How to Pick the Best Stereo for Your Car

Whether you enjoy listening to the radio, hooking up your mp3 player, or feeding your GPS audio to your car’s speakers, a stereo system can be a massive upgrade that not only improves comfort and offers entertainment on your trips, but also adds a hefty measure of monetary value to your car. No car stereo system needs to be the same, but there are a few basic points to consider when choosing the perfect setup for your vehicle.

Knowing the Basics
Before figuring out the best way to upgrade your stereo, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of what parts make up your car’s sound system. Generally speaking, a car stereo system can be divided into three areas: the source, pre-amp, and amplifier. The source is just a general term for what sound medium you’re using, be it the AM/FM or satellite radio, mp3 player, CD’s, and other common formats. Consider which audio formats you prefer when selecting a stereo system.

The pre-amp is the brains of the operation and provides you with all of your volume control, bass and treble adjustments, fading, and other features that let you adjust the audio to match your tastes. Lastly, the amplifier is what handles boosting and sending out the signal to the speakers. There’s split opinion on the importance of a car stereo amplifier, which highlights just how much of choosing stereo equipment comes down to personal taste.

Speakers deserve a special mention, as they may require an additional upgrade. Specifically, stock speakers that come with a system will work fine, but keep in mind that your stereo’s power rating should match the speakers you choose when upgrading.

Spot Fixes
If you’ve kept up your car’s audio system over the years as opposed to buying a new car at a place like Young Subaru, it may be that swapping out select elements is a better option than a complete overhaul. Perhaps the current speakers you have provide a clear, crisp audio quality, but lack the power you’re craving, in this case, incorporating an amplifier into your setup would add that extra kick, along with a sub woofer to add extra depth to your music.

In other cases, you may find that the audio quality and volume meet your needs, but the display you have installed doesn’t offer much in the way of versatility and control. In this scenario, your best option would be to purchase a higher end receiver with features like parametric equalization. You should aim for a receiver with a two-line display as this enables the display to show the audio track’s full details without you having to take attention away from the road to scroll. In other words, spend time with your car’s current stereo system, identify where it succeeds and fails, then use that information to make incremental adjustments.

Integrating Other Devices
Smartphones are essentially a digital Swiss Army knife, offering a slew of apps that pair greatly with a set of quality car speakers. Likewise, portable storage devices like thumb drives and SD cards means it’s simple and affordable to keep a broad library of digital media in your pocket. If you rely heavily on your phone for media then it’s worth including features in your car’s stereo system that encourage synergy between the two.

For example, it’s common for contemporary receivers to include a USB port which can be used to play music directly from a thumb drive. If you want access to your full library of music without the data cost of streaming it directly from your smartphone while on the road, this is a feature is for you.

If you’re more inclined to rely on your smartphone, iPod, or other media device, auxiliary ports are an absolute must, as these will allow you to easily hook up devices without having to worry about compatibility issues. If wireless is more to your taste, choose a stereo system with Bluetooth functionality built in. This is especially useful if you also use your smartphone for GPS, as it’ll feed the audio from your navigation program through the car’s system.

Listen Your Way
With built-in GPS units, smart glass-equipped windshields, climate control for air and heating, and innumerable other features, customizing your car’s interior comforts leaves plenty of room for creativity. However, there’s still nothing quite like choosing the perfect stereo system for your car. Ultimately, choosing the best stereo system boils down to identifying features that match your own listening habits. There’s plenty of room for customization, from the speakers and other hardware to the capacity for connectivity with your portable devices, so the breadth of your stereo system is only limited by your imagination.