1 Car Audio Glossary Amplifiers Ampere An Ampere or Amp is the unit of measure for current or electrical "flow" through a circuit. (Note: amp is also used as an abbreviation of the word amplifier; the two should not be confused.) AWG AWG stands for American Wire Gauge. This is the measure of the size of DC power cable as used for car audio. The smaller the number is, the larger the wire s diameter is. Most commonly used sizes are 4 gauge and 8 gauge. Bridged Power When you bridge an amplifier, you combine the power output of two channels into one channel. Bridging allows you to drive one speaker with more power than the amp could produce for two speakers. Because of this high power output, bridging is an ideal way to drive a single subwoofer. If your amp is bridgeable, the owner's manual will have directions that tell you how. Do not attempt to bridge an amplifier unless the manual specifically states this is possible. Bass Boost Circuitry Increases the output of low frequencies or Bass. Built-in Crossovers Crossovers are used to control sound passed through to speakers or subwoofers. They separate high frequency from low frequency and send only the relevant frequencies to the speaker. This allows for greater efficiency and improved sound quality. Capacitor A capacitor is used as a type of buffer between your amplifier and your cars electrical system. It stores large amounts of electrical current and can release this charge rapidly. It is also recharged rapidly, thus lowering the strain on the vehicles electrical system. CEA-2006 Compliant On May 28, 2003, the Consumer Electronics Association published standard CEA-2006, "Testing & Measurement Methods for Mobile Audio Amplifiers." This "voluntary" standard advocates a uniform method for determining an amplifier's RMS power and signal-to-noise ratio. Using 14.4 volts, RMS watts are measured into a 4-ohm impedance load at 1% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) plus noise, at a frequency range (for general purpose amplifiers) of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Signal-to-Noise ratio is measured in weighted absolute decibels (dba) at a reference of 1 watt into 4 ohms. This applies to both external amplifiers and the amplifiers within in-dash receivers. CEA-2006 allows consumers to be able to compare car amplifiers and receivers on an equal basis. Manufacturers who choose to abide by the new standard are able to stamp their products with the CEA-2006 logo that reads: "Amp Power Standard CEA-2006 Compliant."
2 Classes of Amplifiers An amplifier is classified according to its circuit design and the way its output stages are powered. Although some may assume that for every portion of the input signal there is corresponding 100% output from the amplifier, power dissipation (in the form of heat) and distortion of the audio signal are two key factors in determining the efficiency and fidelity of an amplifier. Each class has its own performance characteristics and advantages. Class A amplifiers are desirable for the high quality of their sound, but, because of the configuration of its transistors, a pure class A amplifier is inefficient and runs very hot. This is because even when there is no audio signal, the output transistors always have current running through them. The current flowing through the output transistors (with no audio signal) causes the amp to heat up unnecessarily, and "waste" input energy. Most car amplifiers that boast "Class A" circuitry are really Class A/Class AB hybrids. The output transistors of Class B amplifiers actually turn off for half of every signal cycle. This improves efficiency and saves energy, but introduces distortion during the switching periods. By far the most common car amp design, Class AB amplifiers also allow current to run through the output transistors when there is no audio signal, but at a much lower level. A class AB amplifier runs cooler, and therefore, more efficiently than a class A, with low distortion and high reliability. Class D amplifiers use output transistors as switches to control power distribution the transistors rapidly switch on and off at least twice during every signal cycle. Class D amps boast higher efficiency, produce less heat, and draw less current than traditional Class AB designs. Class D amplifiers produce higher distortion than AB designs due to the high-speed switching on and off of the transistors, but this distortion occurs at high frequencies that are typically removed by a low-pass filter. Clipping Clipping occurs when an audio circuit's maximum capacity is exceeded. The circuit won't reproduce the excessive parts of the signal, "clipping off" the round tops and bottoms of the musical waveforms, leaving them square, and introducing a huge amount of distortion into the output signal. Clipping can be heard as a crunching sound on musical peaks. A clipped signal, especially one that has been amplified, can be very destructive to your speakers and subs. Crossover Point In high-pass filters, low-pass filters, and crossovers, the crossover point is the frequency at which the level of the output signal has been reduced by 3 db. Crossover Slope The rate at which the crossover attenuates the blocked frequencies. Slope is expressed as decibels per octave. A 6dB per octave crossover reduces signal level by 6dB in every octave starting at the crossover point. This means that every time the frequency of the audio signal is changed by a factor of 2 (one octave), the level of the audio signal will change by 6dB. For example, if your low-pass filter is set at 80Hz with a 6dB slope, you'll see a drop in level of 6dB at 160Hz. With slopes of 12dB and higher, you'll hear little output beyond the crossover point.
