- Getting the music in
- iPodding on-the-cheap
- Head of the class
- Your in-car audio options
- Getting the music out
- The power behind the music
- Add it all up
- What is Dolby and why do you need it?
- Watts that?
- Tech terms you will come across
High-end audio systems include component speakers that consist of a matched tweeter, midrange and woofer set. These component pairs are available in two speaker and three speaker combinations, and include an audio crossover which limits the frequency range that each component speaker must handle. In addition a subwoofer(s) is provided for low frequency music information.
A tweeter produces high frequencies, from around 5000HZ to 22,000Hz (the latter being the upper limit of the human ear). Placement of tweeters is much more important than woofers and mid-range speakers, as high frequencies are more directional than the lower frequencies. This will affect the position and direction in which you face a tweeter to get the best results.
A mid-range speaker (sometimes known as a squawker) produces the middle frequency range, from about 300-5000Hz.
A woofer is the general term for a speaker which specialises in low-frequency sounds, typically from around 40 Hertz (Hz) up to several hundred Hz. Some modern woofers can reproduce sounds as low as 1Hz (the human ear detects a range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz). Some woofers produce frequencies up to around 1000-2000Hz and are usually called mid-woofers. These mid-woofers are usually the largest speakers in your sound system, apart from the subwoofer.
The subwoofer delivers the lowest bass notes in the music from the lowest frequencies audible, up to around 60-150Hz. They give the music its low-end "punch". In the Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the ".1" channel is dedicated solely to the subwoofer. Usually only one subwoofer is required for a system and typically, it is installed in the rear of a car (usually in the boot). Woofers, and in particular subwoofers, give you a sound you can actually feel. There is no mistaking the bone-shaking doof-doof thump of big bass woofers.
The power behind the music
A serious upgrade of your car's audio will put a drain on its electrical system, draining your car's battery faster than the alternator can charge it. If you're going to install high-power audio system components, you will need to upgrade the alternator and probably the car battery. If you want to amp your car up to power your next party, adding an extra battery (or, in extreme cases, banks of them) will let you party-on for long periods without running the engine.
Add it all up
It sounds like common sense, but whether you are going for a "kit" system from one particular manufacturer or whether you want to mix and match your head unit, amplifier, speakers and sub-woofer, along with other components, it is easy to get carried away with the looks and sounds and forget to double-check the specifications to make sure the figures all add up.
Doing your homework before forking out for your car audio components can save you a lot of hassle and help you make the sound decisions you need so you and your car can make sweet music together.