Car audio systems are complex and intricate, and setting them up correctly can sometimes be tricky. The hardware of a car audio system but be installed, tweaked, and appropriately tuned to emit the best possible sound quality. A vital component of an audio system is the equalizer, but does it really that important? Do equalizers improve the sound in a car?
As a general rule, equalizers are used to tune the output frequencies of a car audio system. Without an EQ, the system will never sound its best. However, using an equalizer does improve the sound in a car by fine-tuning the system to produce its best quality audio output.
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Tip: The components of any car audio system are complicated, and setting up a system like this to have the best quality audio output is even more of a challenge. Equalizers are the best way to tune the audio system in a car and make a big difference to the way it sounds.
My favorite is a small 7 band Clarion EQS755 that is cheap for its outstanding performance, and you can easily install it in the dashboard area of any car.
In the article below, I will show you if you need an equalizer in your car, explain how to install it, and set it up.
Do I Need an Equalizer for My Car Stereo?
An equalizer is necessary to control the system’s output parameters and ensure that an audio system functions well and performs to the best of its ability to output the highest quality audio.
Car audio systems are unique in the world of audio. They have specific components and elements designed to work well in the unforgiving environment, which is the interior of a car. As a result, they can produce fantastic sound quality if they are set up well.
Every component in the audio system of a car is designed to function within specific parameters. Each part works together with the rest of the system to produce an overall audio output.
Each individual component serves a different function within the system, such as the output of a specific frequency range or controlling the volume level of the audio output.
The specific function of each component is vital for the overall function of the audio system. If the audio system elements do not perform well together or are not synchronized well, the system will produce poor quality audio, even if it is a hi-end system.
An equalizer is necessary to ensure that all of the components of the system can perform at their highest level.
Without an equalizer, it is impossible to properly control the output parameters of the audio system, which means that the system will never live up to its full potential.
This vital component of a car audio system adjusts the specific frequency output of the system, based specifically on the environment within the car, the speaker placement within the vehicle, the quality of the components of the system, and the power capabilities of the entire system.
To get the most out of your car audio system, you will need an equalizer, even if it is only a basic equalizer.
Do All Car Audio Systems Have an Equalizer?
In the modern world of car audio, most systems are digital. This means that even the most basic car audio systems are packed with features to help the system produce the best quality audio output possible.
One of the most fundamental features of any car audio system is some form of an equalizer. This means that even the most basic stock audio systems come equipped with an EQ of some kind.
Basic systems may only have only simple two-band bass controls, while high-end systems may have much more complex equalizers built into them. For example, an outstanding piece of engineering is the AudioControl DQDX 6 Channel Digital Sound Processor.
Aftermarket equalizer units can be installed in some systems, depending on the setup of the system and the capabilities of the system’s components.
Every modern car audio system, regardless of how basic or sophisticated it is, has some form of equalizer. Of course, some are more complex and powerful than others, but there are no modern digital systems that do not include EQ.
How Do I Hook up an Equalizer to a Car Stereo?
As a general rule, connecting the equalizer with a car stereo requires connecting the EQ to the power source and then connecting its RCA signal inputs with RCA outputs in the head unit.
If your car stereo system has only a small-band EQ, such as a two-band or three-band EQ, you may want to upgrade the equalizer to something a little more complex and control more parameters of the sound output of the stereo.
A good EQ can significantly improve the audio quality of a car audio system. In addition, Aftermarket EQ can improve even stock audio systems, as these units allow the system to be fine-tuned to produce the best quality audio, regardless of the system’s overall quality.
To connect an aftermarket equalizer to any car audio system, the system must first have an external amplifier. Without an amplifier apart from the head unit, the EQ will not have anywhere to send the audio signal from its output.
The equalizer output channels must match the input channels of the amplifier for the system to function well. This means that if the amplifier in your system has four input channels, the equalizer that you install must have four output channels.
The head unit has main RCA outputs. This is split into a left and right output channel, and the equalizer has a corresponding left and right RCA input channel.
To connect the EQ unit to the stereo, remove the head unit from its dash mounting. Next, unplug the head unit outputs from the amplifier and connect them to the equalizer input channel.
You can connect either the front or rear output channels from the head unit to the EQ, it makes no difference, but only one output is required.
The next step is to run the output channels of the EQ unit to the amplifier’s input channels.
Once the EQ is connected to the head unit and the amplifier, respectively, connect the EQ unit to the power source of your sound system, mount the unit in the dash, and you should be good to go.
