When you are thinking about upgrading...

SilverSleeper

Senior Member
Just passing along some advice to those new to car audio.

When you are considering any upgrade for your car, a head unit, speakers, or a full blown system, you should ask yourself some questions before leaping into it.
What is the goal of your system?
Cranking bass just to impress someone down the block? Just replacing the blown factory stuff so you can listen to the radio on your way to work? A SQ (sound quality) car? A dB drag (loud bass level) car? And be honest with yourself.

What do you listen to?
Rap? (you want boomy bass) Jazz?( clear mids and tight upper bass) Classical? (sparkling highs and good low extension) Rock? (punchy but tight bass, clear and powerful but not abraisive mids)

How much are you willing to spend?
Will you put in the system all at once, or upgrade little by little? Do you want to replace one thing now, but have room to upgrade something else in the future? Quality costs money, but can your ear actually hear a difference?

When you are building a system, it goes together just like a drivetrain for a car. Putting a big turbo on a small motor isnt going to work. Just like putting a 1000watt amp on a pair of dash speakers is overkill.
I just see too many people these days looking at the pieces and not the system as a whole. They will buy the best speakers, the best amps and use crappy RCA cables, or too small of a power wire, or even keeping the factory deck. The chain is only as good as its weakest link.
If you know what you want when you start in, you wont be disappointed by your system, You wont have to keep replacing your pieces over and over again, and you wont be buying things you dont need.
I have had the same system in my car for nearly 4 years now, with the exception of the head unit which I upgraded 2 years ago, and the subs which were blown and replaced. I set my goals early on, and stuck to them. I bought everything except the head unit and subs once. I still love it!
<dennis miller> Of course, thats just my opinion...I could be wrong! ;) </dennis miller>
 

88 CuttyClassic

The Enviromental Hitman
the biggest mistake i see is people who look at total watts rather than RMS watts. For my self i found the perfect set up for my hurst, 4 JL 8" w0's @ 75 rms apiece and a Punch 600a4 that puts out 75 rms x4 , perfect match. People also don't realize that big amps with ruin the alt and battery fast. How many times do i see g-bodies with blinking headlights. I upgraded to a 94 amp alt, a 1 farad bass cap, 4 guage power wire and a 120 amp circuit breaker and i still have a very very very small flicker at high volume. I've found that circuit breakers are the best thing for do it your self system builders. i kept blowing fuses until i got a circuit breaker, now all i gotta do is reset it should i trip the breaker.
 

SilverSleeper

Senior Member
Thanks :D
I just see too many times, where someone asks what kind of amp, or what size speakers, I need a head unit whats good??
Its easy to just throw them your opinion on what they should do. Go buy this.. I have one of those...I saw so and so with this item...etc.
I started building my system in high school. I looked around at what some people did. I listened to demos, looked at reviews, tested features, compared and eventually bought what I felt would get me to where I wanted it.
I bought the head unit first. Why? I wanted to play CDs. I bought one that had pre amp outs because I knew I was going to add amps. I made sure that there were 2 sets, because I was goning to have subs and front stage on amps. I wasnt concerned about a disc changer controller because I know I wouldnt use one.
I bought front stage next. Actually I bought the q-form pods before the speakers. I put the 3.5s in the pods until I got my seperates system installed later on.
I bought an amp to power the front stage next. While powering the front, I knew that I would have to put it on the subs I was going to add until I could get another for the subs alone.
I bought the subs and built a box. The front stage went to deck power, and the front amp went on the subs.
I bought the sub amp next and put the other back to the front stage where it was intended.
When I bought the subs, I bought cheaper subs, but I knew I was going to upgrade once I could afford it. Once I wore them out, I replaced them with better quality ones.
I replaced my head unit after a few years. The head units change like computers. They come out with something better as soon as you get home from the store.
I am still happy with it. It gets a lot of good comments. Most people my age or younger concentrate on loud bass and nothing else. So, it really surprises people when they hear just how clean and well balanced the whole thing is.
So make yourself a checklist....
I want to...(?)
Play CDs, Have tight but not boomy bass, Crystal clean highs, good soundstage, ability to expand, etc..
I dont need...(?)
A disc changer, CD titles, flashy displays, high output deck power,
etc...
Then you have your list of objectives, you scout out what products fit the bill. You consult people in the know, tell them your ideas and they can help aim you in the right direction.
 
