Top Car Audio Upgrade Tips

Even though summer is winding down, there is plenty of time for a last minute road trip or two. Whether it is a trip to a relative’s home or out to the family cabin, you can not attempt any trip without the right playlist. Even if you have the best playlist in the world, if your car stereo is subpar, it is a waste of time playing it.image-2

Unless you want to spend hours listening to your friends belt out their favorite songs in the wrong key, you need to find the best car audio upgrades possible(if for no other reason than to drown out their caterwauling!). Finding the best car audio upgrades can be confusing. We thought we would put together a list of the car stereo upgrades that would help make your next road trip a memorable one even before you arrive at your destination.

Have A Plan

Unbelievably, some guys just start buying components, then realize their trunk space is too small for the subwoofers, fifteens, and amps they just spent L1300 buying. Every great sounding car stereo system starts with a plan. That plan must include:

What you want:  a stereo that is crisp and clean, but can be heard for three blocks.

What you have: this is your type of car.

What you will sacrifice: are you willing to give up all of the room in your boot; will you take out the back seat, etc.

Money: how much can you spend. This key. A simple system will most likely include a head unit, component speakers, a new head unit, wiring, subwoofers, and an amplifier. Those components will cost an easy L1300. Buy the best car subwoofer available and a custom enclosure for the speakers and subs, then you can be looking at L2000.image

Aux-In Cable

How can a simple cable improve your car stereo? Most factory stereos have a 3mm(1/8 in) auxiliary-in port. This allows you to play music through your stereo from nearly any standard source: iPhone, iPod, MP3 player, etc. For one thing, this simple cable will allow you to keep fewer CDs in your car. Less clutter is always great. It also allows your friends to bring music of their own on any device they have, so you get a greater variety of music. If your car does not have an aux-in port, you can still play music from other devices through your car stereo if you have an FM transmitter.

Upgraded Your Stereo

On the off chance that your factory stereo is of poor quality, you will want to upgrade your CD head unit immediately. There are literally hundreds of aftermarket stereos available and the cost differential is amazing. Who wants to pay L650 for an in-dash player? On the other hand, you do not want to cheap out and be disappointed. One of the best head units available is the Sony MEX. It offers front and rear speaker pre-amp outputs, 220 max watts of output, subwoofer pre-amp outputs, high pass and low pass filters, and integrates with just about everything…internet radio, satellite radio, MP3, etc. Even with all of those options, the Sony MEX is priced at L151. If that is more than you are interested in paying, you can step down to a Clarion CZ 702 at L87, but you will lose some max power output and will have fewer equalizer options.

As part of shopping for a new head unit, you will want to make sure that all of the components that plug into it will work together. For example, signal processing units(crossovers, equalizers, etc) have two specifications: input voltage and output voltage. The input of any signal processor must be able to handle the output voltage of the head unit or you will have overload issues. Let’s say your head unit output is pushing 4 volts but the processor can only take 2 volts, you are going to have trouble.

Best Car Subwoofer For Your Needs

Inexperienced car audio builders often get caught up in size issues. They think the bigger a subwoofer is, the better the sound will be. That leads them to forget simple geometry. Do you have enough airspace in the trunk of your car to handle an enclosure and all of the other components you will have to store back there? One of the simplest solutions is an all-in-one unit like BAZOOKA’s BTA10200. This unit includes two 10-inch subs, a 200-Watt MOSFET amplifier, and an adjustable crossover in one compact tube for about L200. 

Energy Efficient Amp

All of your car stereo components will drain your battery. Your amp is the biggest drain of them all, often pulling enough power to kill a battery in just a few minutes of play. Unless you want to constantly have your car running to charge the battery, you will want to look for the most energy efficient amp possible. One of the best is the Alpine MRP-F300. It is about 80 percent more energy efficient than the majority of Class A and Class B amplifiers commonly available and only costs about L150.

Less Compression


Alright, you have a great system in place, but the music still sounds like crap. Granted, it could be because you are listening to Wham or Culture Club, but it is usually because your files are too compressed. Highly compressed files lose some of the high and low frequencies. That is alright when you are listening through earbuds, but with a high quality system, your music will sound horrible. Select the highest bit rate possible when saving music to an iPod, smartphone, or MP3 player to keep the crispest sound possible when you replay the tunes in your car.

In order to get the best car audio upgrade possible, you may want to go pro. Stop in the nearest audio shop, at least for advice before you start building. The installation team there should be able to direct you to the best units for the space you have in your car and make recommendations on sound dampening materials to install so your system doesn’t sound like it is playing in a tin can when you hit the bass hard.