3 Damping Factor Damping is the ability of an amplifier to stop the speaker cone from continuing to vibrate after the signal stops. A system with good damping plays sound cleanly with no hint of unintentional echoes or reverberations. The higher the damping factor, the greater the accuracy. Discrete Output Devices There are three basic types of output devices found on car audio amplifiers integrated circuits, bipolar transistors, and Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors (MOSFETs). An integrated circuit (or IC) is found only on relatively low-wattage (20 watts RMS per channel or less) amplifiers called "bridged transformerless" amps. An IC cannot pass enough current to work on a more powerful amp and is not considered a discrete output device. Bipolar transistors and MOSFETs are found on the output stages of high-powered amplifiers. They are fast enough and can handle enough current to send wattage greater than 20 watts per channel to your speakers. Both of these types of transistors are considered discrete output devices. Usually there are two per channel, but some amps feature as many as four per channel. Feedback Feedback is when an electronic circuit's output signal is used to modify its own input. This is handy in getting rid of noise, for example, by subtracting any signal differences. Heatsink A heatsink is a metal structure used in electronics to draw heat away from critical components and dissipate it into the air, usually via cooling fins. Impedance The total opposition to the flow of alternating current in an electrical circuit at a given frequency. Impedance is measured in Ohms. Although car audio manufacturers label the impedance of most car speakers and subs at 4-ohms, the impedance of a speaker is actually not a constant. It's actual impedance changes with frequency and can vary greatly. Therefore, though 4-ohms is the standard impedance in car audio, this standard is more of an average impedance for speakers and amplifiers when driven within the part of the audio spectrum for which they are designed. Mono Amplifier Mono (or monaural) amplifiers are single channel amps, well suited for low-frequency applications since the human ear cannot distinguish stereo in the extreme bass range. Also, since mono amplifiers are stable to 2-ohms, you can connect them safely to two 4-ohm woofers (wired in parallel). MOSFET Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors have a higher switching speed than bipolar transistors and generate very little heat. MOSFETs offer fast response and high efficiency.
4 Ohm Is the unit of measurement for impedance or resistance. It tells you how much a device will resist the flow of current. If you take two signals of exactly the same strength and send one to a 4-ohm speaker and the other to an 8-ohm speaker, twice as much current will flow through the 4-ohm speaker. In other words, the 8-ohm speaker will require twice as much power (wattage) to play at the same volume. Power Handling (RMS) Root Mean Square. The maximum continuous sine wave power that can be dissipated by a speaker without failure, measured in watts RMS. Most speakers fail for one of two main reasons: 1. A speaker is driven with too much power, beyond its rating, and it overheats. 2. The amplifier is driven into clipping, producing square wave distortion that destroys the driver. Preamp output Preamp outputs let you pass the preamp signal to additional amps, saving you from having to run more long patch cords to your receiver or to use unreliable y-adapters in order to hook up all your amps. Resistance The opposition to the flow of electrical current. Resistance is measured in Ohms. RMS Power vs. Peak Power The amount of continuous power, measured in watts, which an amplifier produces, is called RMS power. RMS ("Root Mean Square") is a mathematical way of obtaining a useful average when discussing power capabilities. The higher the RMS figure, the louder and cleaner your music sounds. When choosing an amplifier, the RMS rating is the power rating you should pay most attention to. Also, keep in mind that some manufacturers calculate the RMS power ratings of their amplifiers at different input voltages. For example, an amplifier rated at 100 watts RMS at 12 volts can produce considerably more power than an amp rated at 100 watts RMS at the more typical 14.4 volts. Stereo manufacturers often display peak power ratings on the face of their products. The peak power rating tells you the maximum wattage an amplifier can deliver as a brief burst during a musical peak, like a dramatic drum accent. The RMS figure is more significant and more indicative of the amp's long-term performance.
