Car Audio Essay, Research Paper
An Introduction to Car Audio
Have you ever wondered what a car stereo really consists of? It?s not as simple as most people think, but it?s also not as difficult once you know a little bit of the basics. Car stereos are a passion for many, and for those who don?t understand it, this should help you understand it a little bit better. There are three main aspects of car stereos; the stereo components themselves, the installation, and competitions that people go to in order show off their cars.
Car stereos have many different parts that combine to create the whole system. They begin with the head unit. The head unit is the main piece that is the source of all the music. Head units can play CDs, tapes, or MiniDiscs. Consequently they must be made to play back digital or analog recordings (Watkinson 378). From the head unit, the signal can go to a signal processor, which divides the signal into different parts, such as highs, mids, lows, and fading, and balance. This helps keep everything separated so no wires get crossed and you know where everything goes. The signal from the processor then goes to an amplifier, or possibly multiple amplifiers. The amplifiers are used to power the speakers with more, and cleaner power than the head unit could, which makes your music sound better. Note: traditionally amplifiers are made speaker specific, thus Class A amps are made to power the main speakers with cleaner sounding power, and Class D amps power the subwoofers with more power, but it tends not to be as clean (Talbot-Smith 2.133). The next part isn?t exactly a piece of equipment, but involves the placement of the speakers, which are your most important part or your system. The setup of your system decides where to put each speaker, and what kind of speaker to place where to get the highest quality and most sound out of each speaker for each listening position in the vehicle. The installation is the process of placing all the components into your car without making it look much, or any different, or making the car look bad. For example you could crate a fiberglass box covered with vinyl to mold to a panel in the car to replace a factory panel so the new panel properly coordinates with the rest of the vehicle. Those are your basic components of a high quality car stereo system.
The most subjective part of a stereo are the speakers. They are the hardest part of the system to decide upon when it comes to your choices. This is because with speakers, it?s not what you need, it?s what you want and like. The main reason for that is because different speakers sound totally different from each other. They all try to do the same thing, which is recreate the music as it was recorded, but most of the speakers end up sounding a little bit different than the recording. There are many different kinds of speakers that you can use in a car stereo system, but you?re mostly limited to what can fit into your car. According to the web site Crutchfield Electronics: Car Audio, ?for the easiest possible installation, take the factory-fit approach? (Crutchfield Electronics). I?ll use my car as an example. I can only fit 6 ?inch speakers in my front doors, and on the rear deck of my vehicle. This means I can?t put a 6 x 9inch speaker in my door because it would never fit properly, and that could cause some very bad sound problems. So I decided on using 6 ?inch two and three-way coaxial speakers. Coaxial speakers are good because you can put them into one spot, but you get two or three speakers in that one location. Also in my doors, or I should say on my doors, I have a pair of tweeters mounted. Tweeters are the speakers that reproduce the highest frequencies in music. Then you have midranges, and they are called midranges because they reproduce the middle frequencies in music. Woofers are also capable of reproducing midrange frequencies, but they focus more on the lower and lowest frequencies. Most two-way speakers are made up of a woofer and a tweeter placed on the same axis in the center of the speaker, hence the name coaxial. Subwoofers are the final kind of speaker. They reproduce the lowest of the low frequencies. They are the speakers that make the noise that the forty and over crowd hate and complain about always hearing, and yet they are the speakers that the younger crowd loves to hear.
Do you remember the last time you drove through a parking lot with a car audio store somewhere nearby, and saw tons of cars outside with their cars blasting loud music? Well, those were competitions. Competitions are the highest level of devotion to your car stereo system. People put thousands of dollars into their car stereo components and the installation of the stereo so that they can win competitions and more money. There are a few different kinds of competitions that people build their stereos for. There are sound quality competitions, which judge how close your system can reproduce the recording to its original sound. There are classes to each competition, beginning with low wattage amateurs and going all the up to super high wattage pro classes. The wattage is determined by how much power your amplifiers total for your entire system. The main crowd drawer at competitions is the dB drag contest. This is basically a contest to see who has the loudest sub-bass car or truck, or van in most cases, in the competition. These people spend so much time and money just making the vehicle strong enough to hold all the sound pressure created by the subwoofers inside the vehicle. To get a basic understanding about how loud the loudest cars out there really are, they need Plexiglas windows in place of the factory glass windows. If they didn?t do this, the factory windows wouldn?t be able to stand up to the pressure inside the car and they would shatter. Just imagine how loud and how many subwoofers you would need to create that kind of sound pressure level – SPL.
Each piece of car stereo equipment, the installation, and the many competitions are things that all car audio enthusiasts know about. However, for the non-car audio fanatic, the basics of the car stereo, and some of the not so basics have hopefully been explained with enough detail to give you some idea about what car audio is all about. Now with your newfound knowledge you can go and take a cue from the ESPN commercials and take your ?knowledge? and show it off.