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Car Audio: How to make my car sound exactly how I want it

There are few occasions as good to enjoy music as car travel. With a little bit of interest, time and clear ideas , we can make our car sound much better and the experience of listening to music be closer to a live concert or an audition, than what standard cars usually offer us.

To achieve this, we will have to make a preliminary planning, an installation and some adjustments, which will depend on our expectations, how much we are willing to modify the serial equipment of our carand how much money we have in our budget.

Table of Contents

The initial approach

Do I replace the source of sound?

This decision is increasingly difficult, especially today, that the control consoles are so aesthetically integrated with the multimedia equipment as standard.

Normally the source does not offer optimal sound quality, and if we want to take a big step in quality, it is advisable to replace it with a new one of a certain level . In certain exceptions, such as high-end cars or with sound packs sponsored by certain brands (BOSE, Harman Kardon, etc.), the source can give a more than acceptable quality.

Do I upgrade only the front speakers, or all the speakers in the vehicle?

If we look for the highest possible quality, we should focus all the available economic resources, in getting the best possible loudspeakers for the front , as well as its corresponding amplification.

If we are not very demanding and only look for a little more power and sound in the 4 seats, we can improve all the speakers of the vehicle. Of course, in this way the budget will be divided among more components, and therefore cheaper. This option is not recommended if what we are looking for is absolute quality at the front. No more speakers, mean higher quality: the rear speakers produce an indirect sound with reflections, which will lose accuracy to the front scene.

Do I put subwoofer?

The subwoofer is an important option if what you like is dance music, pop, etc … or simply enjoy the sensations that transmit subwoofer sounds in any style. In case you do not want to add a subwoofer to the equipment, you will have to seriously consider the soundproofing of the doors, so that the front speakers can supply this deficiency as much as possible (remember that the soundproofing of the doors will improve the accuracy and depth of the the reproduction of bass).

The choice of equipment components

The fun part comes, and to bet on insurance, it is important to Best Car Stereo brands that are specialized exclusively in car audio or general audio products. Brands like Clarion, Focal, DLS, Brax, Alpine, Coral, Rockford Fosgate, Audison, Kenwood, Pioneer, JBL and many more … have a decades-long audio experience, an extensive catalog and a quality that could not be offer brands that are dedicated to making radio CDs and refrigerators …

Regarding the sound source , whether radio CD or multimedia receiver, it is important that it has high sound quality, RCA outputs to connect the amplifier, and it is desirable to allow equalization, time alignment and filtering. In terms of connectivity and multimedia, it will depend on the needs of each one (USB, Ipod, browser, bluetooth, etc …).

The amplifier or amplifiers must offer a high S / R ratio, low harmonic distortion, and RMS power equal to or greater than that supported by the speakers, to take advantage of their dynamic capabilities.

The advisable thing as for loudspeakers is that they are of separate tracks in the front part, with a good lineal graph of answer in frequency. The woofer and tweeter can be soft materials (paper, polypropylene, silk, etc.) if we want a comfortable and detailed sound, or harder materials (kevlar, aluminum, etc) if what we like is a more forceful sound.

As for the subwoofer , if our musical taste tends towards styles such as jazz, classical music, instrumental, etc … we can choose to complement with quality and depth the most serious frequencies, for which a 10 “subwoofer will suffice to 12 “in sealed box and amplifier between 200 and 500 Wrms. But if you like to feel like the subwoofer shakes your body with a spectacular soundless faithful, in which the bass is exaggerated, a subwoofer from 12 “to 15” in Bass Reflex and an amplifier of 400 to 1000 Wrms , they will be a good choice.

Installation

A good installation in detail, is an important part of a good sound equipment. Regarding wiring , it is important to take into account the following:

  • Signal cables or RCAs, must be shielded to avoid unwanted interference.
  • For loudspeakers, a section greater than 1.0 mm² is recommended, to avoid excessive electrical resistance, which would impair the damping factor of the loudspeakers.
  • The wiring of electrical power from the battery and to the ground, must have a section appropriate to the total power of the equipment, to avoid overheating and possible accidents.
  • As a minimum, and as an important safety measure, we will have to install a fuse within 75 cm of the positive pole of the battery (The instructions of the amplifiers usually explain the details).

