For many car audio enthusiasts, there is nothing quite like knowing that you have a world-class studio system. Having good audio in your car is one of life’s great joys. However, what if you want to put your system up against other world-class systems in a competition? This is how to build a car audio competition system.
As a general rule, to build a winning car audio system, choose a league and class to compete in, read the rules for that competition, and build your system accordingly. Car audio competitions are run by associations that set the rules for the specific competitions.
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There are many rules to follow in car audio system competitions, leagues, and even classes.
The challenge is fierce, and there is a lot to know, but let’s take a deep dive into what it takes to build a car audio competition system.
Which Are the Car Audio Associations?
These organizations are the backbone of the competition world in-car audio, and without them, there would be no competition. They set the rules and parameters, and for your system to win in a competition, you will have to build it to their specifications.
The first step in competing for in-car audio and building a car audio competition system is to look at the car audio competition organizations.
International Car Audio Associations
There are three leading car audio competition associations that hold international competitions. These competitions are open to anyone who can get to the event, and they have international leagues that compete for world titles and world records.
These three associations are IASCA, USACi, and dB Drag Racing Association.
IASCA: The International Auto Sound Challenge Association
This is the biggest and oldest car audio competition association, and they hold their events worldwide. There are based in the USA, but their international competitions set the standard for car audio systems worldwide.
IASCA holds competitions in SPL (sound pressure level) and SQ (sound quality) competitions internationally.
USACi: The United States Audiosound Competition International
This association is the second-largest worldwide. They began in the states as USAC but now hold international competitions under USACi.
USACi offers competitors the opportunity to compete in international SPL and SQ leagues.
dB Drag Racing Association
Also known as “dB Drag,” this international organization is smaller than IASCA and USACi, but they provide a unique competition experience.
dB Drag only offers competitions in the SPL category, but they provide multiple competitions and classes to keep the competition fun and interesting in this one category.
Car Associates Based In The USA
There are two main car audio competition associations that are worth mentioning, even though they are only based exclusively in the USA.
These two associations are MECA and Midwest SPL.
MECA: Mobile Electronics Competiton Association
This is a smaller association compared to the international organizations. However, they are worth mentioning because they offer both SPL and SQ competition leagues with multiple competition types, built around making the competitions as fun and exciting as possible.
This car audio competition association is based solely in the midwestern United States and offers SPL competitions only.
They are a small association, but Midwest SPL is an excellent organization to keep an eye on, as they are doing great things for the car audio competition community.
What Are the Car Audio Competition Formats?
Car audio competitions are usually comprised of two broad competition formats: SQ and SPL.
SQ stands for Sound Quality, and SPL means Sound Pressure Level.
These competition formats have multiple subcategories or classes, all explicitly designed with the overall structure in mind.
SQ formats focus on quality, while SPL formats focus on sheer loudness.
SQ – Sound Quality Formats
Sound Quality formats are typically competitions that test the quality of a car audio system. In the past, these competitions were initially focused on the sound system’s quality, but modern competitors have multiple subcategories, all based on audio system quality.
Some of the subcategories found in the SQ competition format are the typical sound quality competitions and competitions looking at the quality of a car audio system installation.
There are competitions in SQ that test the tuning of the system and its ability to reach high decibel levels while remaining clear and hitting all frequencies of the audio spectrum and test the full range of sound from a system with music rather than just test tones.
SQ also includes competitions to determine the best overall audio system in-car audio, based on SPL and SQ, and other factors such as build quality, tuning, and other factors that go into excellent car audio systems.
SPL – Sound Pressure Level Formats
SPL formats are focussed primarily on the performance of a car audio system, with a special interest in sound pressure level, which is how loud an audio system is.
The simple formats of these competitions determine which system can reach the highest decibel reading, while others are more complicated.
The more advanced versions of the SPL competition format involve such competitions as face-off type challenges where competitors are put up against one another to determine the best performing audio competition system.
Other SPL formats are broader and are open to multiple classes of systems ranging from amateur classes to ultimate classes for world-class systems. The rules are simple, play music or test tones through the audio system, and ht highest decibel reading wins.
What Are the Car Audio Competition Classes?
Car audio competitions are divided into the SPL and SQ competition formats with multiple categories and competition types in each format. Still, there is another level to car audio competition that goes further than format or category.
This complicated structure deeper level of competition in the car audio competition classes.
A class is a bracket that a particular competition audio system will compete in based on specific parameters and specifications of the system.
The classes separate the various competitors into leagues that make the competition fair, ensuring that audio systems are judged fairly based on other systems of the same type, power, price range, and modification.
The classes separate the amateurs from the professionals and make it so that there are various levels of competition, making car audio competitions accessible for everyone.
Some of the competition classes in the SQ formal are:
- Stock Class
- Street Class
- Modified Street Class
- Modified Class
- Modex Class
- Extreme Class
- and Master Class
Each class has its own restrictions, rules, and specifications, and those competing in each category have to follow the directions explicitly or risk disqualification.
The judges of the competition decide on the competition class that an audio system competes in.
The SPL competition format is divided into classes, but the class divisions in this format are decided by the complexity and potential of a specific system.
This is known as the “Pressure Class” method and separates systems by collective woofer cone surface area measurements and sub amplifier power.
