The radio happens to be one of the relatively few parts on a car that aren't really vital to the transportation process. It has no effect on whether we get to our destination safely or on time, but most of us switch it on anyway. Some drivers couldn't imagine being in a car without music, talk radio or even an audio book playing through the speakers.
But the question is, how does it sound when we do switch it on? Is the sound quality decent? On most vehicles, unless the car came with a premium brand name factory option like a Bose, THX or a Mark Levinson system, the answer is likely to be, not really. Those types of high-end sound systems tend to be more prominent on luxury models.
Most car audio sound systems and radios won't have ultra-high fidelity sound, thumping bass, or lots of extra features like MP3 player inputs. Also, while they may emphasize one area of sound, like bass or treble, they may be missing the overall picture. And that's why buying a new stereo system (or even simply car audio speakers), is a common way to get better sound in your car. While properly adjusting your stereo's equalizer settings can greatly improve quality, the results won't likely blow your mind as much as a custom car audio system can.
There are a number of ways to achieve maximum sound quality with new components. You can replace the stereo (which is sometimes called a receiver or head unit), replace the speakers, install sound-deadening materials to reduce vibration and even add an amplifier. These things can get pretty expensive; however, and fortunately for you, may not need to do all of these steps.
So, how do you get the most out of your car stereo equipment without throwing away money in the process?
- Car Audio Speakers
- Car Sound Deadening
- Amplifiers, Receivers and Other Car Audio Equipment
Car Audio Speakers
Let's start by taking a look at speakers. These are perhaps the easiest way to improve your in car audio quality, since they produce the actual sound within the confines of your car.
While your standard speakers often try to produce bass, treble, and midrange sounds all with one unit, aftermarket speakers often feature multiple components like tweeters and woofers that produce their own sounds. You get a higher quality sound and a more pleasing, distinct audio range this way.
Most factory speakers come with a flimsy paper cone and cheap foam materials that don't produce deep, lasting sound. They wear down over time due to continuous use, ambient dampness and even the sun's UV rays help degrade some speakers. Thanks to these factors, the quality of the sound drops. Replacement speakers can come with cones made of Kevlar, rubber, polymer composites (like polypropylene), Mylar film and a whole host of other materials [source: Yoder]. But keep in mind, the most durable and lasting materials aren't necessarily the ones that produce the best car audio sound. Speakers made of rubber provide excellent sound as well as longevity; foam and cloth units cost less, yet still offer great performance [source: Nail].
A quality set of speakers can be had for a few hundred dollars, but you should know that there are extremely complex and pricy ones out there, too. That is, if you have the cash. Just remember: more expensive doesn't always mean better sound.
Speaking of sound quality -- just how much does external noise detract from your overall listening experience? Is there anything you can do about it?
Car Sound Deadening
Here's another fairly simple way to improve your car audio quality: sound-deadening materials. In most cars, the speakers are mounted in the front doors and behind the rear seats, usually facing up towards the rear window. The vibrations from these speakers can actually shake the car (or parts of the car), which can be noisy and will generally reduce the quality of the sound.
Sound deadening materials like Dynamat -- a cut-to-fit sheet of noise reducing material -- can absorb these vibrations when it's properly installed in your vehicle. Materials like Dynamat create a more stable platform to support the speaker, so the quality of the speaker won't be impaired by its own vibrations.
At the same time, Dynamat, or similar system, will reduce the noise from the road itself. If you have a small car or even a larger car that has thin doors or poor insulation, you know how loud road and wind noise can be at highway speeds. With a sound deadening material in place, you won't need to turn your volume quite as high to compensate for excessive road noise [source: Dynamat].
Up next, we'll look at how car audio accessories like amplifiers and head units can improve your audio quality.
Amplifiers, Receivers and Other Car Audio Equipment
Upgrading the car stereo receiver is a good way to get more audio options, like a better equalizer, clearer radio signals and even CD or MP3 player capability. But for dramatic improvements in sound quality, you'll need more than just a new car stereo.
