How to Build the Ideal Car Stereo System
When it comes to the best sound system for car, there are those who will go for the loudest setups...
When it comes to the best sound system for car, there are those who will go for the loudest setups that can literally shatter the window glass of their neighbors. There are also those that equate the term ‘best’ with ‘expensive’, thinking that the more expensive the car sound setup is, the better it is. Well, when we talk about the ideal car stereo system, we are essentially talking about YOU and what you consider to be the best possible setup that will meet your every need. And since everyone has his own opinion on what is the best, we can only show you how you can go through the door. It will still be you who will be entering that door to make your ideal stereo system for your car. If you’re wondering how to install a car stereo system, then read on.
Determine What You Really Need
Only you know what you really want. Sure, you can look at the car stereo system of your friend or even officemate, but at the end of the day only you know what you truly want. In case you are not sure how to go about determining exactly what you want, then we have this guide to help you.
Assess Your Existing Car Sound Setup
Get inside your car and turn on your car stereo. Or try asking yourself how you feel every time you listen to the music emanating from your car’s stereo. Do you often find yourself singing to the tune? How about turning your steering wheel into a replacement Bongo drum? Do you always find your feet uneasy that they feel like dancing to the groove every time you play your favorite tune? Do you feel more like being inside a concert hall every time you play the music inside your car?
If your answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then there clearly is no need to spend more on a car stereo system installation since your existing setup is already doing its job in fulfilling your audiophilic tendencies.
However, if your answer is a saddening ‘no’ followed by the realization that the sound you’re hearing is wimpy, tinny, dull, or even flat, then you really need to start seriously considering on improving the sound setup of your ride.
Determine Exactly What is ‘Wrong’ or ‘Lacking’ in Your Current Car Audio System
You may already realize that your sound system is simply not what you have in mind. Your main concern now is how to determine what is exactly wrong with your setup. Luckily, you don’t need to be an expert in car audio systems to identify the main issue.
First, play music while your vehicle is parked. Try out all the different controls on the stereo. Push buttons and twist knobs so you can evaluate if these are properly functioning or not. Adjust the fader and balance controls of your speaker. Play only the right side and then the left. Play only the front and then the rear. Make sure that your individual speakers are fully functioning. You might even want to listen and compare their individual acoustic qualities. Listen for a buzzing sound or even a slight rattle in each of your speakers. This should help you determine whether you need the best 6×9 car speakers in town or your current setup will suffice.
Next, take your car for a drive. Hit the highway and pump up the volume of your stereo so that you won’t hear the road noise. Try to assess the sound that you hear. Can you identify the bass, mid, and treble? How about the vocals? Are they clear?
Park your vehicle while keeping the volume of your stereo at the exact same level as when you were driving in the highway. Try to evaluate the sound coming from your speakers. Are there lots of distortions? Reset your sound settings to normal with the tone, balance, and fader controls right at center. Now try to assess the bass, treble, and the clarity of the sound. Make sure to individually assess the sound coming from each speaker so you will have a better understanding of what needs to be done.
Based on what you have heard while parked, on the highway, and immediately after driving on the highway, try to rate the different parts of your car sound system. Rate your receiver, the speakers, the subwoofer (if there’s one installed), and even the amplifier (if you already have one) from 1 to 10. The component that has the lowest rating obviously needs your attention. As such, if the receiver has the lowest rating, then you should consider replacing it. If it is the speaker, then you might want to add more ‘oomph’ to it or replace it altogether.
Explore Your Options
Determining what your current vehicle audio setup can and cannot do is only one aspect to the process of having the best car audio setup for sound quality. If you are already reading this, that means you now have a more or less clear idea of how you can improve or even enhance the overall quality of the sound that you have inside your car. Here are your options.
Replace the Receiver aka Head Unit
You should know that most mediocre quality audio in cars are related to poor stereo receivers. In general, the best car stereo system often starts with a good receiver or head unit. An excellent receiver delivers cleaner and stronger audio signals to the amplifier, subwoofer, and speakers of your car. Replacing the stereo receiver is often one of the best ways to improve the overall quality of music in your car. You may have the best subwoofer or even the most powerful amplifier but if you don’t upgrade your receiver, you’ll still end up with mediocre quality sound.
The first thing you will need to do is to identify what things your current receiver can and cannot do.
Conventional car stereos only play music either through a built-in CD player and an AM/FM radio tuner. Modern cars already come fully equipped with the latest in car audio. The question now is if you would also want your receiver to do the same.