5 RMS Power at 2 ohms This spec tells you how much more power your amp delivers when presented with a 2-ohm stereo load. You can achieve a 2-ohm load by using parallel wiring or by using 2-ohm speakers. Theoretically, amp output should exactly double as the impedance drops from the usual 4 ohms to 2 ohms. However, amp makers use different degrees of regulation on power supplies, which can restrict the actual increase in output. Less regulated power supplies come closer to doubling their output into 2-ohm loads. An amp with little regulation can achieve higher wattage into lower impedances. An amp with stiffer regulation maintains rated output from your amp as other electrical accessories demand voltage from the battery. Signal-to-Noise Ratio Measured in decibels (db), this spec compares the strength of the desired signal (music) to the level of background noise. A higher value indicates less background noise. Sound Pressure Level (SPL) SPL is measured in db an acoustic measurement of sound energy. One db SPL is the smallest audible difference in sound level. 0dB SPL is the threshold of human hearing, while noise measuring 120dB can damage your hearing. Speaker-level input Also called high-level inputs, speaker-level inputs accept signal from a receiver's speaker outputs, letting you connect the amp to a receiver that lacks RCA preamp outputs. Subsonic Filter Also called an infrasonic filter, a subsonic filter cuts off extremely low bass (below the range of human hearing) that many speakers cannot effectively reproduce, thereby making the amp's power supply and output devices, and the speaker, more efficient. Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) Amount of change in harmonic content of the signal as it is amplified. A lower figure indicates less change and a more accurate amp. THD below 1% is inaudible. Tri-Way Output Sometimes called Dual Mode, this setup powers a pair of stereo speakers and one subwoofer simultaneously from the outputs of a single 2-channel amplifier. It's an affordable way to drive a subwoofer. It requires an external Tri-Way adapter that is connected in-line between your amplifier and your speakers. Turn On Lead A small gauge wire, running from a receiver to an amplifier. this triggers the amp to turn on when the receiver is switched on.
6 Head Decks Anti-Theft Protection A security feature that helps prevent radio theft. There are several types of anti-theft protection currently in use: Detachable Face Lets you remove the control panel of your receiver easily, and take it with you when you leave the car. The stereo is useless to thieves without the faceplate, so the temptation to break in your car is greatly reduced. All but a handful of the receivers we offer come with a detachable face. Security Code Some stereos give you the option of setting up a security code. This is usually in addition to having a detachable faceplate. The security code is a three or four button combination; usually using the radio preset buttons that has to be entered before the stereo will function. Auxiliary Input An input on the face or rear of the receiver that enables you to connect a plug-and-play satellite radio tuner or portable music player (CD, MP3, or cassette) to the receiver. The input jack can be either Mini or RCA. CD Text Some compact discs contain encoded text data that can include the artist name, disc name, and/or track name. Text-capable receivers can decode and display this information on the readout. CD-R, CD-RW Compatibility CD receivers with this capability can play audio CD-Rs and/or CD-RWs as well as pre-recorded CDs. Almost all of today's receivers can play CD-R and CD-RW discs. Changer Controls Originally, changer controls referred to a receiver's ability to control a same-brand CD changer. These days, the changer control connection on a receiver can be used to add one of any number of peripheral devices. Most stereo brands let you choose from a CD changer, satellite radio, ipod adapter, USB adapter, Bluetooth adapter, and more. Codec A codec is a method of compressing and decompressing digitized sound. MP3 and WMA are examples of different codecs. Crossover (High-Pass Filter) A built-in high-pass filter allows only frequencies above the crossover point to pass through. This filter may work with the speaker outputs, preamp outputs, or both. Crossover (Low-Pass Filter) A built-in low-pass filter allows only low frequencies to pass through. This filter may work with the speaker outputs (very rare), preamp outputs, or both. Custom Programming Some changer controller combinations let you specify exactly which tracks will play on a CD. Disc title features let you assign each disc a name that will appear on the in-dash display when that disc is loaded.
7 DAC See Digital-to-Analogue to Converter Digital-to-Analogue (D/A) Converter Your CD receiver uses a D/A converter to convert digital 1s and 0s back into analogue audio signals. CDs store audio data in binary, digital form. This digital data is an accurate, noise-free reproduction of recorded signals, but in digital form it doesn't sound like music to your ears. The D/A converter translates the digital info back into music that's why it's so important to your CD receiver's performance. Digital Media Files Music which has been subjected to data compression allowing users to store many hours of music as computer files. A growing number of in-dash CD receivers have the ability to decode and play recordable CDs (CD-Rs and CD-RWs) loaded with MP3, WMA, AAC, or WAV files. A single disc can hold up to ten hours of music. Digital Media Receiver Digital media receivers are in-dash receivers that do not have CD players built in. Instead, they feature multiple inputs for devices like ipods, USB drives, SD cards, and so on. Display Fold-down Face Slot-faced receivers are convenient, but their displays are smaller out of necessity. A fold-down face, on the other hand, hides the CD slot behind the control panel, and allows the receiver to include a larger display for greater legibility. Hiding the slot also increases the unit's reliability by reducing internal exposure to dust and dirt. Multicolour Display A multicolour display improves readability and reduces the amount of time your eyes spend away from the road. Monochrome displays cannot represent different functions with unique colours, so you spend more time trying to decipher the readout. Backlight A backlit display significantly improves visibility under adverse conditions. For example, if the sun is shining on your faceplate, a backlit display is easier to see. DVD/CD Receivers These versatile CD receivers can also play DVD movies, and may play DVD audio discs. Some models send the video signal to an outboard backseat monitor for on-the-go viewing, while other models include a built-in screen for stationary viewing. These receivers have digital-to-analogue converters that are superior to those found in most regular CD receivers, so your CDs will usually sound better on a DVD receiver.
