Between your subs, mids, tweeters, and head unit, your audio system is sucking some major resources from your car’s battery. This can be bad news if you’re like us and regularly use your stereo when your car isn’t turned on. To avoid needing your car jumped regularly, you need a car audio battery. We’re going to explore what a car audio battery is, why you need one, and what the 7 best batteries for car audio on the market are.
What are car audio batteries?
Every car has a primary car battery. These are responsible for powering the starter to help turn on your car. They also serve as a backup battery source when your car uses too much power which the alternator can’t handle.
All of your car’s electronics draw power from the alternator and the battery. When your car is not turned on, the electronics draw power exclusively from the battery. This includes your car stereo, powered windows, air conditioner, and the various other electronic components of your vehicle.
Most batteries are made to handle the car’s factory settings. But, when you start adding extra speakers and subs and install more powerful head units, you can run into trouble. This extra power getting used can sometimes be too much for both the alternator and the battery which can drain your car’s battery.
The solution to this is having a car audio battery which exclusively powers your sound system. This takes the strain off of your main car battery and will help your vehicle performance overall as resources aren’t being diverted away from the other electronics.
What are the benefits of a car audio battery?
Less Strain on Main Battery
We touched a bit on this above already. Modern cars have a lot of different components which rely on electricity. This means that your car’s battery is under constant strain. Adding a customized sound system to that can push it over the edge and create too much pull on your batteries resources.
Adding a second car audio battery will significantly reduce the strain on your primary battery. This allows your main battery to power your important electronics such as the various gauges and signals, while the car audio battery keeps your system pumping.
Use Your System While Parked
Building on what we discussed above, operating a customized car audio system while your car is turned off will quickly run down your battery. Your primary battery simply isn’t made to handle much beyond what was installed at the factory.
If you plan on running a custom stereo system while parked, as many people do, you will have to have a car audio battery. There is no two ways about it. Running a custom system will very quickly drain your primary battery leaving you in need of some jumper cables and a good friend.
Can Be Cheaper Than A Capacitor
If you don’t already know, a capacitor helps prevent your lights and other electric components from fading out when your sound system hits heavy bass notes. The heavy bass is resource-intensive and can create spikes that suck resources form your battery.
A capacitor stores electricity and discharges it when necessary. The problem is that capacitors can be expensive depending on the size and what your needs are. A car audio battery provides a more cost-effective long term solution if you’re creating a powerful car audio system.
Types Of Car Audio Batteries
This is one of the oldest and most common types of car batteries. Lead-acid batteries are an unsealed type of battery that requires a regular refill. You will need to use distilled water to top off the battery or risk damaging it. These are the cheapest type of battery.
The main drawback of lead-acid batteries is the regular maintenance they require. Also, when you are refilling the battery it can be easy to accidentally spill its contents. You need to handle these types of batteries with care.
AGM stands for absorbent glass mat battery. This is a sort of hybrid battery it is a sealed type battery unlike the lead-acid batteries above. However, it still utilizes lead-acid which helps to keep the cost down and makes this a great mid-priced battery. Since it is sealed it requires no maintenance.
One of the main benefits of an AGM battery, aside from the cost savings, is the fact it is sealed. This allows you to place the battery on its side or standing up so you can more easily fit it in your car. Because it is sealed, it will not spill the same as a wet lead-acid battery would.
Gel-cell batteries are the most expensive of the three we are discussing. These are a sealed type of battery, similar to AGM batteries above. The main difference is that instead of using lead-acid, they use sulfuric acid mixed with silica which creates a gel-like substance.
Because this is a sealed battery and the substance immobile, it can be placed on its side. So, like the AGM battery, there are more possibilities during installation than with a wet lead-acid battery. The downside of gel-cell batteries though is that they are more expensive.
What to look for in a car audio battery?
The absolute first thing you want to take into consideration before buying a car audio battery is whether or not it will fit your vehicle. Car batteries are not one size fits all. Your battery should be able to fit your specific make and model of vehicle or it will be useless for you.
The best way to do this is to find the specific area in your vehicle where you are planning to mount the battery. Measure the length, width, and height of the space and then run that against the numbers provided by the manufacturer. Make sure you are taking into account wiring and any other materials that need to be fitted. It is always best to add an inch or two extra just to be safe.
