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How Do Car Audio Systems Work Exactly?

Do you find your car audio unclear and messy? Is it lacking punch and power, or failing to deliver enough bass. If so, then an audio system upgrade is on the horizon, and luckily it does not have to cost a small fortune to complete.

Before you begin looking at speaker systems, it helps to know the bigger picture. Read on to find out our helpful guide on car audio systems for beginners.

Car Audio for Beginners

In 1930, Motorola introduced the first commercial car radio system, the 5T71. Since then, car audio and radio systems have become a science of their own. They often employ special speaker shapes and parts to gain the best audio clarity in the confines of a vehicle cabin.

Today, audio systems have become highly advanced. New models often have infotainment systems that use touch screens. Streaming music can be linked to systems via Wi-Fi, and they can often employ a host of other music storage options such as USB.

How Do I Know When My Car Audio Needs Upgrading?

There are a number of ways to test an audio system, check its quality, and if it needs upgrading. Unfortunately, many car manufacturers tend to neglect the audio system, even in premium brand cars and upgraded trims. Therefore, it can often be better to seek out an aftermarket audio system.

An aftermarket audio system is one that you purchase in addition to your car. It is not supplied by the car manufacturer, but an independent company that specializes in this field.

To test your car audio system, start by sitting in the vehicle. Wind up the windows and close the doors. Turn your car audio system on to around 75% volume.

Be aware that you should never turn a car audio system up to full. This goes with any audio equipment. The sound will distort, and you risk blowing the speaker system.

The first thing you need to listen out for is the treble. These are the high pitched instruments and sounds, such as drum cymbals and electric guitars. If they lack clarity, you need an upgrade.

Nex you must check the bass. These are the low frequency, which makes the floor rumble. If you find the bass is thin or non-existent, then an upgrade to your subwoofer is needed.

Choosing New Car Audio Systems

When choosing a new car audio system, your main consideration is the budget. The sky is literally the limit with audio options, and it depends on how much you value sound quality. Once you have set a budget, you can go about deciding what you actually want to upgrade.

Do you want to add to the parts you already have, such as improving the bass or treble? Or do you want to replace the whole system?

Parts of the System

For anyone considering a partial upgrade, it helps to know the sections of the audio system and how they work. This can help you replace the parts that have an impact on the sound frequencies you are improving. They are as follows;

Head Unit

The head unit is the part that controls your car audio system. In older cars, it was the radio unit itself, that you could place cassettes or CDs into. Now, it has started to become replaced with modern touchscreen infotainment systems.

Whichever type you have, this is where the sound will come from, down the wires to your speakers. It will be here that you control the settings like volume, treble, and bass. The whole unit will be powered by the car’s battery.


An amplifier is a part that controls equalization and tone. It is already present in your head unit. However, a separate audio amplifier can boost the signals, adding more power and clarity to the overall sound.

You should really try listening to a speaker system with and without an amplifier. many people believe that if they have good speakers then the amplifier does not really matter as much. It can make a huge difference, even when working with a substandard speaker set up.


Arguably the most crucial part of the whole system is the speakers. They take the electronic signal and convert it into actual sound, projecting it into the car. As sound can be wide and varied in its frequency ranges, there are a number of different speakers to deal with various sounds.

The subwoofer is the speaker that deals with the bass. They usually come in two models, one that can be placed under the seating and one that can be placed in the trunk. Neither is better or worse, it just depends on the size or shape of the car.

The tweeter is a speaker that deals with the high-end frequencies. Without it, the audio may sound flat and muggy. Between both, the woofer and tweeter are the mid-range speakers, that deal with the other sounds.


All this extra equipment takes a lot more power. To run this from your car’s electrical supply may mean weakening the electricity supply of the car itself or could result in loss of power to the audio system. That is where the capacitor comes in.

The capacitor stores extra energy to supply your audio system as and when it is needed. This prevents it from impacting the car’s electrical flow.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

Now you understand car audio systems and are ready to upgrade, you must start with the golden rule. Bigger is not always better. Car audio systems must be sized to fit the vehicle it is in or the audio quality will be terrible no matter how much you spend.

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