If your CB radio is still picking up frail sounds despite using a quality antenna, then you may need a CB amplifier. Ideally, an amplifier helps improve the sound quality.
In many cases, high-end modern radios hardly ever need CB amplifiers because they can produce quality audio out of the box. Nevertheless, some mid-range and low-range CB radios might benefit from CB amps.
The challenge, however, is that there are equally many types of CB amplifiers that you can choose from. This makes selecting the best CB amplifier for your CB radio challenging especially if you don't know what to look for in an amp.
That's where we come in. We review seven of the best CB amplifiers that you can buy today and even share a few tips on what you need to look out for when buying a CB amplifier. Our top pick was the MegaWatt S-400-12x as it was compact, feature-packed, and was our most innovative amp.
- 1 CB Amplifiers Comparison Table
- 2 Why Do You Need a Good CB Amplifier?
- 3 How We Picked These 7 CB Amplifiers
- 4 Reviews of Top 7 Best CB Amplifiers
- 5 What to Consider Before Buying a CB Amplifier
- 6 Final Verdict
CB Amplifiers Comparison Table
Most Innovative CB Amplifier
Most Powerful CB Amplifier
Orion CB 2500-1D
Most Affordable CB Amplifier
SMSL SA50 Class D
Why Do You Need a Good CB Amplifier?
Good CB amps can help you optimize your current radio setup and even help you find out if it can handle more power. In addition, it can also give you an idea of whether the AM or SSB is your preferred mode so that you can get the most from your radio.
How We Picked These 7 CB Amplifiers
We focused on power and amplification capabilities of the CB amps when picking the seven CB amplifiers. However, we also kept a close eye on the heat dissipation features as well. CB amps are known to get a bit hot while in operation. We thus narrowed down to amps that had good heat dissipation features.
Reviews of Top 7 Best CB Amplifiers
The MegaWatt S-400-12x is a small and light CB amplifier that is powerful and packs some amazing features. One striking feature of this amplifier is the way that it balances the load.
The S-400-12x is highly regulated and filtered to help you get rid of RF noise in your system. While modern radios may at times come with in-built amplifiers, they can struggle to beat the MegaWatt S-400-12x because it has a variable power output of 9-15V. In-built amps rarely have variable power outputs.
Its fans were also impressive since they adapt to the load. Compared to the regular fans that kick in only when the load increases, the S-400-12x's fans operate differently. Two factors control the motor's RPM – heat and load. In this way, there will be little to no damage to its power supply as is the case with other amplifiers.
The radio accepts either 120V or 240V AC power and is capable of outputting 36A. You can thus use it with any 12-volt equipment that draws 36A or less. In addition, since the radio has an overvoltage shutdown protection as well as an auto short circuit feature, it is less likely to break down because of a voltage surge.
Kinter's MA170 CB amp equally comes with a wide array of features which are often overshadowed by the amp's finishing. This 18W amp looks impressive and will definitely be a top pick for most people who have a taste for a modern and stylish finish.
We can say the same about its audio quality. Because of its latest IC-based amplifier technology, it hardly ever struggles to deliver smooth and natural sounds. Distortions or even fatigue when the unit is drawing little power is something you will hardly come across with the MA170.
Additionally, it comes with a set of interesting features such as the glowing LED which can complement the mood of any music you intend to play. You can also have them pulsate to achieve an interesting look that you might not find in most CB radio.
That aside, we found its design to be equally at par with Kinter's philosophy. This amp is enclosed in a black anodized aluminum casing that has been integrated with mounting tabs. All this makes it far easy to mount the amp literally anywhere you feel like.
You can also use this amp with nearly any speaker since it comes with spring terminal outputs and RCA inputs all for your convenience.
SMSL SA50 Class D Amplifier
If you are in search of a super affordable CB amplifier that will give you decent sound quality that is slightly better than what your CB could offer, the SMSL SA50 Class D should be your pick.
For one, the amplifier is small yet powerful. From afar, the CB amp might not look like it, but it can offer up to 50W for both left and right speakers. If you were accustomed to the audio output of conventional CB radios, then you will be in for a surprise once you connect this amp to your CB.
In addition, the body is also made of aluminum which helps ensure that it remains durable while being light at the same time. In fact, minimalists are bound to find this radio attractive.
There aren't too many buttons to play with on its front faceplate. You only get a power button on the left and a large volume knob which easily lets you adjust the unit's volume. We found this convenient since an amp with fewer buttons complements CB radios better.
Since the SMSL SA50 uses SMSL's TDA7492 chip, you can expect less crosstalk from the amp and an overall improved sound quality. Like the Kinter M170, this amp also comes with an RCA input and can support two external speakers.
Orion CB2500.1D Amplifier
Enthusiasts who are looking for an all-powerful CB amplifier are likely to settle for the Orion CB 2500-1D. Apart from the fact that it is a great looking amplifier that comes with a backlit logo, this CB amplifier packs in enough power to help you achieve almost anything. With its 5000W max power, there is little you cannot do with it.
The amp comes with variable gain control and a variable boost which you can use to adjust the radio's audio output. Since you are going to have little control over the signal quality you will be getting from your CB while in transit, you can only depend on a CB amp to boost your radio's capabilities. Orion CB 2500-1D's controls make it easier to boost sound quality.
