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How Do I Make My Car Sound Louder
I have been working with electronics since childhood, I started by disassembling and assembling televisions and radios. I always put them together and worked. As a teenager, I took radio and electronics courses and became a radio amateur. I worked on the stage crew in high school, doing the sound, lights and film projector. After college, I joined a rock ‘n’ roll band as a sound engineer and learned how to wear and use the equipment that helps make music good and loud.
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I worked in a music store in Austin, Texas and spent several years building, installing, repairing and operating sound systems. Our clients were recording studios, clubs and concert bands. I eventually moved back to Charlottesville, Virginia and opened a small demo recording studio. In 2006 I finally came to my senses and got this job at . I actually get paid to ramble, rant, and explain the things I love about music, electronics, and getting good sound.
Because of my background, I’ve been tasked with writing about some of the most complex electronic products on the market: automotive amplifiers, digital signal processors, cabling, professional mixing consoles and public address systems.
In this article… I’ll show you how to tune your amp to make your subwoofers sound the way you want. Follow these simple steps to get great bass:
One of the things I love most about subwoofers is that I can feel the emotions of the music right through my body. The low frequency beat often makes me want to dance or at least nod my head to the beat. That’s why we all love music above all else: it moves us.
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Getting the exact bass sound you want from your subwoofers can take some time and effort, but the rewards of a well-tuned subwoofer system are tremendously great and physically satisfying.
If you’re looking for information on buying subwoofers, read our subwoofer buying guide and see our top-rated subwoofer selection, then come back here for more information on how to set them up for great sound.
Remember that distortion is the enemy: it destroys speakers, subwoofers and eardrums. Distortion sounds like crackling, shaking, crackling, or hissing that interferes with the distinct sound of the musical instrument. If you are powering your full-range car speakers through an amplifier, it is important that the gain of the amplifier is set correctly to avoid distortion.
With the amplifier gain low, play some music and turn up the volume on your receiver until you hear the music being distorted; then lower the volume until the music sounds clear again. Note or mark where the receiver volume is located. This setting represents the maximum volume your receiver can reach and still play cleanly.
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Now turn up the amp gain until you hear the distortion again; then reduce the gain slightly until the distortion disappears. The gain of the amplifier is adjusted so that you can reduce the volume of the receiver to a more comfortable level. Even if your speaker system does not have an amplifier, you will still need to find the maximum volume on your receiver by turning it up just below the distortion level.
Turn the sub-amp gain to the lowest position and counter-clockwise. Turn on the low pass and set it as high clockwise as you like. If it has bass boost, turn it off. If the remote has a level control, set it to the middle position so you can later boost or cut the bass for each track.
Adjust your receiver’s bass control to a mid, zero, or “flat” setting, depending on what your stereo says. If it has a subwoofer level control, set it to medium or “no gain” as well. Receivers sometimes have a crossover, low pass, or bass boost on the subwoofer output. Make sure they are all disabled as well.
Note: Do not use receiver and amplifier low-pass filters, crossovers or bass boosts at the same time. Use one or the other, but not both. This is because something called phase distortion builds up around each filter or boosted crossover frequency and darkens the sound.
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Play music through the receiver at about quarter volume. Increase the gain of the subwoofer amplifier until the sound of your subwoofer completely overwhelms the other speakers without distorting them.
When listening to music coming from your subwoofer, slowly reduce the subwoofer’s low pass until all high and mid frequency tones disappear.
A low-pass filter removes the tones you don’t want your subwoofer to play. It also works as a tone control to capture the “edges” of the kick sound; attack and release his boom. Filter cymbals, strings, vocals and guitars. Drop the bass and the drums will drop.
If you have a bass boost, try turning it up carefully to hear how the drum sounds. Using just a little bass boost adds a lot of kick. Be careful with the bass boost if you choose to use it – this is where distortion is often introduced into the system. If you hear distortion, lower the gain on the subwoofer until it disappears. Use the bass boost to feel the rhythm in the air your submarine moves through.
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For ported subwoofers, use a subsonic filter on the amp to tame excessively loud lows. This will help reduce the tone levels at which the cabinet resonates. Adjust all the filters a bit more to make the drum sound tight and dry or loose and rusty, depending on your personal taste. I like reggae and soul so my bass is really strong but a bit drier than most people might like.
The important thing is to keep tweaking the system until you hear something you like. When you’re happy with your system’s bass tone and kick, lower the subwoofer volume as much as possible using the subwoofer level in the receiver’s sound settings menu or the bass control on your remote if you have one.
Now that each piece of the puzzle is ready, it’s time to focus on all the music.
Turn up the volume on the receiver to maximum, without distortion. Then slowly increase the volume of the subwoofer until the bass is balanced with the rest of the music. That should be enough.
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Move the remote bass boost or level control up and down a bit to hear what it does. Due to the size of the car’s acoustic space, subwoofers sometimes do not blend their sound constructively with the rest of the sound waves in the system. If your bass is loud but seems to lack punch, sometimes you can help by rewiring the speaker cables on the subwoofer. This reverses the forward and backward movement of the subwoofer cone, which could bring all the sound waves together better than the other way around. The way that sounds best is the right way.
If you hear distortion coming from the subwoofers, lower the gain on the subwoofer. If you can’t get enough bass out of your subwoofer at this point to keep up with your other speakers without distortion, you’ll need to get a larger subwoofer and amp combo with higher power handling capabilities.
You should not reduce the gain of your wideband amplifier to try to compensate for the insufficient volume of the subwoofer. Doing so can cause the amp to send distorted and clipped signals to your full-range speakers, defeating your goal of a clean, full sound, which is why you put in a subwoofer to begin with. More power, especially in the bass, is always better than less.
You should now be able to enjoy the fullness and robust rhythm of your music with your subwoofer set up to suit your system capabilities and hearing preferences. Just remember to be polite and turn down the boom volume when it might disturb other people.
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For more information on tuning your car’s sound system, see Adding a 4-Channel Amplifier. For more information on how to get the best sound from your amp, check out our amp articles and glossaries.
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