Cheap Sound Systems For Cars- Get The Best Upgrades Of 2018
Car audio systems have been around for almost as long as we have had cars moving around and based on quality, they all come at different prices. What if I told you that you could have the best cheap sound systems for cars and at the same time an outstanding performance from the same?
When it comes to getting an upgrade, most of us will go for either the component speakers or the full-range, which is okay. Nonetheless, there is more to it than just the component and coaxial speaker systems.
In this section, we’ll be taking a closer look at what lies behind the car sound system and more so, we will also have a look at how you should go about when it comes to setting them up. Before we get started, one thing that you should have in mind is that the car speaker systems are ever evolving. Simply put, what you have today or rather what you consider to be the best today may not necessarily be the best in the next few years.
The Car Audio Basics.
- 1 The Car Audio Basics.
- 2 Why would you want to have a new car head unit?
- 3 Getting the Best Quality Car Speakers.
- 4 Which Subwoofer Suits You Best?
- 5 Getting the Perfect Speaker Wire Gauge
- 6 Giving your car the upgrades it deserves
- 7 Our top 3 Recommended Head Radio Units
- 8 3 of the Best Cheap Car Speakers
- 9 3 of the Best Budget Car Subwoofers.
- 10 Final verdict.
Even though the subject of a vehicle’s audio system may seem to be pretty complicated, there are 3 basic components that each system should include.
The car head unit
The head unit or the car head unit, as some refer to it, is a must-have on any vehicle. Think of this simply as the heart of your car audio system. The head unit is also referred to as the receiver or simply as the radio and as compared to what we had a few years ago, the receivers we have nowadays are much more complex.
When it comes to functionality, here are the three major sections that you’ll be getting in your car head unit:
Ever wondered what lets you choose what you want to hear, that music genre you are so much in love with, well, it all happens in the head unit.
The car head unit in most cars includes the standard FM/AM tuner that lets you choose the radio station your line. Considering the radio stations can get a little bit boring at times, there may be a CD/DVD player on your vehicle that lets you play exactly what you want to listen to.
Thanks to modern technology we, nowadays, do not have to worry about where to carry a bunch of CDs or DVDs in our vehicle since we have much better ways of storing our media.
By simply having an iPod or your smartphone with you can have as much as a thousand songs to listen to. even better, you can also have a USB stick and also use your car head unit just as conveniently.
Besides the source, something else that you really need to appreciate on the head unit is the preamp.
Ever wondered what happens when you make all the sound adjustments to getting it just exactly as you want it? Well, this can be credited to none other than the preamp. From something as simple as making a volume adjustment to tweaking the equalizer.
Included on the preamp is also the balance, the fader, the source selection as well as the tone adjustments that work in coordination with advanced crossovers.
The signal that comes from the preamp is normally of low voltage. In order to boost this, you’ll need an outstanding amplifier in your vehicle. Before the sound is sent to the speakers, the amplifier converts the audio signal from the preamp to a higher signal that is then sent out to the speakers.
Why would you want to have a new car head unit?
In most cases, the factory install head unit is not always the best and as compared to the stock installed speakers, getting a new sound system is much better.
Here’s why you should go for a new head unit:
Better sound quality.
If you want a better sound quality than you are getting, you should definitely go for an upgrade. Other than just being louder, the best car head unit delivers a richer, cleaner and a more detailed sound quality.
The preamp should also have enhanced controls which will allow you to get that sound quality you desire.
Added functionalities with new music sources
Other than just having a better sound quality and the ability to make a number of adjustments, your upgrade should also expand your playback options.
Here's what you can get from the best car head units that you won't get in the stock head units:
Among the above-listed upgrades, you should take into account, one of the most important you should watch out for is smartphone support. Considering most people have these nowadays, it should be among your top priorities.
How advanced would you like your head unit to be?
This is one of the most important things to take into account when looking for the best cheap sound system for cars. If you want a more sophisticated unit than the one that is stock installed, you should definitely be ready to spend more and also do plenty of research and vice versa.
