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How To Fine-Tune Your Car Audio System


1-make sure to spend the extra couple of bucks it costs for better equipment, such as wiring and accessories. I have been using Esoteric AUDIOís Streetwires for years now and I trust it a lot. Their battery terminals and such come with a lifetime guaranty not to strip and their wiring is super flexible and can withstand lots of heat. Plus the Streetwires look is just so distinguishable. Better wiring makes for longer lasting stereo systems.

2-use plenty of sound deadener if your car rattles while it rolls. I recently fiberglassed a new dash and it rattled like crazy, so I brought out the Dynamat and it killed the rattles. This stuff is handy just about anywhere: under the carpet, under the hood, under the dash, and behind any plastic panels. I would assume that it would also be good inside a subwoofer box. It would ease of the reflections inside the box and could slow down the air flow enough to make it seem like it was playing in a bigger box.

3-use polyfill (the stuff inside pillows) inside of your enclosures. Line it in your sub box, or in your other speaker locations.

4-Always use speaker baffles on door speakers. I would recommend using them in other locations as well, except for subwoofers. Even though they do make a baffle for 12" woofers!?! They protect the rear of the speaker from moisture and such, but can also provide an enclosure to a speaker which might just be mounted to a side panel and is using the entire panel as an enclosure. Even smaller speakers need enclosures.

5-follow your speaker specs for box volume.

6-keep your amps, x-overs, etc. in a well ventilated area.

7-if you play your stereo so loud it is just total distortion, stop it. No one likes it, and most people believe the only thing worse than an absurdly loud car stereo is an absurdly loud car stereo that is REALLY distorted.

8-NOW THIS ONE IS THE MAIN ONE. For this you can either do it yourself, or go to a car audio shop and pay them about $15-30 to do it.


1-to do this yourself, you need a person to help you.

2-get the other person familiar with all the controls on the eq, x-over, amp, etc.

3-if all the components are in the trunk, then have them stay back there while you sit in the driverís seat.

4-set all your controls on your receiver (tape or cd player) to flat. Flat means 0. This means treble, bass, fade, and balance. Also set all controls on the amplifier(s) and crossover(s) to flat.

5-after doing this, plug in a cd, or cassette. Do not use the FM radio for this test. The cd you choose to play should be one youíre familiar with. Maybe try listening to it in a good home audio system before listening to it in your car.

6-set your cd player at normal listening volume. If itís loud, then put it on up there. This test is useless unless you set the dial where you usually listen to your system. If you usually listen at full volume, and itís distorted, then set it at full volume and weíll fix the problem.

7-listen to the cd and remember where the volume level is at. Remember to leave all tonal controls at 0.

8-after listening to a full song, turn it off, and think about what you liked and didnít like. If you have two amplifiers (one for your sub(s) and the other for your midrange and tweeters, or etc), and you have an electronic crossover then decide what was wrong with how it sounded. Was the bass too overwhelming and distorted? If so, then go to the amplifier only and turn down the gain a little bit. If you felt like the sub was playing too high frequencies also change the crossover slope, but not the gain on the crossover. Do this and fix the bass first. When you have it out of the way, then itís easier to hear more subtler details in music.

9-Now that you have the bass out of the way. Play the same track again and double-check on how the bass line sounds. If itís OK, then proceed. If not, then donít move on until itís fixed.

10-Now that youíve listened to the track with the bass line the way it needs to be, how do your highs and midranges sound? Are they too edgy and do the midranges bottom out at high volume? Remember to always leave that volume knob in the same position.

11-After figuring out what needs to be done, go to that speakerís amplifier, and fix the gain. Also fix the crossover slope if it needs to be fixed.

12-Now listen to the same track again at the same volume level. Howís it sound? Does it need minor adjustments, but the amplifier adjustments seem to be too much? Now follow these steps

13-Change the gain at the crossover. Adjustments here will probably be very minor.

14-Now listen to that same track again. I know the song must be annoying you by now, but trust me, itís worth it. Howís the music sound? If you still hear a little distortion, but it seems like it has plenty of volume to you, then try turning down the volume just a notch or two. Now your music should sound very good at most volume levels and the distortion should be inaudible. Now if youíre a real tweaker, then there are still more things you can do.

15-use the gain controls on the cd player as a last result for sonic nirvana. These controls should be at their most versatile since the gain has been set correctly on the amps and crossovers. I.E. you have more control over your car audio system. If you have a few extra bucks, take a run by the local audio shop and have them set the gains how they think it should be after youíre done it. BE SURE TO MARK YOUR ORIGINAL SETTINGS DOWN. See how close you are to their RTA (real time analyzer) machine. If the shop doesnít have this machine, then I wouldnít waste your time with them b/c their ear is probably no better than yours. And your taste in music probably differs as well.

Hopefully this will help you in achieving peak performances out of your audio system. If you happen to have a DSP (digital signal processor) in your audio system, then you can create settings for different types of music and store it to the unitís memory. This will help ensure the best effect intended for different types of music.

Your music should sound pretty good if not great at this point.