8 Equalizer A built-in in EQ lets you tailor the sound to your listening tastes and to your vehicle's acoustics. Receivers with built-in EQs will have one or more equalizer "bands" in addition to standard bass and treble controls. These equalizer "bands" usually have fixed centre frequencies and bandwidths (although some may be adjustable). More sophisticated built-in EQs offer parametric equalization, which allows you to set the amount (in db) by which a certain frequency band is boosted or cut and determine the width and/or centre frequency of this band. This gives you extremely precise control of the tonal balance in your vehicle. Equalizer Pre-sets Preset EQ curves are stored tone settings boosting and cutting different frequencies can make big changes in the way your music sounds. Preset EQ curves are stored in memory, and are easily activated. If you listen to a wide variety of music, these pre-sets are useful for making dramatic tonal changes instantly. (For example, you could use one EQ preset with heavy bass boost for rap or reggae, and a second preset with flat bass and a slight midrange/treble boost for jazz. This saves you from constant readjustment of the tone controls.) European Tuning The European tuning interval of.05 MHz is different from the US tuning interval of.2 MHz. If a CD receiver also has European tuning, it is compatible with the European scale and can be used in many European countries. FM Mono Sensitivity This figure tells you how well a CD receiver can pick up FM radio signals. The smaller the number, the greater the ability the unit has to pick up weaker stations. Expressed in decibel femtowatts (dbf). FM Stereo Separation A measure of the ability of an FM tuner to re-create a vivid stereo effect. Measured in db (decibels), the higher the figure is the better. Frequency Response The range of sounds, from bass to treble, a stereo component can reproduce. It's measured in Hertz (Hz), and a wider range is better the bass will be lower and the treble will be higher. Humans can perceive sounds from 20 to 20,000 Hz. The lowest note on a bass guitar is about 41 Hz. Most male vocalists have a range between 100 and 500 Hz. Cymbals hit at about 15,000 Hz. Ground Loop A ground loop occurs when any piece of equipment or any incoming wire is connected to a different ground or grounds. If your in-dash receiver and amplifier are grounded to different locations, for example, a ground loop may occur. In this situation, the multiple ground paths can, in effect, act as an antenna for interference. The interference is turned into noise, and you hear it in your system.
9 Intro Scan Lets you hear the first few seconds of each track on a CD. Hit the button again when you hear the song you're looking for. The scanning feature will stop, and that track will continue playing. Loudness This control allows you to boost the lower frequencies in your music for full, rich sound at lower volumes. MP3 MP3 encoding compresses musical data, enabling users to store many hours of music as computer files. A growing number of in-dash CD receivers have the ability to decode and play recordable CDs (CD-Rs and/or CD-RWs) loaded with MP3 files. Also, portable MP3 players can be used to play these files through a car receiver's auxiliary inputs. Multi-path Interference Multi-path interference affects FM radio reception. FM waves travel in a straight line, so anything between you and the FM transmitter can cause multi-path interference. When FM signals bounce off buildings and other large objects, the tuner picks up the same signal more than once, at different times. This creates "echoes" that confuse the tuner by mixing with the original signal. Peak Power Peak power is measured during a brief musical burst, such as a sudden drum accent. Some manufacturers display peak power ratings on the face of their products. The RMS power rating is more significant, and we recommend using it for comparison purposes. Preamp Outputs Jacks on the rear of a CD receiver that allow you to use a standard RCA patch cable to add an external amp. Some receivers have two sets, which help if you plan to add a 4-channel amp or a second amp. Some receivers have three sets, one of which is usually intended to be used for a subwoofer amp. Some receivers offer a "non-fading" set of preamp outputs. Hook your subwoofer amp to the non-fading outputs, and you can fade the regular speakers front to rear without affecting the sound of the subwoofer. Preamp Output Voltage The output voltage of the receiver's preamp outputs. Higher preamp output voltage can mean cleaner sound (better noise resistance) and higher output from your amp.