Depending on how much you are willing to spend, the ease of use, durability, and complexity of your head unit will vary. Most preferably, you should get a head unit with a touchscreen display. Besides making it easier for you to see whatever you are doing, it also is much easier to adjust and control the stereo.
This is also something that, even though not necessarily a big deal, can be considered for the sake of convenience. You can go for a full color animated display whose color schemes you can customize. The display should be high tech and if you want an outstanding listening experience, you’ll want a car head unit that flashes to the beat.
The sound control functionalities
Being able to play around with the equalizer is quite alright, but what if you want to have an even much better experience when it comes to sound adjustments?
The best car head units will normally come with features such as digital time correction or parametric equalization included on them.
What an equalizer does is simply allowing you to be able to customize the sound of your vehicle in such a way that you get exactly what you want to listen to. In more advanced equalizers, there is parametric equalization which allows you to set your desired amount in decibels by which a given frequency can be delivered.
You can also be able to determine the width or the center of this frequency as well
Other than just being concerned about the sound quality, you ought to also take into account how flexible your radio head unit is. It should for instance, besides just having an auxiliary input, also have USB connections as well as audio and video outputs which will allow you to be able to connect to external music players.
Wouldn’t it be disappointing if you’d have to worry about your head unit being compromised all the time? Tell, to take care of this, you could go for one that has got a detachable faceplate. If you are using one with a touchscreen display, the best car head unit you can possibly get is one with a touchscreen display.
Installing the car head unit
For the installation of a new head unit, you first have to know how your factory installed stereos are mounted. This can either be with spring clips, bolted to the dash or mounted using a rail system in the dash.
For a bolted stereo, it’s quite easy to remove it from the dash and this may be done after you pry the plastic from the dash in most cases.
One with springs, on the other hand, needs you to have a pair of DIN tools with you; insert these in the holes on either side of the radio till you hear a click. You should then spread the tools apart slightly and pull out the radio.
For car head unit with a rail system, you may find these in some bolted stereos or those with springs as well. Once you remove the bolts or clip the springs, you can then slide the radio off the rail. In some cases, the rail may interfere with the new stereo’s chassis and may have to be removed.
The next step should be quite easy since it involves unplugging the factory stereo.
In order to set up the new head unit, you should reverse the process of removing your stereo from the dash. You’ll need to connect the new stereo to the factory harnesses of your vehicle.
Depending on the type of head unit you’re installing, the process may be different but what holds is the fact that the factory wires should be plugged in while paying attention to their color coding.
Soldering and crimping may be necessary in some cases as well though you don’t always have to do this.
Getting the Best Quality Car Speakers.
We’ve already established the fact that the head unit is one of the most important parts when it comes to upgrading your car’s entire sound system. As much as this is true, it wouldn’t be any good is the complimentary speakers did not much up to your high-quality car head unit.
If you want the best cheap sound system for cars, here’s what you should always look into when selecting the speakers.
Component vs coaxial speaker systems
Normally, your vehicle will come with the stock installed speakers but are these really the best? let’s find out, shall we?
The speakers that you got installed on your doors when you bought your vehicle are the coaxial or rather the full-range speakers as some like to refer to them. The coaxial speaker systems will normally have the woofer and the tweeters being handled by the same driver.
On the other hand, an alternative to the coaxial speakers are the component speakers. These ones are more complex when it comes to the design and their functionality. The component speakers have the tweeters and the woofers being handled by different drivers. Then, there’s the crossover which handles the frequencies; it simply sends the high frequencies to the woofer and the low frequencies to the tweeters.
There is no definite way of knowing which is exactly the best car speaker system to have between the two, it’s rather a matter of personal opinion.
If you’d like a speaker system that’s easy to install, then you should go for the full range speakers. On the other hand, if sound quality is your #1 priority, then you should get yourself the best component speaker.
Other than just the full range and the coaxial speakers we are used to, there are also the two way and the three-way speaker systems. These ones normally have the midrange included in them and more so, they have an extra set of tweeters and woofers which definitely give an outstanding sound quality.
