One of the better upgrades you can do is to equip an older car with a new stereo system. If you are reading this article, you are probably listening to more of your favorites while driving than at home, anyway.
You might be thinking, why you should consider buying a stereo system for your car? It is true that a new unit can offer better playback flexibility and performance than earlier-generation receivers.
But, is it time to consider one? Consider the advances, the joys you are missing out.
Modern power-handling circuitry combined with playback and connective abilities of today’s models do not just deliver a louder sound. These electronically shape audio to be richer and more detailed, using smartly controlled preamp processing and cleaner amplification.
Newer models typically sound cleaner and more lifelike than earlier-generation systems. So there’s little need to wait, the future of in-car entertainment systems is already here.
Advantages of A New Stereo
A major reason to consider a new system is for expanded playback of MP3/AAC audio, as well as other capabilities such as iPhone USB compatibility, Bluetooth connections, satellite and digital radio, GPS mapping and navigation, and app-based support for Internet radio.
Digital DAB radios offer more viable listening overall in comparison to classic analog models, due to the absence of distorting white noise while on the road between stations.
The clearer screens of new models can make it easier for you to drive safely as you adjust settings, particularly with touchscreen controls. Even low-priced aftermarket units typically provide better control than most factory systems.
Spiffy new displays and sharp control layouts can really enhance the look of most interiors. Customizable schemes animated in full color are the norm. Some touch displays offer a colorful selection of background themes.
Most new systems will let you link music players, rear displays, dedicated amps, and subwoofers as needed. A variety of USB connectors, Aux inputs, and audio-video outputs greatly extends the selection of music sources that you can enjoy. Wireless Bluetooth connectivity is particularly convenient for quickly streaming tracks straight off your mobile devices.
Aftermarket features such as removable faceplates and lock codes can appreciably lessen the risk of theft.
Installing A New Car Stereo
Buyers of most new cars do not have easy opportunities for upgrading their stock receivers, unlike owners of older models.
Nearly all new cars feature head units that are integrated into dashboard façades that present a unified look but are not friendly to easy customization. The big car makers like Ford or Honda are not bringing back DIN bays anytime soon, although Toyota’s Scion is one of the few brands still holding out.
The big problem is that many if not most people are keen on listening to music via their phones or tablets while in a vehicle. Most of the big automakers are struggling to introduce updated entertainment technologies that can meet the needs of demanding mobile users.
Current and future dashboard designs have panels that are mostly free of standardized Single and Double DIN cutouts. This inflexible arrangement can be an issue when installing non-factory replacement receivers, particularly components with dimensions that exceed one or more factory specifications for in-dash mounting and location.
Installers might get things done with small modifications, like slightly reshaping the fascia’s plastic trim, or drilling extra speaker screw holes indoor paneling. However, it is usually best to limit your choices to factory-compatible components (and any replacement covers) that will fit the existing openings with little if any customization.
Getting A New System to Work
Despite the complexity of the dashboard fascia covering most factory receivers, many panels can still be readily detached. Mounting as well as connecting a replacement stereo unit to existing control and sensor circuits can be challenging with modern cars, though.
Many aftermarket designs resolve the physical issue by having new stereos mounted in their own replacement paneling. These are typically shaped and themed to match the look and coloring of existing dashboards.
Custom adaptors and wiring harnesses are also installed, to ensure that audio controls on the steering wheel as well as standard vehicular sensors will continue to operate as they did with the stock unit.
With new speakers, terminal adapters, as well as other wiring and crossover connectors that meet factory specifications, may be used to fit the replacements to existing openings and wiring.
In lieu of complicating a messy dashboard further, a pricey alternative is to install a digital onboard entertainment system like the Sony DigitalLink. The parts of this iOS-compatible modular entertainment system are secreted beneath the seat and also behind the dashboard.
The phone cradle itself is mounted in a location convenient to the driver’s hand, from which a plugged-in iPhone can be easily used to control the entire audio system.
Audio System Basics
Audio upgrades can be somewhat confusing if you are new to this practice, thus the following guide:
Modern car stereos (variously called receivers, radios, or head units) offer a range of audio playback and control functions. You can think of the system in terms of three sections with varying roles.
- Source. Supplies your choice of audio track or stream. Among these are regular AM/FM tuners, satellite and digital radio channels, USB phone, and auxiliary inputs, as well as classic CD/DVD players.
- Preamp. Adjusts volume and other characteristics as required, including the selection of sources, fader, balance, and tonal adjustments to equalizer, crossover, and even time correction controls.
- Amplifier. Boosts the volume of low-voltage preamp signals into the higher-voltage signals conveyed to the speakers.
- Speaker. Reproduces the signal in analog form, ideally with clean detail, richness, as well as well-bodied vocals and deep bass that smoothly blend all together. Dedicated amp channels can enhance output as they typically generate lower distortion.
The ability of the speaker to handle power efficiently at both peak and RMS rates is risky for producing pleasant and lively music. You can install higher-wattage premium speakers to match the total rating of a more powerful receiver or multiple amplifiers/stages.
There is no need to go overboard in spending money on a new stereo system for your car. For sure, app capability is what drives many owners to spring for smart new digital systems that deliver great sound quality. And if your ride features regular-sized speakers, many replacement options are also available at reasonable prices.
An advanced car stereo with matched components that can flexibly playback digital sources should bring more music to your daily drives.