When building or upgrading an auto sound system, the first thing most people look into are the speakers. While speakers do play a very large role in the overall sound of your system, there are many other things that must be taken into consideration if you are going to avoid “over-speakering”. It’s not necessary with modern technology and enclosures to take your entire trunk up with giant subwoofers to get that bone shakin’ bass you want.
The Head Unit
Good sound starts at the source. And in the case of auto sound systems, this source is the head unit. This is the CD player in your dash that actually provides the signals that the rest of your system amplifies and plays back. You can have the best speakers and amps in the world, but if you pair that with a cheap head unit with a lousy DAC, your sound will be lousy. In fact, with good speakers and amps, any shortcomings in your head unit will become glaringly obvious; the speakers will faithfully reproduce everything fed to them, including the hiss caused by a cheap DAC and op amps.
Again, the best way to get killer sound is to start at the source and work your way to the output. After you have a good quality head unit that makes a clean audio signal, you need quality amplifiers to take this signal and push it still clean to your speakers. Cheap amps will often introduce noise into your signal, whether through lousy signal to noise ratios, or ground loop/alternator whine caused by poor internal or external grounds. Again, with good, speakers, any problems with your amplifiers will be very audible as your killer speakers faithfully reproduce every bit of the signal the amps provide – including any noise.
And finally, you should consider the speakers themselves. The biggest two things to remember are quality makes a huge difference, and bigger is not always better. If you listen to a lot of music with extremely fast bass hits, like techno, using 15″ subwoofers will make your bass line muddy and indistinct. For this type of music, 10″ or 12″ is the largest subwoofer you want to push. If you listen to rap or other music with extremely low frequency and rhythmic bass hits, a 15″ may be what you want. In all cases, mounting the speakers in a properly tuned bandpass enclosure will ensure the best quality sound.
The Speaker Enclosure
The sound you get out of the exact same speaker/amp combination will be very different depending on the enclosure you put it in. A simple sealed enclosure will provide a fairly neutral, flat response across the frequency curve of your speaker. A properly tuned bandpass enclosure can either help make up for a deficient area in your response curve, or amplify the frequencies you really want to add punch to.
While speakers are often the first thing considered when building an auto sound system, they really should be near the last on your list. Only after you have a quality head unit and amplifiers to drive them should you worry about your speakers. Even moving your current speakers into different types of enclosures can make an enormous difference in your sound quality.
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