The size and configuration of the speakers.
Other than just having to choose between the two different speaker systems, you should also take into account the speaker size.
Before you commence on your shopping, go ahead and gather a little bit of information on the best car speaker system that’ll suit your needs. In order to do this, you should, first of all, consider the system that's already installed in your vehicle.
For instance, you should consider the mounting depth and width of your current units. This way, you’ll know exactly what will be able to fit in your vehicle. For ultimate accuracy, you should remove the speakers and measure them since most shops may end up selling a speaker that’ll not fit in your vehicle.
Other than just measuring the size of the speakers, it's also important to take into account the year and model of your vehicle. This way, it will be possible to know whether or not a speaker will fit in your vehicle.
How is the power handling of your car?
Now that you know what speaker system to go for and the size and configuration of the same, go ahead and look into the power handling capabilities of your speaker.
So as to get the most out of your speakers, you should strive to ensure that they are able to handle the power provided by your head unit or external amp. If anything, go for the head unit that’ll be able to optimize the power.
When it comes to power handling, it's important that you, first of all, settle for a speaker after which you can then go ahead and select a head unit that’ll provide the amount of power enough to run the speakers.
Power handling is normally measured in relation to the Peak and the RMS. The RMS is the amount of power the speakers run on constantly and is basically what makes the best car speaker systems stand out. The peak, on the other hand, is greater than the RMS though it is only achieved by the speakers for a few seconds.
The sensitivity levels.
The sensitivity level is the amount of power the speakers need in order to put out a certain volume level. Sensitivity and power handling are normally inversely proportional and are one of the key things that makes quality speakers stand out. The higher the sensitivity, the lower the amount of power you’ll be needing.
So as to know the best level of sensitivity to look for in a speaker, you should, first of all, take into account the amount of power the head unit provides.
Just as it is the case in power handling, you should also get the speakers first and then get yourself a head unit that’ll match up to the speaker’s sensitivity level.
Which Subwoofer Suits You Best?
As far as getting an upgrade to your car’s sound system, it is important that you strive to get yourself the best car subwoofer.
When you think about a subwoofer, the next thing that comes to mind is a really bone-shaking bass quality. Despite this being one of the major things most people look for when making their purchase, there is actually more to a car subwoofer than just this.
Taking this into account, how about we shed some light on exactly what you should look for when it comes to making your purchase?
The subwoofer’s size.
A subwoofer mainly works with the low frequencies. the size of a subwoofer determines how loud and low the sub can go. The size is simply directly proportional to the quality of the bass; the bigger the sub, the greater the amount of bass is produced.
Still, at the size, you should take into consideration the amount of space that you have in your car. If you want to have a really big bass, then the best car subwoofer for your car should be large as well.
You may also need to take into consideration whether or not you’ll be needing an enclosure and what type of the same which brings us to the next point.
Do you need an enclosure for your sub?
Despite the physical size of the subwoofer being important, the enclosure is also important. The enclosure is simply a box in which you’ll have the subwoofer placed. There are three commonly used types of enclosures- the sealed boxes, the ported ones and the bandpass enclosures.
Let’s take a look at each one, shall we?
The sealed enclosure.
If you’d really love to experience that deep bass in your music and at the same time want to avoid that scratchy bass, then you should go for a sealed enclosure. The sealed enclosures not only will give a deep bass but it will at the same time have utmost clarity as well as accuracy.
If you have a smaller sub in a sealed enclosure, you’ll definitely enjoy the bass much more than having a larger sub in an open enclosure. The reason for this is that with the open enclosures, there will be the production of a somewhat rattling sound which, we can both agree, is definitely not something we'd like to hear while driving.
Everyone’s taste in music is entirely different, right? Well, as much as a subwoofer in a sealed enclosure will provide a deep bass, it is not entirely the best if you want to experience a higher volume, then you should go for the ported ones.
Rather than having a deep bass as is the case in sealed enclosures, ported enclosures have a louder bass that’s boomy as well though it is short-handed on the accuracy.