D

dconnor

Guest
Stiki-fied :)

Some good points in here to consider, esp for those not too familiar with building a QUALITY auto sound system.


Doug C.
 

Drew L

Gerry Attrick
Good point. What guidelines should those of us who know "Absolutely nothing!" ( speaking for myself) about audion systems for our cars. Thanks Drew:)
 

SilverSleeper

Senior Member
Drew...
Well, ask yourself this first... why do I want to upgrade my system?
-I need to play CDs and the factory deck is only tapes
-I blew out a speaker and just want to get it back to normal
-I heard Mr so and so down the street got a ____ I want to be just like him now cuz he's cool ;)
-I listen to my music a lot, it sounds okay except I am not hearing the bass drum or bass guitar at all.
-I want to be the guy that wakes everyone up at 2am with ear shattering bass.
-I want to hear more of my music. My home system sounds good, but my car system could be better. It lacks detail.

Each system goal has its own path and components to use. Of course if you have $$$ to blow, then none of it matters and you go out and buy the most expensive high end stuff and have Fishman Audio design you a killer system. (Just don't let them near a corvette EVER again...lol, that thing was ugly!)
:eek:

This is the first thing you have to decide. You dont want to jump into anything without figuring out what you want. The above are just examples, and there are plenty more goals than just those.

I would also buy a car audio basics book if you are considering anything more than just replacing your blown speaker. Some of those things us seasoned guys take for granted, but if you want to build your own system it will help a lot. Even if you dont install all of your own stuff, you are likely to be taken more seriously at someones shop if you know a little bit. Pick up a few car audio magazines and look through them. They are usually high-end installs,but you can get ideas from them. Also, some mags have readers rides sections, where the amateurs show off their stuff.
 

Drew L

Gerry Attrick
why do I want to upgrade my system?


SilverSleeper you are %100 correct. I did some searching AFTER asking that question. I should have searched first, but the good natured people here have always beared with me. I want to keep the stock look as much as possible so the din 1/2 is important. Just an upgrade of 16 year old technology with nothing special. A cd player is about the only thing I REALLY want that is different. Ampss in the head are new to me so that's plus which I diddn't know so with a little research and help such as SilverSleepers I have answered many questions. Thanks Drew:)
 

TurboJim

JCC Racing Member Forum Tech Advisor
Staff member
Originally posted by 88 CuttyClassic
the biggest mistake i see is people who look at total watts rather than RMS watts. For my self i found the perfect set up for my hurst, 4 JL 8" w0's @ 75 rms apiece and a Punch 600a4 that puts out 75 rms x4 , perfect match. People also don't realize that big amps with ruin the alt and battery fast.

What a lot of people ALSO dont realize is you'll damage speakers EASIER with an overdriven underpowered amp, than a cleanly driven high power amp. Clipping ruins speaker motors, overextension does as well.

Big amps shouldnt ruin anything. The battery is for engine off listening, or you might call it a capacitor in a way, only the internal resistance makes it a bad transient storage device. They just cant charge back up fast enough. An alternator I guess could self destruct trying to charge a battery thats always undercharged (music cranking) so I guess you could be right there.

Myself I have a stock BCI75 Delco Battery, 2 1f caps, and the stock 120A alternator. My system delivers just over 1000 watts RMS. Not necessarily a slouch, but not as extravagent as many of you. Now I dont go down the street bumping like these imports, but I tend to like to listen at live levels. What? oh, damn that tinitis again :) I'm yet to lose an alternator or battery becuase it couldnt keep up. Just FWIW...
 

mark b

New Member
> What a lot of people ALSO dont realize is you'll damage speakers EASIER with an overdriven underpowered amp, than a cleanly driven high power amp. Clipping ruins speaker motors, overextension does as well


Truer words were never spoken. I've actually seen the voice coil wiring melt from clipping. Cone excursion is also really bad. They go nuts over the clipped signal. As mentioned, read the RMS ratings and ignore all that other "music power rating" crap.
There are a lot of car amps on the market now advertising all kinds of high power ratings.

