Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Car Audio Amplifier Basic Install Guide

The longer you’re into car audio the more chances you will have to install the components yourself. In this basic guide, I'll tell you certain tools and components you will need to install a car audio amplifier.

Amplifiers can be a little bit tricky to install. They require removal of internal panels and also the running of wires from the front of the car to the rear or wherever the car audio amplifier will be mounted.
After purchasing you car audio amplifier you will need to purchase an amp wiring kit. These kits usually contain:
* A power wire (big red wire)
* Inline fuse holder
* set of RCA’s
* a long thin wire (mostly in blue color) called a remote
* some speaker wire and various wire connectors and wire loom
These kits also come in various sizes or gauges, with the most common being 8 gauge and 4 gauge kits. The smaller the number means the bigger the wire. 4 gauge kits will be plenty to handle up to roughly 600-1200 watt amplifiers.

Once you have got the car audio amplifier and amp wiring kit now its time to take a look under your hood and locate your battery. Once you have located the battery it's best to unhook the battery during installation so that you don’t short anything out while working. Look around the firewall area on the side where your battery is located and check for any type of hole that would lead into the inside of your vehicle where you could run your power wire through. If you cannot find an easily accessible hole then you may have to drill one yourself. If you do have to drill one yourself it's best to make a small hole at first so that you don’t damage any wires in the area. Gradually make the hole bigger with some type of step bit. Once the hole is made use rubber grommets to make sure the hole is sealed and that the metal edges don’t cut your power wire.

Now that the power wire is routed though the firewall it's time to start to remove the internal panels for wire installation throughout your vehicle. During this process you will run 3 wires to the location of the car amplifier. Generally the amp will be in the trunk/hatch area. The first wire will be a red wire (which is the power wire you ran from the battery of the vehicle). The next will be a set of RCA’s, and the final wire will be the thin blue wire we call a remote. In some kits the remote wire can be built into the RCA’s. The RCA’s are what sends the sound or signal to the amplifier and then is amplified through the speakers. One rule I generally use when running the wires is to separate the power and RCA’s by running the power wire down one side and the RCA’s down the other. If not done correctly there is a chance that you could generate some engine noise from within your speakers. The RCA’s will plug into the output on the back of the radio, some CD players there will be a 'subwoofer out' set of RCA jacks that will give you more control over sound quality. The next is the remote wire (usually the blue thin wire) this is the wire that sends the amplifier the signal to power on when the radio is powered on. This wire hooks into the remote wire on the back of the CD player. Don’t worry about the wires being too long during this phase of the process, they can easily be trimmed once you find were you want the amplifier to sit.

Once you have the wires run you can set your box and amplifier were it will eventually be permanently installed to give yourself a reference on how much wire will need to be trimmed. You will also be able to establish where your ground will go at this time; generally a body ground somewhere within one foot of your amplifier will be sufficient. Once you have located a suitable place use a little sandpaper to clear the area of any paint so you will have a solid connection to the vehicle body. Now you can connect all the wires to the amplifier and subs and hide any excess wire to make your install look more professional.

The final phase is to connect the power wire to your battery and install the inline fuse protector. With everything completed time to turn your system on and make all your adjustments to the levels you see fit for the type of sound quality that you desire.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Basic CD player install guide

Now that you have picked out your CD player it's time to decide whether to install the unit yourself or have it done professionally. If you have never installed one before and you have the extra money, having it done for you would be the best way to do it. If you are doing it yourself then here is a basic overview of what you will need and a simple walk through of the process.

You will need to purchase a few items to make the install easier and more professional. The first thing is a mounting kit, basically this is the kit that’s used to mount an aftermarket CD player into a stock radio location. They come mostly assembled and ready to install directly into the stock radio location, but some kits will require modification. Make sure you purchase the correct kit for your vehicle! You don’t want to try to put a 03 Chevy Cavalier kit in a 03 Ford Focus.

The next thing you want to get is a wiring kit. This is a set of wires and connectors that plugs into your stock connectors allowing you to add aftermarket CD players into your vehicle. Once these are connected to your factory wiring harness they are basically color coded for aftermarket CD players so when installing the CD player just match up the colors. There are some wires that aren’t used though and you will need to be aware of these. Research your particular vehicle for specifications.

In some cases you may also need to purchase an antenna adaptor to hook up the stock to aftermarket. A good example of this is my '03 Ford Focus. I had a European antenna plug and had to get the domestic adaptor for this particular install. Do a little research on your make and model of your vehicle before you start the installation process because there may be something extra you need to purchase.