As long as the equalizer unit has power, receives left and right signals from the head unit, and can send all output channels to the amplifier, the EQ unit will function well in the system.
What Are The Best Equalizer Settings For A Car Audio System?
In general, all starting frequencies for the setup should be as close to 0dB as possible. After fine-tuning, the maximum difference between corresponding frequencies on the EQ should be 3dB.
Using an RTA (real-time analyzer) is the best way to determine the frequency output of the system. There are RTA apps available for smartphones that work very well, and my favorite one is a free SimpleFFT application from MusicalSoundLab.
Using an RTA to determine the frequency outputs of the system is excellent as it gives you a visual representation of what the frequencies are doing.
Try to set the system to smooth transitions between frequency ranges rather than jagged lines in the curve. It is ideal for a car audio system to have as smooth a sound as possible and for as few gaps between the frequency ranges as possible.
There should be a smooth curve from the bass to the middle frequencies and the middle to the treble frequencies. Sub-bass (20-60Hz) should be a swooping upward curve, and the high-trebles (6kHz plus) should be as even as possible.
Every equalizer has broad settings, and the best way to set an EQ in-car audio is to listen to it.
- First, play something through the stereo and listen to the way the system sounds.
- Then, make the adjustments as you notice sounds, frequencies, or noises you like or dislike.
Try to remove what you do not want to hear, and try to highlight those sounds that are pleasing to your ear.
The audio that is played through the system makes a difference as well. If you play rock music, boosted, mid-range frequencies will work best. Other genres such as EDM will do better with extended bass, while classical music should have some precise high frequencies to help differentiate between the instruments in the recording.
Listen to the sound of your system as you adjust the EQ and find what you like; once it is set right for you, leave it alone. Trust your ears and your audio instincts.
Which Are the Best Equalizer Settings for Car Audio?
Asa general rule, the differences between individual frequencies should be as low as possible and not greater than +/- 3dB in the whole range. The highest should be sub-bass range between 20-60Hz, then rest should flatten out to around 6kHz. Frequencies over 8K should slightly drop down up to 20kHz.
You can adjust many parameters with car audio equalizers, especially those that are complex and equipped with a large number of EQ bands.
Equalizer systems with less control, such as three-band EQ systems, are more challenging to set up for optimum sound because there is less precise control over the various frequencies.
This leaves many wondering if there is a set guideline for the bass, middle, and treble frequency settings on a simple EQ system, such as a three-band EQ?
The best way to get an idea of what the bass, middle, and treble settings of your car stereo system are actually adjusting is to use an RTA meter on your smartphone. This will give you a decent indication of how the controls affect what you are hearing.
As a starting point, set the bass, middle, and treble controls to 0, play some music you like through the stereo system and watch the RTA readout. If you see any substantial spikes in one area, use the corresponding control to turn that range down.
If there is a substantial drop in a specific frequency range, use that control to boost that range.
Keep going through this process until the frequency response on the RTA readout is as flat as possible.
These are the flat settings for the bass, middle, and treble frequencies of your system. From here, dial in any frequencies that you think may need to be adjusted. For example, if you prefer more bass, turn the bass up a little until it hits the level you enjoy.
Using the RTA readout and listening to the audio output, you will quickly establish what sounds best for your system.
Car audio systems are complex, and they have many components and features that all work together to produce a good audio experience.
There are so many factors that determine the audio quality form a particular car audio system that dialing them all in can feel very daunting.
Everything from the speakers to the wiring makes a significant difference in the way the system sounds when in use, which makes it challenging to draw the best possible sound out of the system.
The best way to control the audio quality, clarity, and performance of a car audio system is to use an equalizer. An equalizer is the primary mixing station for an audio system. It can cut or boost frequencies and adjust the audio output to produce the best possible audio quality from that system.
For this reason, it is very safe to say that equalizers do improve the sound in a car.
Without an equalizer, the sound in a car will sound very flat, dry, and dull. The equalizer in a car audio system allows the system to be tweaked to bring out the best qualities of the system itself and the audio that is being played through it.
Without an equalizer in a car audio system, the sound will never be as good as possible, regardless of the system’s overall quality.
A cheap system can be improved by a good EQ as much as a high-end system can, and this meant that using an EQ for car sound is always a good idea!
Get a good equalizer for your car audio system, dial it to your liking, and enjoy the glorious audio it will produce!