Car Audio Systems

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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With such a wide variety of brands, setups, and components, shopping for a car audio system can require a considerable amount of research. Some car audio manufacturers are best known for their high-end speaker systems, while others are associated with particular audio mediums, such as CDs, radio tuners, and, recently, digital music devices. The car audio market caters to everyone from devoted audiophiles attempting to install the perfect sound system, to high school kids concerned with having the loudest bass on the block, to the average consumer, looking for a simple, reliable quality car stereo.

The basic car audio system will feature several key components. A head unit, accompanied by an amplifier, is connected to a pair of front speakers, and supported by a subwoofer to process low-end sounds. The front speakers are considered the most important aspect of this system, and are primarily responsible for the level of sound quality the system delivers. A lower quality radio or CD player will deliver better results on top-notch speakers than if the situation were reversed, and a top-of-the-line CD player was broadcast through poor quality speakers. Once you've selected the front speakers for your system, your job is more than half done.

Car Audio System Mistakes

Many people make the same mistakes when attempting to create their idea of the "ultimate" car audio system. The most common of these errors is the installation of numerous unnecessary speakers. More speakers do not automatically equal better sound quality. In fact, the reverse is often true. The sound from multiple speakers in an enclosed setting, such as a car, can rapidly make for a cluttered, noisy experience, with lots of distortion and dissonance. Some experts even claim that rear speakers are detrimental to a car audio system's overall quality. If you're not planning on using back speakers for a specific reason, such as to allow rear passengers to listen to the system while you carry on a conversation in the front seat, they should be left off.

Finally, filters can be installed to insure that all audio signals are being properly processed. Audio signals carry both high and low sounds as a single unit. A system's head unit will usually have a built-in filter, which is capable of dividing the high and low frequencies in the full signal. Filters receive the audio signals en route to the speakers, and insure that highs are played through the tweeter, lows through the woofer, and so on.

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