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How To Improve A Car Audio System? (Complete Guide To Follow)


Getting better sound in your car is a journey rather than a destination. Rather than an all-or-nothing proposition, it is an incremental process that can be revised and tweaked along the way. You can make a surprising number of minor changes and upgrades to your car audio system to improve overall sound quality without spending a fortune.

The majority of suggestions involve upgrades such as a new head unit, premium speakers, or a subwoofer, but others focus on improving your car’s acoustics by removing as much external interference as possible. Here is a list of the best ways to improve the audio quality in your car.

Upgrade Car's Audio System
Upgrade Car’s Audio System

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAR AUDIO NEEDS AN UPGRADE?

There are a few things to consider if you want to upgrade your car audio. And it all starts with identifying the system’s weakest link. Is there not enough volume? Is there a lack of solid bass response? Identifying the flaw allows you to create a plan of action.

 

Perform these tasks to determine whether you need to make any upgrades.

  1. Take a seat in your vehicle. Close all of the windows and doors.
  2. Play some music on your radio. You can also use your phone to listen if that’s how you usually listen. Make sure the volume is set to a higher level than usual.
  3. Pay close attention to the music.
  4. Is there a lack of clarity that necessitates turning up the treble?
  5. When you crank up the bass, do you notice empty, hollow sounds?

Does the music sound overall distorted?

 

If you are having trouble with the sound quality, it’s time to make a change.

REPLACE YOUR CAR’S SPEAKERS

In most cases, the speakers are the last thing a manufacturer considers when designing and building your vehicle. Although factory audio systems have improved in recent years, many so-called “premium” systems still use relatively weak amps and speakers that don’t deliver high-quality sound.

If your vehicle is a little older, the existing speakers have most likely seen their fair share of wear and tear. Installing a nice set of aftermarket speakers can make a significant difference in the sound quality of your car audio system.

You’ll notice tighter bass and improved overall clarity, as well as details you’ve never heard before in songs you’ve known for years. Replacement speakers give you maximum bang for your buck, so they’re a terrific first step on the road to better sound. And if you want to know the best car speakers for bass, see tip #5.

DON’T MAX OUT YOUR TONE CONTROLS

All of the best car sound systems, like a guitar, perform better when properly tuned. Turning up the tone controls on your factory radio all the way may make your system sound better in your driveway, but it creates distortion when you turn the volume up on the highway.

A significant amount of low-frequency boost, in particular, will put a significant strain on your factory system. If you want to fatten up your sound, try using a smaller boost in the bass, lowering the highs and mids slightly, and then increasing the overall volume.

But maybe you’ve replaced (or you’re thinking about replacing) your factory radio with an aftermarket stereo that features a multi-band equalizer. The same rule applies: avoid excessive tone boosts or cuts. A bad EQ setting can ruin a good system, whereas an intelligent tone curve can make a good system sound fantastic.

If possible, program a few different EQ presets into your receiver so you can see what works best in your vehicle without having to change settings while driving.

Alternatively, go through your receiver’s preset curves to see if any of them sound particularly good at highway speeds, then tweak that setting in your driveway. Allow your copilot to switch between settings if you have one. Check out Tip #11 if you want to delve deeper into some serious sound-shaping.

Improve A Car Audio System
Improve A Car Audio System

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USE A BETTER DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER 

A digital-to-analog converter, or DAC, is responsible for converting digital data — 0’s and 1’s — into analog music signals. Most likely, your music player is your smartphone. Its built-in DAC is usually adequate for casual listening with earbuds, but it doesn’t deliver the same level of performance as the more advanced DACs found in many of today’s better aftermarket car stereos.

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When you connect your smartphone to an aftermarket stereo with a USB cable, you can use the stereo’s DAC. This decodes your music with the most detail and the most powerful sound.

USE THE BEST SOURCE MATERIAL BY USING HIGHER QUALITY MUSIC FILES

Yes, if you use higher compression, you can store more music files in your portable music player or phone, and they will sound fine when listened to through earbuds. However, compressing your music results in the loss of some high- and low-frequency information, as well as some of the details that make your music interesting.

Some elements of a song may not sound quite right (such as “swishy” cymbals). You can tell when something is missing from a good car audio system. You’ll notice an immediate improvement when you use higher-quality source material.

When adding to your digital library, don’t just use the default settings when creating files or purchasing digital music. Compression should be kept to a minimum. The higher the bit rate, the better your music will sound through the audio system in your car. Higher bit rates will consume more storage space, but the benefit in sound quality may be well worth it.

