Car video reviews:
Why Everyone Should Sound Stage Their Daily Driver
If you are old enough to remember the original Soviet Union, chances are your audio system is as advanced as dial-up Internet. Times have changed, so spend a few minutes with us to improve your smiles per gallon.

Why Everyone Should Sound Stage Their Daily Driver

Optimal Speaker AnglesCamaro Door Speaker UpgradeCamaro Tweeter UpgradeCamaro Aux In PortUseless rear tweeters
Over the past two decades, speaker technology has gone from parchment to carbon fiber. That being said, automakers are still reticent to spend an extra dime on fine tuning your driving experience. Sound Staging is the art of audio imaging. Most people want to imagine themselves at a rock concert, and this is fine for head-banging and bass tracks. This is known as Sound Pressure Level (SPL), and we’re all familiar with subwoofer aficionados at some point in life.

However, as I turned 38 years old, priorities began to change. Instead of being at a club or at a stadium concert, I wanted the sound of a talented musician in a small gathering. This is Sound Quality Level (SQL) and the audio community has been divided into two camps (SPL vs SQL) since the turn of the century. Before you consider new speakers, you need to set the perfect Sound Stage. It takes a bit of imagination, so use a good pair of headphones and listen to your favorite tracks while sitting behind the wheel. Regardless of your speaker’s location, the goal is to identify each instrument in the band, along with where it is on the stage.

That is what you want to hear, so let’s start at the top. High frequencies come from tweeters, and they are almost useless when aimed at your feet or legs. This was the case in my 2002 Camaro, where the factory Monsoon audio system was rolling garbage. For a clean look, I drilled my A-pillars to aim new tweeters at the windshield. This large piece of glass makes for a great reflector!

You want the right sounds going to the right speakers, so I use crossovers in the dash. These boxes make sure the tweeters only receive high-pitched sounds while directing midrange and bass to their respective speakers. For a perfect midrange, try to avoid oval shapes like the 4”x6” or 6”x9” as they distort easily. I chose a set from CDT audio, that was tuned by the Camaro enthusiasts at Kee Audio.

No matter what you drive, there are audio enthusiasts willing to help you out. As such, the folks at Kee eliminated most bass from the front of my car. This is due to the shape of the Camaro interior and the time it takes sounds to reach the driver’s seat. In an ideal situation, a digital sound processor like those found in fancy radios is capable of doing this.

Nearly 90% of music is handled by midrange speakers, so they need to be of the highest quality with at least 250 watts of power. Try to aim them away from carpet or soft surfaces so their full range is utilized. Now is a great time to use a rubber hammer to find squeaks and rattles, so throw some sound insulation behind them while you’re at it.

With 6.5” midrange speakers in the door, it was all about that bass (no treble). Humans can’t really determine the direction of where low range sounds are coming from, so it only makes sense to mount subwoofers in or on the trunk wall. Their aim isn’t as important as how much air volume is in front and behind the speaker, so do your research. High and midrange sounds coming from behind your ears will destroy the sound stage effect, so it’s time to delete them. It might seem counterintuitive at first but try it and you will be amazed.

Finally, sound staging a car isn’t worth anything if you have poor quality audio. Bluetooth is convenient, but it is equal to FM in terms of quality. Streaming audio is several times clearer than HD FM, but you need to have a direct connection. If your radio doesn’t support your streaming app, make sure your phone has a headphone jack and an insulated cable to the aux port. If you don’t have one of those, everything above is for nothing. After spending an afternoon tuning your audio system, you'll wish you had done it years ago, so stay with us for all your automotive evolutions!

Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.


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