Do you need a receiver that can serve as a bridge to your smartphone or even Bluetooth-enabled laptops, enabling you to make calls and even stream your favorite music channel as well as work inside your car (fully parked, of course)? How about HD radio broadcasts or even those stations that play via satellite?
Would you need your receiver to be able to control your portable audio device such as an iPod or those that run on Android or iOS platforms? Would you prefer a receiver that can play any audio format such as MP3, AAC, WAV, OGG, WMA, FLAC, ALAC, and many more? Would you want a receiver with an integrated video screen that can play almost any video file format? In such cases, would an in-dash system work fine or will you need headrest video systems as well for your passengers at the back? How about the ability to play louder sounds without distortions?
Identifying what you want your stereo receiver to do should help you improve the way you listen to music and other sounds in your car. You can easily purchase the most ‘ideal’ receiver for your car sound system if you can determine what exactly you’re looking for.
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Replace Car Speakers
If your receiver is fine, then you can focus on the speakers. Here’s a quick way to help you decide whether to replace your stereo speakers or you can simply add more power to them.
Remember what we mentioned about testing the audio system of your car? If your car speakers are working fine when your vehicle is stationary or on a gentle cruise, but turns ugly as you hit the highway drowning out the sound and creating way too many distortions, then it is highly likely that you only need to add power to the speakers. However, if you have a speaker system that is so bad even when your car is completely still, you have no other choice but to replace your speakers.
Majority of factory-installed speakers come with cheap materials that are mostly made of thin, lightweight paper. Even so-called premium OEM speakers can distort and wear down a lot faster than dedicated, high-performance aftermarket speakers. You may have bought your car brand-new and its speaker sounded really good, but its quality substantially drops over time.
Aftermarket speakers provide you with better-quality materials allowing you to improve the quality of the sound produced, from well-defined trebles to deeper bass. These speakers are also a lot more affordable than getting a brand new receiver. They’re easy to install and are more durable than factory speakers.
You can always pick full-range car speakers which can already give you a combination of subwoofer, tweeter, and midrange. This type of car speaker system should easily fit into the existing audio locations of your car. However, if you are really bent on turning your car into a mobile boombox or concert stage, then it is best to invest in component speakers complete with separate tweeters and subwoofers.
Install an Amplifier
We mentioned above that if your speakers work fine when you’re parked but not on the highway, maybe all you need is to increase the power to your speakers. This is the job for the best car amplifiers in town.
As the name implies, a car stereo amplifier strengthens the volume of your speakers without necessarily affecting sound quality and creating unnecessary distortions. You can roll down your car’s window while moving at breakneck speeds and you’d still be able to hear every acoustic detail that comes out of your speakers. You can even open your sunroof if you want and you’d still be getting perfect tunes delivered straight to your ears without turning the volume of your speakers to full blast.
The amplifier sits between your car’s stereo receiver and your speakers. What it does is that it takes the electronic signals coming from the receiver and charges this to amplify or increase the power of the signal. This ‘stronger’ signal is then sent to the speakers so you’ll get the best sounds you will ever hear.
Consider a Subwoofer
Sometimes, listening to louder music is not enough. There are some of us who would also like to feel the beat, adding depth to the music that reaches our ears. If you’re like many of us, then you’d also want to install one of the best car subwoofers in the market.
These acoustic devices give you rich and deep low notes that you would not otherwise appreciate from your full-range car stereo speakers. You can almost feel the vibrations on your chest as you play your favorite tunes.
Subwoofers typically come in large enclosures that can be quite a concern for those wishing to conserve trunk space. One way to mitigate this is by choosing a subwoofer enclosure that is built specifically for your brand and model of vehicle. Some of these systems can be mounted under your car seat so you get to retain your trunk storage space.
There are cases when the problem is not really in the car audio system. You may have a perfectly working receiver and a fully functioning set of stereo speakers. Perhaps the only issue is that there are way too many noises emanating from your car itself. These can include that loud noise coming from your exhaust or even the vibrations and rumblings from under the car. Road noise can also interfere with the way you enjoy music.
If such is the case, then maybe you should consider installing sound-deadening materials in your car. These can help minimize the entry of nuisance external noises into the cabin so you will have a much better music enjoyment.
Building the best car audio setup for sound quality starts with an understanding of what you truly need. Identifying the deficiencies in your current setup will lead you to the most ideal solution to give you your dream car stereo sound system.
- How to Upgrade Your Car’s Sound System – wikiHow
- How to Install New Entertainment Electronics in Your Car – howstuffworks