These tips may shock some of you because they are about getting better music out of a system, not just more bass. JL Audio Director of Training and Technical Services Steve Turrisi explains how to make a car audio system sound incredible for all music tastes:
Set up a smart system (don’t use twelve 15-inch subwoofers and a pair of tweeters)
- Proper system settings (don’t set input sensitivity “by ear.” Use the proper starting points on crossovers).
- Actually listen to the system. Use a test disc that has tracks to identify left and right channels, and phase tracks at various bands (low frequency, mid frequency and high frequency as well as full range).
- Try changing the polarity of one side of the vehicle (I always change the right speaker just to be consistent.) and listen to it again. If it is better, leave it. If not, put it back and move on. Do this with the subwoofer too.
- Listen to the system again. This time use music you know pretty well. Find tracks that challenge transition areas (the area where you are crossing over from one speaker, like the sub, to another, like the door speakers.
- Listen to see if the door speaker can play loud and clear without ‘bottoming out’. Try a lower crossover point and listen again. Go as low as you can without issue and then go up a click or two for good measure.
- Then bring in the sub. Blend it in so that it is not overpowering the door speaker. Try raising and lowering the crossover point to see how it changes the sound. If you can change the crossover slope (IE: From 12 dB to 24dB) you might need to go back and do the phase test mentioned earlier since the slope of the crossover will change the phase as well.
- Listen to the system again. Use music you know pretty well again and this time just listen. The trick here is that you should know what it is supposed to sound like…Go to some concerts and consider some diversity in music. A lot of bars have live music which can be good or bad. But when it is bad, at least you know it is bad. When you go back to tune a vehicle (or a room), don’t make it sound bad! 🙂 Listen at all levels. Low, mid and high volumes. Make sure that at high volumes, the system does not get “screechy”. It should play loud and clean and effortlessly.
- If the system sounds strained, it will most likely have issues. Those issues can show up in a few ways, one is failures (blown speakers or amplifiers shutting off) and the other is listener fatigue. If your customer is reaching for the volume to turn it down because it is too harsh, they are not going to enjoy their system. If they are reaching to turn it up, you’ve done well…that means that they love the sound and they want even more.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes to your settings to see how they sound. This is how you will gauge if you have dialed everything in right. Just be careful about playing things too loud until you have verified the capabilities of the system.
- Finally, explain to your customer what you have done and why. Listen to the system with the customer using their music. See what they think. Stay engaged with them while they tell you what they like and what they dislike (if anything). Since you have intimate knowledge of the capabilities of the system you will know how to address their concerns should they have any.