Before you purchase any component, plan your
system very carefully. You need to consider if you are going to buy the
whole system all at once or piece by piece, how much you want to spend and
what quality and quantity of sound you want. Are you doing a flashy or
stealth installation? Are you keeping your factory panels or are willing
to cut your car to achieve better sound? Are you doing the installation
yourself, or leave it to a professional?
The most important part of the system.
Get a good head unit from a name brand. If you skimp here, your whole
system will suffer. For people that are on a budget: Get good
quality head unit without all the bells and whistles. A flip down
face with a colorful display looks great, but it won't necessarily sound
better that a regular plain head unit. If you are planning to get
amplifiers in the future, get a head unit with RCA outputs.
The second most important part of the
system. If you are on a budget, just get a nice set of speakers up
front and don't even worry about the rear speakers, amplifiers, etc until
you have some more money later on.
Speaker installation is definitely the most
important aspect that determines how your whole system sounds. No
equalizer or processor can compensate for poorly installed
Factory locations are usually not acceptable
for audiophile quality sound. Speakers should ideally be pointing straight
at you. Speakers on each side should be as close to each other as
possible with no obstructions. Speakers should be mounted on a good baffle
(preferably an enclosure). Difference between left and right speaker
distances to your ears should be as small as possible.
The front speakers should also play as low as
possible in frequency (ideally 60Hz or less), being able to handle full
power. This is where crossovers with high slopes come in to protect
Amplifiers do not only make a system sound
louder, they make it sound BETTER. The more power you get, the cleaner
the signal going into the speakers. A common misconception is that if
a 100 watt amplifier is used on 50 watt speakers, the speakers will
burn. This is not true, as long as there is no distortion and the
speakers are properly protected with crossovers. More power is always
For systems with a lot of power, you might
also have to upgrade the car's electrical system, by getting a high output
alternator, capacitors, etc.
Subwoofers cover low frequencies in the audio
spectrum. Subwoofers need to be installed in a box designed
specifically for them. Put a subwoofer in the wrong type or size box
and it will not perform as it should and could be destroyed.
Subwoofers need a lot of power to play at
acceptable levels without distortion.
Matching subs (and speakers) to
This is a very important aspect of system
planning that is often overlooked. Amplifiers are designed to provide
maximum power at a certain impedance. An amplifier at this maximum
level will be under more stress and produce more heat, so mounting location
also becomes important. Professional installers wire subs (and
speakers) in parallel and/or series combinations to obtain a load that will
make the amplifier perform at full power.
Many people believe that they need to have an
equalizer, center channels, rear speakers, etc for better sound and
compromise by buying cheaper components. A properly designed system
will sound great without the need for all this other components.
If you have the money and are an audiophile
or into competition, then this "extra" components can become
Always keep in mind future upgrades when
buying audio gear. For example, let's say you are low on funds and
want to add two subwoofers and an amplifier. Since powerful
amplifiers are expensive, you can get a 2-channel amplifier to drive the
subwoofers at acceptable levels. Later on, when you have more money,
you can buy an identical amplifier and power each sub with an amplifier in
bridged mode for more bass. If you planned carefully, the impedance's
of your subwoofers will match the amplifiers for maximum output in the
Buying better quality components will
definitely increase system performance. Although name brands are more
expensive, they are more reliable (read: will last longer).
For people on tight budgets, it is better to
save for a better component and take longer building a better system one
component at a time.
Even though you will save money and learn
something new by doing the installation yourself, sometimes it is better to
pay a professional to do things that might be a bit over your head. An
experienced installer has many years of experience that will definitely make
a difference in your system's performance and reliability. If
something goes wrong, you can always go back and have them fix the
problem. Many manufacturers offer and extended warranty period if the
equipment is installed by an authorized