So are there any car audio fans on here?
Jan 18, 2014 at 6:49 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14


100+ Head-Fier
Aug 28, 2013
Even the most expensive and top of the line headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800 coupled with a powerful DAC and amp will never be able to compare to what it feels like to have a few subs, high ends speakers and tweeters, properly installed with its own amp in your car.
I've heard a few nice car audio systems myself and I must say, the sound and detail (especially the loudness factor) will never be able to compare or even be on the same caliber as a small pair of speakers which encompass a headphone, even an audiophile one like the HD800.
The loudness, it's surreal and amazing.
Any takers?
Example, Steve Meade is really a true audiophile. 30,000 WATTS or more. Easily over $100,000 in this car, I mean each AMP costs $20,000 I think.
Jan 18, 2014 at 10:13 AM Post #2 of 14
I did that for a while many years ago. Ripped out the interior, sound deadened everything, reinstalled it and put in a super simple high quality system. 2 10" subs, a 5.25" separates set in custom kick panels and a pair of 6.5" coaxial a for rear fill from a pioneer head through a set of audio control eqt's to an xtant amp for the mids/highs and an old school Orion hcca amp for the bass. I could hit 139+ db easily and everything sounded great with no rattle or distortion at all. The bass HIT you right in the chest.

Problem was I could only have that in my car. I appreciate high end powerful car audio but find mind blowing volume generally unnecessary. What I do enjoy is being able to hear everything that I can in a piece of music. Personally I don't need 140+ db to do it. That being said MORE POWER can definitely be a whole lot of fun.

Happy listening.
Jan 18, 2014 at 10:58 AM Post #4 of 14
  noise pollution

I don't think this thread should be under "Headphones," and there are quite a number of threads under other categories. In any case, no subs for me for now as I need the trunk space, but of course I still have my Vifa tweets and Focal Polyglass 165VR midwoofers. Both powered off a Digital Designs C4 amp with a Pioneer 860MP as processor and CD player. No need for EQ either - once the proper time alignment, crossovers, and gain structure (-6db on the tweeters at the processor, 0 at the amp feeding it 75watts) are set it sounds a lot like my HD600. It goes loud without distorting but I don't do tailgate parties; even in traffic, all the sound leaks out the windows (because I'm not exactly driving a Secret Service-spec bullet prooged Caddy).

My next system will most likely be a crossover (haven't decided yet) with good integrated audio that can use my Android phone as source (and enable me to use FLAC); still controlled by the receiver but using an Android allows me to use FLAC in case the car's stock receiver can't decode it. I'll use an Alpine HE660 integration processor (I'm looking for a used unit right now) that takes high-level signals and runs that into an analogue to digital converter, apply time correction, (correction) EQ, and crossovers, before running it through the D/A converter. Will still use Focals, whatever is out there now that replaced the Polyglass, and maybe a JL 8in sub in the back or a pair of 6in subs in the floor up front (I've seen a Mitsu Lancer with Dyn midwoofers in the same location). Similar tweeter mounts and this time I'll really reinforce the doors to have exposed (ie, nothing getting in their way) midwoofers. 
  noise pollution

That's the problem - to this day a lot of people seem to think "car audio" is all about bangin' 'em subbz in da hooood. People are amazed I'd go through with setting up tweeters rather than subs because "they're only for high can EQ that!...blah blah blah." All from tone-deaf people who can't tell that the vocals are dead-center on the dash and each drum has its spot on the dash, all because it's easier to put subs shaking coins on a car boot or roof on YouTube while any recording of sound is limited by the viewer's playback system.
Jan 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM Post #5 of 14
Um mm yeah. The part at 2 minutes where the passenger is plugging one ear. That's not what any audiophile would submit someone to...

Come to think of it, videos like the one you posted are the exact reason I got out of car audio altogether.
Jan 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM Post #6 of 14
Not anymore... decades ago I was an IASCA competitor. (Think Richard Clark, Speaker-works, Roger Holdaway era)  Er at least I tried to get into it from that point, in pursuit of good sound QUALITY.  My systems ever got louder than ~125db on the judges meters.  Thats crazy loud, and even then I was losing out on points to MUCH louder systems.  There just wasn't really enough of a competition scene in my area... So I just kind of lost interest.  Some of my gear at the time were HiFonics & Carver i-Series amps, USD compression horns, Stillwater subs/separates.
Looking back it was a GREAT way to learn about acoustics, sound reproduction, resonance, sound damping/absorbtion and reflection.  I was getting my BS in Mechanical engineering at the time, it was a great way to practice and put to test some of the things I was learning in the classroom.... second order differential equations, vibration damping/spring mass...etc.
Headphone audio is kind of an extension of all that... but on a MUCH MUCH smaller scale, with equal/symmetric path lengths.
Jan 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM Post #7 of 14
Um mm yeah. The part at 2 minutes where the passenger is plugging one ear. That's not what any audiophile would submit someone to...

Come to think of it, videos like the one you posted are the exact reason I got out of car audio altogether.

