Audio FAQ by Tempe


06yellowranger

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Originally written by Tempe on the original TRS.com


1. My truck is all stock

Q: Why should I even bother upgrading my system?
A: There is no one answer. Some people just want super-loud bass to look cool. You might want a cleaner sound. Let us not forget die-hard SQ or SPL competitors that spend every free moment improving their systems. There is the middle-of-the-road audio enthusiasts that go for SQL: sound quality loud. This means having a system that can be loud throughout the entire bandwidth while still sounding very good.

I fall into that last category. Since I started out in car audio I have always desired to recreate the experience of a live musical performance in my vehicle. Let us not forget that an automobile is probably the worst place you can put an audio system. There is no room up front for large speakers. The stock locations oftentimes leave you with speakers firing at your ankles instead of your ears. The combination of odd-angled hard surfaces (which reflect sound waves) and soft seats (which absorb sound waves) make proper installation a nightmare.

Q. Should I hire a local installer, or can I do this myself?
A. I am a STRONG advocate of doing it yourself. Basic installs are really not all that hard, especially with Fords. For anyone just starting out I highly suggest you read one of the many car audio forums out there. I mean do not get me wrong. TRS is a great place to learn. However, the more sites you read the wider range of opinions/ideas you will be exposed to. I purchased all of my gear for my first install back in 1998 from Crutchfield. The prices are higher than the gray-market car audio websites or eBay, but you get full warranties, detailed installation instructions, and free technical consultation for as long as you own the products, which you purchase from them. Even if you go cheep and buy online, I suggest sending a few dollars to Crutchfield for their Mastersheets.

Some people would rather plop down some cash to have someone else do their install. Yeah I’m a jerk for saying this , but I do not believe in having someone else do your work. I mean, when you do it yourself there is a sense of pride and self-worth that comes with the task. You feel like you accomplished something. You feel like, “Hey, I installed this killer system all by myself!” Next time you want to install something else you will have the experience and confidence to again do it yourself.

Q. Will I be lucky and get that “perfect” system the first time around?
A. Most likely, NO!!! Gosh, as money has allowed, I am always upgrading or modifying something in my audio system. Once you get the audio bug you will NEVER be 100% satisfied. I mean you can install your brand new system and want something better not long after that. There will always be something better out there. Even when you buy the brand new subwoofer with 400 meters of excursion, next month there will be a new subwoofer out that has 500,000 light-years excursion at half the price that you paid for your subwoofer. You might hear your buddy’s system that sounds much cleaner than yours. This is further motivation to break out the ole checkbook for the next upgrade.

Q. Why do we install aftermarket audio systems anyway?
A. Nowadays we spend more and more time behind the wheel. Not only are our commutes getting endlessly longer each day lengthwise, added cars on the road keep making our drivers longer and longer. Compare your drive in bumper-to bumper traffic between driving with a stock stereo and one you can really enjoy.

Most stock systems are garbage, in my own opinion. They use the most cost-effective components possible. Most consumers just do not know better. Car salespeople brag about how much better the “premium” system is compared to normal stock. Hell, even those “premium” systems use garbage speakers and small amplifiers. Anyone who does some decent research into audio systems can design a system that will totally blow away a “premium” system for just about as much as the parts cost the car manufacturer. Sometimes well-known audio manufacturers badge their names on these “premium” audio systems. I did hear a system in a Cadillac not too long ago that actually sounded pretty good. I forget what brand it was sold under. However, beware of anything with the name Bose. Need I say more?

The day I revised/added to this article I sat through some nasty rush-hour traffic just outside of Baltimore. I would have most likely been confined to the loony bin had I not had my audio system! It is something that helps you escape your problems and bring happiness to your life. Yeah, your favorite band/artist would brighten your day even with a stock system. However, to the pickier audio enthusiast, that clear, lifelike sound and/or pounding bass will make or break your driving experience.

Q. I am not a basshead. I am not some punk kid. Why should I look into an audio system?
A. OK not every person with an automotive audio system is a teenage punk kid that deals hardcore drugs, murders innocent neighbors, and causes other mischief in your wonderful neighborhood. If you have any interest in car audio (oh wait, you are already in this forum!), then I guess you must be one of those people.

As I have gotten older my ways have changed. Yes I was at the stage where I liked the attention of people looking at me while I boomed down the street. I once drove down Harlem Avenue in Chicago blaring Kirk Hammet’s (Metallica) guitar solo. Yeah, the girl next to me rolled up her window. So yes I am a hypocrite for telling you not to do the same. However, I am trying to share my experiences. Now I cannot stand it when people blast their subs while in residential neighborhoods. I dislike explicit music blaring at a stoplight (especially when children are around). I love enjoying crystal-clear loud music just as much as anyone else. However, my right to enjoy that loud music ends when someone else has to put up with it or is otherwise inconvenienced.

