Over the years, we’ve highlighted car audio installations that look amazing and we’ve explained some of the science that goes into making those systems sound great. A professional car audio installation technician needs to possess a unique set of skills that includes a certain amount of creativity, as well as a detailed understanding of how vehicles and audio components work. If either area of expertise is lacking, the result of their efforts may not sound right or look as though it belongs in a vehicle. It’s a tricky balance that requires years of training and hours of planning for a complicated build.
The Art of Car Audio Installation
When it comes to creativity in the design and execution of a custom car audio installation, coming up with unique locations to mount amplifiers and processors, to integrate the cosmetics of an upgraded set of speakers or to highlight something like a plexiglass subwoofer enclosure isn’t easy. Many professional technicians have taken to making sketches of the components they plan on creating. This process can help clients understand why the project will take a certain amount of time.
Imagine a speaker upgrade in the door of a classic sports car. Likely, the vehicle didn’t come from the factory with a 6.5-inch woofer in the door. There are probably a few dozen options for mounting a new speaker in that door. The technician could cut a hole in the trim panel and the metal frame of the door, then install the speaker with its included grille. If the door is any color other than black or gray, the tech might choose to paint the grille to match the interior of the vehicle.
Many low- to mid-price speakers come with grilles that include modern, angular styling that might not fit with the lines of the vehicle. In this case, the technician may choose to make a trim ring around the speaker basket, create a grille and cover it with acoustically transparent cloth.
If there’s going to be a lot of work done in the vehicle interior, then adding a theme to the installation might be something the client would enjoy. This theme could carry into the cargo area in the form of a custom amp rack or subwoofer enclosure. Many high-end installations combine the use of vinyl, laser-cut acrylic plastic and pressed metal mesh to create a solution that looks as though it rolled off the vehicle assembly line.
Car Audio Upgrade Science
As important as it is to ensure that the new car audio products installed in a vehicle look as though they belong, the technician needs to keep the laws of physics in mind. Simple things like the placement and angle of the tweeters in a set of sail panels or dash can play a significant role in how the driver and passenger hear the highest audio frequencies.
Installers need a firm understanding of how to combine different-size speakers based on specifications like resonant frequency while taking into account directivity concerns due to cone diameter. This information, combined with measurements from acoustic analysis equipment, will affect crossover points.
There are hundreds of factors to take into account during a modest to complicated audio installation. Technicians have to consider where to route wires to prevent noise interference. They have to plan how to run power cables to avoid damage from heat and vibration. They need to know what signals they need to test to add an amplifier or processor to a factory radio.
The process keeps changing, and new vehicles introduce new technologies. Where once an installer could trust the chassis of a car or truck as the ground path for a high-power amplifier, alternatives need to be used in vehicles with aluminum construction or where adhesives are used instead of spot welds. These are a small percentage of the reasons why so many professional installers invest thousands of dollars each year in training.
Choose Your Installation Technician Wisely
We aren’t afraid to state that, sadly, not every person installing car audio equipment for a living is qualified and adequately trained for the task. As a consumer, your job is to choose a company that provides the right combination of services to ensure that your upgrade will look and sound great and last for many years. You can start the process of shopping for a qualified retailer by visiting the local mobile enhancement specialists in your area. Be sure to take note of the class of cars they are working on, any certifications their technicians have on display, and the brands they sell. All of these factors can provide insight into their capabilities.