10 Radio Data System RDS stands for Radio Data System. RDS tuners can automatically tune in stations according to the style of music (or talk) they broadcast. Some RDS tuners can even break in with traffic alerts or emergency broadcasts when you're listening to a CD. RDS enables your receiver to display text messages (usually call letters and format info) that many FM stations include on a subcarrier signal within their normal broadcast signal. RMS Power The amount of continuous power, measured in watts, that an amplifier produces, is called Root Mean Square (RMS) power. The higher the RMS figure, the louder and cleaner your music sounds. Random Play Also known as shuffle play. Mixes up the order of songs during playback. Some CD players offer a "Random Play with Delete" feature that prevents a song from being repeated once it has been played. Remote Control For remote-compatible CD receivers, wired or infrared wireless remotes are either included with a receiver, or available as accessories. Satellite Radio Controls CD receivers with satellite radio controls operate same-brand external satellite radio tuners. A specialized antenna and service subscription are also required (in addition to the tuner) to receive the satellite radio signal. Scan and Seek Tuning Preset Scan lets you push a button and automatically hear a brief sample of what's on each of your preset stations. Station Scan lets you sample each strong station (regardless of whether it's one of your pre-sets) the sampling continues until you hit the station scan button again. Seek tuning moves to the next strong station and stops there you must hit the "Seek" button again to repeat the process. Signal-to-Noise Ratio A measure of how well a CD player silences background noise. Higher ratings, in decibels (db), indicate less noise. Subwoofer Preamp Outputs RCA output jacks (usually coupled with a built-in low-pass filter) for connection to a sub woofer amplifier. Time Correction A processing circuit found in some receivers that compensates for the uneven distances between left and right car speakers and listeners' ears. Time correction delays signals from the closest speaker(s), so that all the sound arrives at your off-centre listening position at the same time. You'll get a more accurate, lifelike stereo image.
11 Track Repeat Plays the same track over and over until you turn the feature off. Travel Pre-sets or Best Tuning Memory Engage this feature and the CD receiver automatically loads a bank of your preset with the strongest available signals. It makes finding stations easier when you're driving through unfamiliar territory. It also makes loading preset a snap when you first install the receiver or any time your battery runs down or gets disconnected (which wipes out the tuner's preset memory). Some receivers use a bank or two of your regular station preset for storage; others have dedicated travel preset plus station preset for manual storage. Video System Control Receivers with video system control operate same-brand/compatible video components and play TV sound through your car audio speakers (when video components are connected). Zero-bit Detector Some CD receivers feature a circuit that detects periods of no audio signal (a series of zeros in the digital bit stream) and mutes the audio output. You'll hear dead silence until an audio signal is detected again.
12 Speakers Basket The basket, or frame, is the structural support of a speaker. Bi-amping In bi-amping, separate amplifiers (or amp channels) drive the woofer and tweeter of a speaker. This way, both low-frequency drivers (woofers) and high-frequency drivers (tweeters) receive dedicated amplification. Coaxial speaker Coaxial speakers contain two elements: a woofer, to reproduce the low notes, and a tweeter, mounted inside the woofer, for the highs. See also "Two-Way Speakers", below. Component System Component systems, or separates, use a superior speaker design to give you the best possible sound. A typical separates system includes 2 woofers, 2 tweeters, and 2 external crossovers all of which are designed to work smoothly with one another. Generally, components are made of better materials than their two- or three-way counterparts. You can position the separate tweeters for optimal imaging. Given adequate power, separates deliver exceptional dynamics and detail. Compression horn Found in some speakers, a high-frequency (or midrange) driver fires into a horn-shaped enclosure for powerful, highly efficient output. Adapted from concert systems, compression horn tweeters and midranges move with less excursion, so they produce less distortion and have higher powerhandling levels than other designs. Crossover A network of filters, made up of coils and capacitors, that directs specific frequency ranges to the appropriate speaker components (woofer, midrange, and tweeter, for instance). That way, the drivers do not strain to reproduce notes out of their intended range. Component systems and full-range speakers include passive crossovers, which are designed for the specific components and mounted between the amplifier and speakers. Active crossovers divide the frequency range before amplification, and can be adjusted to adapt to any speaker setup. Decibel (db) The standard unit of measure for expressing relative power or amplitude differences. With audio, it represents loudness. One db is the smallest change in loudness most people can detect. A 1 db difference is barely noticeable, but a 10 db difference is big a speaker playing at 10 db higher volume will sound roughly twice as loud. Another db fact: For any given set of speakers, each 3 db increase in volume level requires a doubling of the amplifier power.
