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View Full Version : New to car audio? Read this first.



mast240
01-09-2012, 04:00 PM
So i have noticed that many who are new to the world of car audio, ask the same exact questions. So in an attempt to cut down on some of these posts, i figured we should start a thread with the most commonly asked noob questions.

feel free to add here guys if you think of anything else....

ALSO: These answers are meant to be a good starting point for understanding some basic principles in car audio. They are in no way the definitive answer to every single application, just more of a generality to help those just starting out.

My subwoofer is rated at xxx watts rms & xxx watts peak, how much power should i give it?

For the sake of generalities, and a large amount of equipment that is out there, peak rating is pretty much useless. It has become more of a marketing tool to make said equipment seem more appealing to the buyer. There subs out there that can handle alot more than rated RMS power, but if you are just starting out in car audio, RMS rating is a good bench mark to use when thinking of powering your subs. Once you become more knowledgeable, then i would start to consider running more than RMS safe, but, if you are new, i would not recommend exceeding it.

What impedance (ohm load) should i run my system at?

This is a very subjective topic, with a mariad of opinions. I will say this though... As you lower your impedance, the strain on your electrical system as well as your amp increases. At the same time, your amp's THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) will increase, diminishing sound quality. On the large majority of amps, this will not even be noticeable until you get into very low impedances (1 ohm and below). The amount of THD increase can be as small as >.1%, or can be much greater, just depends on the amp. You also want to take what your amp is rated at into consideration. The large majority of mono block amps are rated at 1 ohm, but on the flipside, if you are running a 2 channel amp bridged, the large majority of those are rated at only 2ohmx1... What this really translates to, is that running your amp at lower than rated impedance can be dangerous. Also, even if your amp is rated at lower ohm loads, if you do not have the proper electrical upgrades to back it up, it can also be dangerous. The biggest point i'm trying to make here, is if you don't have the electrical to back it up, or arent sure, wire to a higher impedance... otherwise the magick blue smoke fairy may come for a visit (AKA you might fry your amp).

How do i wire my subs to a different impedance?

I could make a long drawn out thread about this, but instead, i will link you to a great wiring wizard, that will show you exactly how to do it.

Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams (http://www.the12volt.com/caraudio/woofer_configurations.asp)

Why is setting my gains properly so important?

This is a very Long and Arduous topic. The simplest answer is this... mis matching your gains can lead to a clipped signal, which in turn can lead to problems... from a distorted signal all the way up to frying your VC's (voice coils on your subs). If you really want the nitty gritty of it, check out this great write up...

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/amplifiers/206351-why-gain-setting.html

I set my gains by ear because blah blah blah/ How do i set my gains properly?

I dont care who tells you that you can properly set your gains by ear/that it doesnt matter... He is a dirty, stinking, liar. Truth of the matter is, a clipped signal occurs WAY before the distortion is audible to the human ear. That is why using the proper tools to set your gain is so important. You can not hear any difference, but yet be running an extremely clipped signal to your subs. You will need a few things to porperly set gains will be a DMM (digita mutimeter), a test tone generator or CD, and basic math skills. (an o-scope is preferable to a DMM, but you can still do with just a DMM)

You will need to know a few basics of Ohm's law... which defines the relationship between power, current, voltage and resistance. The most basic principle to understand, is that all the variables are relative to each other, meaning if you change on of the variables (power, current, voltage, or resistance), it will directly affect the others.

This is the equation to remember: Voltage = sqrt(power x resistance) ----- voltage equals the square root of power times resistance.

You will take this formula, and use the specs from your amp for the variables...

I.E. if you have an amp that runs 300 watts @ 2 ohms, it will look like this....

V = sqrt(300 x 2)

Voltage = 24.49 - this is your magic number. this will be the amount of AC voltage you will look for when setting your gain.

*You also want to make sure you use the impedance (ohm load) that you will have it wired to in your equation.*

Take your DMM, set it to AC voltage, then place the test leads on the output terminals.

Take your tone generator or cd, and set it to 50 hz.

*The vast majority of HU's (head units) out there will clip their signal when at very high outputs, the majority of which will start at around 3/4 full volume*

Set all you setting on your HU to 0/flat, and turn it up to 3/4 of full volume.