It's probably beyond most people, but "how" the amp makes power makes a difference too (the topology and components in the amp).

Also, many speakers need real power to really come alive. They may be rated for a certain power, but often that just "turns them on" (literally). You would not believe the demand good audio sources like CD's put on an amp. You need the reserve to meet the demand, especially if you are playing at higher volumes.
I know my 6X9 Eclipse speakers want some real RMS numbers!

That's a classic audio dealer trick - play a speaker on a high-powered amp so it sounds better. You get it home and "what???" it doesn't sound the same. When auditioning speakers, always listen at same volume and know what amp is being run on them. Better dealers have devices that equalize the volume, but again, check out the amp they are running.

It sounds like BS, but when you get into real high-end home audio, you would not believe the difference between amps and even things like cables.
 

intercooled84GN

New Member
Clairity

There is a criteria to look for in a amp or head unit and crossover.First the crossover,Look to see what db per octave the crossover is.Most junk is 12db per octave.Look for atleast 18-24db per octave.The higher the db per octave,the clearer the sound.Now amps and CD players.The crucial thing on amps and CD players is the THD% rating.For a base,lets take Alpine for instance.Their amps are rated @ .08%THD.The lower the THD,the more clarity.Precision power is rated at.02%THD.Now you see why precision power is the amp to have.Dampening factor is also something to consider.For all you bassheads out there,dampening factor is the ability to make a bass note and get back into position for another or to the neutral position.So the greater the dampening factor,the clearer the amp.For instance,Precision Power has a >500 dampening factor.Kenwood is something like>100!Distortion is when the bass note is trying to be re-created and the speaker has not got back to its neutral position from the last bass note.I hate to see someone buy a CD player or amp without checking out the specs.Its like buying a motor and trusting the guys word that it has 500 horsepower without doing a dyno test!If you want clean,clear sound,please buy clean power.
 

SilverSleeper

Senior Member
So what youre saying is, we should all ditch our gear and buy Precision Power stuff? Everything else is junk? :rolleyes:

I have to disagree with your statement about x-overs.
The db per octave is just the slope. It has little to do with how clean the sound is.
It is just how steep the slope is. Sometimes you dont want a steep slope. If your bass drivers are large, and your mid-bass or mids are relatively small, you dont want a huge gap in your sound by using a steep x-over slope. When used incorrectly, steep x-over slopes can lead to large holes in your sound reproduction.
Ideally, you would match your slope to your drivers and their frequency response, you want to have all your drivers work together to get you the sound you want. 24db is not any "better" or "clearer" than 6db. It all depends on how you use them.



PS. McIntosh amps have a .0005% THD, so what does that make P.P.? ;)
 

intercooled84GN

New Member
crossover

No,I mean that head unit first in the chain of clairity,then crossover,then amps.Yes,db per octave is crucial for clairity!Db per octave is the amount of times the crossover is able to crossover the sound coming in before sending the signal out to the amp(in leymans terms).So 12db per octave needs to be upgraded in my opinion.I love Alpine too!
 

intercooled84GN

New Member
sound quality

I think there are 3 kinds of people in this world.Some are like me and want the ultimate in sound and have a trained ear for good,smooth sound.Then there are others like my cousin.He has a sony deck,kenwood amp,no components subs and he loves it!Then there are peolpe like my mom.She dont care if its coming out of a horn as far as she is concerened!Its the same reason why some of us have 300 horsepower motors and others have 1000 horsepower motors.Different strokes for different folks,I guess.Didnt mean to offend annyone ELSE.
 

intercooled84GN

New Member
A good deal

You have 1 of your decimals wrong.It is .005%THD and we used to sell them.They are about 5 times the price of the next in line;PPI.I love Mcintosh.I will get some when I hit the lottery.You did your research,Nice amp!
 