13 Diaphragm A speaker diaphragm is the surface that radiates sound. For a woofer, this is the speaker cone. In a tweeter, it's usually dome-shaped. Dual Cone A dual cone speaker uses an inexpensive design in which a small "whizzer" cone attached to the centre of the woofer reproduces the high frequencies. Dust cap A dust cap covers the centre of a speaker's cone and keeps dirt out of the voice coil gap. Efficiency Although a speaker's efficiency rating is almost always correlated to its sensitivity rating, it's actually a different measurement. The efficiency rating for a speaker measures how well a speaker converts watts of electrical power into watts of acoustical power. Most speakers have a very low efficiency rating between 1% and 10% so manufacturers rarely provide this information, choosing instead to list sensitivity ratings. Frequency Response The range of frequencies the speaker will reproduce (lowest frequency to the highest). The optimal range is 20-20,000 Hz, the range of human hearing. Many high-quality tweeters, however, are able to reproduce frequencies well above 20,000 Hz. While the human ear can't detect these ultra-high frequencies, they do contain harmonics that affect the way listeners perceive sound and its nuances. Full-range Speakers Full-range speakers accurately reproduce your music's frequency range by mounting a tweeter inside the woofer cone. This is also known as a coaxial or 2-way speaker. Some versions may add midranges or super tweeters to better reproduce other parts of the frequency spectrum. These are also referred to by the number of drivers (3-way, 4-way, etc.). Imaging Imaging describes the extent to which a stereo system reproduces the location of instruments and vocalists as they were positioned during recording and mixing. (See also soundstage below). Optimal imaging creates a listening experience that seems natural and lifelike. The key to attaining the best possible imaging is to have equal (or as close to equal as possible), unobstructed path lengths between your tweeters and your ears. The ability to mount your tweeter separately, as with components, or in an angled mount, as with some full-range speakers, can improve imaging. Impedance Impedance is a measure of the resistance of a speaker's voice coil to the audio current supplied by the amplifier.
14 Magnet The magnet provides a stationary magnetic field against which the voice coil reacts to create sound. Maximum RMS Power Handling Maximum RMS Power-Handling refers to the maximum amount of power a speaker can handle on a continuous basis. Midrange Speaker A midrange speaker ranges in size from 3-1/2" to 6-3/4" and reproduces the middle frequencies. Component systems sometimes use separate midranges, as do systems that amplify the low, midrange, and high frequencies separately. Some full-range speakers include a midrange element for better detail. Peak Power Handling Peak power handling refers to the maximum amount of power a speaker can handle during a brief musical burst. Plate Speaker Plate speakers feature a separate round woofer and tweeter, mounted side by side on a plate that's designed to replace oval-shaped 4"x6" and 5"x7"/6"x8" speakers. Since a round woofer is more accurate than an oval one and is not encumbered with a cone-mounted tweeter, a plate speaker reproduces music more accurately than an oval speaker. However, the woofer cone on a plate speaker is smaller than a similarly-sized oval speaker, so its bass output will usually be slightly lower. Polarity In order to get the polarity right, you must wire the positive speaker terminal to the positive amplifier terminal, and the negative speaker terminal to the negative amplifier terminal. Proper wiring ensures that all the cones in a multiple speaker setup will move in the same direction at the same time. If you wire your speakers improperly, one speaker cone will move backward while another is moving forward, cancelling out much of the sound both speakers are trying to make. Pole piece A pole piece concerns the metal piece in a speaker that concentrates and focuses energy from the speaker magnet into creating a magnetic circuit. Because heat can accumulate during this process, many manufacturers vent pole pieces for cooler, more efficient operation. Power handling All car speakers require a power source (receiver or amp). The lower the number of a powerhandling rating tells the absolute bare minimum wattage required to get acceptable sound from the speaker, and the higher number tells the maximum amount the speaker can handle for an extended time. For best results, match your power source level (RMS, or continuous watts) to the upper part of the speaker's recommended range (RMS).