What Are Key Components for the Competition Car Audio Systems?
Car audio competition systems are comprised of many various components and features that make them competition-worthy.
There are plenty of competitions, competition formats, competition classes, and various competitive leagues to compete in, but they have something in common: the audio system.
It may sound simple that you need an audio system to compete in a car audio competition, but there are some fundamentals of a car audio system often left out or overlooked by many beginner competitors.
This is why it is vital to understand the critical component of any car audio system, especially the ones intended for competition, and not forget any of them when building a competition system.
The first key component of a competition-winning car audio system is speakers. The speakers in the system are the core of how well the system performs. Without a good set of car audio speakers, the rest of the system is useless.
An excellent feature to look out for in competition-grade speakers is a high RMS rating. RMS means “Root, Mean, Square,” which is a measurement that indicates the level of regular power that a speaker can handle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
A high RMS rating will mean a better performing and overall consistent speaker. The speakers should be component speakers to get the most out of the system.
Add to a good set of component speakers with a high RMS rating a good subwoofer, regardless of the type of competition your system is competing in.
An amplifier is vital for a system like this as well, or there will be no clean source of power to drive the speakers and sub-woofer. So a good amp is crucial and can mean the difference between winning and losing in a competition, especially in an SPL competition.
A crossover system is important as well, as it will correctly send the audio signal to the speakers that should output them.
These are the critical components of a car audio system, specially built for competing for in-car audio competitions.
Can I Use an Existing Car Audio System for a Competition?
The world of car audio competitions is far more forgiving than many realize.
Some competition leagues are for high-end systems or extreme car audio systems that do not even resemble cars anymore, but they’re also some leagues open to all competitors, even for stock systems.
This means that you can use the audio system that is already installed in your car, whether it has been used for previous competitions or if it simply the system that came with the case when you caught it.
That being said, there are considerations to make when entering an existing system into a car audio competition.
Keep in mind that if you are using an existing upgraded system, and if you have not done any upgrades since the last competition, but the other competitors have upgraded theirs, yours may have fallen behind and may not be competitive anymore.
You may even mind yourself in a lower competition class than last year.
Something else to consider is that the stock class in any car audio competition is one of the most challenging competitions to compete in because it is subject to the most rules and regulations of any car audio system competition.
This is because these systems must be kept entirely stock, without any modifications or any other upgrades whatsoever. The system must also be in perfect condition and well maintained.
At the end of it, you can use an existing audio system for a car audio competition, but remember that the competition is tough!
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Competition Car Audio System?
Competiton car audio systems can cost anywhere from $400 to many thousands of Dollars. Some competition systems have cost as much as $330 000 on the high end of the scale.
A car audio system for a competition can be very costly, or it can be very affordable. It all depends on the format, league, and class of competition that you are competing in.
The master class competitions require systems that cost huge amounts of money just to be competitive. In contrast, the amateur classes can be entered by anyone with any form of upgrades to their car audio system.
The most expensive competition classes include the mater class, the extreme class, and the modified class. These classes are the most outrageous and require the most high-end systems.
The competitions that can be entered with affordable systems are the amateur, stock, and modified stock classes. These competitions are very accessible, even for first-time competitors.
How to Prepare for the First Car Audio Competition?
When competing for the first time in a car audio competition, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to compete:
Choose a competition
Choosing a format, league, and class to compete in is vital. This will help you build your audio system to win in that class, rather than arriving at the event and being bumped into a different class that you were not prepared for based on the size of your subwoofer housing.
Read the Rules
This is incredibly important. Without knowing the rules of your competition or class, you may be disqualified before you even begin.
Prepare Your System
Be sure that your system is set up correctly for competition by using meters to measure the output of your system and fine-tuning it to the perfect performance for the competition that you intend to compete in.
Have Emergency Equipment
Remember to have a piece of emergency equipment during the competition. These include a battery charger, an SPL meter, electrical tape, wire cutters, touch-up paint, soldering iron.
Even an extra speaker or two can prevent disaster on competition day and help you deal with unforeseen circumstances.
Speak to the Judges
If you can, when preparing for a competition, find and speak to a judge or former judge of car audio competitions. They will provide you with inside expertise on how to win in your specific competition format and class.
What to Improve for the Next Car Audio Competition
The best way to improve for the next competition is to learn from your mistakes and learn from your fellow competitors.
The world of car audio competition can be challenging, and the best thing that you can do is learn from experience and learn from those who have been competing for longer than you have.
Car audio is a comprehensive platform of competition, there are so many aspects to it, and it is easy to become lost or not know where you may be going wrong.
Speaking to those around you for advice and taking careful note of circumstances that occur during a competition can be the push you need to win your next event!
To build a car audio competition system, it is crucial to understand the associations and organizations that put the events together and set the rules and which competition to take part in.
Once you understand the associations and their rules, you can choose a competition to compete in based on your budget and the system you already have in your car.
After that, design your audio system to compete in your chosen event and built it to win!
Choose the right system components based on your competition rules and do your best to put together a competitive system.
You do not need to have a huge budget to build a winning system, but a bigger budget does increase your chances of winning.
The most crucial aspect of this endeavor is to enjoy the process. So enjoy designing and building your competition car audio system, and enjoy the competition itself, and you will keep coming back for more!