Starting with your gain turned all the way down, start turning it clockwise, until you reach the voltage you found in the formentioned equation.... this is where you will set your gain at... no higher.

The rest of your setting are like this... the LPF is the upper limit of frequency you want your subs to hit, the subsonic is the lower... and bass boost shouldn't be used in most situations.

For your mid/high amp, you will do the same, only you will use a 1khz tone instead

*This is a very general and simple way to safely set your gains... There are better/more in depth methods, but this is the simplest*

Here is a good chart for those who are not math inclined

http://img600.imageshack.us/img600/8515/rmschart.jpg


What is the big 3, how do i do it, and why is it so important?

The big 3 is an essential step when upgrading your electrical. Main reason being, when auto manufacturers designed your electrical system, it was never designed for high amperage duties (such as large amplifiers), so the stock wiring in between your alternator and battery is garunteed to be very small, and insufficent for high power applications. This can lead to a "choke point" in your electrical system. You can have all the 1/0 runs from your battery to your amp you want, but unless you do your big 3, it really wont do any good. Your electrical system is only as strong as it's weakest point, which is usually right at your alternator.

To accomplish the Big 3, you will want to use a minimum of 4 Ga wire (although 1/0 much better)... and you will want to match the size wire you use to the rest of your install (if you run 1/0 from your battery to amp, but only use 4ga on your big 3, your still creating a choke point).

You can either straight up replace stock wiring, or just add to it.. and on the majority of newer model cars, you'll want to add to it, and leave the stock (due to their wiring harnesses being interconnected).

The wires your going to replace/add are from alternator to battery, battery to chassis, and battery to engine block. Alternators for the large part are self grounding, which is why you wont need to run a ground.

For a much more in depth write up on Big 3, check this out...

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/152355-official-caraudio-com-big-3-thread.html

What size capacitor should i use to keep up with my amp?

The simple answer is none. A capacitor is completely useless in 99% of installs. The smaller farad capacitors have no benifit for voltage drop, and can actually cause a choke point in your electrical, causing voltage drop when not installed properly. They are useful in certain, more advanced installs... but that has nothing to do with voltage drop for which they have been marketed over the last 5-10 years. If you are really experiencing alot of voltage drop, refer to the last question about big 3, and consider upgrading your alternator, battery, or even adding an extra "helper" battery in the rear.

If you want more info on capacitors, and how they are useless in the majority of installs, here's a really good read....

http://www.nanopulser.com.sg/capacitor.htm

If i fuse in between batteries/alt and batteries, what should the fuse be rated at?

You will want to fuse according to the wire, not the batteries... This also varies for each brand of wire... so there is no real "magic number" for all 1/0 ga, or 4 ga... you will want to check with the manufacturer of the wire for what amperage it is rated at, and fuse it at that rating.

Another, much more in depth writed up...

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/398527-dual-battery-wiring-tutorial-why.html

MORE IN THREADS BELOW, RAN OUT OF ROOM

Gbob2003
01-09-2012, 04:07 PM
Looks good man. This should help ward off some noobs but noobs will be noobs. Thanks for the post man.

kushy_dreams
01-09-2012, 04:08 PM
If you type in MS Word it will autosave so you dont loose anything

Kangaroux
01-09-2012, 04:08 PM
Andrew, word of advice when writing lengthy articles, open up word pad and just start typing but save after like each sentence. Another thing is to periodically select all and then copy what you've written

mast240
01-09-2012, 04:10 PM
Yea, i'm on the work computer right now, so i dont really want to save anything to it, lol... more is being added right now

Kangaroux
01-09-2012, 04:12 PM
Yea, i'm on the work computer right now, so i dont really want to save anything to it, lol... more is being added right now

If you use GMail you can use Google Docs which is essentially an online microsoft word. It saves everything you type in real time so even if your computer crashed mid sentence it would have saved all of it

AlterEgo99
01-09-2012, 04:16 PM
Yea, i'm on the work computer right now, so i dont really want to save anything to it, lol... more is being added right now

Andrew...may I call you Andrew? :naughty:

Anyways, for mutliple battery questions send them to this link:

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/398527-dual-battery-wiring-tutorial-why.html

For Big 3 questions, send them here:

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/152355-official-caraudio-com-big-3-thread.html

mast240
01-09-2012, 04:26 PM
Andrew...may I call you Andrew? :naughty:

Anyways, for mutliple battery questions send them to this link:

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/398527-dual-battery-wiring-tutorial-why.html

For Big 3 questions, send them here:

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/wiring-electrical-installation-help/152355-official-caraudio-com-big-3-thread.html

Nice bro... i was looking for the official big 3, but couldnt find it... i'm updating it now

AlterEgo99
01-09-2012, 04:33 PM
Nice bro... i was looking for the official big 3, but couldnt find it... i'm updating it now

No problemo...link up that battery one too...I followed that when I added two Kinetiks to my truck...very informative and there are a shitload of battery questions every day.

mast240
01-09-2012, 04:34 PM
MORE

Why does my system not hit that hard/sound as good as i thought it would?

This is a VERY large topic... but the main reason i included this question was for 2 reasons... 1. expectations 2.importance of enclosure

1. Expectations... a large majority of people who are newer to car audio, can become easily fooled by fake power rating, and rediculous claims that some companies make (boss and legacy are 2 companies that come to mind right away, but there are MANY more out there)... I don't care how good of a deal you got on ebay, a true 5500 watt amp will never cost you $130. When you are planning your system, one of the things that should be in the front of your mind should be, what are you expecting out of this system in comparison to what it will actually do. A budget system will always be that, A BUDGET SYSTEM. And there is nothing at all wrong with that, you just have to realize that if you are expecting a $300 system to be the end all of street beaters, you are going to be HIGHLY dissapointed.

2. Enclosure.... i cannot stress enough how important your enclosure (box) is to your system. To me, personally, it is the most important piece. A pre-fabricated (prefab) enclosure will never take full advantage of your subs. They are built to be mass sellers, not to work with the specific subwoofers you are running. Building your own box can be pretty easy, and save you alot of cash. That is if you have the proper tools to do it. Designing an enclosure can take alot more knowledge and know how, and if you aren't comfortable with trying to design your own, there are a number of great designers in the vendor section of this forum, who will design a great enclosure for you (and even a few that will build it for you, and ship it).

Sealed vs ported... whats the difference?

There are some very simple as well as somewhat complicated ideas to grasp when discussing the difference between sealed and ported. I would write a huge write up on it, but a very good one already exists...

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/enclosure-design-construction-help/68635-sealed-vs-ported-basic-info.html

Why do the big box brands (kicker, rockford, pioneer, kenwood, etc) recieve such a bad rap?

There is one main reason for this, what you get for your money. The majority of the big box brands spend the same amount, or even sometimes more, on marketing as they do R&D... what does that equate to for you? Basically, you get alot less bang for your buck. A great example of this is the rockford fosgate P1 sub... if you look at the motor on it, it looks pretty large for an entry level sub....

http://www.crutchfield.com.edgesuite.net/pix.crutchfield.com/ImageHandler/fixedscale/400/300//products/2007/575/h575P1S410-b-1.jpeg

But, if you cut that motor surround off, you will discover a measly 40 oz magnet structure, and a tiny 2" voice coil....
http://www.designeraudio.tv/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/p/1/p1sx10_4_l.jpg
Now, can you really see any reason to throw a surround on there to make it look beefy, other than marketing? It is a marketing move, pure and simple.... just a way to confuse the average joe into believing it's something more than it really is.

More underground company's such as DD, SSA, AA, IA, DC, etc... spend a larger percentage of their net income on R&D than the big box companies... this in turn means there is less marketing cost that is passed on to the customer, thus dropping prices, and giving you more bang for your buck.


What does it mean to stage your install?

This exact question isn't asked that often, but i think its still a very important topic that is overlooked by alot of the newer guys. So, you got your subs, enclosure, amp, wiring, HU, electrical upgrades.... your shopping list is complete, right? WRONG. Properly staging your set up, in the simplest terms, means blending your sub stage, midbass/midrange, and highs, so that one "stage" doesn't overpower the other. I.E. people who run multi thousand watt sub stages, but are still running their car's stock speakers off the head unit. While this may not seem wrong to those who do it, they will normally get in a car with proper staging, and be blown away with how good the car sounds.

