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What to Look for In a Car Audio System

Updated on March 6, 2013

Next Gen Car Stereo System

Next Gen Car Stereo System
Next Gen Car Stereo System | Source

Why This Article?

When you are planning your custom car design, it is essential that you include a car audio system to complete the overall look. There are many different components of a car stereo and you’ll have to keep your budget in mind as you shop.

Before you actually purchase anything, you’ll need to know exactly what it is that you want your custom car to sound like. Do you want it heard from three blocks away? Are you willing to give up some of your trunk space to get it? Or do you just want a quality system that will allow your kids to watch movies on long drives? Knowing what you want will save you time and money later on.

Head Unit

The head unit of your car stereo is the main component. It includes the AM/FM radio, speakers and a small amplifier. Most units these days also come with a cd player, and you can upgrade it to include a DVD or Blu-Ray player with a foldout screen for your passengers. If you are going to be adding a separate amplifier to your car stereo system, you don’t need to worry about the wattage of the head unit. This is because the external amplifier will bypass the one that is included and the wattage becomes an obsolete feature. If you’re not going to add an amplifier, then you probably want a unit with a higher wattage, such as 50x4.


If you choose to purchase separate speakers, quality matters. You could have the most high end amplifier and head unit, but if you have below-par speakers, it won’t matter much. Speakers come in two categories: component or coaxial. Component speakers dived midrange, bass and treble between individual units, while coaxial combines two or more speakers into one single unit that handle all frequencies. This type is normally the cheaper of the two types, and will satisfy most buyers.


A subwoofer’s job is to add extra bass to the overall sound of your car audio system. Many people purchase a system without a subwoofer, and add it on later if you absolutely must have that low-end sound.


An amplifier’s purpose is to take your head unit’s low level signal and transfer it to a high level signal. The wattage and prices vary greatly on these units depending on how much sound you want. The most common models are the two or four channel types.

Anti-Theft System

If you’ve spent your hard earned money designing your custom car and car audio system, you want to protect it from thieves and criminals. There are many anti-theft devices that can ‘fool’ people into thinking you only have a factory installed system, and criminals won’t look twice at it. Faceplates that fit over your head unit are quite common and they are fairly inexpensive. It’s certainly a lot more inexpensive than having to replace all of your components because you didn’t have an anti-theft device in place. You may even get a break on your car insurance premiums.


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