In network mode, car radios produce three types of outputs – high-frequency output, mid-range frequency or bandpass output, and low range output.
But what is the network mode, and how to set it up correctly? Let’s find out.
Network Mode is used to set up tweeters, midrange, and a woofer from the separate output channels in the car stereo. Along with this, you also have to change the operation mode to network mode on the car radio.
Tip: To tune your car audio system, you need a proper microphone together with a matching application.
The best and inexpensive is the AudioControl SA-4100i Omni-directional Audio Test and Measurement Microphone that works perfectly in the car environment allowing to make adjustments on all types of equalizers.
In this article, I will dig deep on how to use network mode on your car radio and what are the speaker arrangement requirements in this mode.
What Is Network Mode in Car Radio?
Every Car stereo has in-built advanced audio features. A car radio can either be set up in standard mode or three-way network mode.
In network mode, you set up audio outputs as high, mid, and low because this is a three-way output:
- the high-frequency output is for tweeters
- medium frequency output for mid range speakers
- and low-frequency output for subwoofers
So, in network mode, you can attach these three to your car audio system.
Network mode is not something you can change in your stereo settings, and to activate it, you have to do a factory reset and then select network mode in your car stereo.
You have to remember that you will lose all the data stored in the stereo when you reset your car radio. So your color is gone, presets are gone, your phone or connected devices have been deleted.
To check whether your car radio is in standard mode or network mode, load up the disc and then go to “sound settings.”
Scroll down and go to “speaker level.” You will see two tweeters, two midranges, and one subwoofer, depending upon the features of your car radio. This means that your car radio is in network mode.
What Is the Difference Between Standard Mode and Network Mode?
When you power up your car radio for the first time or do a factory reset, it will ask you to select the language first and then choose between standard and network mode.
Network mode is a 3-way output system, whereas in standard mode, car radio has 2-way audio output, but this is not the only difference.
There are two main differences between standard and network mode –
- The difference in RCA outputs
- Use of Crossovers
Let’s look at them one by one.
The Difference in RCA Outputs
When looking at the back of the stereo, some have three sets of RCA outputs for operating external amplifiers.
Top Pair of RCA Outputs
In standard mode, the top set of RCA outputs are the front audio outputs. These are full-range audio outputs from all sources, including Bluetooth.
In standard mode, Bluetooth phone calls are heard through front RCA outputs or from front speakers.
In network mode, the top set of RCA outputs becomes high-range audio outputs used to connect tweeters. Therefore, when you choose the network mode, you will not receive phone calls through the front channels.
Middle Pair of RCA Outputs
In standard mode, the middle set of RCAs is for rear speakers. In this mode, these are full-range audio outputs, and no phone calls are heard from the speakers connected to these outputs.
In network mode, middle RCA becomes the mid-range audio outputs, and the Bluetooth signals for the phone calls are also being sent through these RCA connections. In addition, you can apply both high pass filter and low pass filter to this output in network mode.
Bottom Pair of RCA Outputs
The third pair of the RCA outputs is used for the subwoofer in both standard and network mode.
Use of Crossovers
- In standard mode, the system uses a passive crossover.
- In the network mode, the system uses the internal car radio crossovers. Therefore, the network mode gives more flexibility in setting up crossover points than passive crossovers.
Do I Choose Network Mode or Standard Mode on My Radio?
Network mode and standard mode are two fundamentally different ways to wire, set up, and install your car stereo.
The choice of using your stereo in standard or network mode depends on the type of car audio system you want.
For example, if you want an audio arrangement with standard wide range coaxial speakers connected in front, rear door, and a subwoofer at the back, you should choose the standard mode.
In network mode, the stereo gives out three outputs:
- low frequency
So, if you are going to set up a subwoofer, midrange, and tweeters, then you choose network mode on the car stereo.
Now the next question that often comes to mind is:
I have a coaxial speaker in the rear door, a tweeter and midrange in the front door, and a subwoofer in the trunk. Should I use network mode?
The answer is NO because the arrangement is for the front, rear, and sub-channels, even though you have different audio drivers.
The easiest way to think about it is if you have a rear speaker, then you are not doing network mode.
When making adjustments to the systems in either network mode or standard mode, keep in mind that the speaker level outputs always give out the same frequency that you can compare to the RCA outputs.
How to Set up Network Mode In-Car Radio
Setting up the network mode is not complicated, and I will use the Pioneer AVH 2400NEX for the example below so that you can follow it directly.
However, most Pioneer radios have the same settings, so there should be no differences in the process.
For New Car Radio
If you have a new car stereo, follow these steps to set up network mode:
- If your car radio is brand new and it has powered up for the first time, then the first thing you have to do is select the “language.”
- After choosing a language, the next question you see is the fundamental setup question regarding the audio system. Again, you will see two modes – standard mode and network mode.
- Select the “network mode,” press OK, and now your stereo is in network mode.
For Old Car Radio
Now, what if your car radio is not brand new or already in standard mode?
Most people are already using their car radio in standard mode. To put the car radio into network mode, follow these steps.
Restore Car Radio
- Go into the “settings” of your car radio. Scroll up and hit “Restore Settings,” then hit “restore.” Wait patiently, and it will restore the settings of your car stereo like that of a new one. Each stereo has a slightly different procedure to restore settings, so you should read the device manual to find out how to restore factory settings.
