A good car Audio system takes your favorite tunes and podcasts to the next level. It creates an in-cabin experience that can be both immersive and emotionally connecting. The days of a car radio shop on every high street may be gone, but you can still get expertly fitted systems from specialists. And you can also do it yourself, given a modicum of skill.
Car audio systems have evolved over the years from basic AM radios with a single speaker to complex electronic devices capable of playing music and other entertainment from over-the-air broadcasts, CDs, portable music players such as iPods, USB flash drives, SD cards, and even Bluetooth audio. These advanced systems allow the user to control the playback from an external display screen or head unit and can provide a surround sound experience with multiple speakers, subwoofers, and an amplifier.
Whether you are looking to add some extra bass, improve clarity, or simply upgrade your current speakers, it’s important to understand the difference between a quality pair of car audio speakers and some cheap “good-enough” options. A quick and simple comparison of specifications can help you make an educated purchase that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Power handling describes the amount of electrical energy a speaker can dissipate before it’s damaged. This is a standard measurement reported on all aftermarket speakers that conform to the ANSI/CTA-2031 (Car Audio Speaker Ratings) standards. This number is often accompanied by a frequency response chart that indicates the frequency range where a speaker performs at its best.
Impedance is the resistance a component presents to the flow of audio current, measured in Ohms. A higher impedance means more resistance to the current and will require more power from an amplifier to reach the same volume compared to a lower impedance speaker. Most car speakers have a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, but this varies with frequency.
Frequency response is an essential specification for speakers and other components that can reproduce audio. This metric details the upper and lower limits of a speaker’s operating range as well as how smooth its performance is throughout its usable range. Frequency response is especially important in high-quality speakers, as it provides a good indication of how detailed and accurate a speaker will sound. Some manufacturers provide both peak and root mean square (RMS) power handling ratings on their products to further differentiate their offerings. RMS is a more relevant measurement that tells you how many watts the speaker can handle continuously as opposed to in short bursts.
Car amplifiers increase the strength of audio signals to power speakers, providing more volume and improved sound quality. They can also solve sound problems and improve the overall experience of listening to music in your vehicle. If you are considering an upgrade to your factory audio system or are installing an aftermarket car stereo, an amplifier is a must-have component.
Amplifiers come in a wide range of sizes and wattage capabilities. To determine the size and number of channels you need, consider the size and location of your speakers. For example, if you only have two front speakers, then a single-channel amp will be sufficient. However, if you want to boost your sound enjoyment with rear speakers or a subwoofer, then a five- or six-channel aftermarket amplifier will be needed.
When choosing an amplifier, the most important feature is its RMS wattage rating, which represents the continuous power output of the amplifier without distortion. It’s best to ignore PEAK ratings, as they are typically inaccurate and merely promotional hype. You should also review the speakers you will be connecting to the amp and make sure that they have an RMS rating at least as high as the maximum RMS output of each amplifier channel.
The heart of an amplifier is a large number of small electronic circuits called transistors. They are supplied with high currents from the SMPS (power supply). The transistors convert the low-level audio signal into a much higher-level waveform that connects to the speaker outputs. The resulting power is used to drive your speakers, and some of it is wasted as heat. To keep the transistors cool, amplifiers are mounted on heavy metal bodies.
Amplifiers are available in a variety of classes, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, it is up to the customer to decide what class best fits their needs and budget. Generally speaking, class D amplifiers are the most affordable, while class A and AB are the more expensive options. With a bit of research, you’re sure to find the perfect amplifier to match your specific music needs and preferences.
When a subwoofer in your car is configured properly, it can improve your music’s quality significantly. By moving the load of reproducing low frequencies away from your main speakers, it allows them to play louder without fear of distortion. In addition, it can help reduce noise and vibration by limiting the frequency range of the sound waves that the speaker must move to reproduce.
When an electronic audio signal is sent to a subwoofer, the voice coil is moved up and down inside the magnetic gap by the positive and negative electric charges of the amplifier’s output. The resulting movement of the cone creates air pressure differences, which produce bass notes and drum sounds.
Adding a subwoofer to your system will improve the bass and lower-frequency sounds in your music, but it can also make midrange and high-frequency sounds clearer by reducing the amount of time that the speaker cone must move furiously back and forth to produce these sounds. This is because your main speakers cannot handle the lower frequencies, and the subwoofer takes this burden from them.
You can find a wide selection of subwoofers to choose from here at LIS Audio, but it is important that you match the power rating of the sub with the amount of power that your amplifier can supply. Power ratings are usually listed at a certain impedance, and it is essential that you know your amplifier’s impedance so that the two devices will match up well.
We recommend choosing a subwoofer with a high sensitivity rating to get the best performance for your money. Higher sensitivity ratings mean that the subwoofer will deliver a louder sound with less energy from your amp.
You should also pay attention to the enclosure of your subwoofer because it will have a big impact on its performance. A subwoofer can be mounted in a sealed or vented enclosure, and we carry both types of models. A sealed enclosure provides the best possible performance by sealing the subwoofer in a box with a rigid surface that helps to keep it cool while providing maximum excursion.
The car audio wiring in your vehicle is a critical component of the system. Having a basic understanding of the wires will allow you to properly connect everything and avoid expensive mistakes. Whether you are doing a simple upgrade or tackling a complex system, it is essential to know the basics of car stereo wiring.
A basic car stereo wiring diagram will show the connections for the power, accessory, and speaker wires. In addition, it will also have the dimmer or illumination wire, which is orange with a white stripe. This wire will need to be connected to a constant 12 volt supply, usually found near the ignition switch in your car.
Once you have the wiring in place, it is time to start thinking about upgrading your speakers and amps. First, make sure you disconnect the negative cable from the battery and route the power wire away from moving parts in the engine compartment to the amplifier location. Next, remove the factory radio using the removal keys that may have come with it or a soft plastic panel tool. Pull the receiver out the same way and run the power cable from the head unit to the amplifier, soldering or butt-connecting at each connection point along the way.
The brains of a car stereo is the head unit, which is sometimes referred to as a radio, stereo, or CD player. Essentially, the head unit takes an electronic signal that can be fed from any number of sources and sends it to the amplifiers, which then send the signals to the speakers.
Some head units have an equalizer that will allow you to adjust the sound at one or more points in the audible spectrum. There are also preamp-level equalizers that are available separately from head units and some amplifiers. Having a good understanding of the different options for car audio equalizers will help you get the best sound possible from your system. In many cases, these equalizers are adjusted with a special software program that will allow you to test different settings and see how they affect the sound before you actually touch any physical components in your vehicle.