Amplifiers are used to supply extra power to your car audio components. They do exactly what their name indicates -- they amplify electrical signals to send more juice to your entire audio system. The standard car stereo actually comes with its own, built-in amplifier; however, it's limited by space. Usually, these built-in amps are too small to send the power a high-fidelity custom stereo system requires.
As such, an external car audio amplifier is almost always necessary when you're running a lot of components in your system. If you're planning to purchase component speakers, tweeters and a subwoofer for your car, the stock power supply system just won't do this new car audio equipment justice.
With an amplifier, you can expect much higher quality sound from all of your car audio components. Amps can cost anywhere from $80 to several hundred dollars, depending on power output and the number of channels. The number of channels you need is dependent on the number of components you want the amp to power.
Proper tuning is also important to your stereo system. Even if you purchase all new sound equipment for your car, you'll still have to make sure the settings are right; otherwise the audio quality will remain poor. Set the car audio equalizer according to what you listen to most -- if you're into classical music or talk radio, maybe you don't need to the bass turned up to hip-hop levels. Most aftermarket stereos come with several pre-set options for tuning based on different types of listening. Select the one you like best, or tune it yourself.
One last piece of advice: Make sure the amplifier's gain control isn't set too high; otherwise you could face some nasty audio distortion issues. As for the radio, try to avoid excessive boosts in bass and treble, while turning the overall settings up a bit more [source: Fay].
You can learn more about automotive electronics and other related topics on the next page.
Lots More Information
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- Dynamat. "General FAQ's." http://www.dynamat.com/faqs_faqs.html
- Fay, Jeff. "Jeff's Tips for Getting Maximum Sound Quality in Your Car." Crutchfield. Oct 30, 2008. (Feb. 4, 2009) http://www.crutchfield.com/S-ZFuTc47FfcM/Learn/SQ/12_car_tips.html
- Nail, Ken. "Car Speakers: What to Look For." Crutchfield. Jan. 29, 2009. (Feb. 4, 2009) http://www.crutchfieldadvisor.ca/S-52n3krMv3bd/learningcenter/car/speakers.html
- Nakano, Roy. "Surveying The Best New Car Sound Systems." L.A. Audio File. (Feb. 4, 2009) http://www.laaudiofile.com/newcar.html
- Yoder, Andrew. "Auto Audio." McGraw-Hill. (Feb. 4, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=vrVxzcljeRUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=auto+audio
How can I make my factory car radio sound better? ›
An amplifier is essential to getting great sound in your car. Even if you're keeping your factory radio, you can still add an amplifier. Check the amp you're considering to see if it includes "speaker-level inputs," which allow you to tap into factory speaker wiring to acquire the audio input that an amp needs.How do I get more bass out of my car speakers? ›
The easiest way to get more bass in your car is to use the physical controls on the side of your car stereo to turn up the bass and/or turn down the treble in your car. Install a subwoofer. Subwoofers are the best way to get more bass out of your car stereo system.Which make of car has the best sound system? ›
- Mercedes-Benz- Burmester Audio.
- Cadillac – AKG Audio.
- Volvo – Bowers & Wilkins Audio.
- Chevrolet – Bose Audio.
- Acura – Panasonic ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio.
- Lexus – Mark Levinson Audio.
- Audi – Bang & Olufsen Audio.
- Land Rover – Meridian.
A cold air intake is one of the best options for getting a resonant, deep-sounding exhaust note from your vehicle. When you rev your engine and finally release the throttle, you'll hear the sound of air flowing through your intake and changing the notes of your engine to a louder, more aggressive sound.How do you get a higher quality of sound? ›
- Keep a small distance between the speaker and the microphone.
- Make sure there is as little background noise as possible.
- Do not interrupt each other.
- Provide a good quality microphone.
