Depending on your budget and personal tastes, there are
many different system configurations to suit your needs. Here's some
System 1: Basic
A lot of times less is better. Less components
means lower system cost and the ability to spend a few extra bucks on the
components that really count.
When it comes to sound quality, less speakers is
definitely better. The more speakers you have, the more harmful
interactions and cancellation of sound waves will occur.
Start with a
good set of components (two tweeters and mids) that can go down to 60 Hz
with no problem in a properly designed enclosure (i.e. custom kick panel
pods). Rear speakers are not essential in most cases.
Get a good head unit with a clean signal. If most of
your music is in CD format, it is better to spend your money in a good
single CD player than a cheaper set of tape player/CD changer
Unhappy with the front speakers sound level? Not
to worry, get a good quality amplifier. 100 watts per channel should
be plenty. Don't be too concerned about the power rating on your
speakers, unless you drive speakers with ridiculously high power
levels. As long as you have good speakers and protected by a crossover
with a steep slope (i.e. 24 dB/Octave) on the lower end, you should be
The system should sound pretty darn good by now. If not,
fix any system design/installation flaws.
Now for the last part: Bass. You need two things:
subwoofer(s) and an amplifier. For audiophile quality sound two 10"
subs will satisfy most people. The trick is a properly designed
enclosure and lots of power. 200 watts or more per sub should add
plenty of punch for the bottom end of your system.
Subwoofers need more power than speakers because they
are bigger and have to move more air. If you have limited finances, go
with a mid-end (i.e. Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood) amplifier for the front
speakers and a better high-current amplifier for the subs.
If everything is installed properly and tweaked
carefully, you will be very happy with the results.
System 2: Competition Level
Competition level systems require deeper pockets and
more components. System presentation also becomes a big
The guidelines of the previous system apply, but you
need more gear.
Head units and amplifiers need to have impeccable sound
quality and no noise (background noise or alternator noise)
whatsoever. Most people prefer to take advantage of head units capable
of high line level voltages (3 to 8 volts) for minimum background
Equalizers become a necessity to fine tune system's
response. Most competitors prefer to use a mono 30 or 31 band
equalizer per channel. Many people have multiple sets of equalizers
to quickly change the system's response from sound quality to high SPL or
If the audio system is to be played when the car is not
running for extended periods of time, extra batteries should be added to the
car. You might need to add a high power alternator if the car's
electrical system can't handle the extra loads.
All the components should be very neatly
installed. Every detail of the installation must be meticulously
executed. Wiring and connectors should be neat and clean. The
car should also be treated against rattles and road noise.
System 3: SPL
SPL systems are very different. The idea here is
to be as loud as possible, especially in the lower frequencies. For a
system to be loud, it needs three things: Lots of power, a lot of
speakers and a closed place where all that sound can be concentrated.
This costs, as you can imagine, plenty of money.
The first upgrade here is the vehicle's electrical
system. Alternators, capacitors and batteries become
Most people into SPL competition don't consider staging
and imaging as important. Multiple speakers are placed up front, wired
in series/parallel combinations to maximize amplifier power
A very important aspect of an SPL vehicle are the
subwoofers. Subs need to have a big cone area and high excursion
(Xmax) to be able to move as much air as possible. The amplifiers
moving the subs must be able to handle high current demands and to have low
SPL vehicles should also be treated to be as stiff as
possible to minimize loses. Flexing body parts take a toll on
output. Serious SPL competitors replace glass with thick Plexiglas,
and reinforce the whole inside of the vehicle with steel, concrete,
etc. To minimize air leaks many competitors use bolts to hold doors in
place, keeping door seals tightly