Who doesn't want to enjoy superior sound quality when driving - especially when the trip is going to take hours?
A car can be a great place to enjoy music, but so many people still put up with relatively low sound quality that they'd never tolerate at home. Others, particularly wannabe audiophiles upgrade their sound systems, but make common installation mistakes that compromise sound quality and prevent the components from reaching their full potential.
There are countless ways to improve on sound quality in your vehicle whether you have a simple factory stereo systems or a custom audio system. You don't have to live with bad sound and strain your ears over and over. Even the simplest improvements to your system can yield noticeable results.
That said, we've compiled a list of the most effective ways to enhance the sound quality in your vehicle. Read on.
Tip #1: Replace your car's speakers
Replacing your factory installed speakers is one of the most-effective ways to experience a big difference in terms of sound quality. Most factory-installed speakers aren't anything to write home about. They leave a lot to be desired.
By installing a solid pair of aftermarket speakers, you'll hear tighter bass and more overall clarity, and you'll most likely notice details that have always been part of your favourite tracks but have remained hidden behind your factory speakers.
So, before thinking about adding an amplifier, or a subwoofer, or whatever is in your mind, start off by replacing your speakers. Dollar for dollar, upgrading your speakers is a terrific first step on the road to better sound.
So, if you're a newbie, the first thing to do is to read our unrivalled car speakers buying guide in which we explained in details all the relevant specifications and guidelines of how to choose the best car speakers.
Tip #2: Use a sound deadening material
Sound deadening materials such as Dynamat cut down significantly vibration and road noise, which results in a quieter listening experience in your car.
Dynamat is one of the best sound deadening materials on the market. It does two things to make your system sound better.
First off, have you ever seen or heard of a speaker mounted in a sheet metal enclosure? Absolutely not. Metal isn't by any means acoustically sound, and it's the worst material to make a speaker enclosure with.
Yet, that’s exactly what’s inside most vehicles, and that’s exactly how most car speakers are mounted. In a tin can. That's the reason why when you apply Dynamat to your car door panels, it deadens the vibrations and creates a more acoustically friendly environment for your car audio speakers.
Second, have you ever noticed that your car audio system sounds way better when your car is parked than when you're driving at 60 mpg? Well, that's because road noise is compromising the sound quality in the cabin.
By using Dynamat or any other quality sound deadening materials, you can reduce the interior noise levels to a reasonable level, keeping unwanted, extraneous noise out of the cabin. This translates to quieter listening experience in your car. This way, you'll hear more musical detail and you won't have to crank up the volume when you're on the highway.
Tip #3: Add an amplifier
Every factory or aftermarket headunit is equipped with a built-in amplifier. However, these built-in amps aren’t much to write home about for the most part.
While the power output of these built-in amps is relatively enough for factory-installed speakers, as well as most cheaply-built aftermarket speakers, brand-name car speakers, particularly component speakers tend to require more power than what these head units can put out. In such situation, a separate amplifier is a necessity.
A separate amplifier will provide more clean, enough power than any car stereo, and that'll make a night-and-day difference in sound quality.
So, if you're looking for a car amplifier the first thing to do is to read our unrivalled, a one-stop-shop, all-inclusive car amplifiers buying guide in which we detailed all the relevant specifications and guidelines of how to choose the best car amplifier.
Tip #4: Add a subwoofer
A subwoofer is an essential component of any custom car audio system, especially if you're an audiophile. A sub's main role is to fill in the deep, rich bass that's missing from most car speakers. A subwoofer will also take a huge load off your full-range speakers.
Despite their major role in balancing the sound output, subwoofers are one of those products that consumers tend to hesitate on purchasing. Some people aren't easily convinced because they've already heard and seen a pounding, vibrating car at a traffic light.
So a subwoofer is a big no for them. That's 100% wrong. Why? Simply because subwoofers aren't just about the boom — you can adjust any kind of subwoofer to fit your musical tastes and your vehicle.
And once you experience driving with a subwoofer, youll never go back to living without one. Or two. Belive me, I have been there and i've done that.
