## First Steps

Start at the Source
When you are trying to get the best sound out of your system, you want to start at the source and work your way from there. The best speakers in the world will sound terrible if you are trying to stream Pandora through them.

CDs or lossless music files are the way to go these days, although most head units still don’t support lossless files. I would say the lowest bit rate you should go on mp3s is 320kbps AAC. Most head units will support this format, and iPods support this format. Most head units have great iPod support. Win-win.Also, it will be very hard if not impossible for most normal people to distinguish between this format and lossless. Especially in a car environment (terrible acoustics, road noise, etc).

The most popular first upgrade is the radio itself, or head unit. This is for many different reasons: features, looks, customization, better processing, etc. Car companies use cheap parts to keep the cost of their cars down. It’s amazing how much difference a good head unit can make, especially when you can add features your car might not have come with in the process.

Features
Units like this new Pioneer AVIC-8000NEX (discontinued) fit most vehicles with the right parts and greatly improves the looks and functionality of your dash. DVD playback, smartphone compatibility, navigation, are all features you can have when adding an aftermarket head unit.

You can see how this is a popular first upgrade for your sound system. You can even add external monitors and sources such as headrest TVs or a backup camera. Adding an aftermarket radio also makes it easier to add external amplifiers.

Sound Quality

## Speakers/Amplifiers

The next upgrade step is usually the speakers, specifically the front. This can be done with or without adding another amp, but you will get much better performance in terms of quality and loudness with one. The front speakers come first because that is where the sound is being projected towards you, and setting up a good front stage can make it sound like a concert in your car. Rear speakers are usually just used for fill or not used at all when quality is your concern. For loudness, you’ll add all the speakers you can.

Coaxial Speakers
Coax speakers are the ones with the tweeter built into the center of the speaker like these Polk Audio db651‘s (\$65 on Amazon with Prime shipping). This design allows for more simple installation than component speakers but still adds much better quality than factory speakers. These are a very popular choice due to being more inexpensive and easier/cheaper to install than component setups.

The tweeters are usually crossed over with the use of a capacitor which gives it a -6dB/octave slope at a fixed crossover point to block low frequencies from playing through, and damaging, the tweeter.

Component Speakers
Component speakers, or separates, are speaker setups that separate the tweeter from the mid range driver so the tweeter can be located to better improve sound quality. Since higher frequency sounds are easier to localize than low frequency sounds (h

ence why the sub is all the way in the trunk usually, the speakers are way down in the door panels, and the tweeters are up high), placing the tweeters closer to ear level and facing them at the driver raises the sound stage and greatly improves the sound quality.

Components usually come with an external crossover with a more advanced network than a single capacitor. These usually have a second or third order crossover set at a certain frequency offering steeper crossover slopes and usually consist of an L pad to dim the tweeters down a few dB to make them not as harsh.

Amplification
Speakers can be amplified with the head unit, but adding an external amp greatly increases output and sound quality. This is especially true when running components since the passive crossovers aren’t too  efficient and require the recommended RMS power to sound best.

Basically, if you can afford it, do it.

These are the basics of sound system upgrades. Depending on your budget you can do one or all of them to improve your sound.

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