15 Resonance The vibration of a speaker's cone. All speaker cones vibrate at a certain frequency. Too much resonance can interfere with a speaker's accuracy. Sensitivity A sensitivity rating tells you how effectively a speaker converts power (watts) into volume (decibels). The higher the rating, the louder your speakers will play with a given amount of amplifier power. Sensitivity is often measured by driving a speaker with one watt and measuring the loudness in decibels at one meter. The chart below illustrates that a few db in sensitivity can make a big difference: Speaker Sensitivity rating Power needed to produce a given volume Speaker A 85 db 100 watts Speaker B 88 db 50 watts Speaker C 91 db 25 watts A speaker with a sensitivity rating that's 3 db higher than another speaker's only needs half as much power to deliver the same amount of sound. Soundstage The soundstage refers to your sense of width, depth and height when you listen to music just as you would sense the placement of different instruments in a live concert setting. Individual vocal and instrumental "images" make up your stereo system's soundstage. Spider The spider is a flexible ring that keeps the voice coil aligned in its gap and secures the rear of the speaker cone to the frame while still allowing the voice coil and the cone to vibrate freely. Super tweeter A small driver dedicated to ultra-high-frequency reproduction. You can usually find super tweeters alongside tweeters in 4- or 5-way full-range speakers. Surround The surround refers to the flexible ring encircling the edge of the woofer cone it connects the cone to the speaker basket. It must be pliable enough to let the woofer travel freely, yet strong enough to guide and control cone movement. (The further the cone can travel, the stronger the bass.) Surrounds are usually made of cloth, foam, or rubber. Rubber tends to last the longest. Three-way speaker Three-way speakers take the separate woofer and tweeter from a two-way design and add a midrange driver for enhanced warmth and texture. Select three-ways use a super tweeter, instead of a midrange, for extended high-frequency response. Four-ways combine a woofer, a midrange, a tweeter, and a super tweeter for even more detail.
16 Tinsel leads Tinsel leads are flexible, stranded wires that connect the voice coil to the speaker's terminals. Tweeter A small driver dedicated to high-frequency reproduction. Cone tweeters are efficient and the most economical. Most home speakers use dome or "edge-driven" tweeters they disperse sound over a wider area for smoother, more accurate reproduction. Semi-dome (or balanced-dome) tweeters use a combination cone and dome construction for excellent sound clarity and dispersion. Tweeters are made from a variety of materials paper, aluminium, titanium, or synthetic films such as polyetherimide (PEI) or Kaladex (polyethylene naphthalate). It's best to listen to a variety of tweeters to determine which one you prefer. Two-way speaker Two-way, or coaxial, designs reproduce your music's frequency range accurately. These speakers use a separate tweeter mounted inside the woofer to deliver the high-frequencies. Voice coil The voice coil (a small coil of wire) creates a magnetic field that varies according to the amplified signal sent to the speaker. In conjunction with the permanent magnet and the speaker's other parts, the voice coil converts electrical signals into mechanical energy to produce sound. Many of the speakers on this site offer a heat-resistant voice coil to prolong speaker life. Voice coil former The voice coil former is the part of the speaker around which the voice coil is wound, usually made from a heat-resistant material like aluminium or Kapton. Voice coil gap The voice coil gap is the space between the magnet and the pole piece where the voice coil can freely move in and out, creating vibrations in the speaker cone resulting in sound. Woofer The woofer, a speaker's largest cone, reproduces bass and lower midrange notes. To operate efficiently, a cone should be made of material that is stiff, yet lightweight. Cones made of aluminium, synthetic film (like polypropylene), poly mixed with other materials (like mica), or treated paper provide excellent sound, and stand up to the heat, cold, and moisture that car speakers face on a daily basis.