Power is not the only thing that the amp focuses on since it has protection indicators which can warn you in advance in case there is an issue with your connection. In addition, the amp has a frequency response of 20Hz to 300Hz and a signal to noise ratio of 103dB.
There's virtually no reason you shouldn’t consider Pyle's PFA300 if you were searching for something powerful that equally has vintage features like 3.5mm jack input. For its size, the PFA300 seems to have plenty of features that other small CB amplifiers lack.
It is rated 90W which is phenomenal for a small-sized CB amplifier. 90W is more than sufficient to give your PA system a significant boost that will impress you. This is because apart from Pyle focusing on power on the PFA300, there was a lot of emphasis on lowering distortions so that the unit can produce acoustically accurate audio reproduction.
Unlike the Orion CB2500-1D, this amplifier lets you easily customize the nature of the sound by adjusting the bass and treble knobs. In addition, whenever you switch to direct input, the filters can be removed from the circuitry and you can have amplified audio getting through the system without filtering.
This kind of control is impressive because you can decide to use in-built filters or not. However, for CB radios, having this feature alone is good enough because there usually isn't a lot of need for a system with many filters.
It is yet another amp from Pyle that has plenty of promising features that can really complement your CB radio. For one, the amplifier can deliver 300W power which is more than enough to give your radio the boost it needs.
In addition, it also comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack which allows you to connect other devices directly into the device apart from your CB radio alone.
The CB amplifier can support speakers with 4 ohms impedance and since the amp has a low distortion, you can expect it to acoustically produce precise audio. The amp itself doesn’t require a lot of power to function. Simply hook it up to a 12V power supply and you will be good to go. It also comes with a convenient switch for choosing between high and low pass filters.
The Pyle PLMPA35 ships with a great safety feature as well. The power protection circuitry prevents the unit from getting fried in case there is a power surge. More importantly though, this feature allows your speakers to not get any damage from a high voltage burst.
Since the amp has a simplistic look, you only get a few sets of controls in its front faceplate such as the volume control and the switch for the low and high pass filters.
Lepy's LP-2020A Class D amplifier comes with a unique appearance that you might not find in other CB amplifiers. It features a simple all aluminum front panel with a large volume knob on the right as well as two smaller knobs for the bass and treble just besides the volume knob. A power switch lies on the far left but within easy reach in case you wish to turn off the amp.
The amplifier itself might not pack a lot of power compared to some of the amps we've reviewed, but 20W may still be better than what you might get if you were to use some low to mid-range CB radios without an amp. The unit is also lightweight as it weighs a mere 360g.
The LP-2020A Class D amp equally has protection circuitry which is triggered whenever the amp is turned on. This protects the speakers from getting high volume bursts of audio that would otherwise damage them.
The power monitoring protection circuit, on the other hand, works in a slightly different way. It cuts off voltage whenever the input voltage goes beyond the maximum of 14.4V or when the amp is overheating.
What to Consider Before Buying a CB Amplifier
While we may have walked through the seven best CB amplifiers easily, there are a few other factors that we were equally considering. CB amplifiers are far unlike CB radios themselves in that they tend to generate heat during the amplification process.
As such, some of the things that we went looking for in these CB amplifiers include the following:
- Amplification Capabilities and Power Output
- Heat Handling Capabilities
- Design Features
Amplification Capabilities and Amplifier Power Output
Naturally, the power output of a CB amplifier directly dictates the amplification capabilities of a CB amp. If the main reason you are looking for the best CB amplifier is to increase the power output of your CB, you want to pick a CB amp that gives you the exact amount of power that you need. The higher the power output, the higher the amplification capability of the amplifier and the better the sound quality.
In addition to assessing the amplification capabilities of an amp, you should also know which modes you can use it on. The more modes, the better. This isn't too much of an issue nowadays as most modern CB amplifiers are all-mode boosters. Nevertheless, you should still check that the CB amp supports multiple modes as this means you can use it for different purposes and not just with your CB radio alone.
Heat Handling Capabilities
As mentioned earlier, CB amplifiers can get a little hot while they are in use. While this is normal, a CB amp that cannot effectively handle the heat will lead to the damage of the amplifier's internal components and render the entire amp useless. Some of the components in the amp usually get so hot that they can melt.
A CB amplifier that has things such as a high-speed fan or heavy-duty aluminum heat sinks are way better than those that do not have them. In addition, an increase in heat in the amplifier will lower its performance.
You should thus look for CB amplifiers that can effectively dissipate heat to the environment. CB amps that come with automatic heat handling features are also more commendable. They ensure the amp remains cool by checking the load and amount of heat and consequently selecting an appropriate RPM for the fan that will dissipate the excess heat.
Other than the cooling features we've discussed above, you should also look out for self-protective features of the CB amp such as reverse polarity protection and over voltage protection. Without these features, you may have to purchase additional equipment to protect your systems.
One more thing to remember is that using an amplifier with your CB radio can be illegal in some countries. You should thus check up with your local laws before pairing one with your CB radio.
Summing it all up, nowadays there are several amps to choose from. However, the most important features to consider are the amplification capabilities of the amplifier as well as its heat handling abilities. For those who want a durable and powerful CB amplifier that they can use for a wide variety of purposes, then the MegaWatt S-400-12x would be a decent pick.