As for the size, a ported box is slightly larger and as far as efficiency is concerned, you won’t be needing that much power to get the bass you desire as compared to sealed enclosures.
Bandpass subwoofer enclosures.
A compared to the ported, enclosed and open enclosures where the sound is played directly via the area of listening bandpass produces the sound via the ports. For a bandpass, the speaker front releases the sound into a chamber that is then turned up with a port.
What the port does is that it eliminates or rather prevents the high frequencies of the music from passing out of the enclosure so that you only end up with the lows which are the bass.
Though this may be achieved by a crossover that only focuses on the low frequencies, it won’t be as good. This is so because the bandpass has got a deep bass extension that can’t be achieved conveniently by a crossover.
A booming bass goes hand in hand with power- the greater the boom you want, the more power you should give to your speaker.
Just as it is the case with the car speakers, you should pay attention to the RMS. The best car subwoofer should have a balance between the RMS and the sensitivity which brings us to the next point.
We’ve already had a look at this. In subwoofers as well, the sensitivity level goes hand in hand with the power rating.
Sensitivity is normally expressed in SPL i.e. Sound Pressure Level. This refers to how much power the sub will require in order to give a certain volume level. If the SPL rating on your sub is high, then you don’t need much power to get a deep bass.
Before purchasing a sub, have a look at the power rating of your head unit so as to know whether you’ll go high or low on the sensitivity.
The voice coils
If you won’t be doing a lot of modifications in your sound system, then you should go for a speaker with a single voice coil. On the other hand, dual voice coils are for anyone who wants ultimate flexibility in their sound system.
Most subs will come with a single coil connected to the cone. For the dual coils, you’ll have these connected to a common cone.
The frequency range
Frequency refers to the range of sounds that a sub can produce. Normally, most manufacturers design their subs to be within the normal range of human hearing. If you want the best car subwoofer, you should focus on the lower end rather than the maximum it can be able to achieve.
One thing you should know is that besides the sub, the type of enclosure, among other variables will determine the nature of the frequencies produced.
This is normally measured in ohms and works in relation to the power rating. Most subwoofers will come with a 4-ohm impedance rating and a single coil. Alternatively, you can get 2 8-ohm dual voice coils.
You should greatly consider the power rating of your head unit such that you only end up with the perfect bass.
Getting the Perfect Speaker Wire Gauge
Most of the aftermarket speakers you’ll buy will not come with wires which is why it is important to know which wire gauge is the best for you to purchase. Normally, you’ll need to pay close attention to the thickness of the wires.
Here’s how to best do this…
The wire thickness is normally determined by the American Wire Gauge number. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire is. The gauge numbers for speakers run from 12 to 18 in multiples of 2
The thick gauge wires, either 12 or 14 are recommended for long wire runs. The speakers should also have a high-power application and be of low impedance at the same time- this can be 4 or 6 ohms.
Short wire runs of less than 50 feet of speakers that are connected to 8-ohm impedance will do just fine with a 16-gauge wire. The 16 gauge wires are normally cost-effective and quite easy to work with.
How much wire will you be needing?
It is important that you have in mind the optimal length of wire that you need for your speakers. In order for you to figure this out, you should simply measure the length of your head unit to your speaker installation location. For the sake of error correction and connectivity, you should add a few extra inches to the measurement you end up with.
The best type of wires to have.
These are normally the speakers with or without connectors. In most cases, the wires you’ll buy will have connectors at the end. Just in case this is not the case, you should get at least one connector for one end of your wire.
Giving your car the upgrades it deserves
Moving on to the second section of our review, let’s have a look at some of the major components that’ll give you the biggest kick for your buck.
Our top 3 Recommended Head Radio Units
Being the most important equipment when it comes to upgrading your car sound system, the radio head unit or rather the receiver should be the best. let’s take a quick look at 3 of the best budget head units, shall we?
