woman with headphones

Sonic Blast: World’s Best Car Audio Systems

How To Test A Car Stereo For Yourself

– Make a playlist of your favorite songs on your iPod/MP3 and bring it and the USB cable you use to connect to your computer (just in case the car doesn’t have one – and if you use it don’t forget to take it home with you!) and/or

– Burn a CD of some of your favorite songs

– Don’t spend much (if any) time listening to the manufacturer’s reference CD for the system. They’ve created this CD to make their system sound good. What you need to know is how does their system make your music sound?

– Ask the salesperson to show you how to set the car stereo system’s tone controls (i.e. treble, middle, bass) to the “flat” setting so that you’re not listening to the system with someone else’s tonal preferences selected.

– Do the same with any surround sound, or DTS-type settings. Ask the salesperson to show you how to turn them off.

– Ask the salesperson to walk you through the system a bit. Do the different menus and switches seem intuitive to you? Do they make sense? If not, don’t be afraid to ask specific questions like how to select between a CD and an iPod, or whether it has an onboard hard drive for music and media. If they don’t know the answer, ask them if they could find out for you before you leave the dealership.

– Listen. Listen. Listen. Do you like the way your favorite songs sound? Do they sound as good as you remember them sounding in your current car? Hopefully, if it’s a newer system, they will sound even better. Turn it up to your normal listening level and make sure that the system sounds full and to your taste. If it doesn’t, adjust the treble, middle and bass, in small amounts, until it sounds better to you.

– Keep in mind that boosting frequencies is not always the answer. Many times I’ll sit down in a friend’s car and find that all the frequencies are boosted way up. This doesn’t really achieve anything. If you want more treble, try taking the bass down a bit first and see what that does. Then turn the bass back to “flat” and bring the treble up a bit. You can hear the subtle differences that way, and at the same time “teach” your ears a bit as well.

– Now that you’ve heard the system relatively “flat” you can ask the salesperson to help you turn on any surround sound or DTS-type features and see if you like what that adds to the sound.

What Is Treble, Middle, And Bass, Anyway?

Good question. The easiest way to think of it is in terms of orchestral stringed instruments – the treble is the high notes and frequencies, like a violin. The middle is, well, the middle notes and frequencies, like a viola (upper mids) and cello (lower mids). The bass is the lowest notes and frequencies, like an upright bass.

Is Bigger Better?

Cars with more interior space will likely sound better than a smaller car with the exact same sound system. The main reason for this is that the lower frequencies produce bigger soundwaves, which actually take more space to form and become audible. The lower frequencies are made by the the bass and middle note instruments.

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One Response to “Sonic Blast: World’s Best Car Audio Systems”

  1. FAA says:

    Thanks for the tip! I am picking up my Continental Flying Spur Speed With the Naim system and was wondering about settings; as knowledgeable as the salesman was about the car, I’m not sure he’d be much help setting up the audio system!

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