Looking for the best car subwoofer on the market? Check out our detailed guide on how to choose the best subwoofer for you car.
Tip #5: Build a better sub box. Or buy a pre-built one
Building your own subwoofer box isn't that hard. It's a great way to get the look and fit you want, without spending a fortune. All you need is a few basic tools and materials.
If you're building a sealed subwoofer box, make sure it's well-sealed against air leaks. Air leaks can really compromise your sub's performance.
If you're building a ported subwoofer, make sure you subwoofer is suitable for that kind of boxes. Mounting a subwoofer in box it's not meant to bo mounted in can damage the woofer. So, when choosing a subwoofer, carefully note the manufacturer's recommended enclosure type and size.
Also, I can't stress enough how important it is to build a box with the correct dimensions and interior volume for the sub you've picked out. A mismatch can result in poor performance or damage.
If you want to save yourself from the hassle of building a subwoofer for your box, you can buy a pre-built enclosure that'll work with your subwoofer.
Advanced Tips for Improving Your Sound System
Tip #6: Use as little compression as possible for your music files
Yes, even the most highly compressed MP3 file will sound just fine when you're listening through your headphones. Play it through your car stereo system and you'll notice the difference.
You lose some high- and low-frequency information details - high pitch sounds become distorted and low pitch sounds become muffled and muted - when your MP3 file is saved at a very low bit rate. And, on a good car audio system, you can really tell that something's missing.
Having said that, don't settle for the default setting when creating your files. If you want to play your tracks saved on your iPod, smartphone, or MP3 player in your car, try using as little compression as possible. To put it simply, the higher the bit rate, the better your music will sound through your car's system.
Tip #7: Use an audio capacitor if you're going to push your subs hard
If you have a powerful amplifier that's feeding a wattage-hungry subwoofer, you might experience some issues such as dimming lights when the subwoofer is playing loud bass notes. This is an obvious sign sign that your amp is struggling with voltage fluctuations.
To remedy this problem, you can use a capacitor, which acts as a buffer between your amps and your car's battery. What the capacitor does is it stores up power from your battery, then releases it to satisfy your amp's big demand for the power required to reproduce a big bass hit.
So, if you've been experiencing flickering headlights or big drop-off in performance after running your subs for a few minutes, then you should consider a car audio capacitor.
Tip #8: Set your amp gains properly
Most people think that the gain control on their amplifier is for volume level. So, most of them turn it all the way up, which results in distortion. In fact, the gain control adjusts the amount of the input signal coming into the amplifier. So, no wonder why distortion kicks in when you crank it up too high.
In order to properly set your amp gain, start off by turning your receiver's volume control roughly 3/4 of the way up to maximum volume, then turn up your amp gain until you hear a bit of distortion. Back it off a little, and you're all set.
If you're amp is new, check out the user manual and read manufacturer suggestions for the best way to set the gain on your new amplifier.
Tip #9: Add a signal processor or an equalizer
If you don't want to listen to nothing but crystal clear music, then an equalizer is for you. What the equalizer does is that it let's you tune and adjust the sound of your car's audio system by giving you tone adjustment not covered by standard treble, midrange, and bass controls. Sure, some aftermarket head units are fitted with treble, midrange, and bass controls, but these controls are nowhere close to what an outboard sound equalizer is capable of.
An outboard equalizer gives you multiple points for adjusting frequency response, so you can set your stereo system to match your musical taste. A parametric equalizer also allows you to vary the centerpoint and width of each EQ band, so you can really zero in on a problem area.
Sound signal processors also help you eliminate frequency response peaks and increase bass response. Some car audio equalizers manufacturers went a step further and include a microphone in their devices for analyzing your car's acoustics.
Tip #10: Invest in high-quality cables for your amplifiers
It's highly recommended that you invest in quality cables to get power to your amplifiers. Going for cheap or undersized power cables will make your amplifier starve for more power during peak demands. A good power cable allows current to flow freely so your amp gets the juice it needs.