When you’re putting together a system, the three most important components are going to be your signal source, speakers (including subwoofers), and power source. These three elements work together to determine what your system ultimately sounds like.
The Signal Source
An in-dash player is the heart (or brain) of your sound system-it plays your music and sends signals out to the speakers.
What to look for
Music formats: Most units sold these days play regular CDs, and many will play MP3s that you’ve burned yourself. Others are satellite radio-ready or have CD changer controls. Think about how you listen to music and get the one that’s right for you.
Dedicated amplifier preamp outputs: These plugs on the back of the player send your music directly to an amplifier. If you plan on adding a subwoofer you’ll need at least one set of preamp outs, more if you plan on adding multiple amps. Look for 4V or higher outputs-they’ll send a cleaner, more powerful signal to your amp.
Subwoofer fader: This dedicated fader lets you control the volume of your subwoofer( s) directly from the in-dash player in case you need to take it down (or turn it up) a notch.
Movies and navigation: Some in-dash players let you watch your favorite DVDs, perfect for family vacations. You can even get a unit with built-in GPS navigation, so you never have to stop for directions again.
Accessory inputs: Do you love your iPod ® or MyFi( TM)? Many units have special inputs for portable devices, so you can enjoy your digital music and satellite radio on the road.
Speakers take the signal from your in-dash player and turn it into sound.
What to look for
Full-range speakers: These speakers reproduce the full range of sound. Upgrading your flimsy factory speakers to new three-way aftermarket models will improve your sound dramatically, making your music clearer and giving you more bass response. Most cars have four two-way speakers-two in the front and two in the rear. Use our fit guide to see what works for you.
Subwoofers: These large speakers are dedicated to reproducing bass frequencies. Normal full-range speakers aren’t capable of reproducing the lowest bass notes. Adding a subwoofer or two will really improve bass performance, making all of your music sound deeper and more alive. You’ll hear your music the way it was meant to be heard (and felt).
Subwoofer box: Most subwoofers need to be housed in some type of enclosure to make them sound their best. The size and style of the enclosure will depend on the type and size of the subwoofers you purchase, the amount of space available and the amount of bass you’re looking for.
Speakers and subs come in many sizes and varieties. To find out what’s best for you car, check out our articles on speakers and subs, or visit your local Circuit City store.
The Power Source
An amplifier takes the signal from your in-dash player and makes it bigger and more powerful, then sends it to your speakers. Adding an amp (or two) will not only make your system louder, but will also make everything sound better at low volumes.
What to look for
Multi-amp system: Some people only use an amplifier to power a subwoofer, letting the full-range speakers run directly off the in-dash player’s internal power. This can sound fine, but for the best sound possible, opt for separate amps for all of your speakers. One four-channel amp or a pair of two-channel amps will keep highs and mids clear and detailed.
Power: It takes a lot of power to reproduce low bass frequencies, which most in-dash players are incapable of supplying. By giving your subwoofers clean, dedicated power, they won’t have to work as hard to reproduce these frequencies. Get the most powerful amp you can afford for your subwoofer-there’s nothing worse than mushy bass caused by a lack of power.
Built-in crossover: A crossover helps to ensure that your sub( s) don’t try to reproduce anything but bass frequencies by filtering out mids and highs. A crossover can also help filter out bass frequencies if you decide on a multi-amp system.
It’s time to put your system together, but before you get started, make sure you have all the proper accessories. Here are a few of the things you may need to get everything hooked up:
Wiring harness: You’ll need to purchase a wiring harness to connect your new in-dash player to your car’s existing wiring. Harnesses are inexpensive and easy to connect, saving you a lot of hassle.
Installation kit: Your factory player was designed specifically to fit your car’s dashboard. An installation kit gives you all the hardware you need to give your new in-dash player a seamless factory look.
Amplifier audio cables: You’ll need a separate cable for each amp you’re connecting to your in-dash player. They’re easy to hook up-one end connects to the preamp outputs on the back of your player, and the other end connects to the amp. Visit lsvc for more realated articles.