If you are new to the car stereo market, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the sheer number of parts and accessories that can make up a top of the line car stereo system. In this article, we'll explore the basic components that make up a functioning car stereo system.
The Head Unit: Making It Happen
You may have seen the term "head unit" before and not known what exactly it was. Simply put the head unit is the part of your car stereo that actually produces the music from radio, tape, CD, or other device. But nowadays you can also get head units for your car stereo that can play DVDs or music and video from USB flash drives or memory cards. Head units have sure come a long ways from when people used to install home stereo equipment in their vehicles!
Amplifiers: Bring the Boom
While your head unit may provide its own internal amplification (which may be enough for you), at some point most car stereo enthusiasts will want to add amplifiers to the mix. Simply put, and amplifier takes a signal coming out of your head unit, and makes it louder. Be careful when shopping for amplifiers, as some of the large amps can draw over 100 amps; this may be well over what your alternator and battery can provide, and can cause damage to those components.
Speakers: Woofers, Tweeters, What?
The best head unit and amp is completely useless without speakers. Speakers, regardless of size, all do one thing: take the electrical signal coming from either the head unit's internal amp or your external amp and turn it into sound, usually loud sound. The different types of speakers are classified by the range of sounds they can reproduce. Tweeters, for example, only reproduce high pitches, while woofers reproduce the upper bass ranges. Midranges make midrange sounds, strangely enough, while subwoofers cover sounds from the low bass all the way down to sub sonic (those sounds you can feel but not hear). Subwoofers are usually the first candidate for external amplifiers, since they require large amounts of current to make that bone shaking bass.
Putting It All Together
Let's review: head units take your CD or tape and convert it to electrical signals. The amplifier makes this signal larger, and finally the speakers take that signal and make sound out of it. These are the base components you need for any car stereo installation. The accessories, such as crossovers and signal isolators, may or may not be needed for your particular application.
These are the basics you need to know for all car stereo systems. Now that you have a better idea what all these different terms actually mean, you should be able to shop intelligently for your new car stereo system...