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Best mid-size car audio system

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm quite stumped on what the best mid size car audio system is. Any thoughts? I'm leaning towards the Altima Bose system but I'm not too sure yet.

post #2 of 9
Well i just searched nissan's bose systems. A lot of people are very dissapointed.
post #3 of 9

The short of my take on this: I wouldn't buy a car based on its stock sound system, including premium systems. I wouldn't buy a Jaguar over an Audi just because the former has B&W speakers. Aside from all other considerations like reliability or if you have a good relationship with a dealer (like how my brother and father have it great with their Toyota dealer, and my brother was the first in his zip code to get the FRS, at essentially zero downpayment), any expensive sound system on cars barring luxury cars will be sorely overpriced compared to what you can get if you spent the same $2,000 the dealer would charge for the "premium package" (unless you don't get NAV otherwise, I'd rather not pay that) on gear you'd buy on your own plus about $500 to $1,000 in labor costs to have a custom installation (I do not mean you go all Pimp My Ride on it with lights and stuff, because that kind of installation on its own does not really affect the sound).

 

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Now, the longer version of my take on this, ie a summary of the details regarding car audio. The core problem that such stock systems (and even many aftermarket systems that people put in) do not address is time alignment, and more generally, "room" correction. It's not a McLaren F1, so you're sitting off to one side, ergo you are inherently closer to the driver's side tweeter, driver's side midwoofer, passenger side tweeter, and passenger side midwoofer in that order, plus a sub in the trunk (unless you get a Nissan crossover or SUV, where Bose puts the subwoofer on the dash). You don't sit at home with the right channel two meters farther than the left and the sub next to the wall four meters behind you, right? Nor do you wear a headphone with an asymmetrical headband and earpads that puts the right side driver six inches farther from your left ear while the left ear sits on your cheeks, or its bore is directly inside your ear canal.

 

Add to that how all those speakers need to sit in absolute unobtrusive stock locations, firing through a grill, with nearly no consideration given to the tweeters' and to a lesser extent the midwoofers' dispersion pattern, and you get the sound from the tweeters bouncing around the windshield and dashboard instead of blending with the midwoofers. By contrast, at home you can play around with the speakers' toe-in angle. Heck, on some home speakers like Wharfedale's Pacific series, the tweeters on top of the cabinet are on a swivel mount, so you can turn them in tighter if the cymbals are too far out to the sides and the vocals are a little vague in the center.

 

These issues if not addressed will leave you with at least two glaring problems. First, the soundstage will be all screwed up, because you don't get to hear the notes all at the same time, since music was meant to be listened to with minimal (if not zero) variance in distance of each speaker to the listener, and no Balance setting on stock receivers will fix that. Even the FR-S/BR-Z Pioneer 3-way sound system has a widening rainbow-shaped soundstage, and offsetting the balance only shifts the fat part of the rainbow to the other side. Second, it tends to screw up the "response" at your ears, even if there might not actually be anything seriously wrong with the response of each driver if not mounted on the car, most typically manifested in sibilance. Your tweeters can be have a very flat response, but if they bounce around the windshield and dash, you technically hear the same moment twice over, except it's already passed, so when you hear the reflections of the "t" or "s" a microsecond after the actual playback, you hear that as a grating sibilant note. Same thing if the tweeters' and midwoofers' outputs don't get to your ears at the same time - you hear some of it later than the same moment on the other tweeter and midwoofers and you think that grating noise is a peak when in fact you just heard some of it out of sync from when it was actually played by the other speakers. And then the sub is behind you, so if you boost it so you can hear the bass drum kicks on Deftones or AC/DC, you'll hear it coming from behind you, but no band ever sets up all instruments in front with the bass drum behind the audience.

 

If you do go with the custom route, you need to find a good fabricator, especially if you don't want to screw around with irreversible changes to your car's interior panels. This is a midsize, not a sports car or even a sports sedan that hasa clutch pedal, so with warranties and other stuff in mind, the most likely route to go with to minimize distance variations is to mount the tweeters (if not also the midwoofers) in the kick panels, effectively not changing the distance to the passenger side tweeter but increasing the distance to the driver side tweeter (and overall reducing the variance between both). Note that this isn't a simple case of just sticking them there - depending on the tweeter's dispersion pattern (which you can't see, but will have to try out in certain temporary positions) and the car's interior features (like if the central tunnel is too high) you'll have to figure out the proper angle that they have to aim. As long as you use the stock grills on both, barring dates with chicks on really sharp stilettos or perpetual heavy rains in your area (ergo perpetually very wet shoes), these won't be a problem.

 

Here's a couple of cars with DLS component systems (or parts of them) on the kickpanels

 

Here's the Vifa tweeter in my car - the wider magnet allows me to send as more frequencies to them, and then with the other tuning tools like time alignment and controlling the volume of the driver's side tweeter through a combination of processor preamp settings and also the Balance control, I bring the sound up to eye level without the left channel pulling the soundstage to its side.

 

 

 

 

The second thing that you can get to use in a custom system is a processor, which nowadays is barely in the CD receiver nor requires one with a digital or proprietary digital input and control interface. Modern processors can take high level inputs from the stock receiver's speaker outputs, ergo you won't need to rip out a perfectly NAV unit (especially if you have OnStar on that car) nor take the dashboard apart as some panels have the climate controls seamlessly integrated with some stereo controls. Tuning can be done manually through a laptop hooked up to the processor, while some have some kind of automatic tuning that uses a microphone (bundled, or used by the installer/dealer, no need to get one yourself) and test tones, similar to the tuning microphone you get with Denon HT receivers that have the advanced versions of Audyssey sound control. You can correct frequency response issues here, and more importantly, use the time alignment feature to fine tune delays on the transducers closest to you, simulating sitting in the center. The end result should conform to what you should hear out of a desktop audio system at home, if not what IASCA or EMMA requires for their sound competitions, where each instrument is clearly placed on the dashboard (including the bass drum), at or near eye level (your installer must take your height into account), with believable (but to scale) spacing between each instrument.