When streaming music, look into the settings in your favorite music app to improve the audio quality. You can also use a higher-resolution streaming music service, such as TIDAL or Qobuz. Simply keep in mind that streaming at a higher bit rate will consume more data.

ADD A CAR AMPLIFIER

When friends ask me, “What are the best car speakers for bass?” I always say, “An amplifier.” This is because, no matter how good your speakers are, you’ll get the best performance out of them by adding more power (within their performance specs, of course).

“My factory stereo puts out 200 watts, and that’s plenty of power,” you might say. But there’s a big difference between 50 watts peak power per channel produced by your car stereo and 50 watts RMS continuous power (a more realistic rating) produced by an outboard amplifier.

A separate amplifier will provide more clean power than any car stereo, and the difference in sound quality will be night and day. Whether you listen to a Mahler symphony at a conversational level or Metallica at maximum volume, your system will sound better. To get great sound in your car, you’ll need an amplifier.

Even if you keep your factory radio, an amplifier can be added. Check to see if the amp you’re thinking about buying has “speaker-level inputs,” which allow you to tap into factory speaker wiring to get the audio input that an amp requires.

SET YOUR AMP GAINS PROPERLY

Every day, our Tech Support team receives calls from customers who are perplexed as to why their new car audio system sounds so bad. The most serious issue? The majority of people believe that the gain control on their new amplifier controls the volume level.

Naturally, they turn it all the way up, which leads to disastrous results. The gain control adjusts the amount of input signal that enters the amplifier. When you turn it up too loud, you’ll hear some nasty distortion.

Turn your receiver’s volume control about 3/4 of the way up to maximum volume, then increase your amp gain until you hear distortion. Back it off a little, and you’re good to go. Every amplifier manufacturer will have specific recommendations, so consult your manual for the best way to set the gain on your new amplifier.

How To Improve A Car Audio System? (Complete Guide To Follow)
How To Improve A Car Audio System? (Complete Guide To Follow)

YOUR CROSSOVER CAN REALLY IMPROVE THE SOUND OF YOUR SYSTEM

Many in-dash receivers now include frequency filters that can be used in conjunction with your preamp and speaker outputs. If you have a sub, use the high-pass filter on your stereo to remove the low bass from your car’s full-range speakers. You’ll get more clean volume out of them, especially if you use the receiver’s built-in power.

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Or perhaps your subwoofer sounds great, but the bass sounds like it’s coming from behind you. Experiment with raising or lowering the crossover point on your low-pass filter to bring the bass up to the same level as the rest of the music.

Subsonic filters are used in many amplifiers to remove super-low bass frequencies that are below the range of human hearing. Turn it on — your amp and subwoofer will run cleaner without the subsonic sludge. Furthermore, the compression used to create your music files can cause a low-frequency sputtering sound in your subs.

This noise will be removed or reduced by your subsonic filter. Important: When adjusting crossovers, only adjust them on one part of your system at a time. For example, if you use your car stereo to adjust the crossovers for all of the speakers in your system, you should run your amps at full power (crossovers off).

If you’re adjusting your amplifier(s) instead, the crossovers on your car stereo should be turned off or set to full range. If you use multiple components to adjust the crossover settings, your system may receive conflicting frequency information, which will degrade the sound.

ADD A SUBWOOFER

I’ve installed a lot of car audio systems, and I still get a kick out of seeing that “Wow” moment when someone hears a sub for the first time in their car. A good subwoofer will bring your music’s bottom octave back into proper balance, allowing you to hear familiar songs in a whole new light.

A subwoofer will also relieve strain on your full-range speakers because you’ll be listening to music with the bass control set to “0” rather than “+5” on your stereo. When they sit next to a thumping, vibrating car at a traffic light, some people form an unfavorable opinion of subwoofers.

However, subwoofers aren’t just about the boom — you can tailor any subwoofer to your musical preferences as well as your vehicle. And once you’ve driven with a subwoofer, you’ll never be able to live without one again. Or maybe two.

BUILD A BETTER SUBWOOFER BOX

If you’re making a sealed subwoofer box, make sure it’s properly sealed. Air leaks can seriously impair your sub’s performance. If you’re using a ported box, make sure you’re using the correct woofer. A sub designed for a sealed box can be destroyed by driving it hard in a ported enclosure.

It’s also critical to construct a box with the proper interior volume for the sub you’ve chosen. A mismatch can lead to poor performance or even death. You can also avoid all of these issues by purchasing a ready-made enclosure for your subwoofer.

