You might need to read the guide to car stereo components and options, if you just got into your car, turned on the stereo, and the knob is half broken, it only has a tape deck and one of four speakers is playing. Well, here you are and you want a bumping system right? One that strips the clothes right off the girls who walk up to your bumping ride to get your number. Well, then I can help.
The first and most important thing you need is the head.
Why is the head so important? The head is your stereo, tuner, CD player and DVD player. This part is important because it is going to be the most visible part of your car stereo, it feeds the audio through all your speakers and it decides what features will be available. If you have a weak head you will never get the clothes off those girls. There are many different kinds of head’s and picking the right one for your ride is as important as putting gas in your car.
What makes a good head then?
What is a good head is up to you. It really depends on your situation in terms of cash and what you need out of the head. A good head has to look and feel like it belongs in your car. An appearance that matches your style and the features you want. There are a wide variety of functions a head can perform these days, not the least of which is DVD playing capabilities. If you don’t like changing CDs you may want a head with MP3 compatibility. MP3 compatible heads allow you to burn as many as 100 songs to a CD.
Another important factor to consider is your heads wattage. If you get a low power head you are going to need an amp. If you can’t afford the amp right now you should go for a high power head. When thinking in terms of power remember that RMS is your average wattage and your peak is non sustainable. What this means is that the head can peak to say 54 watts under a short load circumstance to generate a loud noise. However, it won’t be able to sustain this. High volume on these heads will cause distortion in your music. Later you can go browse around the store and find a head that suits you. Now what about that bumping, you aren’t going to get your car hopping on a head alone. Pre amps work for a time, but they don’t have enough output to push a good subwoofer. It’s time to get an amp.
What makes a good amp?
A good amp has to be able to deliver a lot of power to your speakers and keep the original clean tone of the signal it gets from the head. Things to look for when getting an amp include RMS power,power supply regulation,tri-Mode, THD, built in crossovers, Pre-amp outputs and input sensitivity. You’re probably wonder what the heck all this is don’t worry I will be going over each, one at a time.
RMS more specifically root means square is the measurement of a fluctuating unit of power. For instance 110 is really RMS 115 the average of it’s peak and minimal power limitations.The power output of your amplifier should be roughly matched to the speakers you intend to connect to it. If you plan to use a subwoofer don’t expect to use a 50 watt amp your going to need at least 75 watts. Don’t worry too much about getting a high watt amp. Bigger is better then smaller as this is less likely to cause your brand new speakers to blow then an under powered one.
Power supply regulation
What this means is how well the power supply is regulated. If it’s poorly regulated it will over volt or under volt, possibly causing damage to your speakers or causing variable distortion levels. The best way to tell if your power supply is regulated and thus capable of keeping a steady supply of voltage to your speakers, is to check the output specs for 12V and 14.4V. If these specs are the same it’s likely you are looking at a regulated voltage amp.
Some amps can play in what is called “tri-mode”. What this means is that the amp will use 2 channels to drive a pair of speakers and the third for driving your sub woofer. This is much better if you intend to have a subwoofer and a lot of bass as without it all of your channels will play the bass channel this has the potential to blow your brand new speakers.
THD or (Total Harmonic Distortion) is a spec that shows up with the power output spec. common variations are .1% and .01% for this spec and the latter is what your looking for .1% will cause more distortion and you don’t want distortion you want music.
Built in crossovers
Crossovers allow you to change the amplified levels of each channel of your speakers so you can amplify just one or all your speakers. This can be useful when you want to use a separate amp for your subwoofer.
Some amps have pre-amp outputs which allow you to connect multiple amps together without splitting the pre-amp output from your head.
These describe how fast your amp can reach its max power.
Things to look for when purchasing speakers
Now that you know what to look for in your amp, you probably think your ready to get your system installed. Not yet, you aren’t, you still need your drivers (Speakers). These drive sound that you want to hear. With old or broken speakers you will most likely end up with distorted and crackling sound. Maybe even some nasty vibrations, you wouldn’t want your wife to start spending more time in the car then with you would you? What you need to look for in speakers is power handling, sensitivity, size, and enclosures (for subwoofers). Again, I will be going over each of these in detail below.
In order for your speaker to make a lot of noise, it needs to be able to handle a lot of power. You want to get the highest rated speakers you can. If you output more wattage then a speaker can handle it will likely tear itself apart not right away but over time. Your Head controls the actual wattage a speaker receives if you hear disturbances in your speakers turn the volume down.
This factor is important; a lower sensitivity will take more wattage from the amp to produce your bumping sounds. But a higher sensitivity will require less wattage so higher is better. As higher sensitivity allows you to use less power meaning a cheaper amp.
Bigger speakers make lower sounds like big men have low voices. Smaller speakers make smaller sounds or in this case higher pitched sounds. You need an assortment of both types to get good audio out of them. Without any tweeters your music will be all bass and it will be hard to hear female voices or that guitar solo. Just a few tweeters and subwoofers won’t sound that great either. You need some mid ranged speakers as well to catch the frequencies in the middle.
Without a solid enclosure or speaker box your woofer won’t really be a woofer at all. It’ll be a wheezer, the air behind the woofer has to become compressed in order for the woofer to work properly. If this air is allowed to escape from around the woofer it will encompass the woofer and cancel out the effect of the displaced air in front.
You might think you’re done, but we need to go over the importance of some of the accessories before you go and start getting that stereo installed. Some things to think about are RCA cables, speaker cables, power distribution blocks, and capacitors as always a description of each follows.
The need for these is really only implied if you picked a head which will use them. Some have RCA inputs in the front for portable DVD players MP3 players ipods and many other devices if you would like to use any of these you need to get some specialized RCA cables.
This is very important you will need some low gauge speaker cables. To drive a 75 watt amp or more you need at least an 8 gauge cable and your speakers should use 12 gauge cable. Lower Gauges actually means bigger cable.
You may need a stiffening capacitor depending on your battery, alternator and your amplifier. If you notice your headlights dim when the bass begins playing then get one and place it in line with your amplifier. This will create a more stable power source for the amp when it needs peak power.
Power distribution blocks
These little devices can be life savers. Many of the devices need power feeds and if you want to install multiple amps your going to need lots of power sources. Instead of using multiple wires from your battery, you can use one 8 gauge or larger power cable to feed all your devices through one of these power distribution blocks. You should use at least 10 or 12 gauge wire to feed off of the block. these basically are just aluminum blocks with Allen head screw inserts to compress your wires.
There is a lot to remember here but if you can remember all of this you will be considerably closer to mastering the art of car stereo setup. If you choose to install your stereo yourself your going to need a few things. An Allen wrench set, a screwdriver set, and a multimeter. With these tools you should be able to easily set your car stereo up.
The first thing you need to do when installing your own stereo is confirm your power leads, and speaker wires off the old head. To do this as you disconnect the leads from your old head mark each of the speaker wires with a different color tape or marker. To identify your hot wires, with the ignition off set your multimeter to 12 VDC, then touch one wire at a time with the hot lead while keeping the ground lead grounded. When you see voltage it means this is your “constant” hot. Mark this wire and repeat this process with the ignition turned on to find your “ignition wire”. This wire will only create voltage when the ignition key is in the on position. Now you have all the wiring information you need to connect a new head. Connecting your Amp requires a bit more information and planning and will depend considerably on your car and what means of running wire are available to you.