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Introduction to Audio Systems
Some people cannot drive a car without a music system. It is not just an accessory for them but an essential component of the car. Car buyers in India are quite enthusiastic about their car audio systems, which is especially true in case of youngsters who opt for different types of car audio systems and are picky of tweeters and woofers.
With today's growth in options and brands, choosing the right system can be a challenge. In this auto guide, Payal and Shiva take a look at various factors of auto audio systems.
Technology of Audio Systems
A complete car system has various components, which combine to provide you an optimal sound experience. As they work in a tandem, it is advisable to buy all the parts from the same company. Similarly, if you face a problem with any of the units of your car audio system, you should replace it with a unit from the same company.
Here are the main parts of an audio system.
- Head Unit
It is the brain or the main functioning unit of your audio system in your car. This is the main interface that you use to control the audio that is being played and for controlling the volume.The Head Unit determines the type of media that you can play. Hence, it is always advisable to think of the type of media that you wish to play in your car and decide upon the budget. Available media range from cassette, radio, CD, DVD, MP3 CD or even a USBstick.. Today, most people opt for CD cum FM receivers.
Also, you can opt for a head unit that has high voltage RCA output, in which case you won't need an amplifier. If you want to use an external amplifier, RCA outputs can be eliminated.
Most head units will have support for FM radio. Recent new units will offer MP3, iPod and other such features.
Speakers are the most important part of an audio system after the head unit. They determine what you hear, and hence poor quality speakers or a poorly installed speaker system can ruin your sound and spoil your driving pleasure. Broadly, there are two types of speakers – tweeters and woofers/sub-woofers.
- Tweeter: You need a tweeter in your car if you want to get the high pitched tones right. They are dedicated to such sounds and produce them in crystal clear and smooth manner. Do note that using external speakers means that your music system will demand more power and your woofers will also need to be matched with the quality of tweeters. Tweeters can be mounted almost anywhere in your car.
Sub-Woofers: Sub-woofers help to create frequencies around or below 100 Mega Hertz and hence are dedicated to the lower tones. They are usually speakers that are 8 inches or larger, and need to be enclosed to produce low frequencies effectively. Most of the time sub-woofers are quite specific to the vehicle model which makes them expensive. It is advisable to check out which sub-woofers are recommended by auto manufacturers to get the best output.
An amplifier sits between your head unit and the speakers. Amplifiers enhance the loudness and the quality of sound. There are several amplifiers of different range that have power of about 20W – 1000W per channel. Most amplifiers have 1-8 channels of output. The most commonly used amplifiers are 2 and 4 channel models and are known as B class amplifiers.
Amplifiers are graded basis the RMS or Root Mean Square ratings of the unit. It refers to the amplifier's average output, and a higher number means a better output. Installing amplifiers is critical as they can be sensitive to electrical and motor noise. The interference from external sources may also hamper the audio reception. They should be installed at least 3 feet away from the receiver to get best sound quality.
You can install them in the hatch area or the trunk. It will sacrifice some of the boot space but there will be lot of room for large amplifiers. They will be near to rear speakers or sub-enclosure even if you need long cords or patches to install.
You may even choose to install an amplifier under the seat so that you need shorter patches and cords and it is closer to the receiver. You may not be able to install large amplifiers or may have to remove the seats to do such an installation.
There are several additional features available to manage your car's audio in further detail, such as equalizers and signal processors. These are high fidelity audio controls that enable you to control different frequency bands in a car music system. You can easily choose which frequencies need to be tuned up and which ones to be tuned down as per your choice.
Leading Audio Players in India
Pioneer, Sony, Blaupunkt, Alpine and Kenwood are some of the leading music system brands in India that are mostly favoured by car manufacturers and car buyers.
Pioneer car audio is one of the most well known brands in India and comes from an age old Japanese company. Speakers from Pioneer are known to be one of the best in the industry. They are known to be sturdy and can withstand even large outputs.
One of the most popular car audio systems from Pioneer is the Bluetooth car Audio system which comes standard in many cars. You can directly connect the car stereos to a portable music system, and it comes with many connectivity features as USB controls, iPod direct Control, Audio Streaming and Auxiliary Input.