USE A CAPACITOR TO PUSH YOUR SUBS HARD

The people who designed your car most likely did not have subwoofers in mind when they created it. Big bass consumes a lot of power, and most car electrical systems aren’t designed to handle it. A capacitor serves as a power reserve between your amplifier and the battery in your car.

You connect the cap inline on your battery’s power cable, as close to the amp as possible. It stores power from your alternator and then instantly releases it to meet your amp’s demand for the power required to reproduce a big bass hit.

Have you ever noticed a significant drop in performance after running your subs loudly and aggressively for a minute or two? Or have you ever noticed your headlights dimming in time to music while driving at night? A capacitor solves these issues by diverting the majority of the demand peaks away from your electrical system, allowing your amp to receive a more consistent supply of power.

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ADD A SIGNAL PROCESSOR OR AN EQUALIZER

When it comes to sound quality, the interior of a car presents some serious issues. Glass and plastic surfaces amplify sound, whereas carpet, seat covers, and other absorbent materials absorb it. When you add poorly placed speakers to the mix, you get significant frequency response peaks in most car interiors.

These peaks cause “ear fatigue” by making your music boomy in the bass or shrill in the upper frequencies. Most car receivers give you treble, midrange, and bass controls — useful for global fixes but not for zeroing in on problem areas.

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You’ll need an equalizer to kill these peaks, whether it’s built into your receiver or in a processor mounted in your dash or near your amplifiers. An outboard equalizer provides multiple points for adjusting frequency response, allowing you to smooth out any peaks in your system.

A parametric equalizer allows you to change the centerpoint and width of each EQ band, allowing you to focus in on a specific problem area. Sound processors can help you eliminate frequency response peaks and increase bass response, and some even include a microphone for analyzing the acoustics of your vehicle.

Proper use of an EQ can take some tweaking and lots of listening, but that’s the fun part. Start with everything set “flat” and tweak one or two things at a time. You’ll start figuring out what’s missing in the sound and what there’s too much of. Before long, with the equalizer’s help, you’ll have it dialed in just right.

USE SOUND DEADENING MATERIAL

Dynamat, Hushmat, and other sound-deadening products improve the sound of your system by reducing vibration and road noise. To begin with, a speaker in a door panel isn’t the best place for one — the thin metal vibrates as your music plays, affecting the accuracy of the sound.

When you attach these products to your door panel, they dampen the vibrations and provide a more stable platform for your speaker, similar to a wooden baffle on a home speaker. Second, have you ever noticed how your system sounds great at 25 mph but becomes a little harsh at 60?

Because road noise tends to mask the lower frequencies first, your system will sound overly bright when you crank it up at highway speeds. Sound-deadening material reduces interior noise levels in your vehicle, allowing you to listen to music at a lower volume while driving.

You’ll be able to hear more musical detail, and your amplifiers won’t have to work as hard. That’s all right.

BEST TIPS TO IMPROVE CAR AUDIO SOUND QUALITY

With all of the steps listed above, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to unleash the power of your stereo. Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

  1. Take things one step at a time; there’s no need to do everything all at once.
  2. Upgrade speakers in pairs – if money is tight, you don’t have to replace them all at once.
  3. Don’t let a limited budget prevent you from making improvements; there are numerous ways to improve your car audio for less than $100.
  4. You don’t have to be an expert to make improvements; even novices can find ways to improve the stereo system.

Even taking small steps can make a world of difference to the sound quality.

CONCLUSION: Improving Car’s Audio System Tips

Upgrades and installations of component speakers to your car stereo can improve the sound system of your vehicle. However, you should also pay attention to the quality of your music files as well as the improvement of your car environment by removing external interference.

If you encounter any difficulties while carrying out any of these processes, you should seek the assistance of a car expert for your upgrades and installations.

Easy Ways To Improve Car Audio Systems
Easy Ways To Improve Car Audio Systems

FAQs About Improving Car Audio System

How can I make my car sound louder?

If you want louder and better sound, you’ll need an external amplifier that fits easily into an existing system. If you’re unhappy with the sound quality of your car audio system, adding an aftermarket amplifier is a sure way to improve it.

Is it possible to upgrade my car stereo?

Some vehicles are more difficult to upgrade than others, but it is almost always possible to upgrade your car stereo to some extent. Although this may entail replacing nearly every component, right down to the wires, you can do a lot of it with little technical knowledge.

Does subwoofer improve sound quality?

With a great sub, the system’s dynamics rock harder, and the depth and spaciousness of the soundstage improve. A well-matched subwoofer will dramatically improve your system’s overall sound, and adding the right sub will make a bigger difference than upgrading electronics.

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