1. Pioneer DEH-150MP Single DIN Car Stereo With MP3 Playback
Starting us off on our list is one of the best from pioneer. Let’s take a look at what the Pioneer DEH-150MP does pack under the hood, shall we?
Starting with the display, you’ll be getting a single line, multi-segmented LCD display with an LED backlight that is 35% larger than what you are normally used to.
For security purposes, the receiver has got a detachable faceplate. If you’re not close by, you can always detach it from the rest of the head unit. Other than just having a detachable face plate, the head unit is remote controlled which makes its operation far much easier.
In order to ensure that you get to have the best time possible, you’ll be able to have all your digital songs on the go either in MP3 or WMA formats. Besides the formats, you can also use a CD, iPod or any other portable media player. There is also an advanced sound retriever that enhances the audio production almost close to 30kHz.
2. Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single-Din In-Dash Cd Receiver
Another one from pioneer is the Pioneer DEH-X2800UI. Just like the above receiver, this one too does have a detachable faceplate hence as far as security is concerned, this one will definitely be something worth your money. Besides just being detachable, the face plate does have an anti-rust design for utmost durability.
Does have the USB auto switch which is something you’ll not be getting in just any head unit. This allows the user to choose whether the head unit uses the phone as an audio source or just charges up the device.
For ultimate convenience, it features a USB direct control of your iPod, iPhone as well as USB so that you can get access to music on Android devices that are 4.0 or later.
Other than just being able to play a variety of music formats and on different devices, the head unit has got new cosmetics that feature a sleeker and more open and accessible display. This way, you get a larger display with plenty of metadata to be displayed at the face of the receiver.
3. BOSS Audio 508UAB Single Din, Bluetooth, CD/MP3/WMS/USB/SD AM/FM Car Stereo
The last one our list is the BOSS Audio 508UAB and it’ll definitely be worth every dime. Here’s what you’ll be getting from it…
First off, it plays quite a number of media inclusive of which is CD, USB, SD, MP3, WMA, AM/FM as well as digital media from smartphones and other mp3 players. The inputs to the stereo are USB/SD/AUX while the outputs can be either the front or rear amps or even both of these.
To give you the best sounds, it's got a 50-watt x 4 max power, balance/ fader/ bass/ treble, and preset built-in equalizer. Something else that you should know about this head unit is that you can use it hands-free with Bluetooth to make and receive calls. There is also Bluetooth audio streaming to play and control music apps such as Pandora and Spotify wirelessly.
There is also a wireless remote present. This allows you to easily and conveniently control the head unit when need be just from the palm of your hand.
3 of the Best Cheap Car Speakers
besides having the best car radio head unit, it is important that you do have the best speakers as well. Here’s what you should look for when it comes down to this.
1. JVC CS-J620 300W 6.5" CS Series 2-Way Coaxial Car Speakers
If you want something that’ll be easy to install and at the same time get to give you an outstanding sound quality, this is definitely it.
The speaker is a 6.5” coaxial speaker which means that it will be able to fit in most vehicles. The mounting depth is 1-23/32” and it is recommended that you take the measurements in your vehicle to be certain that this upgrade will be compatible with your vehicle.
For the power handling, it’s got an RMS of 30 watts and in addition to this, the peak power handling is 300 watts. Coupled up with a sensitivity of 92dB, this speaker system will definitely give you an outstanding sound quality.
The JVC CS-J620 comes with a rubber surround all around it which in turn gives it utmost flexibility for the best sound quality. Speaking of sound quality, it is worth mentioning that the tweeter is the balanced dome type which contributes to the low price of the tweeter and at the same time does not compromise on the highs.
2. Pioneer TS-A1606C A-Series 6.5" 350W Component Speakers
If you want an even better sound quality, then you should definitely go for the Pioneer TS-A1606C. First off, this is a component speaker system and gets the highs and the lows due to the separated woofer and tweeters.
For the power handling, the RMS is 60 watts whereas the peak is 350 watts. This makes the speaker an outstanding choice for playing your music at a relatively high volume without compromising on the sound quality.
