Car audio systems – the Sound “effect”

Audio System of Cars
Audio System of Cars

Audio System of Cars - Tech Advancement

Rolling in your ride and listening to your favourite music no matter where you’re driving to, has a timeless charm. Anyone and everyone who has ever gripped a steering wheel and driven with music on, will understand and agree to having experienced this sensation in some or the other way. The exponential improvement and upgrades in the way we move, has also impacted the “way we groove” when we’re moving. Our car stereos have come a hell of a long way in keeping up with the tech advancements in the cars.

With every upgrade in infotainment, engineers have figured a way to put it into cars. Starting in 1930s, AM radios were a popular and eventually common fixture in cars and trucks. Chrysler even tried installing in-car phonographs which didn’t do quite well since bumps or disturbances while driving on a rough patch meant constant skipping of the track being played. With muscle cars, convertibles and people-pleasers, came the era of the FM radio and eight track tapes. These were eventually replaced by cassette players. By the 1990s compact discs (CDs) had started taking over.

Compact discs are still quite a popular medium of listening to music in most vehicles as they’re still in commission, save space and can be loaded with quite a many music files. However, countless models of cars now come with mp3 player inputs, usb-drive inputs, auxiliary jack etc. Some cars even have internal storage to allow owners to upload their own music digitally through bluetooth or connection cable, turning the car into an iPod on wheels.

Even the manufacturer installed car stereo systems have advanced over the years, since it’s not just a car that people buy nowadays – they look more towards have a complete infotainment system on wheels. However, for most music lovers, the factory fit and settings are hardly even enough. This is the feeding tube for the huge after-market of products like car speakers, to subwoofers, bass tubes, navigation systems, dvd players, iPod or other multimedia player docks, tweeters, amplifiers, sound stabilizers, high definition surround set-ups and so on.

So if you’re looking to purchase any audio component for your car. You need to plan your system very carefully. Whether it is one component at a time or the entire system in one go, the amount you need to spend, the sound quality and output you are looking to achieve, should all be chalked down, pondered over and then spent on. The best and safest way is to get to a professional, and let them tell you which setup and settings would be ideal for your ride.

The most important part of the system is a good head unit. The head unit at the very least should be a good brand with a reputation for an even better output and hassle free maintenance. If you’re careless with what head unit to buy, no speaker system setup would be able to give the quality and satisfaction of money well spent that a reputed brand would. It is always better to get a head unit with RCA outputs specially if one aims to add amplifiers to the system.

If you’re on a budget, the best thing to go in for, is a set of good front speakers. Speaker installation is a very important aspect that determines how your whole system sounds. No equalizer or processor could compensate for poor speaker installation. Factory installations are upto a basic mark of standard but are still not optimum to your taste of hearing or for that matter a good power output. Speakers should ideally point straight at the listener. They need to be mounted on a good “baffle” (setup enclosure). The difference between the left and right speaker distances to your ears should be as less as possible. The front speakers should also play on as low a frequency as possible – ideally 60Hz or less – being able to handle full power. This is where Crossovers with high slopes are required to come in and protect the speakers.

Amplifiers are required to improve and optimise sound quality and not for a louder sound output like most people think they are. They don’t make your system louder, but make it sound better. The more power you get, the cleaner the signal going into the speakers. For systems running on high power outputs, it becomes important to check if your vehicle wiring will be able to handle the load or whether it needs to be changed or upgraded by putting in high output alternators, capacitors etc.

Subwoofers cover low frequency in the audio spectrum, and require to be installed in a box designed specially for their fitment. Incase a subwoofer is installed in a misfitting box or without one, it will not perform to its capacity and may possibly even break or get destroyed. Subwoofers require a lot of power to play at acceptable sound levels without producing distortion.

Amplifiers are designed to provide a high output of power at a certain impedance. Amplifiers performing at their maximum capacity will produce a lot of heat, hence it is important to have a proper mounting setup for them.

One should also keep future upgrades in mind when buying or installing audio gear. Since powerful amplifiers may be expensive, one can always get a 2-channel amp to drive the subwoofers, and later get another one. If planned carefully, the impedance on the subwoofers will match the amps’ for maximum output in the given configuration.