In Car Entertainment or ICE details in a car – Part I

How often do we travel in the car? Many times and as far as our ambitions, roads and pockets permit. The other day, the Indiandrives team happened to travel in a Santro which was devoid of a music system. Initially we thought that our conversation would make light of the 100 kms round trip but after 30-40  kms, we were bored and running out of words. This inspite of knowing each other for more than 1 year. This was the time when the music system would have eased us of the boredom. We eventually had to resort to mobile music. This shows how important a music system is for the a car. Also, it’s a common sight nowadays with most rented taxis also carrying some jugaad of music systems lest their passengers complain. For an average Joe, the music system is more like an original factory fitted unit which comes with the car or at the best, something which the show room guys claim to offer at a discount and stick him with it. However, there is a lot more to attaching music systems in cars than going and just buying a head unit and 2-3 speakers with it. Here is a discussion on what all to look out when adorning a car with its so needed music system.

The first thing that comes to mind is the budget for setting up the In Car Entertainment package. When on visits to the stores, the store people would easily make you go overboard with their various suggestions and stuff. However, to stand one’s ground and to bring things to one’s own budget is what the average Joe should bargain for. The best part is to settle for an expert in the car entertainment systems installation and then bug him with your requirements. Moreover, try and bring down the price of most of the things and at the end also request him to bring down the price of the entire package as you are getting the setup done from him and also in the future would like to upgrade the music system.

Head Receivers or Units are the first thing which should be in the minds of a car music lover. This is the part wherein the Average Joe would be fiddling around with the most. So, the first part is appearance and the head unit should have something which should be a good looking unit, at least to him. When in the store, try and checkout the various models on display and see if they are suitable for a day to day operation. If the buttons are too small for convenience, they would be even more inconvenient when out on drives and wherein one eye has to be kept on the road and the other on the car entertainment system. Also, watch out for the various formats which the music system would support like CDs, MP3, Ipod connectivity and also USB, aux-in. Due to the spate of thefts which are plaguing the car entertainment system, manufacturers have resorted to detachable head units. There are two types of the same unit in the market and they are classified as semi detachable and fully detachable. In the former, some of the features of the head unit are still left behind while the rest are carried away with the face. Still, the head unit cannot be operated without the face. As for fully detachable units, as the name suggests, there is a big gaping hole left after the unit has been removed from its place. One more thing to check out in a head receiver unit is the Pre-amp controls for the output. An amplifier can be used directly without any distortions in this. If at all Average Joe is looking to upgrade the system in the future, this single thing will help him in absolving some costs.

Head Receivers

Choosing a head receiver means that one also has to check out if the unit is a single DIN one or a twin one. Most of the buyers nowadays prefer 2 DIN ones. With a 2 DIN system, Average Joe can actually fit in a DVD system in the car along with a touch screen music system with an integrated reverse camera at the rear plus also the satellite navigation. Most of the times, a remote control is also provided so that the rear seat passengers can also control the CDs or even the volume. Going on with the trend, most Car Entertainment shops can also put in steering mounted controls. But how far that would affect the warranty is any one’s guess.

Amplifiers are the next thing in the shopping list of the Average Joe. So that crisp music is being played through the speakers, there needs to be an amplifier which is set up for the job. As it is, the head unit usually comes with an amplifier which is inbuilt, but for a better quality music, it is recommended that a secondary amp be fitted in. ForAmplifiers selecting a secondary amp, Average Joe needs to check the manufacturers ratings for the particular feature. If a manufacturer brochure claims that particular unit to be producing 20Wx4, it means that 1/4th of 20 is the music which is being sounded in each speaker and 20 Watts per speaker. However, if a different amp claims to have 50watts X 4 RMS, this means that each and every speaker is actually having an output of 50 Watts. Root Mean Square is the definition for RMS and it actually measures the waveform in AC format. The Speakers and Amplifiers often have to support each other and this is a game which is best played by the installer. For the final output of an amplifier, the head units use an inbuilt Integrated Chip or IC. Subwoofers are not to be connected directly to the head receiver as there is just not enough current in the head receiver to make this possible.

Speakers are also an important part of an ICE setup. They can also be called the weaklings, since any discrepancy in reproduction of the sound is directly attributed to them. A car which came with factory fitted speakers doesn’t have Speakers and Woofermuch scope for tinkering around as it is already tuned to produce the best of all the worlds. Ideally there should be separate speakers, ones which reproduce the lows of a music note and others which should produce the high notes. Larger speakers are used to produce the low notes efficiently while the smaller ones produce the high notes very well. Enthusiasts prefer multiple smaller speakers and which are called components, which exponentially reproduce the sounds of a music tone accurately. Then there are the woofers and tweeters. Tweeters are small units and generally require very less power. Tweeters are instrumental in producing high frequency sounds whereas woofers require more space and also sometimes distort sounds. The best bet is the use of mid range speakers which can toggle effectively between low and high sounds. A newer unit which has come into the market is the co-axial which combines the best of both worlds with a integrated woofer and tweeter unit. Even speakers have their output measured in RMS. Though many manufacturers will claim that their speakers have a high RMS, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the same thing would be sustained over longer periods. Sensitivity is something which speakers are rated on. A more sensitive speaker would require lesser power to play music with more clarity whereas its opposite would require more power to play the same amount of music.

Tweeters are a directional thing and their installation should include the likes of direction and something which should be facing the listener. Most of the time, tweeters are placed near the windscreen or on the dashboard. As is the norm, a larger woofer would sometimes eat into precious boot space and if it’s a hatchback that Average Joe wants to deck it with, then the usable space is gone. Most of the times, factory mounted speakers have a paper surround to them and hence they aren’t intended to last long. If its more of MP3s that Average Joe prefers, then the stock speakers should be just about fine whereas if its more of CDs and that too the original ones, then the speakers need to be upgraded to better sounding ones. Some manufacturers like Skoda and Toyota provide speakers surrounded by rubber and many a times, neodymium is used to surround the tweeters. Most of the times, expensive does mean the world for speakers and the more the former the more durable would be the latter.

Equalizer or Sound Processor is the next thing on the list. A head unit or even the speakers can be modulated based on the equalizer that comes with the music system. In a complex system consisting of tweeters, woofers and bass enhancing components, its very hard to get the exact desired sound. With the use of an equalizer, all these can be Equalizercontrolled and to Average Joe’s liking. The perfect symphony can be achieved via this method. The best one is the 10 part equalizer module. With this, Average Joe can actually tune up his music and allow only the bass to take over rest of the music parameters or only let the tweeters work their magic around. The highest point is the introduction of 30 point equalizers which work wonders and makes the car feel like a music studio. However, these come at a very steep price and unless one is a true enthusiast, doesn’t explain the pricing difference.

Since this is an inexhaustive topic, we have decided to keep this in parts and help Average Joe in stages. A follow up with the different additional components needed for setting up an audio symphony in a short time would follow.

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