Choosing the Best Car Audio System

The basic components of a high-quality car stereo system are an AM/FM tuner, a CD player, an amplifier (optional but recommended) and great speakers.

Rule: No auto audio can equal the performance of fine home equipment. The car compartment is small, besieged with engine and traffic noises, and surrounded with competing electrical signals. And all of this in a moving environment. A welter of technical and personal choices dictate the final package.

General guidelines: Shop around. Car audio components are often discounted. Check mail-order houses and the Internet for the best buys.

Essential: Deal with reputable businesses and buy name brands. Make sure you can exchange or return components in case they prove incompatible or do not fit into the car. Remember each unit must be installed and may require custom mounting accessories. Keep personal tastes in mind. Rock and country music fans usually prefer stronger bass ranges. Classical music requires good mid and treble.

How to allocate your spending: 40% to 50% for tuner/tape player, 25% to 30% for amplifier, 25% to 30% for speakers (unlike home gear, for which half the recommended expenditure may go for speakers alone).

General recommendations: Components are a better deal than manufacturer-installed original sound equipment. Good manufacturer-installed gear can cost $1,000, a price that will usually bring you far better sound if spent on components. Try to find a dealer that has set up a sound room to hear and compare different systems.

New-car buyer strategy: Buyers planning to purchase components should insist on a delete-option clause, eliminating the installed radio cost.

In-dash versus under-dash components. Under-dash components are easily installed.

Overriding disadvantage: A thief can slip out the under-dash gear as easily as an ashtray. Choose in-dash tuner/CD players unless you want to stow the components in the trunk each time you leave the car. (If you still prefer an under-dash system, Sony components are top-notch ones.)

Amplifiers: Most auto-sound packages benefit from amplifiers that strengthen bass and high-treble tones.

Problems: Amplifiers are bulky and often must be installed under a seat or in the trunk. Unless your tuner has a bypass circuit permitting you to plug into the preamplifier, your costly amplifier will only boost the distorted output of the built-in amplifier.

Smart buying: Look for amplifiers measuring power in watts (w) per channel in terms of distortion (THD). Goal: About five watts per channel at 1 % distortion or less. To get this, the amplifier may require 50 watts per channel because few operate at better than 10% efficiency in a car.

Bi-amplifiers: They offer separate power boosts for bass and treble ranges. Bi-amplification may be called for when separate bass and treble speakers are installed.

Speakers: Speakers must be compatible with amplifiers. Their power capacity should be slightly higher than amplifier. Example: Get 60w speakers for a 50w /ch amplifier. One way to be sure of speaker/amplifier compatibility is to purchase them as a package.

Stereo sound requires at least two speakers. Many enthusiasts choose four. Non-directional bass speakers are best placed in the factory cutouts in the rear window shelf. Next best placement: In rear doors. Treble speakers can be mounted in front door panels or under dash.

Installation: Unless you are highly skilled electronics hobbyist, have the auto-sound system professionally installed. Allow $150 to $200 for installation, and get a satisfaction guaranteed agreement.

Practical Tips for Choosing the Best Car Amplifier

You want to enjoy the best audio entertainment in your car. This is perfectly possible with the right car amplifier. There are numerous models to select from so you have to evaluate each model’s benefits and drawbacks. Here is some essential advice which you will need for making the right choice.

Determine the most suitable type of car amplifier for your sound system.

There are models which are designed to boost the signal sent to two, four, five or even six speakers. You should choose the number of channels based on your current system or on your plans for expanding this system. If you plan to upgrade, you should definitely go for a model with more channels.

You should know that there are two types of channels. The stereo ones deliver either a left or right-side signal while the mono ones provide both left and right audio. If you have a subwoofer, you should certainly consider a car amplifier with two or more stereo channels and one mono channel which will give you the super deep bass that you want to enjoy.

Evaluate the power of the device extremely carefully.

The technical capabilities of the device are among the most important factors which you should base your choice on. There are two types of power measures to watch out for. The root mean square power or RMS power measures the amount of continuous power which the device delivers to the speakers. The RMS power of the amplifier must match that of the speakers.

The other measure is the peak amplifier power. It indicates how much wattage the device is able to use for short and unexpected increases in sound. This number is always higher than the RMS power number. The higher it is the better the device will perform so that you can enjoy even better sound quality.

Look for capabilities and features, which match your needs precisely.

Since your stereo system has a built-in amplifier, you have to choose the additional one in line with the capabilities of the original unit. Take into account the amplifying power of the built-in unit and ensure that the additional one provides between 75% and 150% of the power limit of the speakers.

If you want to get super deep bass, you should go for a device with low-pass filter and built-in bass boost. That way, you will literally feel your heart pounding with the beat of the music. If you want trebles with amazing clarity coming out of your tweeter speakers, you should go for a device which features a high-pass filter. That way, you will protect the speakers and ensure that they will have a long useful life in addition to enjoying music even more.

Get all the accessories which you need for installing the device.

Most amplifiers designed to be used in cars do not come with all accessories which are necessary for their installation. That is why you should check what is included in the package and get the rest of the items separately. Alternatively, you can consider purchasing a complete car-wiring kit.

Finally, you should certainly consider buying a car amplifier from a brand, which has solid market performance and excellent reputation. That way, you will not have to worry about quality. Besides, you will get a warranty which is comprehensive and sufficiently long.