Are you looking to replace your car stereo? Like many of the mechanical and electrical components in your vehicle soon or later your radio, your speakers, and or your amp is going to fail. In many cases, this happens because of abuse. It’s not only teenagers who turn the volume control nob as far as it can go when our favorite song comes on the radio. While today’s car audio systems are far more superior to those made in years past they still a far cry from their aftermarket counterparts. And just like any aftermarket unit when driven into clipping they will distort, damage speakers, and in some cases fail! One major decision you will have to make is whether you stick to OEM or do you go aftermarket? Here are a few things to know when before buying a replacement car stereo!
Despite what a sound system is rated, the ideal constant operation level should be no more than 50% to 60% of the advertised RMS power. LOL, you are probably asking what RMS is? I am not sure how it got started but sometimes during the 80s manufactures of rather crappy equipment started labeling or specifying amplifies, speakers, and even head units with “peak power” rather than continues or RMS. I remember walking the electronics stores at the flea market and seen these BOSS car amplifiers rated at 2000 Watts. The graphics and the description were so enticing that I eventually purchased one to replace, or should I say upgrade, my Rockford Fosgate Punch 40. Boy was I disappointed! Not only did the 2000 Watt BOSS amplifier was nowhere as powerful as my Punch 40, rated at 20 Watts X 2 RMS at 12.5 Volts, but it sounded like crap. What is the moral of the story? I have no idea how peak power is measured, but I can tell you it is 100% useless. In fact, if a speaker, an amp, or even a radio specifies only peak power and no RMS power don’t buy it!
Aside from power, when replacing your car stereo, you also have to take into consideration what type of music you listen to and your source. Let’s go over a few things that you need to have in mind when purchasing a new car stereo.
Power – We already discussed the difference between peak power and RMS rating. Many factory car radios are rated at about 10 watts of RMS powers so that should give you an idea of where to begin. A head unit with 15 watts of power RMS can get pretty loud and considered a huge upgrade over many factory OEM units. If your power expectation is beyond that, consider a head unit with little or no power. That is because more than likely you are going to need or use an external amplifies in which case the power from the head unit will not be used at all. For this reason, there is no need to pay extra for a high power head unit. Instead, focus on a head unit that has high voltage on a low level or RCS output.
Source – Today, it is not easy to find a head unit with a built-in CD player. You may have better luck finding one that is DVD ready. That is because MP3 has become the standard format for portable music. However, know that MP3 does not have the resolution and detail of the CD. Back in the days vinyl, DAC, and open reel music buffs would tell you that CD did not have the warms and deep tone of analog formats such as records and tape. If you thought that CD sounded metallic and harsh, you would be appalled with the way MP3 sound.
Nevertheless, it is the world we are living in, and as they say, they don’t make it like they use to. With that said you need to figure out how you are going to play external music from your phone or portable device on your new car stereo! The three most popular options are the head unit that has a USB plug. In other words, you can connect a USB stick directly to it. Some units have an auxiliary 3.5mm jack like the one on smartphone headphones. However, since a lot of smartphones are no longer have plugs, you are stuck with Bluetooth.
Size and Look – With more and more vehicles on the road with info centers on the dash the single DIM, old school small radios are slowly but surely becoming obsolete. If you dash permits, you should consider a double DIM unit. These units are the name explains are twice as height and able to display quite a bit of additional information. However, make sure to see it running and make sure that it is something you can live with. Many of these units have a lot of flashing lights and distracting graphics that can be quite annoying if you drive a lot at night. One not very well known feature I suggest you look for is screen mirroring or the ability to work with either Apple Play or Android Auto. These are apps that allow you to share not only your screen but also music, Google maps, and other application with your vehicle’s sound system.
It is also important to point out that in some cases, companies like Alpine make direct aftermarket replacement head units and entire direct bolt-on system that will blow your mind with the performance without changing the look and or feel of your vehicle’s dash.
As you take all of this information in, also know that in many cases unless the actual head unit is damage, adding a multichannel amplifier and replacing your factory speakers will yield unprecedented performance upgrade. The reality is that a good number of customers who come to us complaining about car stereo problems are related to a premium system such as BOSE, JBL, or INFINITY whose amplifies and or speakers have failed. In these cases maintaining the factory radio, and the factory look on the dash it best since all that we need to do is replace the factory amplifier and speakers. At Car-Alarm-Miami.Com we can upgrade your factory sound system or a simple replacement car stereo. It is your car. It is your music, just let us know how you like it! We offer a great variety of brands like JVC, Pioneer, Kenwood, Clarion, and Alpine.