After you have purchased all the necessary components needed to get the install going time its time to take a little look into some basic tools needed for the install.
- Electrical Tape
- Wire cutters, strippers and crimpers
- Power drill with a Philips and flathead tip
- Allen keys
- Dremil (best tool ever for making modifications)
- Factory CD player removal keys (most common for Ford )
- Assortment of wire connectors
- Test Light
- Multimeter
- Soldering Gun (not in all cases but good to have just incase)

Now that you have your tools and components you are ready to begin your install!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family or even your local installer for tips if you run into something unfamiliar during the install. You can even post questions here if you need for general help and expertise. With the right tools, research and advice, installation should be quick and painless.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Car Audio Amplifier advice

After you've got your subwoofers picked out it's time to look into something to power them.
The first thing to consider is how many speakers will be hooked up to the amplifier and how much space you will have to work with. If you’re going to be hooking up an amplifier to your mids and highs, which are generally your front and rear 2 speakers, then you might want to consider a four-channel amplifier. If you're adding subwoofers into the vehicle it can become more pricey because subwoofers generally require more power than just your mids and highs. Four channel amplifiers are not too extremely expensive because by using them for your mids and highs you won't need hundreds of watts to produce a great sound quality. Subwoofer amplifiers are usually 2-channel amps and produce a fairly good amount of power. For the more avid car enthusiast that wants to go to competitions there are even mono-block amps which are a single-channel amplifier. They generate more power and are designed specially for competitions.

Buying a car audio amplifier is just like buying any component for your vehicle, have a good idea what you’re looking for and which price range fits then do some research for prices and availability in your general area. You don’t need to buy the most expensive amplifiers on the market to get great results, but if your goals are to compete then you already know you will need to spend the extra money to get better quality components.

Getting into the power scales for amplifiers:
Amplifiers are usually rated by either RMS or Peak Power rating. RMS is basically the amount of power the amplifier will produce per channel consistently. Peak Power is the amount of power the amplifier is capable of producing before it cannot produce anymore. After these points are looked into there is not too much else a general car audio buyer will look into (unless you want to get into even more details like frequency, response and many more other technical terms involved into amplifiers).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Get to know your Subwoofers!

Once you've got a good head unit installed into your vehicle it's time to start looking into adding a subwoofer(s) to give your system that extra thump.

The first thing you should take into account is how much available space you have for subwoofers in your car and will you be adding anything later on that will be taking up some of that place. There are a few things to look for before purchasing anything, the first thing you should determine is what size woofers you are planning to put in. Generally subwoofers are considered anything above 8in and usually require an amplifier to power them. The next thing to look for is what amplifier you would be using to power them. Do you have one at home you’re going to be using or will you be purchasing one with your subs? I would generally pick out an amplifier first to know what kind of power rating you’re looking for in a set of woofers. The next step is to determine if it will be a single or a dual voice coil subwoofer setup. Basically the voice coil is the speaker’s voice, it’s a coil of wire attached to the cone of the speaker that when you add power and a signal to produces a magnetic field that reacts with the speakers magnet to move the cone producing sound.

Single voice coil is just as it sounds; one single voice coil meaning one set of connectors on the back of the sub for positive and negative, and there’s not much you can do in the way of hooking them up. Dual voice coil are similar except there are two sets of voice coils and two sets of connectors on the back which makes them a lot easier to wire up in many different situations.

In summary, do a little research into what options best suit your setup and how much space you have to work with

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A closer Look at Shopping for CD players

Once you have a rough idea, or some brands of CD players you might want to purchase, the next thing to look at would be what type of features you want to have in the unit. Todays units have so many options I could write for hours on the subject however I’m just going to list a few of them. Keep in mind the possibilities are unlimited.

To begin you need to decide which type of CD player you want. Do you want a basic CD player or a MP3 player or maybe even a DVD player? The one good thing is that most of the CD players you buy are CD/MP3 players. Its nice having the MP3 capabilities for long rides since a regular CD on hold 13-17 songs while MP3’s can hold up to 150 songs.

If you decide to add a DVD player to your car there are several options. One option would be to buy a stand-alone DVD player unit and a small screen. This option works extremely well if you have children in the car, giving them something to watch instead of asking “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes. The other option you have is buying a CD/MP3/DVD player all-in-one unit that installs just like a normal radio (a few extra components are needed with each one of these types of installs). Basically it has a built-in TV projected out of the unit upwards where you can control all the aspects of the unit either by the unit controls or remote. Some of the newer units even have touch screen capabilities.

After you have that decided it's time to look more into the features and other aspects of the units, the one specific thing to look for in buying a new unit is how many sets of RCA jacks are in the back of the unit. The RCA jacks are what supplies your amplifier with the signal from the radio. It then amplifies and sends the signal through your subwoofers or regular speakers on your car. Another aspect to look for is how much control you have over the final sound quality, all units come with the ability to control the bass, treble, fade (from left to right) and the balance from front to rear. Others have more tweaking options which may include equalizer options, different filters options (like hi pass and low pass), subwoofers options, hands-free cell phone options and even GPS controls.