It may not be a real necessity, but getting an amp for these is highly recommended. It may not only be about ensuring great sound quality as you drive around. You may find an amplifier most beneficial for your door speakers' overall 'health,' optimum performance, and maintenance.Do speaker baffles improve sound quality? ›
Second, by forming a tight mounting seal around the speaker, the baffle can actually help reduce panel-to-frame resonance for better sound. This extra material in the speaker cavity can even help reduce road noise by dulling the external vibrations that can sneak into your sound system via the back of the speaker cone.Does a car amplifier improve sound quality? ›
Adding an amplifier can provide cleaner sound, more power, and better performance, improving the experience of listening to music in your car. Benefits of adding an amplifier: Better Sound Quality – Adding an amplifier can improve your sound by being a power source to really drive your speakers without straining them.What setting should my subwoofer be on? ›
If you have large floor-standing main speakers, set the subwoofer's crossover between 40Hz and 60Hz. If you have smaller bookshelf speakers, set the crossover slightly higher at around 50Hz to 80Hz. For small satellite speakers, set the crossover between 80Hz and 160Hz.
There are a few things you can do to get deep bass out of a bass guitar. First, you'll need to make sure that your bass is tuned properly. Next, you'll want to adjust the settings on your amplifier. Finally, you can try using a bass booster pedal to add some extra low end to your sound.
Which equalizer setting is best for bass? ›
Bass exists between about 20Hz and 200Hz.
If you want to maximize your bass-heavy music, you need to adjust your equalizer within the 20-200Hz range by boosting the decibels (dB) in that range.
Harman Kardon is one of the world's top speaker brands for home and car audio devices. Harman Kardon is famous for manufacturing and selling premium quality audio equipment, home entertainment systems, and audio systems for luxury automobiles.Is it worth upgrading sound system in car? ›
Quality. The main argument against replacing speakers is cost, but installing direct replacement aftermarket speakers can be a great way to bump up your sound quality without breaking the bank. Although it can get expensive, if you upgrade to component speakers, you'll enjoy an improvement in sound quality.What engine has the best sound? ›
- 8) Nissan VQ35DE. ...
- 7) BMW S54B32. ...
- 6) Audi RS4 4.2L FSI V8. ...
- 5) GM Gen II/III Small Block V8. ...
- 4) Audi 10v/ 20v Inline-5. ...
- 3) Honda C32B. ...
- 2) Lamborghini Twin-Cam V12. ...
- 1) Porsche Carrera GT V10.
You will not only receive the delightful sound of the engine power, but you will also likely improve engine power and vehicle performance. A hole in muffler sounds louder too.Do bigger exhaust tips make it louder? ›
Exhaust tips, since they are literally at the tailend of the exhaust system, will make a car have a more powerful sound. But a normal tip typically will have a small effect on the exhaust sound. A larger tip will give the engine a stronger, hearty sound, while a small tip will produce a raspy sound.How can I make my car pop? ›
“Pops and bangs” are created by unburned fuel in the exhaust system. When excess fuel enters the exhaust system it increases in temperature and ignites inside the exhaust instead of the combustion chamber. The noise can be exaggerated by fitting a decat or full decat exhaust system.Which audio output option will give you the highest quality signal? ›
The biggest difference is that HDMI can pass higher-resolution audio, including the formats found on streaming services such as Dolby Atmos and DTS HD Master Audio. These formats can't be transmitted across optical. In terms of simplicity, HDMI also passes video signals.What affects audio quality the most? ›
The sound quality of a reproduction or recording depends on a number of factors, including the equipment used to make it, processing and mastering done to the recording, the equipment used to reproduce it, as well as the listening environment used to reproduce it.Why does putting a speaker in a cup make it louder? ›
The cup pushes air back and forth, creating a sound that travels to your ear. The bare wire itself does not move much air, so it does not make much sound. However, if the coil is attached to a large, low-mass material, it will vibrate that material which, in turn, will vibrate the air, making a louder sound.