You never heard of IASCA and EMMA SQ competitions? It's not about blowing someone's ear drums off with da subz in da hoooood, it's about accurate imaging at a consistent height up front. But yeah it's frustrating that I've had people see my tweeter then laugh at how much time I spent on them when I don't even have a screw*** sub. WHAT. My stereo set-up at home before I switched to headphones didn't have a sub either, but a pair of 6.5in midwoofers with swivel-mount tweets (Wharfedale Pacific 10).
Jan 18, 2014 at 10:45 PM Post #8 of 14
To respond sort of to everybody here,
I probably did post a poor example of what audiophile means to a lot people, including myself. However I really do appreciate loudness, not like the wannabe ghetto boys you see in the video, I just LOVE loud music. I'm 19 so you can't really expect me to be in to classical music and stuff of that nature. I'm more in to the club scene, you know Hip Hop and EDM music. For me, that is where the future of music is going.
All of the big name producers and even the amateur ones such as myself are all using a program called FL Studio which is essentially all electronic instruments, synthesizers and the like. Everything from, I'd say 2007 upward has been produced by that one little yet massive software. It's truly astounding as to what someone with talent can create with it.
When I have enough $$$ and a nice car I'm going to set something up like Steve, I will just want it to be BALANCED and not the bass-in-your-face type thing. I hate that. It's like these types of people only appreciate loud bass and have no idea what good mids and highs sound like when they're balanced.
Which is also why I own a pair of ATH-M50's haha.
Maybe one of you dudes here on Head-Fi will be able to hook me up in a few months with my car when everything's straight with my $$$.
Jan 19, 2014 at 1:47 AM Post #9 of 14
When I have enough $$$ and a nice car I'm going to set something up like Steve, I will just want it to be BALANCED and not the bass-in-your-face type thing. I hate that. It's like these types of people only appreciate loud bass and have no idea what good mids and highs sound like when they're balanced.

Actually, the bass kinda has to be in your face even if it's set up for sound quality. Except instead of just loud, you have to at least hear it coming from in front of your face - not from behind, not from the floor, etc. Give how much of a challenge it is to have speakers image on the dashboard like a nearfield monitor set-up with a sub, they have competitions to see who can do this best under IASCA and EMMA (and the perks of living in Asia is that we have both of them operating over here). Google IASCA and EMMA champion cars and you'll see how they're set-up.
In any case when you build a system build it around a processor (whether stand-alone, for integration with stock GPS receivers, or built into an aftermarket receiver) - they'll make or break the system. Even if you spend 1,000 man hours aiming the tweeters and midwoofer you can't control what frequencies go in each and you still don't drive a Maclaren F1. If you can control the crossovers, especially if you're using raw driver tweeters, you can cut them lower for example and raise the soundstage and keep it more coherent way up; then aside from time alignment you could also control the gain on the tweeters, and preferably independently, so you can match their output with the midwoofers and maybe even drop the closer tweeter's output by 1db without resorting to a Balance L-R control that affects both speakers on each side.
Jan 19, 2014 at 7:47 AM Post #10 of 14
It is headphones > car audio for me. There are a lot of factors to make car audio sound good and even an IASCA/EMMA champion won't be able to compare to a good headphone setup. Mostly, this is because of external noise, unwanted resonance and reflections. Given that these items may occur in a headphone setup, it is still easier to correct than car audio.
Jan 19, 2014 at 8:04 AM Post #11 of 14
To the 2 guys above me, I wish I knew half of what you are talking about haha. Me and my friends think putting 2 subs in the trunk, having an amp and some new speakers is like the best thing in the world. Well, I'm here to learn though.
Jan 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM Post #12 of 14
  To the 2 guys above me, I wish I knew half of what you are talking about haha. Me and my friends think putting 2 subs in the trunk, having an amp and some new speakers is like the best thing in the world. Well, I'm here to learn though.

I'll summarize. Car audio's issues are all because of the cabin. The most basic problem is that you don't own a Maclaren F1, and even if you did, I'd doubt if you'd waste the weight savings and install an audio system in there to struggle with the music of the BMW V12.

