All you need to know about car audio

Bought your fancy car? Great!

Unhappy with the stock system of your million-buck car? Welcome to the club J  

Cars are getting better day by day. Bigger performance numbers, safer than before and with all the futuristic features, you can’t expect anything more.

But there are handful of cars which are truly loved by audiophiles. (Read MG Hector)

An upgrade to a good music system would set you back by 50k. But what is it that takes the experience to an all-new level? Let’s find out.

Components of car audio system:

  1. Speakers
  2. Head unit
  3. Amplifier
  4. Subwoofer
  5. Damping

1. Speakers

No, don’t get me wrong. Even the cheapest car is most likely to come with factory-fitted speakers which are enough to satisfy your desire for music, but, not if you are a true audiophile. Most of the stock speakers require an upgrade to much, much better ones. Regardless of how much you want to change in your current car stereo, the first place we recommend looking at is the speakers. Speakers are the biggest influencer of sound quality, and factory speakers – even the ‘premium’ ones – rarely compete with the quality of aftermarket components.

Speakers for your car can be broadly divided into 2 categories:

i) Component speakers – Normal coaxial speakers, whether factory-installed or aftermarket, combine the woofer and tweeter into one speaker. It’s a convenient way to get great sound from a single speaker opening, but the design of the woofer and tweeter are both compromised in this arrangement. Component speakers separate the two drivers and introduce a crossover to let them each do their job better. 

Benefits of components over co-axials:

i) Better tone clarity

ii) Better tone staging

iii) Better sound imaging

ii) Co-axial speakers – Coaxial speakers are simply car speaker systems in which all the components are combined in one structure. Often, the framework will consist of a woofer and a tweeter attached somewhere on the top or on a pole running across the middle of the woofer. Most coaxial have simple, in-built crossover. Lower priceand ease of installation are the main reasons people go for coaxial speakers

If the car has only one speaker per door panel, you’d better opt for coaxial speakers.

Most listeners find high-end coaxial speakers sufficient.

2. Head unit

Now, the next most useful upgrade is your head unit. As mentioned earlier, if you have an integrated stereo, you may be better off leaving it as is and just adding new speakers or an amp. Now that you are considering an advanced system, you should think of buying a head unit that has three sets of preamplifier outlets. These “outs” let your HU control multiple amplifiers and each set of outs includes plugs for the front, rear and subwoofer speakers. 

3. Amplifier

An amplifier is a device that literally takes a weak audio signal and amplifies it. The signal that goes into the amplifier is too weak to drive speakers, while the signal that comes out can get the job done. This amplification process is a necessary part of every car audio system and the power of an amp dictates how loud and distortion-free that the sound will be.

Why should you have an amplifier installed?

  1. Louder sound without distortion: One of the key features of good amplifiers is that they allow you to increase volume without increasing distortion at the same time. If you experience distortion at your desired volume level, you probably need an amplifier.
  2. To power a subwoofer: When you add a subwooferto a car audio system, you almost always need to add an amplifier at the same time. If your car radio doesn’t have connections that are specifically designed for a sub, plan on adding a subwoofer amp.
  • To get the most out of your new speakers: You can add new speakersto a factory car audio system to improve the sound quality, but a new head unit and a separate amplifier give you far more options in terms of what speakers you install.

4. Subwoofer

Subwoofers are speakers dedicated solely to reproducing low frequencies. No matter what kind of music you like, or how softly or loudly you like to listen, a quality sub can really improve your overall listening experience. Car speakers are small, so they have trouble producing enough low-frequency sound to give your music realism and depth.

 A subwoofer can make the difference between a good-sounding and a great-sounding system. There are a lot of different ways to add a subwoofer to your vehicle. Which one is right for you depends on a lot of different factors, including your musical tastes, budget, and how much space you have available in your vehicle.

What kind of sub should you get?

Look at the statements below. Which one matches up best to your needs?

i) I want to pick and choose components to build a truly personalised system.

You should start by looking at component subs. A component sub is just the speaker itself — it’ll need to be mounted in a subwoofer box to operate properly. In addition, you’ll need to power the sub with an external amplifier. Component subs usually range in size from 8″ to 15″. 

ii) I want an easy “off-the-shelf” sub/enclosure combo.
Check out enclosed subs. Enclosed subs are pre-mounted into a box designed to accommodate the sub. This eliminates the need to choose an enclosure for the sub, so you won’t have to do as much work designing and building your system.

iii) I want a simple, space-saving bass system.
powered sub is a great way to go. A powered sub combines an amplifier and woofer in an enclosure. Since the amplifier is built-in, there’s only one piece of equipment to find a place for and install. Many powered subs are compact and won’t take up a lot of room in your vehicle. While powered subs can be very effective bass producers, their smaller drivers and amplifiers may not provide all the sound power you want if you’re looking for really big bass. 

5. Damping 

Listening to music is relaxing, especially when driving. But it’s stressful trying to listen to music in a noisy car environment As your car moves along the road, the roaring engine noise, road noise and noise from other cars can destroy your listening experience

The best solution is soundproofing your car by installing an effective sound deadener Read on through this guide on how to install automotive sound deadening material and get the best listening experience in your car.

Here’s a comparison of the different materials available for sound deadening different parts of a car:

i) Insulation- This material is basically made of fibers. It comes as a thick panel designed to absorb noise. Besides absorbing noise, insulation materials also insulate your car against heat by reflecting unwanted heat. Insulation panels are ideal for insulating the roof and doors.

ii) Mats- Mats are designed to soundproof car panels, especially the floor and doors. Some mats tend to be bulky, that’s why they’re preferred for dampening the floor. They work by reducing resonance or converting vibrations into heat.

iii) Foam- Foam comes as a spray or a sheet. Foam is often lightweight and great for doors. Those that come as sheets are simply laid over a panel and work by absorbing vibrations. Those that come as a spray are applied using a compressor can.

iv) Sprays- While mats and insulation are great noise dampening materials, they’re not ideal for some areas of the car. For instance, some areas are too tiny or hidden to fit a mat. In such areas, it’s ideal to use sprays since they can penetrate even the tiniest areas. Also, sprays are ideal for areas where you wouldn’t want to add much weight like on the door panels.


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