A car stereo system provides entertainment and news updates in real-time. This reduces boredom in traffic jams and keeps passengers awake in long distance journeys. Car radios have prevented many people from driving into disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes by updating them with real-time news thus saving lives. For these reasons, most vehicles have inbuilt audio systems, while others have mounting space for additional audio components.
Old car audio units could only play AM/FM stations and cassettes. However, advancement in technology has made manufacturers to integrate LED indicators, LCD display, wireless connectivity, online video/audio streaming, and other modern components. These features confuse many people and most of them don’t know what makes a good car audio system. The aesthetics and design of a stereo system, don’t matter, always consider its size, amplifiers, head unit, and speakers.
Important components in an audio system
1) Car amplifiers
Amplifiers boost the weak sound signals from the head unit before transmitting them to the speakers. This feature allows you to change the volume and bass of different types of music with high precision. If you like listening to different types of music, you can use an amplifier to regulate the bass and softness of your music.
Consider the RMS power of an amp when selecting your favorite amp model since it determines its power consumption. According to DigMyRide.com, amps with a lower impedance rating tend to output greater wattage. Some amplifiers can drain your car battery within minutes, thus affecting the performance of your vehicle. Amplifiers are either installed in the head unit or bought as different gadgets. Internally installed amplifiers are perfect for vehicles with small storage space. However, such amps are less powerful as compared to externally mounted models. External amps are big in size, powerful and expensive. They can be mounted under a seat, trunk or any other safe location. External amps are able to support multiple speakers, but the number varies depending on the power output.
Speakers convert signals from the head unit into sound. They also vary in size and shape depending on the diameter of the cone. The drivers installed and components used in the speaker affect the quality of sound. A good speaker is the one which is small enough to fit under a seat or occupies a small space in the trunk. It should also produce high-quality sound even when the electrical signals are weak.
There are various types of speakers in the market and they differ in terms of audio output and size. Coaxial ones are smaller in size and cheaper than other models. These models contain a woofer and a tweeter in the same unit. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound output is lower than that of other models. Go for this type of speaker if you have financial constraints or if your car doesn’t have much storage space.
Component speakers require a bigger amplifier with a bigger power output from each one has its own unique drivers. They consist of a separate tweeter, woofer and mid-range speakers. The downside of these speakers is that they are expensive and they occupy a lot of mounting space, thus making them unsuitable for vehicles with small storage space.
If you need a high-quality speaker system, you can consider installing a dedicated subwoofer in your car. A subwoofer offers you various bass frequencies and a tweeter in one unit. You can fine-tune your woofer to your preferred volume and bass according to the type of music you are playing.
3) The head unit
The head unit is the most important part of a vehicle’s audio system. It contains electrical components that convert audio/video sources and radio signals into sound output. The quality of the music or video produced by this unit varies depending on the design and power input required. A good unit has a high power output and you don’t need an amplifier.
Features of a good head unit
a) Multiple device integration
An audio system with an inbuilt Bluetooth and other latest wireless connectivity features can be connected to a wide array of gadgets. For example, you can connect the unit to a smartphone, tablet or even laptop and stream music from iTunes. This allows you to listen to your favorite songs and even generate multiple playlists with different types of songs. Wireless connectivity eliminates the need for connecting your gadget to the stereo via USB cable.
b) GPS Navigation
Some systems have an LCD screen which can display various types of graphics. This feature displays waypoints, distance, routes, and other information which allows people to drive in big cities and unfamiliar highways without getting lost. It enables drivers to know where to turn, where to go shopping and even find the shortest route to their destination.
c) Storage media supported
Old audio systems could only play FM/AM radio, tape, and CD. Old storage cassettes are being phased out since they are unreliable and cumbersome to use. Modern designs, support flash disks, memory cards and even streaming capability. If you like streaming music, ensure that the audio system of your choice has internet connectivity and it is able to connect to your favorite music store. Models with screens allow you to watch videos thus providing maximum entertainment.
d) Size of the head unit
Head units vary in size and shape depending on the manufacturer. Keep in mind the measurements of your car’s front panels when selecting an audio system. Go for a model that fits perfectly in your vehicle to avoid facing obstacles during installation. It should also have the same color as your car’s interior so that it doesn’t stick out.
e) Power output
Most vehicle stereo systems use less power and this means that they also produce less power output. Such systems require an amplifier to improve the sound output. If you don’t want to incur the additional cost of buying an amplifier, you can go for models that have higher watts per channel. However, the sound output cannot be compared to that from an amplifier.
A car stereo has various components, but the speakers, the head unit and the amplifier are very important. Powerful audio systems are bigger in size and more expensive. You should consider the cost and the quality of sound output when buying an audio system. However, don’t go for big amplifiers, subwoofers and component speakers if you have a small mounting space in your vehicle. It is wise to stick to music systems with coaxial speakers if it is illegal to play loud music in your neighborhood or town.