When it comes to car audio, many people think that a basic stereo system is all that is needed.
However, for those who want to enjoy the full range of sound that their music can offer, a car surround sound system is the way to go, but how to install a surround system in a car? Let’s find out.
Installing a surround sound system in the car requires installing a 5.1 or 7.1 system. To install a 5.1 car surround system, you need to install in the car five speakers and one subwoofer. To install a 7.1 car surround system in the car, you need to install seven speakers and one subwoofer.
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Tip: When installing system car speakers, make sure that the tweeters are mounted high enough so that the sound waves can reach your ears directly, and the speakers should be placed as follow:
#1. It is recommended to place the front left and right speakers on both sides of the car, near the front seats.
#2. The centre channel speaker should be placed in the middle of the car, either on the dashboard or on the centre console.
#3. The rear left, and right speakers should be placed on both sides of the car, near the back seats.
#4. The subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the car, but it is recommended to put it in the trunk.
In the article below, I will detail car audio elements needed for a car surround sound system and how to install them for the best audio experience.
How to Install Surround Sound System in a Car?
Installing a car surround sound system can be a bit challenging, but with the steps below, you’ll be able to do it in no time.
For this example, I list steps needed for the 5.1 surround system that is easy to install and provides a great experience, especially in smaller cars:
#1. Use a Compatible Car Stereo
Before installing a 5.1 Car Surround, ensure your vehicle has a compatible head unit installed.
Your car’s head unit should be able to produce surround sound and send them as digital signals that will be further decoded by a surround sound encoder.
#2. Add Subwoofer
After selecting the radio, the next step is to choose the subwoofer and place it in the trunk.
There are many subs available to choose from, but I would prefer a ready-made enclosure like this SKAR, or even a set with a designated amplifier and the complete wiring like Rockville SK512 (links to Amazon).
#3. Install Amplifier
Good, now you have a radio compatible with car surround sound, but the problem is that signals produced by the stereo are not strong enough to satisfy most drivers, so you have to install an amplifier.
The amplifier will amplify the signals produced by your compatible head unit, and the amp I would install even today in any multichannel system is the 5-channel AudioControl LC5.1300. (link to Amazon)
I know it is not the cheapest one, but it is equipped with everything you may need for the surround sound system and is definitely worth the price.
If you are not going too loud with the subwoofer, the above amplifier will power it nicely, and for the strongest subwoofers, you will need to install a monoblock amp.
#4. Install Main Speakers
After installing subwoofers, ensure that your car has quality speakers installed.
Top-class speakers are crucial for the surround systems, where you do not want to sacrifice any sounds. Ideal are the component systems with independent tweeters like FOCAL 165AS with incredible clear highs.
#5. Install Tweeters
If you do not use the component systems but coaxial speakers, it is still good to add independent tweeters and place them on the upper door side or the front A-pillars.
#6. Install Crossovers
If you use a component speakers, the crossovers are included and already pre-set to the speakers’ specification.
However, if you add the tweeters to the coaxial speakers, you must add separate crossovers and cut the frequencies not supported by the tweeters.
With the right crossovers in hand, adjust the filter to 3000Hz.
#7. Make Wire Connections
With all car audio pieces in hand, now is the time to make wire connections.
Make sure all power, ground, RCA and speaker wires have stable connections with the equipment.
#8. Test the System
After placing the speakers in their positions and all wiring in place, go through a little checkpoint.
Turn the radio on and check if you hear sounds from all speakers, especially from the tweeters. If you are missing some high tones, now is time to adjust their positions to get the most out of the surround sound in your car.
#9. Place Speakers in Permanent Locations
After testing, bolt all speakers in their positions, and if needed, put foam gaskets over the cones.
This is important, especially in door speakers and will improve the dynamic of all sounds, reducing vibrations at the same time.
What Is a Car Surround Sound System?
A car surround sound system is a car audio system that has multiple speakers to create the illusion of surround sound.
The most common car surround sound system is the 5.1 surround sound system. This type of system has five speakers and one subwoofer.
In the car, you are sitting much closer to the left-side speakers, so you will hear them before any sounds from the right speakers.
Also, the speakers on the left sound louder, making you feel like the music comes from the door or the left side of the dash.
