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Making Good Decisions About Auto Sound Systems

Model S Plaid

That sound system that came with your new car or truck delivers pretty good music quality and reasonable volume, but you know there are much better systems out there on the market that would be a big step up.

However, you are no acoustic engineer. You want to make an informed decision when you buy a new system for your vehicle, but you don’t know where to start. You can always take the advice of the salesperson, but that’s always a dangerous strategy. What if the salesperson gets a bonus for selling a particularly slow-moving system? Just whose interests is he representing, anyway?

If it makes you feel any better, most people who look to buy upgraded audio systems are in the same boat as you. 

Selecting the right auto sound system for your vehicle can enhance your driving experience a lot by providing immersive sound and entertainment. So read on – here are some things to keep in mind before you buy:

1. Budget:

Determine how much you are willing to invest in your car’s audio system. This will help you narrow down your options and find a system that fits your budget. The price of car audio systems can soar into the stratosphere, but very good systems don’t have to break the bank.

2. Audio components:

  • Head Unit (Stereo): Consider upgrading to a head unit with advanced features such as Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, and smartphone integration. Some units also come with built-in equalizers and advanced audio controls.
  • Speakers: Choose high-quality speakers that match your musical preferences. Component speakers provide better sound quality by separating the different audio frequencies.
  • Amplifier: If you want a more powerful and dynamic sound, consider adding an amplifier to boost the signal to your speakers.
  • Subwoofer: A subwoofer can be added if you want deeper and more powerful bass. Subwoofers come in various sizes, and the choice depends on your space and sound preferences.

3. Power Handling:

Ensure that the power handling capabilities of your speakers, amplifier, and head unit are compatible. Mismatched power levels can lead to distorted sound and damage to the equipment.

4. Sound Quality vs. Volume:

Which do care about more, sound quality or volume?  Some systems are optimized for clarity and accuracy, while others focus on producing loud and impactful sound.

5. Speaker Sensitivity:

Speaker sensitivity indicates how efficiently a speaker converts power into sound. Higher sensitivity speakers require less power to produce the same volume as lower sensitivity speakers.

6. Installation Space:

Consider the available space in your vehicle for audio components. Some vehicles may have limited space for larger speakers or subwoofers.

7. Brand Reputation:

Choose reputable brands known for producing high-quality car audio components. Read reviews and seek recommendations from car audio enthusiasts who may know more about the subject than you do.

8. Compatibility:

Ensure that all components are compatible with one other and with your vehicle. Some vehicles may require additional adapters or wiring harnesses for proper integration.

9. Professional Installation:

While some enthusiasts enjoy DIY installations, professional installation ensures that the system is set up correctly, maximizing its performance and longevity. (More on this later).

10. Future Expandability:

Consider whether you may want to expand or upgrade your system in the future. Choosing a system with modular components can make future upgrades easier.

11. Warranty:

Check the warranty offered by the manufacturer for each component. A good warranty can provide peace of mind and protection against defects.

Remember to audition different systems before deciding to ensure that the audio quality meets your expectations. Ultimately, the right car audio system is the one that suits your preferences, fits your budget, and enhances your overall driving experience.

Things to consider when choosing a good audio system installer

Experience and reputation:

Look for installers with a proven track record and positive customer reviews. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or online communities.


Check if the installer has certifications from reputable organizations or manufacturers. Certifications can indicate a certain level of expertise and professionalism.

Portfolio of work:

Request to see examples of their previous installations. This can give you a sense of their skill level and the quality of their work.


Some installers may specialize in certain types of audio systems or specific vehicle makes and models. Ensure that the installer is experienced with your particular car and audio system.

Warranty and guarantees:

Inquire about the warranties and guarantees offered on both the installation work and any equipment they provide.

Quality of components:

If the installer provides audio components, inquire about the brands and quality of the products they use. High-quality components can significantly impact the overall performance of your car audio system.

Customer service:

Assess the level of customer service provided by the installer. Clear communication and responsiveness are crucial throughout the installation process.

Installation timeframe:

Ask about the estimated time required for the installation. While a rushed job is not ideal, unnecessarily long timelines may inconvenience you.

Cost and transparency:

Get a detailed quote that includes the cost of labor, components, and any additional fees. Ensure that there are no hidden charges.

Location and convenience:

Choose an installer that is conveniently located. This can save you time and make the installation process more convenient.

Technology and up-to-date knowledge:

Car audio technology is constantly evolving. Ensure that the installer is up-to-date with the latest advancements and has the knowledge to install modern systems.

Insurance and liability:

Verify that the installer has proper insurance coverage. This is important in case of any accidental damage to your vehicle during the installation process.

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