Battery Reserve Capacity
The reserve capacity of a car battery is how long the battery can last without a charge. This is measured by how long the battery can run at 25 amps of current before the dropping below 10.5 volts, or fully discharged.
For a car audio battery, this will indicate how long you can run your sound system before needing to turn on the car. The higher the reserve capacity the longer you will be able to use your sound system with the car off. So, when selecting a car audio battery try and look for a longer reserve capacity.
As we noted above, if you opt for a lead-acid battery then you will need to perform regular maintenance. This means unsealing the battery and adding distilled water. Aside from the inconvenience, there are a few other drawbacks to this.
For one, having a battery that needs maintenance means you are limited in where you can mount it. You won’t be able to mount it on its side as it isn’t sealed. But, you also can’t mount it in a hard to get to area because you will need easy access.
We recommend going with a maintenence free battery. This is going to save you time in the long run and will also give you more options when you go to install the battery.
Ease of Installation
Depending on your car, you will need to take extra time to consider exactly where you want to install your battery. For smaller cars with less space, this means you need a battery that will give you more options.
Remember that an unsealed battery will have to be installed with the top-up. If you try and mount it on its side or at a weird angle your risk spilling battery fluid. If you have a smaller vehicle and need to get creative with where you mount your battery, opt for an AGM or gel-cell battery.
There is a sweet spot you want to find when it comes to battery price. If you go too cheap, you may be getting something that doesn’t have enough power for your needs. In this case, you will be quickly needing a new battery.
On the other hand, if you go too expensive you may be getting something much more powerful than you need. This isn’t a bad thing and its better to have too much power than not enough. So, make sure that you find the sweet spot or go higher.
The 7 Best Batteries For Car Audio
1) XS Power D3400 3300 Amp Car Audio Battery
XS Power Batteries are known for solid performance and durability. This is an absorbent glass mat battery so you don’t have to worry about maintenance or spillage. It also means you can mount it almost anywhere that is convenient. All around, this is a great choice if you are running a high-performance system or if you plan on connecting other equipment such as a tow winch.
- Vibration resistant
- Sealed and spill-proof
- Easy to mount
- Durable and long-lasting
- Most expensive battery on our list
2) Optima Batteries 8012-021 D34 YellowTop
If you’re planning on running more than just a sound system, this is the battery for you. The Optima YellowTop is good for running multiple electric devices such as a tow winch, lights, or a powerful sound system. This is a sealed and maintenance-free battery so you won’t have to worry about refilling it regularly. The Optima YellowTop is an AGM type battery.
- Vibration resistant for added battery life
- Good for seasonal storage without the need for charging
- 120-minute reserve capacity
- 3-year warranty
- Expensive compared to similar models
3) Blockshakers 12V 55AH 1400 Watts M6/T6 Car Audio Battery
Blockshakers is a line of batteries from the Chrome Battery company. As you can guess, the line is tailored to the needs of car audio enthusiasts. This is a great mid-priced battery if you are looking to bridge the gap between the cheaper quality car audio batteries and the more expensive lines. It is a sealed AGM type battery so no maintenance is needed.
- Extreme vibration resistance
- Sealed and maintenance-free
- Free shipping
- 18-month warranty
- 1400 watts so not a good option for extremely powerful systems
4) Kinetik HC1200-BLU Black Lead Acid Battery
Kinetik is an industry leader when it comes to producing high-quality batteries for everything from powersports to car audio. They have been around since 2003 and make quality and well-crafted batteries that reflect that experience. The Kinetik Blu is a great choice for lower-level car audio systems. This is a sealed AGM type battery.
- Sealed battery allowing for easier installation
- 1-year warranty from the date of purchase
- Lightweight at just 27.9 lbs (12.65 kg) for easier installation
- Not a good option for high-performance sound systems
- Small posts can be difficult to perfectly attach clamps to
5) Shuriken SK-BT35 12-Volt High-Performance AGM Battery
Shuriken is a manufacturer of high-performance batteries for a variety of uses. They are known for creating solid batteries at a low to mid-range price. This specific model is a great option for new car audio enthusiasts looking to set up their first system. Like other batteries on this list, it is an AGM type battery which means no spills and no maintenance.
