listening while driving

10 Basics of Car Audio for the First-Time Buyer Musician

listening while drivingMusicians are, naturally, music lovers — they love to play music and they love to listen to it. Whether you are driving from gig to gig, or simply going to the store after work, all musicians love to blast their favorite tunes on their car stereos and let their daily stresses melt away.

Just because you are a musician, however, does not mean that you have a detailed understanding of car audio and the skills to properly install a custom made system. What follows is a brief guide documenting 10 basic things you need to tackle when getting a new car audio system.

1) Replace the Existing Speakers

This might seem like common sense, but you will need to replace all the speakers that are in the car currently. Chances are, they are not designed to handle the wattage and output of a custom car audio system, meaning that the sound they produce will be distorted and low quality.

2) Learn to Love Sound Deadening Materials

Along with the main components of the car audio system are various sub components and other materials that are part of the installation. Sound deadening materials such as Dynamat are designed to reduce noise such as vibration or road noise, which can dampen the quality of your musical output. This material helps to ensure consistent sound quality, even at high speeds.

3) Don’t Forget the Amplifier

It is not recommended that you use the amplifier in the factory installed stereo if you are installing a new system. A custom amplifier will help ensure high quality sound, even at high volumes.

 4) Signal Processors and Equalizers

No matter how well you install the system and how high quality your speakers are, there are parts of your vehicle that act as impediments to the highest quality sound. With an equalizer, you can manually adjust frequency responses to fix any problems with the quality of the sound reproduction. These systems give you more control over the fine tuning of the sound quality allowing you to hone in on trouble spots in your system.

 5) Get a Digital-to-Analog Converter

Many people are tempted to just use the factory installed DAC but this means that you do not get the level of performance and quality that you get from an after market model. For the best performance, a DAC is a great addition to the system.

6)Use High Quality Sound Files

If you have low quality or poorly compressed sound files, any flaws and errors will be amplified on a custom sound system. It is recommended that your music be at the highest possible bit rate as it will sound best on your system.

audio systems

 7)Understand Amp Gains

A common mistake for people who are new to car audio is to assume that the “gain” control on the amplifier is the sound volume. It isn’t and turning it up unnecessarily high will result in really poor sound quality. What this is is the input signal that comes INTO the amplifier, so you actually increase the distortion as you turn this setting up.

 8) Do Not Max Out Your Settings

More is not always better. This is definitely true when it comes to choosing equalizer settings. When you max out settings while stationary, it may sound great, but once you get going down the highway, the quality goes down. While you need to adjust these settings and have a heavier preference on certain settings, very rarely does any one of them need to be maxed out. Doing so is likely to lead to distortion or other dampening of sound quality.

 9)Don’t Forget the Subwoofer

Many people think if they aren’t playing bass heavy rap music that a sub woofer isn’t really necessary. A sub woofer reproduces the lowest frequency sounds and adds depth and layers to the quality of the musical experience.

 10) Capacitors Can Save Your Battery

Some car audio systems, particularly bass heavy systems, suck up a lot of juice. By adding a capacitor, you create a bit of a buffer between the amp and the battery, reducing the burden placed on the battery.