Car audio systems, today, provide us with entertainment while on the road. For most of us, the car audio system has also evolved into informational and communication systems that help us to stay in touch and navigate our daily lives. 

With the added features of integrations such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, our car audio systems have developed into the perfect extensions of our mobile devices and smartphones. 

While all the technology is great, the main function of the car audio system is to provide us with the calming atmosphere that music can create. Music can change your mood within minutes, especially if you’ve had a bad day at work, it can help your passengers escape the boring ride on those long trips. 

The problem lies when the system you have doesn’t produce the effect you are looking for, nor does it give your music the sound it should have. Upgrading your car audio components can be a great way to revive your musical experience within your vehicle, but there are a few recommendations I want to discuss to help you avoid making typical mistakes some make when upgrading and installing new car audio equipment. 

Wrong Components For Your Vehicle

Finding the right equipment for your vehicle, especially in modern-day vehicles, can seem like an impossible task. Many vehicles require dash installation kits, harnesses, and even some pretty sophisticated CANBUS interfacing modules that will retain the use of features such as steering wheel controls, backup cameras, and even climate controls.

Some individuals do not look into this deep enough. Some will just skimp out and buy just the basic installation accessories and call it a day, only to find out that their car doesn’t function like it used to.

Don’t fret though, there are resources out there that can give you a list of exactly what your vehicle may need in order to install aftermarket car audio accessories. Do your research here, especially if you plan on tackling such a task on your own. 

Mismatching Power Ratings

One of the biggest mistakes most new car audio enthusiasts make is mismatching the power ratings of their amplifiers and speakers or using the wrong ratings altogether. I can’t even count how many times someone has asked me, “What would be the best 1000 watt amp for my subs?” But, after asking more questions and learning more about the subs, I come to find out they were looking at the peak power handling because it was a big number. In most cases, an individual that is new to car audio will only be looking at the “peak” power on components. Doing this will get you in trouble pretty quickly. In the short term, your system may function ok, but crank up the volume and eventually, you will do more damage than good. The “peak” power handling, in my opinion, is giving you a false sense of how much power your system will have. It’s been quite a marketing ploy to get people to buy things that really aren’t what they say they are. 

The true measurement for power is the RMS rating. This rating signifies what the amplifier can output continuously and the power that a speaker or a subwoofer can handle continuously without being damaged, given the amplifiers have had their gain settings adjusted properly. I discussed setting amplifier gains in a previous post. You can read more about it, HERE. 

The important factor here is to match the RMS ratings of the amplifier to the speaker or subwoofer(s) and vice-versa. If not, you will end up underpowering or overpowering your speakers and subwoofers resulting in lackluster results, or just damaging everything.

Wrong Settings

The interior of a vehicle is a very difficult space to achieve great sound quality without the proper tuning of the audio system. Just reading through a manual and set up your system based on this will not give you the best experience musically. And, most of these “recommended” settings are just generalizations and will not work for every type of music.

Your car audio system is just not going to sound good if you decide to crank up the bass boost, and adjust the equalizer settings the wrong way because it just makes it “loud.” 

Researching and learning more about how to set up your car audio system will help you determine which settings will work right for your vehicle, your equipment, and your music taste. 

I would also like to add that investing in some basic tuning equipment such as the SMD DD-1 and the SMD CC-1 will give you the ability to tune your system’s amplifiers with ease and limit the potential of damaging any of your new equipment.

Listening To “BAD” Music

Not judging your taste, here. Say you have a properly installed and set up car audio system, but it still just doesn’t sound the way you think it should. One thing to look at is the compression of the music files. Most music that is compressed below 256kbps will result in your music just sounding, blah. 

If you listen to your own music library while driving, double-check the compression of your audio files. To get the most out of your music library, try downloading the files in the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format. This type of audio file is a “lossless” file type, meaning that even though the file is compressed similarly to an MP3 file, there is no loss of the music quality or musical data, and the music can be enjoyed as it was intended.

If streaming music is more of your thing, take a look at some of the more premium streaming services such as Tidal or Deezer HiFi. Both of these services offer music streaming in a lossless format, giving you the sound quality you crave.

Bad Installation

You can have the best car audio equipment that money can buy, you can have all the right tools to install it, but if you, or your installer, lack the knowledge to get it done right, it’s not going to turn out well. 

I have nothing against doing the work yourself, in fact, this can be a great way to learn more about the car audio processes and the technology that is used to properly install a system, but on the flip side, you have to be will to learn and do things properly.

The worst way to handle your car audio installation is to hire someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and have them install your new car audio equipment. Don’t use your cousin Bobby’s best friend’s, friend. Find a professional. 

When seeking help from a professional installer, do your research. Find someone that has the knowledge and the experience, especially when it comes to the newer vehicles. Find an install shop and ask a ton of questions, ask to see some of their previous work. Look at their shop, does it seem clean and organized? You may think things like this are irrelevant, but they will give you a good idea of how that shop is run and the quality of their work.

If You Don’t Know, Don’t Risk It

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the “Bad Installation” section, but if you are unsure about any part of your install, stop. Don’t risk doing it wrong. Don’t just go and wing it and do things half-assed. Either do some research on the subject or ask someone with more knowledge and experience than you. Your vehicle’s electrical system can be extremely sensitive. One wrong move and you can damage a lot more than just your radio, especially if that radio handles some of the CANBUS tasks. 

If you don’t know what you need to do, don’t take the risk! That’s all I can say.


These are just a couple common mistakes that newbies make when it comes to installing or upgrading their car audio system. I hope this post has shed some sort of light on how to possibly avoid these mistakes. 

Avoid these 5 common Car Audio NOOB Mistakes!

About The Author Brandon L

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