Something else that is definitely worth pointing out about this woofer is that it comes with a multilayer mica matrix cone. This is much lighter as compared to polypropylene cones which are used by most people which makes the sound quality more accurate.
The tweeter, on the other hand, is a soft dome which makes the highs quite pronounced and accurate as well- definitely worth every dime.
3. Pioneer TS-A1306C 5-1/4" Component Speaker Package
Another one from pioneer is the Pioneer TS-A1306C. let’s see what it packs under the hood, shall we?
First off, the surround is an elastic polymer. This just so happens to be the best in a budget component speaker since it will offer utmost flexibility and durability at the same time. this simply ensures that you get to enjoy an outstanding sound quality for the longest time possible.
The peak power handling is 300watts per pair and the RMS is an outstanding 150 watts. Even though you can make maximum use of the RMS, it is highly recommended that you observe 10-75 watts of RMS per channel.
There is also a passive crossover network which ensures that the highs and the lows are clearly distinguished. In the long run, you can customize the sound quality just as you want it.
The cone is multilayer mica matrix that is lighter than what you’ll get in most cones which in turn contributes to the outstanding sound quality you’ll be getting.
3 of the Best Budget Car Subwoofers.
If you are looking for the best cheap sound system for cars, these three will definitely step up your audio performance.
1. CT Sounds Bio 1.0 10 Inch Car Subwoofer 4 Ohm
To get us started on getting the best car sound system, we have the CT Sounds Bio 1.0. let’s have a closer look at what it’s got in store for us, shall we?
Starting with the power handling, it has an RMS of 150 watts and a peak power handling of 300 watts. As far as getting a decent bass is concerned, this subwoofer will definitely be worth every dime you spend on it. As for the sensitivity, it’s got 87dB of these; combined with the power handling, you’ll definitely enjoy your music.
For the design, it has got a foam paper surround which just so happens to be one of the best since it won’t be affected by temperature extremities.it also does have a steel basket frame which definitely does add on to the durability.
2. Kenwood KFC-W3016PS 12-Inch 2000W Subwoofer
Another one that’ll definitely give you a kick for your buck is the Kenwood KFC-W3016PS. Here’s what you’ll be getting from this subwoofer:
First off, as far as getting a booming bass is concerned, the KFC-W3016PS will definitely do the trick. With as much as 400W on the RMS and an outstanding 2000W for the peak power handling, it’s bound to deliver an above-average performance.
For the cone, it's got textured polypropylene which is about to give a clear and sharp bass. This is then backed up with the rubber surround that'll offer both utmost flexibility and performance.
One more thing that’s worth taking note of about the cone is that it is extra-long and with the tough rubber surround, it will be optimally accommodated. This ensures that you get just the perfect sound which in turn makes this subwoofer the best travel companion.
3. Planet Audio AC8D 1200-Watt, 8 Inch, Dual 4 Ohm Voice Coil Car Subwoofer
One more subwoofer that’ll you won’t regret spending on is the Planet Audio AC8D. starting with the sensitivity and the resonating frequency, you’ll be getting 85dB and 39Hz respectively.
The sensitivity ensures you won’t be needing too much power to get a decent bass whereas the resonating frequency, coupled up with the sensitivity ensures the bass is clear.
The cone is polypropylene which is both stiff and ensures that the bass, no matter how high will be clear. At the same time, it is important that you observe the power rating which brings us the next point.
Having an outstanding RMS of 600 watts and a peak power of 1200, you’ll definitely have more than enough to play your favorite tunes.
The surround is foam which, despite being cheap is quite durable and more so, it provides quite an outstanding sound quality.
Ending up with the best cheap sound system for cars can be quite difficult, don’t you agree?
We all do know exactly what to look for when it comes to giving our cars an upgrade, right? All that’s left now is for you to go out there and look for the components that’ll ensure your sound system gets to reach its optimal potential.
Paying attention to the details, above all else, is what you should do. Having done this, you can then go ahead and account for other variables such as the price of the component you’re interested in.