- Now select the language of your car radio, and the next thing you have to choose is “network mode.”
- Congratulations, your stereo is now in 3-way network mode.
How to Connect Speakers to a Car Radio in Network Mode?
After choosing the network in your radio, the next thing is to hook up the tweeters, subwoofer, and midrange speakers to the car radio.
When setting up this system, it is critical to understand the frequency response of the tweeter and midrange driver package.
- First, you have to connect the tweeters. If you are using an amplifier, the steps remain the same. The front RCA – white and grey have to be connected to tweeters.
- The next are the midrange speakers, which you must connect through purple and green rear RCA outputs. This is important because of the crossovers, the volumes, and the time connections. So, you have to get this portion right.
- There is no deck power for the subwoofer. The RCA connections for the subwoofer are the only ones that do not change between the standard and the network mode.
The above steps explain how the 3-way network system is connected. The whole idea of doing network mode is to throw passive crossover away from the car sound system because passive crossover is a power-robbing device.
There are various advantages of using car radio in network mode rather than passive crossovers.
In network mode, you have more control over the frequency settings, and you can pick up crossover points, for example, at 6, 12, 18, 24 dB.
Most tweeters also have an attenuation circuit that allows you to attenuate like +3dB, 0, or -3dB in the standard mode, but when your radio works in the network mode, the volume control allows you to attenuate (gain it up or gain it down) the tweeter any way you want.
How to Adjust Crossover Points in Network Mode?
The confusion many people will face is when it comes to the crossovers. It isn’t obvious for beginners and may need professional help, so let’s go through the basics.
As a general rule, the frequencies should be set at the crossover as follow:
- For tweeters, tune the crossover points to the high frequency range
- for midrange, adjust crossover points to mid-frequency output
- tune the subwoofer to low frequencies
While adjusting crossover points, keep in mind that you should keep your drivers out of the danger zone and not go over the maximum supported frequencies for each speaker. You should see the operating frequency on each speaker, or you can find this information in the manual.
Here are the steps to set crossover points in network mode:
- Open the speaker settings in the stereo, go to the “balance,” and you will see a screen that shows a balance between left and right speakers.
- Now go to “crossovers,” and you will have features like high pass filter, mid low pass, mid high pass, and subwoofer. There are also numbers appearing on the screen that show crossover points.
- For any high pass filter, you can set the crossover at 1.25K, 1.6K, 2K, 2.5K, 3.15K, 4K, 5K, 6.3K, 8K, 10K, and 12.5K, but these points may be slightly different in different stereos.
- The crossover is critical as it protects your speakers from blowing, so you have to get it right. What I recommend doing is to connect each speaker individually and listen to them one by one. While adjusting crossover points, you want to make sure that you are not getting any undesirable sound or distortion from them.
- After this, play the speakers in pairs. For example, play tweeter and midrange together and see how they sound or play tweeter and subwoofer together, adjust the crossovers and see if they are producing any distortion or not.
In the following steps, I will show you exact crossover points for all drivers.
For this, you may need an RTA (real-time analyzer), which is a PPA 3 device (personal audio assistance). The screen on RTA shows you how your sound looks and what it does to the speakers. If you do not have the RTA, much more affordable options is to use the AudioControl SA-4100i Omni-directional Audio Test and Measurement Microphone to measure not only frequencies for each speakers, buy also its polarity that is critical for the best sound quality.
The best is to use the pink noise tracks to analyze the sounds. Pink noise puts out a flat-level sound ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz (human hearing range), and when adjusting the crossovers, you can see the exact sound level on each frequency on the RTA screen.
Now you have arranged your stereo and RTA screen, follow these steps to set up crossover points in network mode.
- Connect the RTA screen to the high-frequency output of a car radio.
- Go to “crossovers,” and for a high pass filter. An excellent place to start is 8K, giving you a 6dB slope. This means that the tweeter will play down to 8KHz but not lower than that. As you adjust the crossover points, the graph on the RTA screen changes. Our main motive is to adjust the crossover points such that the tweeter gets tuned to high-level frequencies.
- Connect the RTA screen to the car stereo’s mid-range or bandpass frequency output. You will see that the mid-high pass filter is turned off, and it shows a pretty much flat response on the RTA screen.
- Turn on the mid-high pass filter by clicking on the “HPF,” and it will display “HPF On.” Adjust the crossovers so that it covers the mid-range frequencies. The ideal crossover point is 10K, or you can see the frequency ratings on speakers and adjust accordingly.
- In the same way, adjust the crossover points of the low pass filter.
Up to this step, you have tuned midrange, tweeter and now let’s adjust the subwoofer.
- To tune the subwoofer, connect the RTA screen to low-frequency outputs of the car radio. Click on this sign (<), and it will take you to the subwoofer.
- Adjust the crossover points for the subwoofer to tune the low-level frequencies. For subwoofers, you should set the crossover points at 80Hz.
When switching between network and standard modes, please be aware that just changing modes on the stereo is not enough. You have to completely change your audio system, including the speakers and the amplifier wiring.
Changing modes just on the stereo without other adjustments will damage your speakers if you don’t take time to rewire your stereo, so it is crucial to understand the differences between the standard and the network modes.