If you’re a car audio enthusiast then you would have come across the term ”Bridge Mode”. This is a feature that permits you to combine two channels into one to deliver increased power output.
For example, you can bridge a two channel amplifier to form a single channel and a four channel amplifier to form two channels. By doing this you’re able to combine two channels to power a single subwoofer or combine four channels to power two subwoofers.
Those amplifiers that are bridgeable are designed with an inverted channel solely for this purpose. It is this inverted channel that produces voltage at the opposite polarity of the unbrighed channels.
Bridging your amplifier should only be done under specific conditions or you could possibly blow your fuse and ultimately the amplifier.
Let’s take a look at how to bridge an amplifier.
How To Bridge An Amplifier
By combining two or more channels, you’re able to drive more power to the speaker and this results in a better sound output and deeper bass. There are two scenarios when you would bridge an amplifier and these are:
- Bridge a 2 Channel Amplifier to Power a Subwoofer
- Bridge a 4 Channel Amplifier to Power Component Speakers
While these are two of the most basic scenarios of bridging, there are some key points to keep in mind before you begin.
Make sure these conditions are met at all times so you won’t ruin your amplifier and speakers.
- Only make sure you bridge an amplifier if the amp is designed to sustain the increased power load.
- Whatever you do, DO NOT bridge any amplifier that may be unstable at the load point or if the speakers are not designed to manage that power output.
- Refer to the amplifiers manual before starting, the paperwork and diagrams can help out a lot so you won’t make any silly mistakes.
What Does Bridging An Amplifier Do?
By using the negative signal point of one channel along with the positive signal point of the other, you’re essentially doubling the power output that each channel could have put out on its own.
Normally, this is the maximum wattage your amplifier can truly deliver.
Bridge a 2 Channel Amplifier
If you got a subwoofer and are looking for a way to drive the right amount of power through it so it remains level with the other speakers then you wouldn’t have to break your head too much.
What you can do in this case is to pick up a budget friendly 2 Channel amplifier with a power output of around 60W RMS and bridge it so the overall output increases to about 190W RMS.
This will perfectly power the subwoofer and you wouldn’t have to spend on an expensive mono subwoofer amp.
How To Bridge a 2 Channel Amp
- Start by checking the signals from the right and left channels of the amp.
- Now what you do is, tap into the rear right and left factory speaker wiring and run a lead into the speaker-level input sockets of the amplifier.
- At the bridge (output), make sure to connect the amplifier’s left negative terminal to the subwoofers negative wire and the amps right positive terminal to the subs positive wire.
- Normally, when you install a car amplifier, you will have to set up the power, ground and turn-on wires. There is no difference in the gain or tone controls and would only have to be tweaked a bit.
However, the only difference here is that in the scenario lined up above, we have used the left negative and right positive of the amplifier, not all amplifiers are the same as some would require you to bridge using the left positive and right negative.
Point to Remember: Many of the amplifiers, when bridged, would require speakers or a subwoofer with a minimum impedance of 4ohms. Since every amplifier is designed in a different way, always refer to the owner’s manual and only bridge an amplifier that’s bridge compatible.
Bridge a 4 Channel Amplifier
Another great common scenario is having a four channel amplifier bridged to drive a pair of high-performance component speakers. Here we won’t be using any subwoofer so it should be rather easy to perform.
You can take a 4 channel amplifier that puts out on average 30W RMS per channel and bridge them to deliver a maximum output of 125W RMS via 2 channels.
For this scenario we will be using an aftermarket receiver which will be connected to the amplifiers via a Y adapter.
How To Bridge a 4 Channel Amp
- Start by taking a dual RCA cable from the receivers left and right output slots and connect that to the Y adapter which should be firmly attached to the amplifier’s left and right RCA inputs.
- Make sure you use a crossover box for this step. Connect the amplifier’s front left negative terminal to the left speaker’s negative wire and the amp’s front left positive terminal to the left speaker’s positive terminal via the crossover box.
- Follow the same method for the rear channels to the right speaker.
- This method lets you power the speakers as left and right rather than front and rear.
Point to Remember: If you wish to get the best sound from your car system, make sure to play something with the right amount of bass that you listen to on a daily basis. This can act as a reference point while you turn the low-pass filter down.
Positives And Negatives of Bridging An Amp
There are a couple of points to note when it comes to bridging an amplifier and these are considered to be the benefits and drawbacks of having a bridged amp.
|Saves money and space; No DC blocking capacitor is required.||If the speaker units are of lower impedance then the amplifier will not be able to supply the right amount of power to drive them.|
|A bridge amp runs in Mono mode turning a Stereo speaker into a Mono one. Second speaker is a must.|
|Can add a subwoofer to component speakers and receive double the power output with no fluctuation or loss.|
Potential Risks to Avoid while Bridging your Amp
As with any electrical project, there are a few risks involved and if you’re aware of them in advance, they can be easily avoided.
- The most important thing to do is to first make sure your amplifier is bridgeable. This is normally mentioned in the owner’s manual and only if it says you can bridge it, then proceed.
- Whatever you do, never let your amp run below its impedance rating. Since with bridging, your amp’s impedance is halved, you can run the risk of the unit overheating.
- Another risk you can possibly run into is if the amplifier is already bridged on the inside, check the manual thoroughly before you can start bridging your amp.
- Make sure your speakers are built for that kind of power output. If not, then the speakers will blow out and you’ll have to get them replaced.
Does Bridging My Amp affect Sound Quality?
In short, yes. Bridging your car amplifier does reduce the sound quality and introduces harshness in the mids and not all that great bass. Bridging is normally recommended for sound-reinforcement applications where you’re not paying much attention to the quality of the sound.
Is Bridging An Amp Better?
There’s no single answer to this question and the simple one would be yes and no. It’s mainly due to those benefits and drawbacks mentioned earlier. If your amplifier is designed and if you have the speakers to match the power output then go for it. But if your amplifier can not support it or if your speakers are of a lower capacity, bridging will either only give you low quality sound or possibly blow your speakers.
How Do You Find Your Minimum Speaker Load (Ohm)?
The minimum speaker load is pretty important when bridging an amp. There are numerous amplifiers that have a higher minimum speaker load when bridged as compared to the minimum resistance load of a single channel. For example, if you’re using a 2 channel amplifier that has a minimum stability of 2Ohms then it would be able to handle 4Ohms when bridged.
While Bridging an amplifier may be the solution to a few of your issues, it’s not the final answer. It’s always best to opt for an amplifier that is powerful enough to drive the full load of your speakers, including your subwoofer.
Bridging an amp is recommended only when you’re on a budget and can’t pick up a new amp for your car. It’s also best suggested to hire a mechanic who will be able to get it done for you, especially if you have even 1% doubt that something might go wrong.
It’s better to spend a few bucks than having to replace the whole amplifier because of bad wiring.