See in home audio you not only have a larger space where you might cover up most surfaces, including windows, but that you can sit in a spot equidistant between the two speakers you're using. In a car, you have to be able to drive it, obviously, but also since you don't have a Maclaren F1, you're sitting off to one side - that means your ears are inherently closer to the driver side tweeter(and midrange), then the midwoofer, then the passenger side tweeter, then the passenger side midwoofer, then finally the subwoofer. Tweeter(and midrange) placement is the first step to getting this right, but that's not straightforward. Depending on your tweeter's dispersion pattern and the car's cabin, if the tweeter (and midrange) are on the dash level, you get the driver side speakers too close to your ear and therefore pull the soundstage towards it, and the dispersion pattern might end up with enough of the tweeter's output bouncing off the windshield, making the sound more sibilant. You are not hearing a strong "t" or "s," or cymbals; you are just hearing the same microsecond-duration sound at different times - not enough to easily tell that they are, but enough to screw it up especially in this aspect. Putting them in the kickpanels next to the door-mounted midwoofer might put the soundstage below your eye level, which again is nothing like home audio.
The first step therefore is to install properly: find the optimum location for the tweeter and install it cleanly, and also to properly dampen the doors if the midwoofers are there. If you relocate them to pods in the kickpanels, they might be angled to image better, but also lose enough air volume and therefore lower freq response compared to dampened doors, which means you will depend more on the sub. This part is important - if you put too much frequencies into the subwoofer, it will then pull the sound towards wherever the heck it is, on top of it being farther away, so not only are you hearing its output microseconds later, but you'll hear it from the rear (which is not how it is in a real performance nor a home stereo) and feel like the bass is too flabby.
You've already did as much as you can with the installation, next comes the processor, which initially was just an EQ, then later a crossover, then the new digital processors currently in the market. This is very important as instead of, say, simply adding nice speakers that don't rework what's wrong with a car's cabin, it can apply the needed corrections. Foremost of these is time alignment. Input protocols in processors vary as some require putting in the microsecond delay, while some require only that you measure the distance to each speaker, and then it does the computations. Either way, the goal is that it should introduce a time delay to the speakers closest to the driver-listener, so the sound arrives at the same time. When this is done however that also means each speaker will need its own amplifier channel as the processor will output 5channels or so of analog sound with time delay applied, so that means it must also apply crossover filters to set what frequencies go into each amp channel then to the speaker. Gain structure can then be reworked at this point - having matched them for distortion, now you can level-match the output of the processor going into the sub and tweeter so they will all be coherent with the midwoofer. If your tweeters are too loud for example then there's no EQ that can be broad enough to trim all of its frequencies. If you buy a speaker set, the passive crossover usually has as part of its circuit some way to attenuate the output to the easier-to-drive tweeter; in an active system you must do this with the processor and amp. In my car I have a -8db output on the Vifa tweeters from the processor and 0 gain on the 75wpc amplifier to match the 150w amp at 12:00 on the knob powering the Focal midwoofers (it's a four channel, asymmetrical amplifier by the way).
Done right and you might not even have much to correct using the EQ (I don't use mine anymore). At some point people were able to get closer to the sound of a home audio system* so some people decided the challenge to doing so would make excellent competition, so now we have EMMA and IASCA judging the imaging accuracy and spectral balance of each system in competitions. Part of the fun are the restrictions - for example, a speaker mount must not change the shape of the A-pillar as far as the driver's field of view is concerned, so minus points already for the huge home audio tweeter in my car (I don't compete and it doesn't obscure my vision so screw it).
In any case, you might want to go over to to learn more about car audio. What I posted up there isn't necessarily the most accurate workflow for setting up a system but they can help you better over there. I've been avoiding car audio forums because I haven't really finished the one in my car, and with the possibility of leaving to do my PhD in the works after my MA degree, I just don't want to sink money in it anymore. Wherever I move though if I have a car I'm likely to install a simple system in it using an integration processor (takes speaker output from the stock receiver as an input, then sends it through the ADC, then processor, then the DAC) and kickpanel speaker installation that won't mess with warranties.

*They usually refer to a full size 2ch system, but as far as I'm concerned, it's closer to a near field monitor system (because it is nearfield and the soundstage is replicated on the dashboard, like on a desk).
May 20, 2014 at 11:56 PM Post #14 of 14
I'm "bbfoto" on the DiyMobileAudio Forums as well.

And umm...Steve Meade is far from being a "true audiophile", LOL :wink: He is known for building/installing flashy (bling) car audio systems that are loud and in-your-face, with a heavy emphasis on "pounding" subwoofer systems. He does that really well, and is a fantastic social media marketer, but he really doesn't have much audio or acoustic engineering knowledge or experience to produce a truly accurate (audiophile) playback system in the car environment. He is also very good at marketing and selling some fairly basic electronic test equipment that targets car audio enthusiasts (gear that is mostly designed & conceived by his associates).

You may want to take a look at Mark Eldridge's custom NASCAR audio install (MSE/Mobile Soundstage Engineering) or Jon Whitledge's "Magic Bus" (Sprinter) audio system at

In addition, there are many excellent car audio "Build Logs" ranging from basic to very complex on the DIYMA forums web site at

I'm a former drummer and alto/tenor saxophonist of over 15 years, I love music and accurate reproduction with "you-are-there" realism and impact, and I have to say that my custom-installed, high-end car audio systems have given me much more pleasure than any of my headphone rigs have over the years. :wink: And I think that I have some fairly decent headphone setups...Audio-gd NFB-28, Balanced Beyerdynamic T1's and SE DT-880/250, iBasso DX90, etc. All of my car audio installs are focused on being "stealth" or OEM-looking, and unless you REALLY look closely and know that vehicle intimately, you would never guess there is a multi-thousand dollar high-end system installed. :wink:

If you are interested in car audio, I think that you will be truly blown away by what can be achieved and experienced in some of the top competition and even non-competition vehicles. There are car audio events, local get-togethers, and competitions all over the country, and many of the competitors are happy to give Demos if they have the time. There is a list of "events" and get-togethers (GTG) on the DIYMA forums. Look them up and burn a CD with your favorite tracks to bring to the event. :wink:

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