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Steps to Great Car Audio Sound

It takes a lot to create a good car audio system. Here are six basic steps every car audio enthusiast should take on the path to great sound.

Making up your mind

One of the first things you need to do is decide what type of system you want. Do you want one that can reproduce your music so that it sounds like you're at a live concert? Or do you want a system that can simply blast out a bunch of bass? Maybe you want a system that can do both. By starting with a goal in mind, you can save yourself from potentially wasting money on components or wasting time on designs and installations that don't fit your overall objectives.

Doing your homework

Do your homework by researching which components fit your car (the size of the speaker and the factory-radio openings) and best accomplish what you want your system to do, what they cost, and where they're available.

Information is power, and the more information you have, the more you'll be empowered to make the best decisions on equipment and system design. Below are a few Web sites and Internet forums that can help.

Using your ears

A car audio system is a very personal thing — for your ears only. Although you may get advice from others on which components to buy, how they should be installed, and how the system should be tuned, you should be the ultimate authority on the subject. After all, you're the one spending the money on a car audio system. It's your car and they are your ears: They'll tell you what kind of sound is best.

Using your head

Are you sure you want to install a system that costs twice as much as your car? Do you really want to rip out the back seat to install subwoofers? Is it wise to fill up the trunk of the car with amplifiers so that you can't even carry a bag of groceries?

It's easy to get carried away when planning, shopping for, and installing a car audio system. Try to keep a level head when putting together your system, taking into account how you use your car, how long you plan to keep it, how much you've budgeted, and other such considerations. Too many people make poor choices and regret it afterward.

Cranking it up

When shopping for car audio equipment, don't be afraid to play music at loud volumes to get a sense of how a speaker or subwoofer performs. Most components are made to play music at loud volume and perform their best when cranked up. Same thing goes for after you get the stuff installed in your car. Don't hesitate to crank it up from time to time.

Turning it down

Of course, there's a limit to how much you want to crank it up. A little distortion is inevitable, but a lot can damage components, particularly speakers. When you hear distortion or a problem with a component, turn it down.

And when you're driving through a quiet neighborhood, turn it down. You also want to be careful not to crank it so loud that you don't hear sirens from emergency vehicles. And you don't want to play your system so loud that it damages your ears — otherwise you won't be enjoying music for years to come.

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