While i won't go into the down and dirty specifics of proper staging, because this single topic could fill 10 pages of thread... It is still something you should be aware of, and should be one idea you think of when planning your build.

What is a decibel (DB), how is it used in the car audio world?

Many people have a kind of warped view on what a decibel really is. It is not just a measurement to one specific thing (aka sound pressure), but instead it is a term used in a broad spectrum of measurements, and is more of a logarithmic unit than a specific measurement.*

What the hell does all that fancy talk mean? Basically, what all that means, is that a decibel is a term used to compare one measurement of a specific ( in this case SPL ) to a reference measurement point ( 0 db's )... So when it comes to talking about SPL, all measurements in db's are just a reference of the sound pressure in comparison to 0db of sound pressure (which is considered to be the lower limit of what the normal human ear can hear).*

Why is that important to understand? Decibels are usually only thought of when it comes to large systems that reach into the 100's of db's... but it also has another use... when you are trying to stage your system properly, you will be tuning it with positive, and negative db's. so it is important to remember that it is only a reference to 0 db's... and that a 3 db difference is what is considered to be the lower end in an audible change, that is why you will see slopes with 3db changes... there is SOO much more to this... but this is about as simple as i can put it.



************ More to be added*******************



Also guys, if 6you can think of any other frequently asked questions, list them in this thread, so i can add them here....

http://www.caraudio.com/forums/general-discussion/532421-frequently-asked-noob-questions-3.html

mast240
01-09-2012, 04:38 PM
Saved poast

itsblown
01-09-2012, 04:42 PM
Finally we needed something like this

xmakeafistx
01-09-2012, 07:43 PM
That dual battery wiring tutorial had to be one of the most helpful things I have ever read when I was installing my secondary battery. Everything in here is explained with great detail, and at the same time not too much. Good job on the write up man, excited to see how it all comes along.

05trailblazer
01-09-2012, 07:58 PM
nice! thing you have going on here to start the new year

mast240
01-09-2012, 09:53 PM
up... more info added

FlexnInLa
01-09-2012, 10:12 PM
Looks good man. This should help ward off some noobs but noobs will be noobs. Thanks for the post man.

Why would you want to "ward off" people who are new to our hobby? Wouldn't it be better to answer their questions with legitimate information?

mast240
01-09-2012, 10:20 PM
Why would you want to "ward off" people who are new to our hobby? Wouldn't it be better to answer their questions with legitimate information?

I think what he meant by that is that this thread will help ward off the constant barrage of the same exact questions, over and over again from noobs... which is what this thread was intended for.

Buck
01-09-2012, 10:26 PM
Looks good man. This should help ward off some noobs but noobs will be noobs. Thanks for the post man.

The problem is most noobs don't take time to read stuff like this.

mast240
01-09-2012, 10:32 PM
The problem is most noobs don't take time to read stuff like this.

I might start doing what i used to do on another forum i was on....

Everytime someone introduces themselves on here, i'll reply

"welcome to CA.com, there is alot to learn on this forum, please read this thread before posting any questions."

brodeisel
01-09-2012, 10:53 PM
^that is perfect

musical_high
01-09-2012, 11:04 PM
excellent

mast240
01-09-2012, 11:30 PM
up... more info added

mast240
01-10-2012, 12:50 AM
up... more info added on second large post

mast240
01-10-2012, 10:42 AM
more info added

mast240
01-12-2012, 03:40 PM
info added

mast240
01-13-2012, 11:15 AM
info added

West
01-14-2012, 01:00 AM
Me so noob
y0u help me
Thank you very very much!
you = :graduate:
me = :awesome:

mast240
01-14-2012, 01:23 AM
glad it helped.... i will be adding more info as i come across more frequently asked questions

West
01-14-2012, 02:22 AM
Honestly this site is awesome, lots of experts on here and they give better advice then the sales people I come across. The RMS power vs. peak power is what was confusing me a lot, it makes a consumer think that they need a REALLY high powered amp to drive speakers that dont need that much juice... lol

Thanks again and have a good one!