If you are new to the car stereo market, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the sheer number of parts and accessories that can make up a top of the line car stereo system. In this article, we'll explore the basic components that make up a functioning car stereo system.
The Head Unit: Making It Happen
You may have seen the term "head unit" before and not known what exactly it was. Simply put the head unit is the part of your car stereo that actually produces the music from radio, tape, CD, or other device. But nowadays you can also get head units for your car stereo that can play DVDs or music and video from USB flash drives or memory cards. Head units have sure come a long ways from when people used to install home stereo equipment in their vehicles!
Amplifiers: Bring the Boom
While your head unit may provide its own internal amplification (which may be enough for you), at some point most car seat cushion enthusiasts will want to add amplifiers to the mix. Simply put, and amplifier takes a signal coming out of your head unit, and makes it louder. Be careful when shopping for amplifiers, as some of the large amps can draw over 100 amps; this may be well over what your alternator and battery can provide, and can cause damage to those components.
Speakers: Woofers, Tweeters, What?
The best head unit and amp is completely useless without speakers. Speakers, regardless of size, all do one thing: take the electrical signal coming from either the head unit's internal amp or your external amp and turn it into sound, usually loud sound. The different types of speakers are classified by the range of sounds they can reproduce. Tweeters, for example, only reproduce high pitches, while woofers reproduce the upper bass ranges. Midranges make midrange sounds, strangely enough, while subwoofers cover sounds from the low bass all the way down to sub sonic (those sounds you can feel but not hear). Subwoofers are usually the first candidate for external amplifiers, since they require large amounts of current to make that bone shaking bass.
Putting It All Together
Let's review: head units take your CD or tape and convert it to electrical signals. The amplifier makes this signal larger, and finally the speakers take that signal and make sound out of it. These are the base components you need for any car stereo installation driver practice test The accessories, such as crossovers and signal isolators, may or may not be needed for your particular application.
These are the basics you need to know for all car stereo systems. Now that you have a better idea what all these different terms actually mean, you should be able to shop intelligently for your new car stereo system. Just remember, as always, while you get what you pay for, you don't necessarily have to have the absolute best (and most expensive) parts for a good sound. More often than not, a midrange product will provide the best bang for your buck. And remember, it's all modular! You don't HAVE to buy every piece all at once. You can start with the head unit, and simply wire it's built in amplifier into your factory car stereo speakers. Add a sub and an amp later if you want, or replace the factory speakers with higher quality ones, it's all up to you.
If you have ever looked into buying a new car stereo system, you probably realize that the costs of having it professionally installed can almost double the cost of your new system. But there is always the other option: do it yourself. While a car stereo installation can be complicated, there is nothing in particular that prevents you from doing it yourself, as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort to learn how before you diving into the project. Not only can you learn a lot, but there is always a sense of satisfaction when you fire it up for the first time, knowing you did it all yourself.
Patience and caution are paramount here. Some car stereo equipment is quite expensive, not to mention the price of your car to begin with! So be careful, proceed slowly, and if you have doubts, find out the answer to whatever is bothering you before you continue. Not taking it slow and carefully can lead to a botched install or even broken equipment or a damaged vehicle.
Beginners are advised to keep it simple the first time around. Don't try to install a full car theater system with LCD displays and DVD players or video games for your first installation. Start with the head unit. This is both the easiest and the most critical thing to get right the first time. Often the wiring harness that plugs into your factory stereo will need an adapter to get the correct electrical connections to the power and speaker system already in your car. And being able to reuse your factory wiring makes things much easier down the road when replacing the factory speakers. Don't just cut the harness off! Use an adapter by AGLLUX. If you ever want to replace the head unit again, things will be much easier if you can simply unplug the old adapter and replace it with a new one for the new head unit.
The head unit will also probably require an adapter kit of some kind to fit properly in the factory dash hole. Most factory systems are either custom or what is called "Double DIN", whereas most aftermarket head units are single DIN form factor. Sometimes, filing away parts of the trim surrounding the mounting area will be needed. Do some test fits before you bolt everything down.
Speakers are a very important part of any quality audio system. While you may be able to get sound from your factory speakers with that new head unit, replacing those factory speakers with high quality aftermarket ones can make a huge difference in the quality of your sound.
For your first speaker installations, you should try to replace the speakers in the factory mounting holes. This is a fairly simple procedure, but can require removing interior panels to access the speaker mounting locations. This method is advantageous because you can use the existing brackets and wiring.
More complicated is mounting speakers in locations that didn't originally have speakers, or putting larger speakers in existing mounting locations. This will often require metalworking and building boxes and baffles to accommodate the new speakers. But if you don't have any factory speakers, or they are in bad locations, this may be your only option. Just be careful, and if the project requires a lot of reshaping of the cars metal locations, you should consider having it professionally done; this kind of work is best done with specific tools that most home enthusiasts don't have. such as plasma cutters and pneumatic sheet metal formers.
Pimp Up Yo’ Ride! Why You Need A Good Car Stereo System
So you've spent thousands getting your car ready for show. New paint job, tricked out suspension, phat rims, you've got it all. But what about on the inside? A bumpin' system can be THE difference between a cool car and a truly awesome show winner.
While a killer system can make your car that much cooler, having a crap car stereo system can totally kill your cars coolness factor. This is never good if you've already spent a lot of money tricking out your vehicle. Even if you have something less than fantastically good looking, having that killer thump is guaranteed to make more people actually want to ride in your car. By the same token, a pathetic car stereo system can make your car have even less appeal than it does now.
So What Makes a Killer Car Stereo System?
Quality and attention to detail pretty much sums it up. You will never be able to get the best sound out of cheap parts, and they are more prone to failing (usually at the worst possible moment) than the more expensive parts. Little things, like the frequency of a crossover, your EQ settings, and small variations in speaker placement can make a huge difference in the overall sound of your car stereo system.
Listen around and see who has systems that sound good to you. If you can listen to several different systems in the same kind of car as yours, you will be able to get a much better idea of what sounds good and what doesn't. But even if you are listening to different car stereo systems in different vehicles than yours, you can still get a good idea of what brands of gear you like and which ones to avoid cause they sound like crap. Remember, whatever sounds the best to you in your car is the best for you! No one else can tell you what is sounds good, because listening is a very subjective experience.
Car stereo expos and conventions can be another good way of gaining listening experience, and you will usually be able to check out more different systems at one than you can find on the streets.
Whatever you do, unless you have a truly awesome factory car stereo system, you will want to replace that head unit and speakers. The difference, even using factory mounting locations, can be the difference between night and day. Your mids will have more punch, your highs will be clearer and brighter, and the bass will have that bone deep thump everyone loves. Adding at least one amplified subwoofer will make a huge difference as well. You just can't get the same bass out of a 7" woofer as you can out of a 12" subwoofer.
Amplifiers are the driving force behind your car stereo system. Skimping in this area is extremely dangerous, not only to your sound quality, but to your speakers as well. An underpowered or cheaply made amplifier is prone to what is known as clipping. Without getting too technical, what this does is send a large amount of direct current through your speaker, causing the speaker coil to overheat and melt. This leads to the infamous "blown speaker". Coil overheating is the single biggest cause of speaker failure. Putting too large of an amplifier on a speaker can cause the same thing to happen. Always match up your speakers' power handling ratings to the output of your amplifier. For instance, let's say you have a 4 channel amplifier that provides 1000 watts total power. That is 250 watts per channel (1000/4), so your speakers should be capable of handling that much power, or you risk blowing them out.
Having a killer car stereo system is something your can be proud of, and dramatically increases your cars coolness factor and resale value, no matter what vehicle it is installed in.