Here is Crutchfield’s guide on building an ideal car stereo system. There is NO ideal system. What I have installed now is far from what I began with. Even though the monetary value is possibly pretty darned close, what I have and how I use it makes a whole world of difference.

I began with what I still see as a typical first system. Of course I had a head unit (link and link), front and rear coaxial speakers to replace the stock ones, a two-channel amplifier, and that powered a single subwoofer. I later switched to a larger amplifier that put out maximum power into 4 ohms bridged and two 4 ohm subwoofers. Little did I understand that I had to then wire my subwoofers down to 8 ohms mono so that I would not make my amp go into protect; it was not rated for 2 ohms mono.

So why two subwoofers? I still oftentimes read posts on audio forums where people are looking for advice on which two subwoofers to get. Of course two are louder than one, right? Yes and no. In my case the subwoofers did not properly match my amplifier. I would probably have been just as loud with one subwoofer driving the amp at 4 ohms mono instead of two subwoofers driving the amplifier at a higher impedance. Yes, I understand the topic of impedance is usually slightly more advanced topic. For now, I suggest you begin with this article on the subject.

I am now partial to single subwoofer setups. I currently have a single 15” subwoofer. In all honesty for a daily-driving setup I could honestly never need any more bass than that. As you quickly advance along on your trail to becoming a bona-fide basshead, you will learn some of the many types of enclosures out there. There are even more than that, and each one can be modified to suit a specific purpose. If you know what you are doing, you can certainly make one 10” subwoofer setup louder than, say, two 12” subwoofers. “It’s all in the install.” Let’s get going on your install!!!

2. Head Unit (HU)

Q: How do I get my stock unit out?
A: Ford stereo removal tools are recommended, you can get them at Wal-Mart or automotive stores for almost nothing. You can try to make a tool out of coat hangers but there is a chance you will ruin the clips, and the deck will become lodged in place. Insert the tools into the holes on each side of the unit. Pull them apart as you pull the head unit out of the dash. Then you need to disconnect the stock wiring harness from the unit. Finally pull the antenna plug from your old stereo.

Q: What wires do what?
A: If you have to ask this question, you should buy a wiring harness. Honestly I do not see why anyone would spend hundreds of dollars on audio equipment but not drop the $12.00 on this harness. You can find them at any audio store and almost any online place. This tutorial has links to the two different harnesses that will work in your Ranger. The one you choose will be dependant on the year of your Ranger.

Q: My HU has a factory amplifier, how do I hook it up?
A: Do not hook it up; it is a pile of crap. Buy a bypass harness from Crutchfield or a local audio shop if they carry them. It is possible to splice the wiring yourself, but again, if you have to ask this question in the first place, it is a safe bet you shouldn't be playing with the wires under your dash. On the other hand, you can simply bypass the stock speaker wires. You can run new wires directly from the aftermarket head unit to your new speakers. Honestly, that is probably the easiest way to avoid a whole weekend full of headaches. If you fall in this rut, take two of these and call me in the morning http://audioforum.termpro.com/ubb/cool.gif[/url]

Q: How do I know if I have premium sound or a regular HU?
A: Please read this tutorial.

3. Amplifiers and Wiring

[URL="http://www.bcae1.com/fuses.htm"]YOU MUST INSTALL A FUSE AT THE BATTERY!!! (Linkage)[/URL]

Q: Where do I put the amplifier?
A: You can mount it pretty much anywhere in your truck. Some people mount them under the front seats. You can mount it on the sub enclosure, although some will argue that it will damage the amplifier. Your best bet is to fabricate some sort of amp rack. This will make your installation more solid, better organized, and overall more aesthetically pleasing.

Q: What do I need to hook up an amplifier?
A: You need power wire, ground wire, a fuse holder, fuse, end connections, speaker wire, and a set of RCA cables. [URL="http://www.knukonceptz.com/"]knukonceptz.com[/URL] sells high quality wires, accessories, and full installation kits at a very reasonable price. Anything that is “better” is just a waste of your money. “Wonderful” brands like [URL="http://www.monstercable.com/"]Monster Cable[/URL] just sell you their marketing department. Your individual installation will dictate specifically what items and how much you will need.

Q: Where do I run my ground wire to?
A: Some people may recommend running a second power cable directly from your negative terminal on your battery to the negative terminal on your amplifier. Some people have success this way. Standard installation procedures call for using vehicle chassis as your return path for ground.