SilverSleeper

Senior Member
So what you're saying is...
24db is better than 12db is better than 6db..???
Why dont they just make 48db, or 96db then??

The #db is the steepness of the slope of the xover.
If you looked at an example of a x-over slope, the 6db is a relatively less steep slope than a 24db.
Look, I dont know where the # of times it crosses over the sound idea came from, but its not accurate.

The crossover slope is defined in decibels per octave. The frequency response of the given slope will be attentuated 24(or 12,6,etc.) decibels by an octave below(or above) the given point of x-over.

From crutchfield's website:
"Crossover Slope:
The rate at which the crossover attenuates the blocked frequencies. Slope is expressed as decibels per octave. A 6 dB/octave crossover reduces power by 6 dB in every octave starting at the crossover point. An octave is double the crossover point when you're going higher in frequency, and 1/2 the crossover point when you're going lower in frequency. (For example, an octave above A440 is 880 Hz, an octave below is 220 Hz.) With slopes of 12 dB and higher, you'll hear little output beyond the crossover point. "
 

TurboJim

JCC Racing Member Forum Tech Advisor
Staff member
Re: crossover

Originally posted by intercooled84GN
No,I mean that head unit first in the chain of clairity,then crossover,then amps.Yes,db per octave is crucial for clairity!Db per octave is the amount of times the crossover is able to crossover the sound coming in before sending the signal out to the amp(in leymans terms).So 12db per octave needs to be upgraded in my opinion.I love Alpine too!

What the HELL are you gabbling?? db/oct is the rating of a crossover, not an amp. 12db/oct means the gain is reduced by 12db per octave in freq change, 24 mean 24db per octave change. The way it is done most commonly is thru phase change. There are more phase changes in a low slop than a high rolloff slope. The rolloff of a crossover should be sharp, but depending on your driver array, it may not even be audible. In a system such as mine, I used a 24db/octave crossover because I set my waveguides to play to 550hz. Lower than that, they would self destruct. Compression drivers dont like lower freq. At least the ones used in my horns. I since switched to a different processor and am crossing over at 600hz w/18db/oct.

I have heard systems with 12db crossovers and they sound fantastic. As witha TR, its all about the combo!
 

TurboJim

JCC Racing Member Forum Tech Advisor
Staff member
Re: Clairity

Originally posted by intercooled84GN
\players.The crucial thing on amps and CD players is the THD% rating.For a base,lets take Alpine for instance.Their amps are rated @ .08%THD.The lower the THD,the more clarity.Precision power is rated at.02%THD.Now you see why precision power is the amp to have..

Jeez, you telling me you can HEAR .008% THD? Cmon dude, in car audio, more important is output voltage. So you can run low amp gains for a low noise floor while still having the volume you want. My Kenwood is a 8V balanced pre-out.

I guess this is all my opinion, and you have a different one. I better butt out before I spit more soda out my nose....and thats a big nose!!!
 

Tommyg

New Member
stero

You guys are way out of my league here. My recently purchased 87 GN came with the stock Delco radio and 2 spares. It is ok but reception is poor on AM. I listen to a lot of talk shows during the day and it is quite annoying having all that static especially near power lines or out in the boonies. Any suggestions?
 

Jarnutt

Youngin'
Gm didnt leave us much room for upgrade with the factory stereo equipment. The head unit is an obvious upgrade for anybody, but unless you have the CS door panels woth the door provision for a speaker, your screwed. Those 3 inch speakers on the dash are garbage, any 3 inch speaker should only be considered a tweeter, they have horrible mid and mid bass. I suggest just finding a pair of the CS door panels and a descent set of 4X10's for the rear. Subs are always a plus, but hard to balance the system out with the crap speakers in the interior. Ive been an MECP certified professional installer for about 6 years working in different shops, and i can tell you, there is very little that can be done to improve the sound of our cars without extesive custom work.
 
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