Published on November 1st, 2018 | by Alan Cross


Guest post: A beginner’s guide to car audio systems

Once upon a time, the factory audio systems that came with new vehicles were utter rubbish. The first stop after driving the car off the lot was the local car audio store whereupon all the original components (especially the head unit and the speakers) and replaced with proper after-market electronics, better speakers (not to mention additional speakers in the door panels and a subwoofer), and an extra amp or two. Then and only then would you experience proper sound on the road.

That’s all changed, of course. Manufacturers realized that they needed to up their game when it came to factory audio, especially after new features–satellite radio, GPS, etc.–became more deeply integrated into the car’s electronic nervous system. Factory systems are now better than ever before. Mostly.

Some people are still unsatisfied with their car audio system–or at least kind of confused. Lauren Bricks from Street Fighter Motorsports would like to offer some advice.

Beginner’s Guide To Car Audio Systems

Look at any brand new regular production car being sold today, and it will have onboard computing, safety cameras, and all kinds of hi-tech stuff that seem to justify their prices.

However, when you play some music, you will likely be disappointed because car manufacturers seem to be no longer putting a premium on car audio. In fact, with the sound quality their built-in systems produce, you will get the feeling that carmakers are actively neglecting it to force you to do your own upgrades.

Fortunately, upgrading your car audio system isn’t that complicated. Here are some car audio basics that can help you get that sound quality you’ve always wanted.

Upgrading speakers

You can have the most excellent car audio system and still end up with poor sound quality because your speakers are awful, and probably made with foam and paper.

If you had to upgrade your speakers, make sure they are constructed better. Great speakers are often made of cloth and foam, or with rubber, metal, silk, and other synthetic materials. With excellent construction, your speakers will have robust bass notes, clear sound in high-frequency ranges, and a distinctive lack of distortion.

Get a good amplifier

Awesome speakers, however, are good for nothing if your amp isn’t up to par. While a speaker upgrade will always boost car audio quality, you can’t have the best sound without an equally good amplifier capable of outputting to multiple, distinct speaker channels. Output to tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers are crucial to the production of excellent sound, and sophisticated amp can do that and more. If you are to get a new amplifier then you will need to source one of the great affordable car amp wiring kits that are available online.


Admittedly, car audio systems can do away with subwoofers and still sound good. However, if you want the best possible sound quality from your car audio system, then you have got to install a subwoofer.

With a subwoofer, you can achieve deep, powerful bass without having to pump up the volume. With an excellent amplifier hooked up to a dedicated subwoofer, you will have a car audio system that is balanced and with low distortion at that.

Doing these upgrades requires some technical knowledge, so if you know enough about assembling an excellent car audio system, then go ahead and do it. You can do it one at a time, or you can do them all at once. However, we recommend the latter, since it gives you an opportunity to make sure the quality and outputs of your amplifier match with the quality of your speakers and subwoofer.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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