In a world where new cars are often marketed with speaker brands that seem like a foreign language and contain confusing technical terms like watts, amps, and volts, it can be downright frustrating to get a grip on that whole audio thing. Well thankfully, the record has been set straight for once and for all. Without further ado, here are the top most important things to know about car audio, including parts needed, the best brands to buy and the best places to shop in order to safely get the car audio experience that you desire.
Key Elements For a Good Car Stereo
- Head Units - A head unit is the car stereo equivalent of a home “receiver”: the thing that you hook up all of your speaker wires to. This is the brains of the entire operation, and it takes in the battery power (amps) at a specific voltage (car batteries are 12 volts) in order to send power to the speakers and amplifier. If you have a factory car from the dealership then your head unit is already built into the dashboard, but there are after-market head units which are much more powerful and better for keeping high quality audio going. It all depends on the make and model of your car (mostly, how expensive your car is). The better the car, the better head unit that is already installed in most cases. Many after-market head units are 7" to 8" touchscreen LCD's and are really crisp looking.
- Amplifiers - Head units sometimes aren’t powerful enough alone to clearly produce loud speakers without distortion and without straining the sound quality. For people who love blasting their favorite tunes and jamming out in traffic or otherwise, then a good head unit is a must. Amplifiers increase the watts coming out of your speakers, and if you use a subwoofer then a standard head unit is definitely not powerful enough. If you really blast your music loud then you might also consider a separate amplifier just for your speakers.
- Subwoofers - Like a symphony orchestra that has a tuba, a bass drum and a cello, car subwoofers are a critical part of the entire car speakers package because complete the spectrum of sound from low pitch to high pitch. They work by sending electricity to magnets which have enough force to move the speaker cones at a heavy enough force to create the low sounds! Subwoofers require their own an amplifier to connect straight to the battery instead of using a head unit like the speakers do, because they draw so much power.
- Fuses - Whether or not you get a second battery for your audio system alone, which is recommended, you definitely need a fuse connected between the positive battery terminal and the amplifier in order to not damage your electronic components. They cost under $20 and are a lifesaver in terms of car audio!
Best Car Audio Manufacturers
If you go to Walmart to the audio section then you are likely to find inexpensive, Made in China brands like Kicker. Nothing against Kicker because they work fine and their subwoofers are not bad for the price, but when we’re talking about premium high fidelity Dolby-like surround sound audio that is engineered to make you feel like you’re in the same room as the music that’s being performed then we’re really talking about European, Japanese and American crafted parts. Some of these nicer brands include:
- JL Audio
- Polk Audio
Any of those are great brands. Surprisingly, some of the more common household names like Bose are actually better at producing home and headphones yet not as good for car audio as the ones just mentioned.
Best Online Retailers
Crutchfield.com is one of the biggest names in online car audio. They’re a trusted group that has been around since 1974, so they should be the first place that you go to find any car audio needs. Likewise, Sonic Electronix is the next retailer to keep in mind. After that, Woofersetc.com and CarAudioGiants are good options, too. There’s more options like BestBuy, Amazon and more but if you want to deal with trusted professionals who have been in the industry for a long time and can even give advice on what to buy, then Crutchfield is really the way to go. Having a professional car audio system communicates to your passengers that you’re a serious audiophile who values the sanctity of good quality music. Don’t be afraid to spend some time looking around for some decent deals from the best brands because, after all, there are a lot of choices out there!