The process of getting better quality car audio sound is an incremental one, so there’s actually quite a number of little tweaks and upgrades that you can do to enhance the overall sound quality in your car.
Many of the ways to get better audio quality in your car involve upgrades, like getting a new head unit, or installing premium speakers or a subwoofer, but others are actually focused on improving the environment in your car primarily by removing as much external interference as possible.
1. Replace Your Factory Speakers
One of the easiest way to hear at least some type of improvement in car audio quality is to replace the factory standard speakers with higher quality aftermarket units. When you do a direct replacement and put in speakers that conform the dimensions and basic type of the factory speakers, this is literally a plug and play type job where you pull out the old units and drop in the new ones.
2. Upgrade Your Head Unit and Ditch Your Phone’s Built-in DAC
While your phone or MP3 player is perfectly capable of playing music, you'll hear in increase in quality if your head unit has a good DAC. While upgrading your head unit is not always the best place to start when you are specifically looking to get better overall audio quality, it’s always worth considering. This is especially true if your head unit is getting a little old, or if it doesn’t have preamp outputs and you’re looking at installing an amplifier.
Another reason to consider upgrading your head unit is if you like to listen to digital music in your car. If your head unit does not have a high-quality built-in DAC, then adding a new head unit that does will allow you to offload the heavy lifting of digital audio conversion from your phone or MP3 player to your car stereo.
Taking advantage of a head unit that comes equipped with a high-quality DAC requires a USB or proprietary connection, so keep in mind that you’ll have to connect your phone or another device to your car stereo via USB cable rather than an ordinary auxiliary input. This allows the head unit to read data from the device and convert it into analog audio signals that get passed to the amplifier and speakers.
3. Use Higher Quality Music Files Or Even High Resolution Audio
One of the most overlooked factors in car audio quality is the source of the audio. An extreme example would be if someone insisted on listening to only AM radio, rather than FM radio, and then complained about the sound quality. Although there are higher quality AM radios out there, and the issue of AM vs. FM is far more complicated than this reductionist example, everyone knows that they’ll hear better sound quality if they listen to an FM station.
4. Add Components Like Amplifiers, Signal Processors, and Equalizers
Adding an amplifier, or another component like a signal processor or equalizer is typically going to be more expensive and complicated than dropping in speakers or even upgrading the head unit. However, an amp can allow you to slot in better speakers and really transform the quality of your car audio.
If you’re dealing with a factory stereo that didn’t come with an amp, then it’s very important to find a unit that comes with speaker level inputs. The best way to do this type of upgrade is to install a new head unit that has preamp outputs, but an amp that includes speaker level inputs is at least a workable alternative. Another option is to use a speaker to line level converter.
5. Dampen External Noise Sources With Sound Deadening Materials
Most of the ways to get better car audio quality involve actually upgrading your car audio system, but they totally gloss over the fact that cars make for pretty erratic soundstages. The interior volume of<