The final things you can look for in choosing the right unit would definitely be ease of use. Are all the options located conveniently for you? One other thing I look for personally is the overall look of the unit itself. Does it have plenty of colors and graphics on the screen? I like CD players that have screensavers and different changeable graphics but everyone has their own taste.

Either way you look at it, looking into some of these options and knowing what you want from a unit ,will make your driving experience more worth while every time you get into your car.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sound Dampining

During your time involved into car audio the more extravagant and bigger your system becomes you will start to begin to notice a lot of vibration and rattles immerge. There are many ways to fix this rattle and vibration one of the most common ways to take care of this is a product called Dynamat. Dynamat is a very simple to use sound dampener that you can install into you truck area or wherever your speakers are installed.If your installing the mats the best way to get it right the first time and not have to worry about it again would be to take everything out of the area were you are installing it, say your installing it in your trunk remove all your inside plastic panels and carpet and then install the Dynamat then put everything back in making sure its secure. There is also the Dynamat Spray products that you can use it basically the same concept as using the mats but a little harder to install cause it being a spray you would need some type of spray gun to apply. After you decide that you want the rattles out of your vehicle and put in the time to install any of these products or the many others out there you will notice less distortion and rattles coming from your vehicle.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Neon lights

Neon lights can be a way to make your car stand out from the rest of the pack. There are many types out there ranging from 3in pencil neon’s to 42in neon tubes it all depends on how much you want to light up the road or show off at the show. Neon lights are fairly easy to install using a basic positive (+) and negative (-) wiring system, other more advanced neon systems use a closed circuit system with a transformer. There is also a few types of neon’s now which include your basic old school tube neon and more recently the new LED type neon’s which are more durable if your placing them underneath your vehicle. All of these can be easy wired to a switch or any kind of control box you decide.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Box Designs

My experiences, word of mouth, and friends in the field all agree that your box design is the most important part of any good sounding system. The combination of a good box design and the right amount of air space (this is determined by the specs on the speakers you purchased) will give your speakers a jump in sound quality and let them perform at there best. A good speaker box should be made out of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) which will give you the sound quality you desire. There are many types of designs you can use for boxes a couple of the most basic examples are Ported boxes and Sealed boxes. Ported boxes are just as it sounds they have one or many ports located on the box designed to let air flow out of the box, and sealed boxes are without any ports.

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Things you will need to know

The first stop on the road to a louder car stereo system is to find the right head unit, otherwise known as a Head unit or CD Player. Some players are nothing more than a dash mounted single disc stereo with an FM tuner. Others are more elaborate with a dash mounted control head, Built in DVD players, Touch screen panels and a ten disc changer mounted in the trunk. Any of these can be bought at your local department stores, audio stores or an online audio outlet website.

- Next, you'll need some speakers to go along with the CD player. A set of four speakers, is the best way to go with two speakers to the front of the car and two in the back deck. Generally speaking, the speakers in the back of the car are larger than those to the front, and easier to install. Could also consider using Tweeters for a more high pitch clarity. There are many types of speakers you can run with in the front and rear of your vehicle myself i use a component set in the front of my car and basic 6 1/4 2 ways in the rear of my car, but each person have different sound tastes as i like to say.

- After you have your system installed, you'll probably decide it still isn't loud enough. That's where a good amplifier comes in. The amp takes the audio signal from the CD player and boosts the signal going to the speakers. When you're shopping for an amp, make sure the speakers you bought can handle the wattage rating of the amplifier. You'll want to mount your amp somewhere out of the way to keep it from getting damaged. The trunk is usually a good place, or under the seat also if you have the extra money to spend you can also go a little crazy and have custom Amp and speaker enclosures made with various types of wood, metals, and fiberglass with neon’s or anything else you can think up to put in there. Another thing to think about but you'll have to have long enough audio cables to reach back to the head and heavy duty speaker wire to reach back to the speakers.

- While you're at it, why not install sub woofers as well. They will reproduce the bass sounds from your stereo with much more clarity, and volume, than the four speakers in the car combined. Now that you have all of this audio equipment installed, you need to keep thieves from uninstalling it. Car alarm systems are affordable and can be purchased at the same store you bought your CD player. They are relatively easy to install and well worth the money for what you have invested in your audio equipment.

All of this equipment is made by various manufacturers such as Sony, Kenwood, JVC, Panasonic, Pioneer, Alpine, Earthquake, Fusion, and Bose. Before you spend any money on audio equipment, you may want to do some research to find out what system is best for you. Ask some friends, read online product reviews or find a car audio forum on the internet and get some opinions there. That way you'll be sure to get the sound system you want and feel assured you got the most for you money..