The soundproofing using sheets of asphalt cloth for car audio, will be a difference between the bass of a good sound system, and a mediocre one. The most important thing is to apply it to the interior of the front doors , since that is where the speakers are. In this way, resonances and inaccuracies will be drastically reduced, and the serious one will be more detailed and deep, especially at high volumes. Finally, if we do not see ourselves with sufficient experience to perform the installation of the equipment, it is advisable to leave it in the hands of a professional installer.

Configuration and settings

Amplifier earnings

The gain is a rotary control that includes all the amplifiers, and that serves to adapt the amplifier to the voltage of the output signal of the RCA of the source. There are very technical methods to adjust it, which we will see in a next post. But the usual thing is to do it in an approximate way, in the following way :

  1. We set the gain of the amplifier to the minimum
  2. We put a musical track in the source, at 3/4 of the maximum volume (it has to be a track recorded at high volume, as it is usually the most commercial music, such as pop, rock, etc).
  3. With the track ringing, we are raising the gain control little by little. We will perceive that the music that sounds through the loudspeakers increases in volume. As soon as we notice a minimal distortion of the sound, we stop raising the control, and we lower it “a hair”, so that the sound is clear and clear.

In this way, we will have maximized the power transmitted from the amplifier to the speakers , maintaining a good signal-to-noise ratio. Of course, if we want to keep our speakers like the first day, a golden rule is never to raise the volume so that the sound distorts.

Filtered out

All CD radio or multimedia source of certain quality, includes the option of high pass filtering for the speakers, and low pass filtering for the subwoofer. The objective is to eliminate the reproduction of the subwoofer sounds through the speakers of the doors, thus avoiding that the doors cause unnecessary resonances and getting the speakers to work more relaxed; and leave the reproduction of the subwoofer frequencies entrusted only to the subwoofer. The overall result is a sharper sound, being able to achieve greater overall power without distortion. If we maintain the serial source, we can perform this filtering from the amplifier’s filters.

Equalization

Equalization consists in giving or removing power to different frequency bands individually, in order to make the frequency response of the equipment more linear , that is, not having peaks or exaggerated resonances. caused by the acoustics of our cabin. If you have good hearing, you can let yourself be guided by intuition, and in “trial and error” mode, try to reduce a few dBs at those points where you perceive exaggerated resonances , or increase a few dBs in those areas of the frequency spectrum where you perceive a lack of “presence” sound . The game is fun, but beware of subjectivity and false sensations! The best results are obtained with measuring instruments, as we will see in a next post.

Alignment of times

In a car we are not sitting at the same distance from the right and left speakers , contrary to what happens when listening to quality home audio equipment . This means that, for a matter of milliseconds, it reaches our ear before the nearest loudspeaker broadcast, as indicated in the figure. This causes slight lags between loudspeakers, which distort the sound image a little and small interferences appear that slightly modify the frequency response.

Applying a delay of a few milliseconds from the source to the nearest loudspeaker, and a little less to the rest of the loudspeakers proportionally to the distance they are from us, we will get the sound to strike our ears at the same time, in a coherent way just as if we were sitting right in the center . Once this adjustment is achieved, there are those who play with the possibility of varying the delays a little, to look for effects of depth and displacement of what would be the perception of the scene and the depth of the sound space.

For the most experienced …

If you are one of those who already have experience, and you like to get very deep into the technical issue, you may be interested in other less common options, such as mounting a system with active filtering (individual speakers without filters included, and making the cuts yourself. frequency from a source with this option); or that of mounting separate three-way speaker systems (woofer, medium and tweeter). These options complicate installation and adjustments, so if we are not experts, they will not guarantee better results than the option of two separate routes and passive filters, which we have discussed so far.

There is no excuse!

With the Guide for newcomers and what is seen today, we can no longer say that we would not know what is necessary to consider raising our sound equipment to a new level. In the next posts, we will see some interesting options offered by the car audio market today, in different price ranges.

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