Does a bigger magnet make a speaker better? ›
The bigger the magnet, the stronger the potential driving force of the speaker (assuming the magnetic strength of the magnet is constant). Small magnets are for small speakers and produce, by nature, “weaker sound”, while bigger magnets make bigger speakers capable of producing louder sound.Does putting a speaker in a cup make it louder? ›
When you put your phone in a glass or porcelain cup, what happens is the sound waves bounce around a little and are directed up and out, amplifying the volume a small amount.How can I improve my speaker louder? ›
- Check The Room Area. Did you know that you can make your speaker louder simply by using it in an appropriate-sized room? ...
- Place It On The Floor. ...
- Place It Against A Wall or Close To The Corner of the Room. ...
- Get Two Speakers. ...
- Figure Out What Causes Low Volume.
However, Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is generally the best material for speaker enclosures because it's lightweight, dense, acoustically sound, and very affordable. Next in line are marine-grade plywood, typically made from Douglas fir, and Baltic birch plywood.Should amplifier be more powerful than speakers? ›
No, It is always recommended to use approximately twice as much amplifier power as the speaker's power rating. More watts may provide more bass, but only if the amplifier you're currently using is insufficiently strong for the speakers you're using.Will higher watts make speakers sound better? ›
Yes, it's true that the higher the power (watts), the louder and cleaner the speakers will play. Small differences in power, however, don't make much of an audible change. In order to perceptively hear a difference (a 3dB increase), the power would have to double.Does high gain affect sound quality? ›
Gain absolutely affects the sound quality, as it determines how your system is reacting to the signal that you are feeding it. If your gain is too low, you'll get tons of noise. If it's too high, your system will clip or distort.How can I make my subwoofer sound better? ›
It is recommended that for optimal quality sound, you should place your subwoofer within 8-12 inches of a wall, facing outwards towards the rest of the room. For even more output, consider placing your subwoofer in the corner of your room, as it can significantly increase the overall sound due to the positioning.What number should subwoofer be? ›
For the subwoofer, we recommend a crossover setting of 80 Hz, although if you wish, you can go up to 100 Hz, but not over. Settings above 100 Hz and will allow your ear to locate the subwoofer (and you don't want that).What gives a speaker good bass? ›
The increased sound pressure level is required to produce perceived bass. So larger speakers are more equipped to handle bass frequencies though it does not necessarily mean that a larger speaker will produce more bass than a smaller speaker.
What frequency is best for bass? ›
BASS AND UPPER BASS (40-80 Hz/Eto E2)
For normally tuned bass guitar and upright double bass, note fundamentals extend down to E1, (open E). I would consider bass arbitrarily to be below C2 (65.41 Hz). That is two octaves below middle C. The fundamental of a note is its musical pitch.
Normally, you'll find whichever EQ point is closest to the frequency you want to boost or reduce, and then simply move it to the exact spot you'd like for the desired effect. Turning the boost or gain knob up or down determines how much you are boosting (or reducing) your chosen frequency in decibels.What is the best equalizer settings for all music? ›
The best equalizer setting is one that is turned off or one that is set to “flat”, meaning that all dials are set to zero. Equalizers distort the sound of the original master recording. However, they can be useful as a last-resort when compensating for poor speakers or headphones.What should bass and treble be set at in car? ›
Bass frequencies are generally between 60 to 120 hertz, mids between 400 to 2,500 hertz, and treble between 8,000 to 15,000 hertz.What sound system has the most bass? ›
JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar System
It has a combined massive output of 820 watts of power and comes with a built-in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding. The JBL Bar 9.1 is accompanied by a 300W 10” powered subwoofer which delivers some of the deepest and most powerful bass you'll ever hear in a home theater setting.
- Replace Your Factory Speakers. Most brand new cars come with the cheapest possible speakers. ...
- Add Satellite Radio. ...
- Add A Subwoofer. ...
