition series speakers and launched its first two standalone digital signal processors, which tailor system response for individual car interiors. The two processors join an eight-channel amplifier/DSP.

The new Helix speakers are the C62C twoway component speaker system at $999/pair with 6-inch woofer, the C63C three-way component system at $1,749/pair with 6-inch woofer, and the 6-inch midbass C6B at $499/pair.

Helix’s two standalone DSP components are the $1,099 Competition series eight-channel C-DSP, shipping in January, and the $699 six-channel Precision series P-DSP, already shipping.

Under the Lightning brand, the company unveiled the first two mini amplifiers designed for installation in cramped locations. They ship in the second quarter.

Sony created the high-end GS series amps and speakers targeted exclusively to 12-volt specialty stores while focusing its Xplod brand of amps and speakers on national accounts.

The GS amps are about 40 to 50 percent smaller than their predecessors yet deliver more wattage, mobile electronics business manager Taka Noguchi said. The selection consists of the $349-suggested Class A/B 4/3/2-channel XMGS 400 and the Class D mono XMGS100 at $349. They ship in March.


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