The ground wire should run to a point on the chassis as close to the amplifier as possible. The bolts holding down the seatbelt anchors are good locations that do not require new holes to be drilled. Just be sure that your ring terminal is in direct contact of the chassis and not just on top of the metal end of the seatbelt. For higher-powered systems you might want to consider running your ground wire directly to the vehicle’s frame. This provides possibly the most solid part to grounded to. For further information on amplifier installation, please check out [URL="http://www.bcae1.com/amplfier.htm"]this link.[/URL]

Q: What size power wire do I need?
A: The size wire needed varies depending on your amplifier's wattage. Generally a small amplifier used to run a single lower-powered subwoofer would use 8 gauge. Running multiple amplifiers or a larger amplifier running a larger subwoofer will usually require a 4 gauge main run. Finally ridiculous amplifiers powering monster subwoofers will use a 2, 1/0, or even larger gauge cable

Q. What is that nasty noise I hear when I step on the gas pedal?
A: Most of the time alternator whine is caused by ground loops. To learn more about this subject, check out [URL="http://www.bcae1.com/ground.htm"]this[/URL] and [URL="http://www.bcae1.com/glisoltr.htm"]this[/URL] piece of bathroom reading material. To resolve your alternator whine, here are some articles from both [URL="http://www.bcae1.com/audiots.htm"]BCAE[/URL] and [URL="http://www.termpro.com/articles/noise.html"]Wayne Harris.[/URL]

Q: Should I run new speaker wire?
A: Unless you are running a great deal of power or just feel the need, the stock wiring is adequate to run your speakers. Do not fall into the marketing bullshizzle that plutonium-coated gold speaker wire will make your system sound a trillion times better than anything else. Wire is wire.

4. Door Speakers

Q: What speakers will fit in my door?
A: Any size can fit if you have the time and money. As for what fits into the stock door locations with only minor drilling or trimming, most 5x7s, 6x8s, and a few 6x9s will fit in the doors for vehicles 1993 and newer. For all other years and locations, please click on this link. Component speakers will fit as well with the addition of a plate of 1/4" hardboard to hold the midbass driver.

Q:How do I remove my door panels?
A: Click here to read my tutorial if your Ranger is 1995 or newer..

Q: How do components fit in my doors?
A: You have to make an adapter plate with a hole cut to house the mid. Use a piece of 1/4" hardboard (AKA Masonite) as a foundation. Cut out the hole for the speaker first. Then attach the panel onto the metal panel so that the motor goes through the stock speaker location. Using construction adhesive will hold the panel while helping to reduce rattles between the metal and hardboard.

Q: What are some good brands to look at for 5x7s?
A Any speaker in the same price range will sound just fine. Favorites seem to be Pioneer and other similar big names. Any answer you get here will be biased. Sometimes it helps to try listening to them yourself in an audio shop. However, when was the last time you had the speakers mounted on either side of your steering wheel pointed at you? In almost every car audio installation the front speakers are mounted in the front doors (or sometimes in the dash). Those are less than ideal locations. Due to attenuation of higher frequencies at off-axis angles, your fancy new speakers will NOT sound the same way in your vehicle as they did in the showroom.

Q: Then how do I know what to buy?
A. Go to many concerts. This can be anything from a small gig at the local coffee house, the local symphony orchestra, your favorite bar band, or the local leg of a nationwide rap tour. Your best bet is to get your ear accustomed to unmiked live performances. This will let you know what the instruments should sound like. Then listen to as many systems as you can. Check out local car audio completions. Most guys will let you listen to their system if you ask nicely. However, just inviting yourself for a demo will get you a can of azz-whuppin’!!! Start off with a reference. See what speakers that person is using. Based on your experience and budget, that person might guide you in the right direction. You could post on audio forums saying something like, “Today I heard some Alpine Type-X components and really liked them. I want something in the $150 budget. What is comparable?”

Q: Because I have front and rear stock speakers, I need rear speakers too, huh?
A. In my opinion adding rear speakers to your system is the worst thing you can do. When you go to a live performance do you face your back to the performers and/or speakers? Are there ever any performers and/or speakers behind you? Of course not. Nearly every vehicle nowadays comes with rear speakers, so most people are just used to sound coming from all directions. Maybe you think the stereo will not be loud enough with just two speakers.

Ideally you want all the sound to come from in front of you. You want to set up a sound stage. Properly recorded CDs will have instruments spaced out from left, center, right, and many places in between. There is where you are setting up your staging. Next we want to set up depth. Yeah, this is going to be easy. Speakers are just a few feet from our head and usually coming from below head level. How do we get the sound come from an imaginary spot on our vehicle’s hood? Most of the time speaker placement is the most critical thing you can do.