- Install Sound-Deadening Mats.
A quality subwoofer will add depth and realism to your music that you would otherwise miss out on with a factory car stereo system. When installed properly and paired with a good amp and head unit, a quality subwoofer will bring your music-listening experience to a whole new level.Is it worth it to amplify car speakers? ›
One of the main reasons why people decide to add amplifiers to their car audio system is to improve the quality of sound. Factory speakers will tend to crackle and distort the music as you turn up the volume, but speakers that are fed via an amplifier will not.What is the best sounding car ever? ›
- BMW M850i.
- Ford Mustang Mach 1.
- Ferrari F355.
- Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door.
- Jaguar F-Type R.
- Lamborghini Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae.
- Maserati Quattroporte GTS.
- Lexus LFA.
Because they have twice the cylinder count, a V8 engine's frequency is in a higher and generally more pleasing acoustic range.
What car brand has the best stock sound system? ›
- Volvo factory-installed audio system: Bowers and Wilkins.
- Nissan and Volkswagen: Fender.
- Mercedes-Benz: Burmester.
- Acura: ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio System.
- Rolls-Royce; Bespoke Audio.
- Best 2022 factory-installed audio systems.
Best Car Sound Systems Ranked! (2021 Edition)
Top 10 Best Car Stereo Systems in 2022 – Bass Head Speakers
Another popular way to connect an amplifier to a factory radio is to use something called a line output converter. It connects to the factory radio's speaker wires and converts the speaker-level signal to a preamp-level signal. This lets you use RCA cables to run that signal to your amplifier.Will aftermarket speakers sound better with factory radio? ›
Upgrading Your Stock Car Audio Speakers Can Drastically Improve Sound & Performance. Replacing your stock speakers with aftermarket, high performance car audio speakers is the #1 way to get better sound from a car stereo. Many people believe that the easiest way to get better sound is to change out the head unit.Does changing car radio improve sound? ›
A new head unit typically has better sound processing and amplification components. This is why it may improve the way in which speakers sound in your car.Is it better to bypass the factory amp? ›
Bypassing the factory amp takes a little more work because you have to run the bypass harness to the factory amp, which is often located in some other part of the car. It's usually worth the extra effort because you'll get better sound from your new stereo, even if you're keeping those factory speakers.Will an amp improve factory speakers? ›
They Drastically Improve the Sound Quality
Factory speakers will tend to crackle and distort the music as you turn up the volume, but speakers that are fed via an amplifier will not. The result of adding an amplifier, regardless of how small or cheap it is, will be cleaner, louder, bassier and distortion-free music.
You can make your car speakers louder by installing sound-deadening materials around your vehicle, sealing the gaps between your speakers and their mounting holes, removing or securing loose items around your speakers, balancing your sound system's tone controls, and only playing high-quality audio files.Is it better to under or over power speakers? ›
Overpowering will likely kill a speaker faster. Underpowering can be safer if you are very careful and do not crank it up to the point of clipping ... Similarly: Underpowering will likely kill a speaker faster. Overpowering can be safer if you are very careful and do not crank it up beyond what the speaker can handle.Do you need an amp when upgrading car speakers? ›
You'll need a 4-channel amp to power your front and rear speakers. Another tip: if you intend to add a subwoofer, you can power it with the amp's rear channels until you're ready to add a separate subwoofer amp. For more info on choosing the right amp for your system, check out our car amplifier buying guide.
Do you need an amp for aftermarket car speakers? ›
However, every car audio system requires an amplifier, whether it's a weak, built-in feature or a separate, high-powered unit. In fact, a car stereo wouldn't work without one. Most car audio systems and simple upgrades don't include a separate amplifier, although many include a dedicated amplifier to drive a subwoofer.How many watts are factory car speakers? ›
Generally speaking, the average factory car stereo is about 8 to 12 watts. An upgraded stereo is typically more wattage, averaging 25 to 50 watts.› Car Audio ›