In the surround system, there is also a centre channel in the middle of the dash, where the system can direct audio signals for a better stage effect.
This results in the music that can be reproduced evenly across the dash from both the left and right seats, and what is more important, music sounds excellent also from the rear speakers.
What Are the Types of the Car Surround Systems?
There are three types of car surround sound systems:
#1. The 5.1 surround sound system
#2. The 7.1 surround sound system
#3. The 9.1 surround sound system
The 5.1 surround sound system is the most common car surround sound system. It has five speakers and one subwoofer.
The 7.1 surround sound system has seven speakers and one subwoofer.
The 9.1 surround sound system has nine speakers and one subwoofer.
More advanced sound systems are also used in cars, like the 11.1 surround sound system or the 13.1, which are often installed as a premium audio package in serial vehicles.
Those are, however, not as common as the 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1 car surround sound systems.
How Does a Car Surround Sound System Work?
The car surround sound system works by directing each sound to a particular location, allowing passengers to enjoy a realistic experience regardless of where they sit in the car.
The car surround sound system creates the surround sound by using a few different techniques:
#1. One of these techniques is called delay. Delay is when the car stereo sends the signal to the speakers at different times. This creates the illusion that the sound is coming from different directions.
#2. Another technique that is used is called EQ. EQ stands for equalization. This is when the car stereo changes the sound frequencies so you can hear it better through the speakers.
#3. The last technique that is used is called crosstalk cancellation. Crosstalk cancellation is when the car stereo Cancels out any sounds coming from the other speakers.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Car Surround Sound System?
When you are sitting in a car, the main problem you face from your vehicle’s stereo is that it does not evenly distribute the music to everyone.
Someone sitting near the speaker will hear it louder while the one sitting away from it will have a too low sound. It can distort the enjoyment of the journey.
When you have surround sound system in your car, everyone can enjoy the music equally.
There are many benefits of having a car surround sound system.
#1. One benefit is that it creates a more immersive listening experience. The car surround sound system envelops the listener in the music, making them feel like the sound surrounds them from every direction.
#2. Another benefit is that car surround sound systems can make driving more enjoyable. The music sounds fuller and richer, and it can make long car rides more pleasant.
Even if someone is travelling alone, having Surround Sound can dramatically enhance the stereo experience of that person.
Having sound coming from all directions makes the journey very easy and enjoyable.
How to Place Speakers in the Car to Get Surround Sound?
Proper speaker placement is inevitable for having a good surround sound in the car. The problem is that there is a difference in surround sound in your home and your vehicle.
In your home, you may place every speaker at an equal distance, but in the car, it is impossible to have all speakers at the same distance from the passengers.
To solve the distance issue, you should place the speakers so that everyone, regardless of sitting at any seat, can have a direct view of the speaker because all frequencies except the deep bass are directional.
So if anyone can have a direct view of the speaker, it means that frequency from that speaker will be directed towards the ears, and this is why tweeters are placed either in the front A-pillars or in the upper part of the door.
Do I Need a Centre Speaker for Surround Car System?
Center speakers are needed for the best audio experience, as they provide the dialogues and most of the music.
If your car has a factory-installed car surround sound system, then there is a good chance that it already has a centre speaker.
But if your car does not have one or you are upgrading your car’s audio system, then you will need to install a centre speaker.
The car’s centre speaker is generally placed in the middle of the dashboard or near it.
The car surround sound system is a great way to improve the listening experience in your car.
A surround sound system can make your car feel more like a home theatre and provide you with a more immersive listening experience.
When installing a car surround sound system, you will need to consider the type of radio you need, the variety of speakers you need, the number of speakers you need, and how to set up your amplifier.
It is best to consult with a car audio expert to ensure that you get the best possible car surround sound system for your needs.
What Does Surround Sound Do in a Car?
Surround sound creates an immersive audio experience in a car by using multiple speakers to produce sounds from different directions.
This creates a realistic and lifelike listening experience for passengers, making car rides more enjoyable.
Can I Use My Home Theater Surround Speakers in Car?
You can use home theatre surround speakers in cars, but they are not as effective as car speakers because they are designed to work in smaller spaces.
In addition, home speakers have a different impedance than car speakers, so if you decide to use them in the car, make sure the amplifier can work with the higher impedance of home theatre speakers.