Even though you want to minimalize the number of drivers reproducing your music, no one driver (except some crazy new creations that will play nearly flat from 65hz to 20,000hz!) can play the entire audible range on its own. In my ideal setup I would like to have my midranges and tweeters mounted in fiberglass kick panels. There is no one right way to aim them, but the unofficial starting point is to aim both at your dome light.

Q: How do I make my bass sound like it is coming from up front?
A. Midbass is the key. Regardless if you are running just a dedicated midbass, your mids for your 2-way components, or a pair of coaxial speakers, you must properly deaden and seal your door. I have not found a better tutorial on the subject than this article. Basically you need to provide a solid surface for the speaker to be mounted on. Vibrating door panels will reduce the bass output of the speakers. Furthermore, any sound leaking from inside the door that meets the sound output from the front of the cone will also reduce your midbass output. You ideally want your front speakers to play as low as possible.

5. Subwoofers

Q: Why in the world would I need bass?
A: Even if you listen to classical, jazz, or other more subtle music, there is musical information that is recorded in the lower octaves. If this information was not important, there would be no bass player in your favorite band. There would be no tuba player in your town’s symphony orchestra. There would be no huge pipes that play down to 16hz in your church’s pipe organ. I know it was mostly made to get more people to buy subwoofers, Crutchfield has a nice video that explains why investing in a subwoofer is a good idea.

As I mentioned earlier there are many types of enclosures. Most people use sealed enclosures. The second most popular is ported. I am partial to ported. Yes, there is a lot more research and planning involved in designing a ported enclosure. However, if you know what you are doing, you can build an enclosure that is much more efficient than a sealed one. Amplifiers are usually 50-80% efficient.

Depending on the class, or the way it works, your amplifier may convert as much as half of the power it consumes into heat! From there loudspeakers are ridiculously inefficient. Nearly almost all power you apply to the loudspeaker is wasted when it is simply converted into heat. There is resistance in the voice coil. Resistance in electronics causes heat buildup. When you get down to brass taxes you want your subwoofer to be as efficient as possible.

Based on how you design it, other enclosure types can be more efficient than ported. However, these are usually more susceptible to design errors, which can make your subwoofer sound awful and even damage it. This is why many people just prefer to stick with sealed enclosures. For further education on subwoofer enclosures I recommend reading the Team Toxic Bass Forum and the Decware Audio Forums.

So this was supposed to be a simple revision and addition to the TRS Audio FAQ: Condensed Edition v1. When I pasted the text into Microsoft Word I think it was just a little over two pages. As I type at this very moment I am at the top of page eight, fourth line, and single-spaced, of course.

Best of luck on your road to car audio nirvana!



I still have to update the FAQ with all the links that were in it. <-- Working on putting in the links, it'll be done soon.


Thanks again to Tempe for this Audio FAQ
 
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Bob Ayers

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Nice, thanks Jim!!!
 

RedneckRanger69

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Dude 06yellowranger is my hero man! how did u learn all of this stuff?
 

rjppunk

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Dude 06yellowranger is my hero man! how did u learn all of this stuff?
he didnt come up with that its by Tempe, my guess is he's done a lot of audio systems in lots of applications outside of just cars. I learned the little bit I know from an electrical engineer who used to be a pro installer back in the 80's and 90's. That and a few audio projects like my car and a home theater 5.1 system.
 

RangerFabWorks

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If my headunit has a single RCA woofer out, and my sub/amp has 2 RCA ins, should I get a Y cable or run the sub off of the Rear Aux out RCAs that are on the head unit?
 

bryanb

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If my headunit has a single RCA woofer out, and my sub/amp has 2 RCA ins, should I get a Y cable or run the sub off of the Rear Aux out RCAs that are on the head unit?
Sounds like the head unit is expecting a monaural subwoofer, i.e 1 speaker. I'd use a y cable, or see if your amp has a mono mode, and some special way to hook that up. Its not like bass has any stereo effects anyway, its usually just 'there'.
 

mobile madness

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If my headunit has a single RCA woofer out, and my sub/amp has 2 RCA ins, should I get a Y cable or run the sub off of the Rear Aux out RCAs that are on the head unit?
If your head unit just has one line out and your amp has two rca's just got a y splitter. Personally that line out isn't for bass. Just fork out 150 and get a head unit with designated bass line out or diff frequencys are gonna mess with the voice coils on your subs.
 


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