Sony is probably the most well known brand in the electronics industry. The huge range of audio systems offered by Sony that can be fitted in nearly every type of car, remain almost unparalleled. You can also get all the related accessories from Sony to make up a good audio system for your car.
Xplod from Sony has been recently launched in India. It is priced between Rs 7,000- 20,000. You can choose the accessories according to your choice to make up the complete audio system for your car. There is a vast range of products to choose from that can suit almost every budget and yet deliver the best quality of sound from Sony.
Blaupunkt is a renowned name in car audio systems. Car manufacturers like Opel and Honda have factory fitted audio systems from Blaupunkt or Kenwood to ensure best quality sound to the buyers opting for their cars. The complete audio systems also come with various accessories like navigation systems, loudspeakers, amplifiers, antennas to ensure top quality.
Blaupunkt audio systems also comes with wireless contact to your cell phone via Bluetooth which ensures safe driving due to hands free operation of your mobile phone. The Bluetooth module has to be registered only once with your mobile phone after which it is automatically recognized once the phone is inside the car. Simple cell phone operations can be easily done with the head unit like answer or end call. The sound quality is also enhanced as the cell phone uses car’s audio system speakers. The head units come with complete backlit display and sometimes graphical display.
Alpine has been around for over 30 years now and is a renowned player in the high performance mobile electronics market globally. Alpine not only manufactures digital entertainment equipment but also security and navigation products for their customers. They have research and development units located in the US, Europe and Asia. Alpine probably has one of the widest ranges of products available and the prices vary in the same manner as well. At the lower end of the spectrum one can expect to get a decent 2+ speaker stereo system at a very reasonable cost. Beyond that many features keep adding and one can opt for a system that not only reproduces excellent sound but also provides an interface with visuals and media. Entire multimedia systems are also made by Alpine and cars can be fitted out with screens and personal DVD players too. This company is a market leader and is one of the main supplier for companies as BMW. They are a great option for a moderate to higher budget.
Kenwood has repeatedly set the benchmark for innovation, performance and reliability in mobile media for years. Their products boast cutting-edge technology always. A native of Japan, Kenwood manufactured their first FM tuner and solid-state amplifier. Ever since, they have produced stereos and audio/video systems that are known for their quality all over the world. Kenwood has always been ahead of the game with their innovation and this streak of their's is still the same today. They have recently produced systems that can stream music from a person's home computer to the automobile. Kenwood is another company that produces systems for all price ranges and requirements but where they really stand out is at the higher end of the spectrum with the really advanced options. Nevertheless, a great option for any kinds of requirements.
Purchase Tips for Audio Systems
- Most people spend a fortune to enjoy music in their automobiles. However, they often tend to choose the wrong kind of accessories which is not apt for the kind of music they listen to. If you listen to RnB or similar kind of music, it is better to invest a little in sub-woofers and a nice set of amplifiers. However, if you love classical music, it is advisable to spend on good quality of tweeters. You will enjoy the quality of music and have fun driving.
Do not think that high end and most expensive audio systems are the best ones. Take your budget into consideration when buying a good audio system for your car. Read a little about various audio systems and the internet is the best help in such cases. Make a list of all the features that you need in your car audio system and then choose the best available choice that suits your budget as well.
Check about the warranty of an audio system while buying your car audio system. An extensive warranty is extremely important, especially when buying a high end audio system. You will be able to avoid any costly repairs or replacement of parts with an authentic warranty.
Read about the service norms of the company as well. When you pay a good amount of money to purchase a good audio system of your choice, you should know about its service norms as well.
Stay away from cheap duplicates. The physical market is flooded with such products and these hardly last. So you might end up spending more in the long run in case you need to change your system again. Thus, if you buy from a reliable company, you will save in the long run.
Buy from a recognized dealer. This will be especially helpful in case anything goes wrong. The dealer will easily help you to replace or repair your audio system within the warranty period. While buying amplifiers or your complete car audio unit, it is preferable to stick to well-known manufacturers.
A good audio system can make driving an absolute pleasure. While choosing an audio system for your car, always keep your budget in mind. You should choose a system that suits the type of your car you drive and something that would last long as well. Do a little research and read reviews about various car audio systems so that you make a sound purchase.
Also, make sure you try to hear the system's sound with your favourite music. That should be the best test for you!
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