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For those seeking better audio quality in your rides, worry not, we are here to help as best as we can. We know you have busy lives and can't be bothered to do days of research and learning to figure this out. This is why we have come up with this post to help summarize what can be done, all in one blog post we kid you not. To be clear, we will just focus on basic items and not go into dsp, wiring, amps, crossovers and such. This is more for those looking to keep a basic setup for now.
Before we proceed, we need to make the assumption that your system has been installed and setup correctly and everything works fine. If you have blown speakers, faulty head units, and any other defective items, we would strongly recommend you start with fixing those first. Trying to improve audio quality with broken parts is like trying to win the marathon running backwards. Unless its a backwards running marathon you're in of course.
Having said that, a quick test that we like to do is to play with the fader and balance on the head unit just to hear how everything sounds on each channel. You can do this if your head unit has basic fader and balance controls. Just fade the speakers front/balance left, front/balance right, rear/balance left and rear/balance right. If it all sounds even, roughly speaking, then its a good starting point. If it doesn't sound even, then you may need to investigate further and rectify the issue. It could be blown speakers, faulty head unit, broken wires, bad terminals or as simple as being out of phase. In some cases you may find that left is right and right is left even. This means your installer had something on his mind when he was doing the install and you should call him and ask him how life is treating him. Then ask him to fix the issue if he doesn't breakdown in tears or goes on a rampage.
Again, its always best to rectify standing problems before chasing sound quality.
So, lets say you are happy that your system isn't faulty, great, we can move on. No, the next step isn't to go to a shop and ask for "The BEST speakers under a hundred bucks". We recommend you first find your favorite song in the best quality you can get and in the format that your head units can accept. Be it CD, MP3 file or a bluetooth stream, it doesn't matter, go get it and play it in your car. It is best if you choose a song which you hear often and in many different places. Why you ask? This is because if you like the song, you probably paid attention when its being played wherever you were and will probably be aware of the nuances of the song. You will be surprised what your subconscious picks up and stores in your memory. If you have multiple songs in different styles, then its even better as it would allow to test a larger variance of audio signals. That Euro-trash Dance Techno 250 beats per minute song qualifies too, as long as you like it.
Next, play the song as loud as you can, without it being uncomfortable or painful to your ears. Sit back, listen and enjoy the music. Ask yourself, what do you find lacking or incomplete with the sound. Is it:
The above are the typical findings when listening to a system. Let's look at each of the situation and breakdown what we can try to rectify it.
Too much/Too little bass
If your head unit has equalizer controls, you could try to boost or cut the bass frequencies (mid and bass) and see if it improves the sound.
Not clear enough/Sound is too sharp
Again, play around with the EQ controls on the higher frequencies (mid and treble) to see if you can achieve a satisfying result.
Not loud enough
If you have maxed out (without any distortions) the volume knob, but you find that audio is still too soft then perhaps a new head unit is in order.
Crackling or noise at certain parts of the song
It is likely that your speakers can't handle the signal, so perhaps a speaker upgrade is in order.
Lost of detail in some parts of the song
If you have EQ controls, then try playing around with it to see if you can bump up the certain frequencies to achieve the details.
If the above steps successfully resolves the problem with your system then great, you're done! But let's say you tried the above and still can't get it to sound quite right, then below are 3 audio upgrades to consider.
1. Head Unit upgrade
If you find that the controls on your head unit just doesn't have enough parameters to adjust, then perhaps a head unit upgrade may be ideal for you. Most head units these days have 10-13 equalizer bands and some even up to 31-band adjustment. That's plenty if you ask us. There is also digital time alignment which certainly helps with cleaning up the audio signals.
Furthermore, aftermarket head units typically have more output power, so sending cleaner and louder audio signals to your speakers will definitely help a lot.
The head unit is almost always the first thing we recommend customers to upgrade in most cases.
2. Speakers Upgrade
I say speakers cause if you're gonna change them, please change a matching set. Never have different speakers on the left and right.
If you find the sound starts to distort or gets noisy at very low volume levels, then it is very likely your speakers just can't cope. If you have factory speakers, then most entry-level aftermarket speakers would already be a lot better based on our experience. If you do not plan to have any amps, then best to stick to 35 - 55 Watts RMS as this would match most head unit outputs without issues.
3. Active Sub woofer
Ok, this is a bit of a stretch for most people but please bear with us. If you find that your system lacks bass, then this will likely help improve the situation.
Let's face it, there is only so much 6.5 inch speakers can handle. Therefore, there will always be that missing piece in your system without a sub woofer. Those low frequencies are almost impossible to achieve without sub woofers. So make your lives easier, add a sub :)
We hope you find this post useful. Do leave a comment if you like or dislike it. Don't forget to share if you think someone could benefit from this.
Till next time.