17 Subwoofers Basket The metal frame that holds all the components of a subwoofer together. The basket's rigidity and resistance to resonance help determine the sub's sound quality. Box volume This measurement, listed with each component subwoofer, tells you the recommended interior volume in cubic feet that an enclosure should have to get the best performance from the sub. A variation of 10-20% is generally acceptable. Damping factor The ability of an amplifier to control the movement of a subwoofer the higher the damping factor, the greater the accuracy. Damping factor is calculated by dividing the subwoofer impedance by the output impedance of the amplifier. An amplifier's damping factor will decrease as the sub's impedance decreases that's why an amp running at 4 ohms will provide tighter bass than at 2 ohms. This spec is not always given for all amplifiers. Dual voice coil subwoofer While typical speaker drivers have one voice coil, dual voice coil (DVC) subwoofers allow you the advantage of flexibility in wiring your system. Parallel wiring provides for maximum amplifier output, while series wiring lets you configure multiple woofers to one amplifier at an acceptable impedance. In series/parallel mode, you can wire 4 woofers to a single amp, for example, and still maintain a compatible impedance. Independent wiring lets you drive a single sub without bridging (or by bridging a four channel amp to one sub). Enclosure types Sealed box A sealed box is an airtight enclosure housing your subwoofer. A sealed box is best for any music that demands tight, accurate bass. Expect flat response, deep bass extension, and excellent power handling. Since a sealed enclosure tends to require more power than a ported box, use an amplifier with ample wattage for optimum performance. Ported box A ported box uses a vent (called a port) which allows movement of air in and out of the enclosure chamber. This additional air movement reinforces low bass response. You get more output from a ported box than you would from a sealed box at any given level of amplifier output. Some people simply prefer the sound of ported boxes for rap, techno, or any hard-driving music because they play louder than comparable sealed boxes. Bandpass box A bandpass box is a special type of ported box designed for maximum slam. The woofer is mounted inside a dual-chambered box; the woofer fires from the sealed chamber into the ported chamber, and sound waves emerge from the ported side. Because the sound that comes out of the port is extra loud within a narrow frequency range, band pass boxes are considered super-efficient. Their aggressive sound is popular with many hip-hop, techno, and metal fans. Free-air subwoofers A free-air system consists of woofers mounted to a board attached to the rear deck or placed in the trunk against the rear seat. The trunk acts as the enclosure housing the subwoofer. Free-air systems save space and have flat frequency response. The woofer must be specifically designed for free-air use, and the trunk must be airtight for best results.
18 Frequency range The range of sounds from lowest to highest that the subwoofer is capable of reproducing. The figures listed with the drivers are furnished by the manufacturers. The actual range you'll hear can vary depending upon the type of box, crossover point, and the vehicle the subwoofer is installed in. Under most circumstances, a typical sub will play slightly deeper than its published figures indicate. So, don't base your choice solely on this spec. Impedance The resistance offered by an electric circuit to the flow of alternating current measured in ohms. A subwoofer rated at 2-ohm impedance will produce more output than a 4-ohm subwoofer, given similar input wattage, because the resistance is lower. Peak power The amount of power the subwoofer can handle as a brief burst during a musical peak. You should not drive your subwoofer continuously with wattage equal to the peak power rating. Polarity In order to get the polarity right, you must wire the positive speaker terminal to the positive amplifier terminal, and the negative speaker terminal to the negative amplifier terminal. Proper wiring ensures that all the cones in a multiple speaker setup will move in the same direction at the same time. If you wire your speakers improperly, one speaker cone will move backward while another is moving forward, cancelling out much of the sound both speakers are trying to make. In multiple component subwoofer systems, getting the polarity wrong could short-circuit the amplifier's output, resulting in overheating and damage to the system. Pole Piece A solid piece of steel which protrudes up through the magnet into the voice coil assembly, concentrating the energy from the magnet. Power range An external power amp is required to drive any raw component subwoofer. (Don't try to drive one with your in-dash receiver's built-in amplifier.) The low number listed is the absolute bare minimum wattage required to get acceptable sound from the subwoofer. For best results, use an amplifier that provides a power level (RMS, or continuous watts) in the upper part of the subwoofer's recommended range (RMS). Sensitivity Also referred to as efficiency (measured as SPL sound pressure level), this specification is quoted in decibels (db). The higher the number, the more efficient the subwoofer is at turning amplifier power into sound, and the louder it plays. A subwoofer rated 3 db more than another will require only half the power to produce the same output. Spider The spider (also known as the damper) controls the cone's movement and keeps the voice coil centred in the air gap. It acts like a shock absorber, smoothing out the cone's ride.
19 Thiele/Small Parameters These are terms used to describe the characteristics of a particular subwoofer. They include resonance frequency of the driver, the woofer's excursion, and air displacement, among others. These figures are useful in predicting subwoofer performance and constructing appropriate enclosures. Top mount depth Tells you the depth of the woofer when it is installed from above the mounting surface. The depth will be greater for subwoofers that are mounted from below the mounting surface. Voice Coil The voice coil consists of a former (or bobbin) with wire wound around it. The voice coil is attached to the bottom of the cone and extends into the air gap surrounding the pole piece. The voice coil translates the magnet's energy into cone motion.
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