 

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So in summary, buy a car based on all other attributes like price, mileage, reliability, maybe handling, and only pay for "premium" tech packages if you need the NAV feature and can't get it at lower price points (or try to get just the NAV receiver, then do the above modifications). The differences in the sound of stock systems, even among the "premium package" ones, aren't likely to be enough to overlook all those other more important details, especially when paying for a premium stock system doesn't really address the acoustic issues in a car's cabin.


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 6/19/14 at 8:02pm
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Well I heard that they sounded decent :P

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

I didn't really understand what you said, ProtegeManiac. I want something stock, not modified.

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by sephirothkefka View Post
 

I didn't really understand what you said, ProtegeManiac. I want something stock, not modified.

 

Basically that when you listen in a car speakers aren't where they should be as when you're at home. Compared to a desktop studio monitor system for example you have the left monitor and right monitor just above your head, each with its own tweeter and midwoofer, and you're sitting smack in the center of them. Maybe you have a subwoofer in the middle of where those monitors are (basically, if you draw a triangle with you and the monitors as the corners, you end up with an equilateral or isosceles). In a car, you're not sitting smack in the middle and in front of these - your ears are closest to the driver's side tweeter, the driver's side midwoofer, passenger side tweeter, and passenger side midwoofer, in that order; plus a sub to your rear. If you draw some kind of shape with each of those and you as the corners, well, it's not going to be anything recognizable when you're teaching schoolchildren about hexagons.

 

Now, the reasons for why I suggested making your own custom system instead:

1) you might be serious enough about the sound quality, in which case...

 

2) ...for not much more over what the dealer will ask you for over for "premium entertainment systems" that don't deal with that issue, you can get not only better speakers (and amps), but more importantly a processor that would actually deal with those issues, along with proper installation, which unfortunately is what would cost a bit more if you have to pay someone else to do it.

 

3) also, there are other important considerations for getting a car, not to mention that chances are other people looked at those too and instead of going around dealerships critically listening to each and every car which doesn't deal with the acoustic issues and puts the vocals off-center of the dash and everything else all over the place (which, again, is not how it is on a 2channel system at home) plus likely sibilance that EQ can't fix, so you can get the best car that conforms to all other requirements instead of getting one that will charge you a lot extra for a sound system that really isn't that good.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

 

Basically that when you listen in a car speakers aren't where they should be as when you're at home. Compared to a desktop studio monitor system for example you have the left monitor and right monitor just above your head, each with its own tweeter and midwoofer, and you're sitting smack in the center of them. Maybe you have a subwoofer in the middle of where those monitors are (basically, if you draw a triangle with you and the monitors as the corners, you end up with an equilateral or isosceles). In a car, you're not sitting smack in the middle and in front of these - your ears are closest to the driver's side tweeter, the driver's side midwoofer, passenger side tweeter, and passenger side midwoofer, in that order; plus a sub to your rear. If you draw some kind of shape with each of those and you as the corners, well, it's not going to be anything recognizable when you're teaching schoolchildren about hexagons.

 

Now, the reasons for why I suggested making your own custom system instead:

1) you might be serious enough about the sound quality, in which case...

 

2) ...for not much more over what the dealer will ask you for over for "premium entertainment systems" that don't deal with that issue, you can get not only better speakers (and amps), but more importantly a processor that would actually deal with those issues, along with proper installation, which unfortunately is what would cost a bit more if you have to pay someone else to do it.

 

3) also, there are other important considerations for getting a car, not to mention that chances are other people looked at those too and instead of going around dealerships critically listening to each and every car which doesn't deal with the acoustic issues and puts the vocals off-center of the dash and everything else all over the place (which, again, is not how it is on a 2channel system at home) plus likely sibilance that EQ can't fix, so you can get the best car that conforms to all other requirements instead of getting one that will charge you a lot extra for a sound system that really isn't that good.

I see. So what system, judging by the brand, seems to sound decent in the mid size class? The Fusions Sony system? The Altima's, Mazda6's and Malibu's Bose systems? The Camry JBL? The Chrysler 200's Alpine?  

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by sephirothkefka View Post
 

I see. So what system, judging by the brand, seems to sound decent in the mid size class? The Fusions Sony system? The Altima's, Mazda6's and Malibu's Bose systems? The Camry JBL? The Chrysler 200's Alpine?  

 

If I was to bet on the brand alone I'm gonna go with Alpine followed by JBL, then Bose. I preferred my friend's Nissan's Bose system over the Sony XPlod systems I got to listen to in the past. Rockford Fosgates on Mitsubishis are actually good, but the sub is always in the trunk unlike Bose systems that put the sub on the dash (not sure about the Alpines and JBLs), so it gets distracting when the kick drum comes from the back or long bass guitar notes get pulled backwards.


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 6/21/14 at 10:58pm
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

If I was to bet on the brand alone I'm gonna go with Alpine followed by JBL, then Bose. I preferred my friend's Nissan's Bose system over the Sony XPlod systems I got to listen to in the past. Rockford Fosgates on Mitsubishis are actually good, but the sub is always in the trunk unlike Bose systems that put the sub on the dash (not sure about the Alpines and JBLs), so it gets distracting when the kick drum comes from the back or long bass guitar notes get pulled backwards.
Well thanks for the feedback! Really appreciate your help!
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