There are many factors to consider when constructing the perfect aftermarket audio system for you car, the process can seem overwhelming and frustrating at times. Chances are if you are even considering a project, you treat your car like a member of the family so she deserves only the best treatment. And believe me the staff at Sonic Electronix agrees that’s how all cars should be treated. But constructing such a project will cost a lot of money and even more importantly, requires technical skills and product knowledge to successfully execute your vision.
Let Sonic Electronix shine light onto what is needed for each component to be successfully upgraded. From installation tips and product tips this article will bring you insider information to maximize your car’s audio. And often people overlook the importance of the amplifier and head unit, but let me be the first to advise you to never cheap out on such integral components of your aftermarket system.
Let’s begin with the head unit. Typically a stock head unit does not come with pre-amp outputs denying you the capability of using an external amplifier to power your subwoofer. In addition this stock head unit is going to bare only the minimum features and aesthetically speaking it will not match the beauty of your aftermarket subs and speakers. Think of your head unit as the control panel, it plays a vital role in sound processing so a cheaper head unit will obstruct your overall sound quality. If you are investing in an aftermarket sound system, don’t overlook the importance of your head unit.
Shop Head Units!
Next we have the amplifier, another non-audio producing component, but this is the power source of your speakers. Both stock and aftermarket head units come with a built in amplifier, but they only have about 50w per channel. Ultimately this is not enough juice for your system and the worst thing you can do to a subwoofer is under power it. So any consumer of car audio must invest in a high end amplifier to ensure all components are fed the appropriate amount of power. Not only do cheap amplifiers overheat, they also hinder sound quality. A high powered amplifier boosts electrical signals, achieving higher power for your system to use. Although an amplifier comes in a bunch of different configurations, this only adds to the infinite possibilities you can achieve.
Depending on your audio needs, there are different speaker types to fulfill your craziest audio desires. First establish mounting location, depth, size and other requirements that will specify what speakers your audio system is capable of housing. For the biggest audiophiles it is recommend you chose component speakers, because the mid driver is separate from the tweeter. Your tweeter will hit the higher frequencies while the mid-driver will produce the low frequencies contributing to overall sound balance. Ultimately space conscious individuals can rely on coaxial speakers, because the tweeter is mounted atop the mid-driver saving space and money. Ensure the speakers you choose match the power handling of the power source (amplifier or head unit).
Without a doubt your favorite, my favorite, Sonic Electronix favorite, every audiophiles favorite part of an aftermarket sound system is the subwoofer. This component produces the bang between 20-200hz. And nothing is more satisfying than bass so fat your entire car shakes. Your subwoofers are going to require power from your amplifier and an enclosure to house and protect your unit. Don’t overlook the importance of an enclosure, it also helps produce a fuller sound. If you are into bass (which I know you are) get a ported enclosure box and you subwoofer will sound even better. Subwoofer sizes typically range from 8-15 inches, and for those crazy bassheads, the sizes get even bigger. No matter your needs are, there is an aftermarket subwoofer out there to fulfill your audio dreams.
Last but certainly not least, the installation plays a critical role in properly executing your aftermarket system. Consider this DIY project reserved for only the most experienced individuals. And even the professionals run into complications. They use each other as a resource as well as the internet and you should do the same. To put it simply every installation comes with different specifications and in turn produces different problems. Ultimately if you have even a little doubt in your abilities consult the professionals and let them stress over the details. After spending all that money on different products, there is no reason to cheap out now, consult a professional and reap the benefits!
However, if you are going to pursue the installation yourself it is encouraged you first map out the entire process. Every single step and material needed should be apart of this plan. Once you have all tools, accessories, wiring harnesses, wires, bolts, screws, etc. you can only then begin. Some of the most frequently asked questions are what is the best way to run wire through my firewall and how to properly ground an amplifier?
A quick tip to run wiring through your firewall is to look for factory grommets first before you make one yourself. More times than not you will find a location from the factory you can utilize. Once located ensure the thickness will allow the wiring to run through. For the next question there are many resources online to educate you on how to properly ground your amp (click here for our Youtube video). Essentially once you find a good location for your amp, lay out the wiring to ensure the length is accurate. Now it’s time to find a ground for your amplifier. Any location within eighteen inches of your amplifier will due where there is bare metal stripped of all paint and residue. Your objective is to ground to the main chassis of the frame.
This final section is dedicated to determining what your personal preferences are so you can get the most out of your aftermarket project. An experienced basshead has different standards set forth than a beginner looking to get their first subwoofer installed:
How Loud is your Vehicle?
For those of you looking for quality sound, it is only logical to first assess how loud your engine is and how much external noise you can hear within the car’s cabin. Typically the best way to reduce on excess noise is with sound damping materials. This provides a layer of a substance to trap in sound waves preventing it from shaking your car’s steel casing while reducing external noise produced from the engine, wind, tires etc. Any outside noise will dissipate when sound damping material is installed.
Are you Looking Solely for Bass?
If so, you should focus the bulk of your investment on subwoofers and amplifiers. Although speakers play a role in sound clarity, those of you looking for dominate bass will be best served focusing your attention on the woofer and the its’ power source (amp). Always base which subwoofer you purchase off of RMS power rather than peak. Also a ported enclosure will add more boom to your bass, without having to add an equalizer or processor saving you money. This ported enclosure drives sound from the back of the cone to the front projecting louder bass. Lastly this ported enclosure helps the subwoofer remain cooler because there is constant air flow, increasing the lifespan of your woofer.
What type of Music are you Listening to?
That’s right your music preference will directly affect the focus of your aftermarket project. Different music genres seek to stress different musical notes. For instance if you exclusively listen to Classic Rock, you should not prioritize bass on the top of your list. An 8 or 10 inch subwoofer would definitely suffice, but you should invest in a hefty set of component speakers to be placed in the front of your car to balance your sound. However, if you are like me and love heavy bass, focus your time on the subwoofers. Typically a bigger sub allows for a bigger cone to displace more air contributing to lower frequencies. If you’re listening to Rap or House music and everything in between don’t shy away from a dominating set of subwoofers.
What is your Budget?
If you have been saving up for years and price is no obstacle, don’t worry do your research, buy quality products, and hire a professional to install your system. However if you are looking to save every penny and nickel you can, here are a few tricks you can use. For starters coaxial speakers are available at a lower price than component speakers. In addition you might be better suited with one powerful 12 inch subwoofer over two 8 inch subs.
It is recommended you never cheap out on amplifier because this is your power source and can distort sound quality. Lastly your head unit makes for an easy installation. If you want to save money, don’t hire a professional for this component do it yourself. It’ll take anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on your craftiness. Ensure you have your wiring harness, outer face, mounting bracket and all of your tools before you begin the install.