- Easy to mount owing to its sealed design
- Maintenance-free allowing more options when mounting
- Extreme heat and vibration resistance
- Free shipping
- Only 800-watts so not good for high-performance systems
6) Reikken JB609
Reikken is a small US-based manufacturer of car batteries. They have two main product lines focused on powersports and backup batteries for car audio. This is a 1000 watt AGM battery and is both maintenance-free and spill-proof.
- Sealed and non-spillable allowing for a variety of mounting positions
- Maintenance-free for an easier to use experience
- Lightweight at just 12.75 lbs (5.78 kg)
- Small size for easier mounting
- Not for high-power systems
7) Mighty Max Viper VP-600 600 Watt Car Audio Battery
Mighty Max Battery is a medium-sized manufacturer known for everything from motorcycle to wheelchair batteries. They have an extensive history of producing affordable batteries that are at a decent level of quality for their price. This is an AGM battery so its both spill-proof and maintenance-free. Its only 600 watts so not a great option for high-performance competition systems.
- Cost-effective option for entry-level car audio enthusiasts
- Spill-proof sealed design for better mounting options
- Hightemperature and vibration resistant
- Lightweight at just 11.9 lbs (5.39 kg)
- Not strong enough to run high-power audio systems
- Some complaints about slow customer service
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better a capacitor or battery?
We spoke a bit about what a capacitor is above. As a quick recap though, capacitors act as an extra power supply when bass notes hit and create power surges that can overpower the alternator. They keep extra storage of power which is released as needed to help prevent your headlights and instrument panels from dimming.
We believe that having a second battery is the better way to go. While capacitors can certainly bridge the gap and help out when it comes to the need for extra power, they aren’t an optimal solution. Having one or more extra batteries allows you to connect your system directly and separates your car’s important electrical functions such as lights, your instrument panel, power windows, etc., from your audio system.
How many watts do I need for my stereo?
This is going to depend on your individual set-up. It is important that you calculate all of your current needs, as well as any future power demands you might have. You will need to take into consideration your current speakers, amps, head units, and subs.
Also, if you have any extra lighting or a tow winch it can be a good idea to add those into your spare battery. Make sure to take into consideration any future upgrades you have planned so you won’t have to completely replace your spare battery.
Where should I install a second battery?
Ideally, you can install your secondary battery somewhere under your hood. But, depending on the size of the battery and the size of your car, this isn’t always possible.
A few alternative locations for secondary batteries are underneath the passenger seat or in the trunk. Regardless of where you decide to install the battery, make sure it is securely strapped in.
How much does it cost to install a dual battery system?
This is going to depend on how expensive the battery you choose is. A good range to go by when pricing for a dual battery system is between $200 and $400.
It’s important that you think of all of the associated costs and not just the battery. Yes, the battery is going to be the most expensive part, but all of the smaller expenses can add up. These include the necessary wiring and isolator, the mounting kit, and any extra wiring you need.
You will also need to decide whether you will be installing the battery yourself or if you are going to take it into a shop. If you opt for the latter then you need to factor in service costs on top of the cost of the equipment.
Will dual batteries hurt my alternator?
No. As long as you are using an isolator and have everything hooked up properly, a secondary battery will not hurt your alternator.
If you are uncomfortable working with wiring and electrical components, then make sure and take your vehicle into a professional to have the secondary battery installed. As long as everything is hooked up correctly, your car will be fine.
If you’ve noticed your headlights dimming at night when your system is banging, it could be time for a second battery. Any of the above-listed batteries are great options. For high-end systems that are resource-intensive, we recommend the XS Power D3400. It’s a monster that will get the job done no matter what you throw at it.
If that’s a bit too much for your needs, the Kinetik HC1200-BLU is the way to go. It’s powerful yet cost-efficient and should be able to handle lower to mid-power systems.
Sidney U. Harman has over 10 years of experience working in the AVL industry. He originally cut his teeth as a stagehand in the OKC area before moving to Denton for university. After learning to run the boards, he developed a solid passion for sound. His obsession with car audio developed 5 years ago as a natural progression from commercial AVL.